Powderhounds will tell you that the best way to enjoy the dark winters of the Pacific Northwest is to hit the slopes, but if you didn’t grow up skiing or snowboarding, the idea of learning to ski at age adult can seem intimidating.
With regular practice, concrete goals and a willingness to embrace the tough times, however, adults can absolutely master skiing.
The following tips from Seattle-area skiers who became proficient in the sport as adults encourage those looking for a life beyond pizza and fries—great fuel after a day on the mountain, but not the ideal technique for descending slopes quickly. Read on to find out more.
Hit the slopes regularly
Doris Wang, from Lynnwood, took a ski lesson in Minnesota while visiting family as a child, but would only go skiing once or twice a year after that at Bear Mountain Resort in Big Bear Lake, California, the nearest mountain where she grew up. .
“It was always starting over when I went there because I never spent enough time skiing to get good,” she said. Finally, at the age of 31, she decided to focus on developing her skills.
For Wang, now 33, the hardest part of learning to ski as an adult was unlearning the default habits of “pizza” and “fry” positions taught to beginners.
Similarly, Amber Chang, 29, of Seattle, skied sparingly with her family as a child, but growing up in Texas, the slopes weren’t prevalent. She decided to focus on skiing at the age of 24 to develop ski mountaineering skills.
“I used to climb up a lot and I was tired of trudging down the mountain and I saw skiers going past me having fun like never before,” Chang said.
She bought a season pass for Alpental at The Summit at Snoqualmie and set herself the goal of becoming fully proficient at every run at the resort.
“It didn’t have to be pretty, but I had to be comfortable going deep,” she said.
To achieve this goal, Chang skied four to five days a week, including two or three days of night skiing after work on weekdays.
This repetition was key to Chang’s development on the slopes.
Cal Smith, a mountaineering instructor with Washington’s nonprofit Climbers of Color, which provides training and mentorship to people of color learning to climb, echoed that sentiment. “The back-to-back days were a huge part of learning,” he says of learning new skills in the outdoors. “If we learned to ride a bike one day a month when we were kids, it would take forever.”
He added that overall fitness and health also play a crucial role in developing mastery of a new physical skill.
You don’t need fancy equipment
When you’re just starting out, there’s no need to go out and buy shiny new gear. Take the time to figure out what you like and start with used gear.
The pandemic has stretched the used ski market a bit as people have looked for new ways to get outdoors over the past two years. There are plenty of goldmines out there, however, just look frequently and be patient. Watching during the offseason will also yield more inventory.
You can also look near you: Wang inherited his first set of skis from his mother’s friend. “I took the old skis, tuned them and waxed them, and they ski perfectly well!” she said.
Bothell resident Kaelee Chang — unrelated to Amber, despite being ski buddies — sends friends to the PNW Ski Classifieds Facebook group, where she found her first backcountry setup for $400, including including skis and bindings.
Wang has a friend who finds skis at Goodwill, and she also recommends gear stores like Play it Again Sports or The Sports Connection in Mukilteo for used gear.
Another option is to ask if your local ski shop rents skis for the whole season. Sometimes stores even offer discounts on equipment if you decide to buy it at the end of the season.
Find your community
Finding your place on the mountain as a beginner isn’t always easy, especially if you’re someone who identifies as female, or if you come from communities of color that are often underrepresented in the sport.
Smith, the mountaineering instructor, suggests identifying your “why” for being there and learning. “Do your best to focus on your abilities by being yourself and the community will come,” he said. “In this process, know that you are not alone, even if you feel alone.”
Amber Chang had a similar suggestion; she discovered her community, including mentors, on social media. She also recommends local groups like Outer edge and color climbers, which provide scholarships and courses to help people of color get started in winter sports, including ski touring.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions
If you’re new to the sport, you’re bound to have a lot of questions – and it can feel daunting, especially if you’re surrounded by people who’ve been skiing or snowboarding for years.
Amber Chang encourages newcomers to “ask all your questions, even if you think it’s stupid. Skiing is a very confusing sport to practice and it’s difficult when you don’t know anything about it!
The equipment and language surrounding skiing can also be very technical, Chang noted, and she added that social media and outdoor groups like the ones above can be a great place to find community and ask questions. questions in a safe space.
Take advantage of the offers for beginners
Kaelee Chang, 32, of Bothell, took advantage of a pre-pandemic Snoqualmie Pass deal that included three lessons, season rentals and a limited $500 season pass.
Since daily lift tickets routinely exceed $100 at Washington ski resorts, the pass saved Chang a bundle.
Ski resorts have been hit during the pandemic, so deals are harder to come by these days, but there are still plenty to come by.
White collar near Mount Rainier offers an EZ Ski/Ride 1-2-3 program that includes three days of your choice of rental and group lessons on easier terrain – all for $189. Once you feel more comfortable on the snow, you can upgrade to the Cruiser package, which includes three lessons and rentals with full mountain access for $349.
Other alternatives for those looking to hone their skills include after-hours offers: buying weekday and evening lift tickets can cut costs.
Affordable ski areas
If you can spend a week (or more) working remotely, there are a few lesser-known ski areas outside of Greater Seattle with affordable lift ticket prices. Echo Valley in Chelan offers $25 group lessons and $30 lift tickets for a full day; rentals are $30. Near Walla Walla, Bluewood, adult passes are $52 midweek and $60 on weekends. An “easy rider” ticket is also available for $35 every day of the week.
49°Degrees North in Spokane also offers an EZ Ski/Ride 1-2-3 program (like White Pass, it’s an Indy Pass member) for $199, which includes lessons, rentals, and a Chair 3 lift ticket for the first two lessons, plus an all-mountain ticket on the third. Students are then eligible to purchase a season pass for the remainder of the season for $149.
Kaelee Chang says a big part of learning to ski as an adult is learning to laugh.
After posting a few humorous TikTok videos poking fun at herself for falling, Chang faced relentless harassment from skiers telling her she didn’t belong on the mountain. She continues to post about her struggles learning to ski and, in turn, has found a community of supportive women that overshadows the negative comments.
“Ignore anyone who makes fun of you,” Chang said. “People who have played this sport their whole lives have forgotten what it is like to be a beginner and try something new. You are brave to step out of your comfort zone, don’t let anyone tell you the opposite.
Trust the experts – Smith agrees that failure is part of the fun.
“It’s okay to fail,” he said. “Time and our lives are too short not to do something enjoyable and fun. The resort and the hinterland are wonderful playgrounds and classrooms for life.