Imagine speeding down a vast field of white, wind pounding against your face, adrenaline rushing through your blood as you feel your body going faster and faster — this is the thrill of skiing. If you’re considering going on your first ski trip, congratulations on starting this exciting adventure. Organising a ski trip can be an uphill task for newcomers – this guide will help you get clued up on the basics — from location recommendations to what gear to pack. Finally, complete your skiing credentials with a crash course test on the need-to-know ski terms. Are ready for the slopes?

1. Choosing the perfect destination

Picking out the right place to go for your first ski trip can be overwhelming. The main thing you want to look for is a range of beginner-friendly slopes. These three popular spots will help to narrow down your list.  

Niseko, Japan

A view overlooking the hills of An’nupuri

The powdery snow on the hills of An’nupuri are forgiving if you fall

The area is famous for its reliable snowfall, fluffy snow (which softens the impact when you fall!) and laid-back, ski vibe. This has earned it the nickname “Japow” which people hashtag on videos showcasing its powdery slopes. As a beginner, the bunny hills of An’nupuri are perfect for picking up the sport. With gentle slopes and plenty of teachers, you will be well-taken care of.

Ski Season: December to April

Melbourne, Australia

Ski school at the peak of Mount Buller

Wide, open areas at Mount Buller allow for more learning space

Did you know you can ski in Melbourne? Take a three-hour drive from Melbourne International Airport to Mount Buller, the most accessible major snow resort in the country, which boasts over three hundred hectares (around 420 football fields) of terrain to ski on! Check out some of the green runs that offer both gentle and wide slopes, perfect for a beginner. If you’re tired from skiing, you can also whiz down the slopes on a sled or snowboard.

Ski Season: June to October

Zermatt, Switzerland

Gentle, well-maintained slopes of the Swiss Alps

The slopes of Zermatt are well-maintained and clearly marked, making them easy to follow

This location is further away from Singapore, and home to the world famous Swiss Alps! In fact, Zermatt is Switzerland’s highest ski resort. The area is great for beginners as it has three different learning zones, the most popular being the Sunnegga area. Another distinctive feature about the location is the atmosphere it exudes; the simple buildings made of timber and stone adds to the charm of the place.

Ski Season: November to April

2. Planning your packing list

Luggage filled with winter and ski-related clothes

Pack to keep yourself warm in the freezing temperatures

Packing for your first ski holiday might feel like you’re treading into uncharted terrain. It is important to juggle the size of your packing list with the equipment you plan on renting in order to keep your luggage light while lowering the costs incurred. Here’s a list of what to pack vs. what to rent when you arrive:

 

To Bring

Item

Description

Gloves

Gloves best suited for skiing are those that ensure your hands don’t overheat, yet provides ample protection from the wind and snow.

Inner and Outerwear

Dress in layers when skiing; the base layer keeps you dry by absorbing perspiration, the mid layer keeps you warm (wool, fleece) and the outer layer breaks wind and keeps moisture off the second layer.

Waterproof Ski Pants

Choose those made of tightly woven nylon, polyester or Thinsulate.

Beanie

Slide a beanie under your ski mask as a good alternative to earmuffs.

Snow boots

Snow boots have heavier soles to improve traction. They also trap heat on the inside and are waterproof on the outside

Sunglasses

Sunglasses are essential as the sun rays that bounce off white snow can cause snow blindness.

First Aid Kit

Pack one so you’ll be able to treat mild injuries that might happen on the slopes.

To Rent

Item

Description

Skis

Place the ski up and choose one that reaches your chin (for beginners). For a more tailored advice, consult the rental shop.

Poles

Again, consult the rental shop for the best advice.

Goggles

Choose a tint that you’re most comfortable with and insist on having ultraviolet light protection.

Helmets

In some places, helmets are optional. However, we highly reccomend wearing one as it'll minimise the chances of serious injury.

 

Pro-tip: These items aren’t essential but are worth considering:

Item

Description

Buff

It’s another name for a neck warmer and muffler combo, which is useful in the fight against chilly winter winds.

Waterproof Socks

Breathable, waterproof socks are the way to go when skiing.

Hand Warmers

These are small packets that produce heat to warm hands on demand.

Ziplock Bags

Store your electronic items in these bags to prevent them from getting wet.

Energy Bars

Having a energy bar or two is a handy way to ensure you’ll never ski on an empty stomach.

3. Understanding the basics of skiing

When preparing to ski, it is important to familiarise yourself with some basic concepts beforehand. For example, learning how to read ski trail maps, what to expect on your first lesson and some of the basic ski lingo.

Distinguishing the difficulty of the route

Three people inspecting a ski trail map

Play it safe and only go for routes that suit your experience level

Most of the time, there are three colours which indicate the difficulty of each route. Green represents a beginner trail; blue or red, an intermediate one; and black, an advanced one. The conditions that affects this rating is the gradient of the slope, the amount of obstacles encountered and in extreme scenarios, the proneness to avalanche. 

What to expect on your first lesson

Male instructor teaching a woman the basics of skiing

Ski instructors have a variety of tools to help you get comfortable in your skis

While the dream for most is to be able to speed down slopes, expect your first ski lesson to focus on building your fundamentals. This includes learning to put on and take off your skis, the basic technique of stopping, how to walk in your skis, both on flat ground and uphill, and the ski posture. It may sound boring at first, but skiing is only fun if you do it right!

Common terminology

Like any other hobby, skiing comes with its own set of terminology too. Take the test with your ski buddy, do you know what it means to ‘switch’ yet? 

 

Term

Definition

Ski Areas

Piste/Slope/Trail

A designated ski path that is patrolled and well-maintained

Off-Piste

An undesignated ski path that is more “wild” in nature. Also known as backcountry skiing

Chair Lift

A park bench that moves up the slopes

Gondola

An enclosed aerial lift up the mountain

Ski-to-door access

Easy, direct access for your lodging to the lifts. Also known as Ski-in/Ski-out

   Ski-Related Words

Alpine Skiing

The most popular kind of skiing — on a downhill slope

Cross-country Skiing

Skiing on flat ground

Telemark Skiing

A combination of alpine and cross-country skiing (requires a different technique)

Freestyle

A style of skiing that’s based on performing tricks

Heli-Skiing

Skiing where a helicopter takes people to the top of the mountain

Switch/Fakie

Skiing backwards

Fall Line

An imaginary line in the steepest direction of the slope

Vertical Drop

The distance between the base of a mountain and its tallest point

       Miscellaneous

Planker

A slang term for skier

Après-ski

Social activities and entertainment that occurs after a day on the slope

 

Although venturing into new (snowy) grounds may sound intimidating, a getaway from our tropical climate is an exciting opportunity. With snow comes a bunch of activities that you won’t be able to try in Singapore, but while you’re hyped up to whiz down the slopes, don’t forget to get your fundamentals right first. Most importantly, have fun! So, get your winter jackets, rally your family, friends or significant other, and scoot off for an unforgettable trip of a lifetime!