Returning to Downhill Skiing

By: Roger Wangen

November 01, 2022

Category: Recreation

When I first started skiing, I was equipped with long, stiff skis that weighed a ton. These types of skis stuck around from the 1940s through the ‘70s, and you’d wear yourself out to jump them into the air to change direction. And it didn’t matter much because we were young and fit.

If you’re considering returning to the sport, whether it’s been five years or 50, the good news is that everything has gotten better. As I often remind myself, “Praise be, I do not need to be the person I was, because I am not.”

The lifts are better; the slopes are better groomed; the clothing keeps you warmer; the boots are more comfortable. And, this is the key: the skis are lighter, bendier and much easier to ski on. They really want to make arcs for you.

With this improved equipment, and preparing using the following tips, you’ll be ready to get back on the slopes.

Three skiers sit on a chairlift.

Pre-hill prep

You can get prepared well-before you even set foot on the hill. The No. 1 tip I have is: Get your mind back in the groove. Begin training your mind before you are standing in your skis the snow. 

  1. Find ways to be active, both indoors and outdoors. Think about how what you do off of the snow can support your time on the snow. Because skiing is an anaerobic activity (using bursts of energy between rest periods), any aerobic activity can support skiing. Bonus: If you’re doing that activity outside, like cross-country skiing or snowshoeing, you can get familiar with the type of layering you need in different temperatures.
  2. Get attuned to nature. Experience the beauty of nature in winter-sun reflecting off snowflakes, the smell of fresh and crisp air, the groomed and pristine dancefloor of snow and trees outlines against a bright sky. This is just part of what awaits you on the hill.
  3. Learn new techniques. Use books, like Soft Skiing For Seniors, or how-to videos to get an idea of skills you want to try when you’re out.
  4. Make a plan. Ease any anxiety going into skiing by removing some uncertainties from your day. Learn the terrain you’re headed to by finding out where the easiest hills are and where you want to start. If you want to start your day with some guidance, you can schedule a lesson that focuses on soft, or low-impact, skiing, like “Ski Younger Now” and “Brilliance for Boomers” at Hyland Hills.
Two people dressed in winter gear with backpacks snowshoe down a trail.
Snowshoeing can be a great way to prepare for skiing, as it's both an aerobic exercise and can help you figure out how to best dress for winter weather.

On-hill reminders

Once you’ve made it to the slopes, keep these essential tips in mind.

  1. Be brave. You’ve skied before; you can do it again.
  2. Be cautious, not reckless. No matter what you skied before, spend more time than you think is needed on very gentle slopes.
  3. Pace yourself. Aim to start slow and easy, and work up as appropriate. Of course you’ll be excited to get started, but don’t do too much on days one and two. If you overexert yourself, you’ll get tired, your muscles will object, your control will slip away and you’ll wind up in a low, instead of a high. When you head out on the first few days, picture a rising graph, not a falling one. You don’t need to reach the peak right away.
  4. Know yourself. You don’t need to — and shouldn’t — push yourself to attempt difficult runs that are beyond your skill level. When you do that, you risk both your fun and safety.  Ski at the level that brings you joy, keeps you safe and helps you practice the skills that make skiing effortless and low impact, and safe In the end, it matters more how you ski, than what you ski.

As you head out there, applaud yourself for having the courage to return: We take risks not to escape life, but to prevent life from escaping us! Welcome back!

If you're curious about getting back to skiing this winter, Roger is hosting informational sessions at the Hyland Hills Chalet on November 7 and 10 from 2–3 PM and 7–8 PM and on November 18 from 7–8 PM. If you prefer on-hill instruction, check out his Ski Younger sessions at Hyland Hills, which focus on learning to ski safely and gently in a fun environment that builds your confidence.

About the Author

Roger smiles and waves to the camera with a mittened hand, while riding a ski lift. Ski goggles sit atop his head.

Roger Wangen is a ski instructor at Hyland Hills Ski Area. He is passionate about helping people ski smarter instead of harder, teaching adults skills they need to ski no matter their age or how long they’ve been away from the sport. Roger has taught the Ski Younger program at Hyland Hills since 2010, and has been a ski instructor for 35 years, including seven seasons at Beaver Creek in Vail, Colorado.


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