Taking it Easy the First Time Out on Mountains

  • A skier heads down the trail at Okemo in Ludlow, Vt. With more ski resorts across northern New England opening in the coming weeks skiers and riders will have a wealth of opportunities to make fun, safe first turns.

Special to the Valley News
Saturday, December 02, 2017

 There is a sense of excitement among skiers and riders this time of year. 

Those first turns may not be hero turns, perhaps coming with a little rust and uncertainty, but in a few twists, the wind tickles your face and then there’s a wall-to-wall smile on your face. 

Maybe you stop during mid-run or perhaps you cut the white butter with your boards. At the end of that run, perhaps you take stock that all of your body parts are still with you, leaving nothing up on the trail.

Slow down. Keep an eye on that changing and limited terrain. Be cognizant of others.

“The best thing is try and take it easy on those first turns on nice, easy terrain,” says snowsports school director Steve DeBenedictis at Bretton Woods (N.H.) Mountain Resort. “Don’t jump out onto the same stuff you were skiing at the end of last year. Make a slow entrance to it and then work your way up to the stuff that you really like to ski.”

You also have to wrap your head around another season.

“Make sure you have all of your clothing and equipment,” he said. “A helmet is a good idea, your gloves and maybe some spare gloves or a neck-up. Those are always good to have. On the first day, I hear a lot of people saying, ‘Oh, I forget this and I forgot that. I should have waxed my skis. I should have tuned them.’ ”

DeBenedictis says it’s a good idea to have your release mechanisms checked at a ski shop before you hit the slopes.

“You want to be sure your bindings are going to work,” he said.

Also, lower the expectation bar the first time out.

“A great way to start the ski season is think about how you are skiing and making sure you ski safely,” DeBenedictis said. “Sometimes we get out there and think that we can ski where we left off last year. That might be a poor expectation. Start slow and watch out for other people.”

Karen Dolan, snowsports school director at Cranmore Mountain Resort in North Conway, N.H., suggests skiers look around on the slopes and be cautious on that first day.

“For the first day on snow, take it easy,” she said. “You have to get back to where your balance points are. Start on low level terrain and work your way up. It’s never a good idea to ski yourself into shape for the season. It’s better if you have been working out, running and doing all sorts of fun things outdoors before you hit the slopes.”

Dolan also stresses that bindings check since skis have been sitting around since last April.

There are other things you can do before coming to the ski area.

“Make sure your boots fit well,” she said. “Make sure you have all your clothing. Know what’s in that ski bag so you can be ready when you get here and aren’t disappointed.”

In Ludlow, Vt., Okemo Mountain Resort’s ski and ride school assistant director Keri Reid advises to take a lesson to get your legs back under you and set the season up right.

She also extols wearing layers appropriately.

“Having multiple layers on underneath a waterproof jacket can vastly improve your experience as this allows for pieces to come off or back on as temperatures fluctuate,” Reid said in an email.

Reid recommends wearing a helmet and going easily into that first day on the slopes. 

“Give your body some time to readapt to the movement patterns,” she suggests. “Try some easier terrain first and keep the speed down. Gradually turn up the volume as the day goes on.”

Also turning up in the coming weeks will be the trail count. With growing but limited terrain across northern New England resorts, skiers and riders may spend less time on the hill as they will during the heart of winter. 

Reid says it can be fun to try challenging yourself in different ways. 

“For example, consider mixing up your turn radius and shape to experiment with new sensations,” she said. “The best way to have a great day is to bring a friend.”

And with skiers and riders on precious white real estate, pay attention.

“Remember to stay safe, especially when trails are crowded,” she says. “Be aware of your surroundings and refer to the Responsibility Code.”

That way it’s safe and fun.

Marty Basch can be reached at mbasch@gmail.com.