For some, the thought of hurtling down a snowy slope on a ‘plank’ or two, with only two poles (if you’re skiing – no such luxury for snowboarders!) to help you stay upright, might seem unsettling. But learning to ski or board in Scotland is easy.
If you’ve never experienced a ‘bluebird’ day at one of Scotland’s five mountain centres – where crisp, perfectly groomed snow, bright blue sunny skies and awesome views conspire to captivate – then you’re really missing out on one of the country’s finest winter experiences.
The thought of skiing or boarding might seem scary at first, but if you follow our steps below, we’re sure you’ll be flying down our winter slopes with confidence in no time.
Step 1 – Exercise
Skiing and snowboarding is a great workout – and good for generating endorphins and feelings of well-being – something that’s increasingly important in the busy world we live in. If you’re not that active, then it’s worth doing some leg-strengthening and balancing exercises, which will make your trip to the slopes all the more enjoyable. Start off gently and build up gradually.
Step 2 – The mat to mountain approach
It’s easy for learners to begin skiing or snowboarding on real snow at our five mountain centres and at Snow Factor near Glasgow. However, starting off at your nearest artificial slope, where you slide a little more slowly on artificial mats, is also a good place to begin. This gives you time to perfect your stopping and turning and to get used to using ski tows.
All artificial slopes offer equipment hire, so don’t go spending lots on gear until you’re sure snowsports are for you.
Artificial slope centres often run trips for their customers to the mountain centres in winter and of course are also ideal year-round venues for maintaining and refining your skills.
Step 3 – Take some lessons
We can’t recommend this highly enough – you’d do it for golf and fishing right? So why not skiing and snowboarding?
Highly skilled and qualified instructors can be found at all artificial slopes, Snow Factor and the mountain centres and they can help develop your technique and build your confidence. You’ll progress through snow-plough stopping and turning, to parallel turning and then more advanced skills in no time.
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Check out the Ski-Scotland Learn to Ski video for some tips.
All centres offer beginners’ packages, which include uplift, equipment and lessons – just check availability with your nearest centre. Remember to arrive at your chosen centre around an hour before your lesson is due to start to get kitted up.
Step 4 – Stay safe
For your own safety and that of others around you, whether you’re on an artificial surface or snow, always follow the Skiers Code of Practice and make sure you stay within the marked snowsports area. Ski patrollers are always happy to advise on safety matters.
Step 5 – On the mountain
If you’re following the mat to mountain approach, then remember that sliding on snow is faster than sliding on an artificial slope – adjust your stopping and turning accordingly! If it’s your first time at a mountain centre or Snow Factor, then it’s worth booking a few lessons, so you can get used to sliding on snow.
If you’re not ready to invest in equipment, then all centres hire out skis, boards, boots and in some cases ski suits and helmets. Remember equipment hire is very busy at weekends, so always book in advance or hire kit nearer home and bring it with you. When booking, have your height, weight, shoe size and ability information to hand, so you get the right kit.
Step 6 – Wrap up warm
Wear several layers of clothing (avoid cotton) to stay warm and wear a waterproof jacket and leggings, waterproof gloves and we’d recommend wearing a ski/snowboard helmet too. Also bringing goggles or sunglasses and lip balm. It’s also worth taking a small rucksack with you to store your essentials.
Step 7 – Look like a pro
Follow these tips and you’ll look like a seasoned skier or boarder on the hill.
- Do your research. Sign up for Ski-Scotland snow alerts, follow the Ski-Scotland Facebook page and check the latest snow conditions, travel and weather reports before setting off.
- The secret to enjoying Scottish snowsports is being ready to go at short notice, when conditions are at their best. Our maritime climate and smaller mountains mean that snowfall can sometimes vary.
- Mountain centre car parks fill up fast at the weekend, so arrive as early as possible to get parked. Arriving early also gives you more slope time!
- Fill your car with friends – it’s better for the planet, your wallet and car parking overall.
- Better still, avoid car travel altogether and do even more for the planet. Regular train services run from the central belt to Aviemore and Fort William, and there are connecting bus services to Cairngorm Mountain and Nevis Range.
- If you can, opt for a midweek trip to the mountains. The slopes, ski tows, equipment hire and cafés are usually much quieter and there’s more space and time to have fun!
- It’s quicker to use cash when paying for ski passes, equipment hire and refreshments. Card machines rely on phone connections which are sometimes slow in mountain areas.
- To avoid café and restaurant queues and maximise your slope time, think about eating early or after the main rush is over.