Essential Tips for Learning to Ski as an Adult, from Someone Who’s Been There

By Casey Jan 12, 2021
A few of my “must know” tips for any adult skier to not only enjoy their first experience on the mountain, but to return to the sport again and again.
 Essential Tips for Learning to Ski as an Adult, from Someone Who’s Been There

Four years ago, I moved from Southern California to Utah having never skied in my adult life. I knew I’d been on skis before, but the memories were so hazy and the experiences so infrequent that I had absolutely nothing to draw upon as I clicked in at thirty, for what was essentially my first time. I was a beginner, excited and eager to become as adventurous as my short skinny rentals, with quick release bindings, would let me.

Sadly, I failed to notice the beginner lift behind the lodge and hopped enthusiastically onto a blue chair. The next 45 minutes were filled with tears, terror and a begrudging trip (in my way too long red fur coat) back to the bunny hill I’d overlooked where I was immediately lapped by children a fraction of my age, while I at thirty, was unable to stick the dismount off even the simplest lift. I was in over my head, and I was sure day two would have me building a snowman alone in the parking lot while my spouse enjoyed the satisfaction and tenure of having grown up in the snow. Fortunately, day two included a far less frightening lesson on simpler runs, and several seasons later, I’m still skiing.

Below are a few of my “must know” tips for any adult skier to not only enjoy their first experience on the mountain, but to return to the sport again and again.


The Terrain

I’d love to say all mountains are created equal, but that’s like saying all waves are great for new surfers. The truth is, knowing where to go based on your skill level, can ease the tension of embarking on a new sport. And yes, while all resorts will have beginner terrain, here are a few that cater to those of us who need a little extra practice space.

Alta Ski Area

Alta is known for its expert runs, but this ski-only resort offers a special for newbies. Their Sunnyside at 3 program allows riders to ski their beginner terrain for just $59 after 3pm all season long. Affordable lift tickets and exclusive access to green runs? Yes please. 

Park City Mountain - Canyons Village

The recently added High Meadow Park beginner area at Park City Mountain on the Canyon's Village side is an ideal training ground for new skiers of all ages. With a single lift, an oversized beginner run and a boarder of short easy blues, we love this area for its cozy feel and ample square footage. Take the Red Pine Gondola up from the base and as a beginner enjoy the experience of being high in the Wasatch. 

Park City Mountain

With 17% of the resort dedicated to beginner terrain, there's only one thing we love more than learning to ski at Park City Mountain and it's the 3.5 mile run aptly named, Homerun that traverses riders from peak to parking lot on an easy green.


Another favorite for rewarding new skiers, Brighton offers a Learner Ticket from 9am- 4pm daily at just $33 for select dates, giving guests the opportunity to practice carving from two beginner-served lifts, Majestic and Explorer. 

Brian Head Ski Resort

If you're looking to begin your journey on skis amongst those at your same skill level, look no further than Brian Head Resort. With an entire hill dedicated to new and beginner skiers off the Navajo Chairlift, you can be sure you're given the space for those slow wide turns without fear of mingling with quicker skiers. Rentals and food can be found in the Navajo Lodge at the base of the chair so you don't have to go far once you arrive.

Snowbasin Resort

It's not often newbies are given the chance to earn season passes, but with Snowbasin's Learn & Earn Program, they can do just that. Adults and children 4+ who have never skied or boarded before can sign up for the program, take the three all-day lessons on Snowbasin rental gear and earn a season pass for the remainder of the year. 

The Lessons

Attempting to charge the snow alone can prove slightly more frustrating than you might suspect, especially when navigating a series of lifts and runs that can leave you calling for ski patrol. Knowing where to go, which chairs to take and how to load and unload from a lift, can eliminate a few of the basic unknowns, leaving you free to focus on the mechanics of the sport. 

All of Utah's resorts each offer private and group lessons for adults that help to accelerate your progress, allowing you to access broader terrain in a shorter amount of time. If you have a friend who is willing to be patient and sacrifice their day to help you, that’s wonderful, but if you’d prefer the guidance of a paid professional who won’t have you white-knuckling intermediate runs after an hour on the beginner slopes, we recommend a few days in ski school.


The Lingo

It’s good to walk the walk (in ski boots that is) but talking the talk will not only assimilate you into the culture, it will keep you from hosting your own yard sale (definition below).

Greens (Circle) – Beginner runs. Follow the greens on your first day. 

Blues (Square) – Intermediate runs. These vary, with some being more challenging than others. Blues typically have either a more vertical pitch or are narrower than a green run.

Black (Diamond) – Advanced. These runs are steep and can often be un-groomed.

Double Black Diamond – Expert. These are usually powder bowls and steep narrow terrain with obstacles such as moguls or trees.

Pizza – A v-shape made with the tips of your skis. A substitute for carving and used as brakes for beginners.

French Fries – The parallel look of your skis side by side that allows you to gain forward motion.

Tips Up – A term used to describe lifting your ski tips before pulling into the chairlift’s unloading zone.

Yard Sale – When a skier takes a fall and their poles and skis end up scattered across the run.

The Head Game

Learning a new sport comes with its own set of psychological obstacles. But learning a new sport at 8,000 feet can feel like sliding off the side of the moon. I never before knew I had a fear of heights until I rode a chairlift for the first time. Fortunately, exposure is the best way to overcome any discomfort. It takes time to shake off the nerves, train the body and remember every cue your instructor gave you. 

Give yourself a minimum of three consecutive days to find your groove and the space to learn, especially when those five-year-old’s in pink helmets seem to speed past you without a care in the world. Remember, the older we get, the more we have to lose by getting hurt, which naturally makes us more conservative in our approach. Allow yourself the space to make incremental strides without the pressure of instant success.

Looking for more advice on learning to ski? Check out the following articles: 
Everything you should know about ski lessons
Dressing for the slopes
Ultimate guide for ski and snowboard rentals