Rent or buy decent gear to enhance your skiing experience, and choose a good ski-weather day, Missoula Outdoor Learning Adventures owner, Porter Hammitt says. Nothing hampers an outing more than ill-fitting gear or icy conditions.
Find an experienced skier to suggest local areas to ski and where to buy/rent gear. Or ask a clerk at your local sporting shop for advice and for current snow conditions.
Stay away from cotton. Cotton doesn't insulate properly, and it absorbs moisture. Choose fabrics that wick moisture away from your body, Recreation Manager of Missoula Parks and Recreation, Shirley Kinsey says.
Dress in layers. Choose a base layer of lightweight synthetics or fleece. Follow with a layer of wool or fleece. Wear a water-resistant shell layer (top and bottom) outermost to shed snow. You'll also need a hat, mittens or gloves, and possibly goggles or sunglasses.
Let someone know where you plan to ski and when you expect to return. This information is needed especially if you plan to ski alone, Kinsey says.
Remember the essentials: first aid kit, matches/lighter, flashlight, repair kit for skis, food, water, sunscreen, extra clothing/socks, map and compass. Wear a backpack to store the items and the clothing you shed as you warm up.
Groomed Trail Etiquette
Some trails are groomed with ski "grooves" (packed-down ski tracks) for skiers to follow. Hammitt advises skiers to step out of the grooves and off the trail to take a break. Yield to faster skiers. Walk along the side of the trail -- never walk without skis on the track. Check ahead if you want to take Fido along -- dogs are not allowed on some trails.
Snowmobile trails are packed down and used by snowmobilers. Be careful near blind corners and listen for oncoming machines, Hammitt says. Skiers yield to snowmobiles. Be especially watchful for your dog's safety, and keep him nearby.
As your ski skills increase, you may want to venture away from designated ski/snowmobile areas. Consider going with someone who knows the area.
Learn General Techniques
Practice stopping. Use the "pizza wedge" or "snow plow" (knees bent, ankles at shoulder width, and tips of skis together) to slow yourself and stop.
Practice falling and getting up. "Fall onto your side to absorb the blow," Hammitt says. "And remember, you have an emergency break that is applied simply by sitting down."
To ski, walk in your skis. Shuffle and glide. "Let your skis do the work," Hammitt says. "On a groomed trail, I tell kids, 'Get in the groove and do the shuffle.'"
Take a Lesson
Choose an instructor who is certified with the Professional Ski Instructors of America," recommends Kinsey, a PSIA member.
To find a certified instructor in your area go to www.thesnowpros.org. The regions of the United States are divided into nine divisions, with each region's contact information listed.