Watch a ski tutorial online or sign up for on-mountain lessons. Illustration by Jameson Simpson.

PASSIONATE SKIERS ARE EAGER to wax poetic about the grace of carving down an open run or the glory of conquering a series of moguls. But for many newbies, a day on the slopes can be frustrating at best, and painful at worst. We get it. This collection of tips, tricks, and attitude adjustments can help make your first time (or your first time in a long time) safe and enjoyable.

Get the right equipment.
Ski gear has come a long way in comfort and performance in just the past few years, so don’t dust off your 20-year-old planks or borrow a friend’s ill-fitting gear to save a few bucks. Instead, seek out a cost-effective rental through one of New Mexico’s many local outfitters. “Getting the right-fitting boots and the right-size equipment is just the starting line,” says Robert Sutherland, a longtime ski instructor at Pajarito Mountain Ski Area, in Los Alamos. And in the interest of shred cred and warmth, he adds, “Don’t wear blue jeans.” 

Ask for help.
There are numerous resources available for beginners, both on and off the slopes. Start out by watching a few vetted tutorials online from the Professional Ski Instructors of America. Better yet, sign up for an on-mountain lesson on your first day. Once you’re ready to head a little farther up the hill, remember that “the lift operator is always there to help,” says George Brooks, a 36-year veteran Pajarito instructor (and not the George Brooks who directs Ski New Mexico). Let the liftie know you’re a beginner and they’ll be happy to slow the chair and help you board. 

Reset your mindset.
Heading into your ski adventure with a positive attitude may well be the most valuable tool in your arsenal. Set realistic expectations, don’t worry about how many times you fall, and pat yourself on the back for taking a risk at all, says John Paul Bradley, general manager at Sipapu Ski & Summer Resort, in Vadito. “Maybe you didn’t ride that one lift today, but you didn’t stay home,” he says. “You got out and tried something new.”

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