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20 Mar

10 Top Tips for First Time Skiers and Snowboarders

Thousands of first times skiers and snowboarders flock to Niseko each season and it’s no secret that some beginners may find it difficult to adapt to the slopes. These 10 top tips will ensure you’re as prepared as you can be when starting out on this exciting venture.

1. Find the right equipment
Equipment is not hard to come by in Niseko. There are many walk-in rental shops in Hirafu that will measure you up and find the perfect equipment for you on the spot. If you’re thinking of staying for longer than two weeks it might be worth buying second hand gear or looking out for ex-rental equipment on sale as this will save you a lot of money. There are also numerous Facebook groups where skiers and snowboarders swap and buy equipment which are definitely worth checking out.

2. Purchase a lesson
Once you’ve figured out how to set up your equipment and (hopefully) stand up on your own, it’s time to take a lesson. There are lots ski schools in Niseko to choose from and taking a lesson early will ensure you don’t start picking up any bad habits from the get go. Every ski school in Niseko provides different learning options for first time skiers and snowboarders at different prices so it’s best to shop around. Group lessons are generally cheaper but private lessons are also readily available if one-to-one learning suites you better. Most first timers lesson packages can include an equipment rental add on. This will save you money in the long run if you’re just looking to find out whether skiing or snowboarding is for you.

3. Layer up
It’s important to wear the right clothing when skiing or snowboarding. Due to the amount of physical activity you’re going to be doing, you’re going to get very hot so stick to light layers. Look for a good quality waterproof ski jacket and pants to wear over a light thermal layer. Some people also opt for a thin jumper or turtle neck too. It’s important that your outer layer is completely waterproof as during your first few lessons you’ll probably be spending a lot of time in the snow. Make sure you get some good quality waterproof gloves to avoid frozen fingers and goggles are also useful in particularly snowy conditions.

4. Learn at your own pace
You need to feel comfortable when you’re learning to snowboard or ski so make sure you’re learning at a pace that suits you. Some beginners prefer to take it slowly and start out with an hour or two on the slopes to ease themselves into the new activity. Others will throw themselves in at the deep end and do a full day of intense learning straight away. Everyone has different learning styles so don’t be tempted to rush if you don’t feel ready and, if you feel you’re ready to be challenged, make sure you push yourself.

5. Learn how to fall correctly
Skiing and snowboarding is all about balance and it’s inevitable that when you start out you will fall, probably a lot. Bad falls can bring your trip to an abrupt end so you need to learn how to fall in the safest way possible. Broken wrists are the most common injury for snowboarders and skiers as it feels natural for us to put our hands out to ‘stop’ ourselves. When falling forward, use your forearms to absorb most of the impact instead of your palms. When falling backwards, try to turn your body slightly, while keeping your arms braced at your sides and use your whole body to break the fall. 

6. Practice makes perfect
Going pro won’t happen over-night so stick at it and practice, practice, practice. Even if it feels like you’re not progressing, with every run you will gain more confidence. Mastering the basics is the hard part but the more you practice, the more control you will have over your board or skis. Once you have learnt how to stop and start, watch others on the mountain to develop skills and technique when turning.
 
7. Learn with a buddy 
It can be really helpful to learn with a buddy. It’s not only the safest way to learn but the most fun too. Take it in turns to ride down the hill and at break points compare thoughts and give advice on each other’s technique.  Let each other know when something is not quite right and more importantly praise each other when things are going well. It will feel so satisfying when you complete your first downhill slope and are able to celebrate together.

8. Give yourself a rest
For newbies, hitting the slopes everyday can be very tiring so after your hard work on the hill, treat yourself to a trip the nearest onsen and soak away any aches and pains. There are so many onsens surrounding Niseko all varying in price (from 500 to 1,000 yen). If you choose an onsen overlooking the slopes, you can also study the technique of other skiers or snowboarders from the comfort of your hot bath.

9. Load up on calories
You’re going to need lots of energy while you’re out learning on the slopes so make sure you make the most of the delicious food Japan has to offer and load up on calories. There are many bars are restaurants to choose from in the area so if you’re after fine dining sushi, or a tasty food-truck roadside snack, you’ll definitely find whatever you’re looking for in Niseko or Kutchan.

10. Relax and enjoy
At first, learning to ski or snowboard can feel quite frustrating. There will be a lot of falling and it requires a lot of commitment. If your body feels too tense it’s likely that you’re going to fall over so try your best to relax. It’s important for beginners to remember why they started learning in the first place – to have fun. So, when you’re on the slopes, smile, laugh and enjoy each moment.

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