A beginner’s guide to getting into ski season in Utah

Things To Do In Utah

(AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

(ABC4) –  It’s time.

And no, this isn’t a reference to Mariah Carey’s insistence that the start of November be considered the beginning of the Christmas season.

It’s time for skiing and snowboarding enthusiasts to get their equipment out of storage, try on their winter jackets and pants to make sure they still fit and get wax and a fresh edge applied to their mountain shredding gear of choice.

Ski – or snowboard – the season is just weeks away.

While many of Utah’s ski resorts have yet to announce their opening dates, a few such as Alta, Brian Head, Park City Mountain, Snowbasin, and Solitude have listed either Nov. 19 or 20 as the anticipated opener.

Those who are seasoned veterans on the slopes likely already have this date circled on their calendar, with plans to take a “sick” day at work for the first day of hopefully fresh powder, or pow-pow, as a ski-lover might say.

However, if you’re new to the state – perhaps a transplant from California or something – or a native who has yet to take the plunge by strapping on a pair of skis or a snowboard, and may be apprehensive to get into the sport, Ski Utah Communications Director Alison Palmintere assures that it’s never too late to get started.

“You can definitely start at any age,” she tells ABC4.com. “It can be intimidating as an adult, I completely understand that. We in Utah are lucky to have so many great resources for adults looking to get into skiing and snowboarding.”

Where do I go?

It could almost be called an embarrassment of riches how many ski resorts can be found in the state. Ski Utah lists 15 different resorts on its opening date listings. All of them offer some sort of ski school or ski education program intended to get new riders of any age started. The trick might be picking which one is right for you. Palmintere’s advice is to make it as easy as possible for yourself by reducing your drive to the resort.

“I say pick what’s closest to you and most convenient,” she recommends. And if you don’t want to tie yourself down to a single spot, several different multi-resort passes are available, letting riders try out new places as they choose. The Ikon, Epic, Yeti, and Indy Passes are great examples of these.

Where do I get my gear?

Of course, getting into skiing or snowboarding – as fun as it may seem – can have significant financial obstacles, Palmintere states there are “many ways to minimize that impact.” A quick Google search for “Salt Lake ski swaps” shows many options to get preowned gear at a more digestible cost. It’s also not uncommon to see a good deal at Costco around this time.

But maybe you just want to dip your toes in the skiing waters at first, renting equipment can be the best approach. It’s commonplace for many rental shops to offer season-long rentals as well as single-day one-offs. Ski N See is a Salt Lake Valley staple for first-time skiers looking to try it out.

What do I wear?

Alright, so you’ve selected your resort, you’ve found a place to either buy or rent your skis, now the question is, what do you wear?

Layers, Palmintere says, are key.

“Your layers are one of the most important features that keep you happy on the mountain,” she states. “We highly recommend light layers, that way if you get too warm or too cold, you can add or subtract layers.”

Three layers are key: a non-cotton base layer to absorb or wick sweat away, a mid-layer with a fleece or other warm and toasty material on top of that, covered by a waterproof shell to keep things nice and dry.

Don’t forget the helmet and goggles either. Safety first.

How do I stay safe?

Speaking of safety, making sure your time on the mountain doesn’t end in a trip to the hospital or some other unpleasant ending is essential to getting into winter sports. That includes knowing how to share the slopes with the other fun-seekers at the resort. Knowing the dos and don’ts of skiing etiquette (you’re not going to be the only one at the resort by any means), can keep you and everyone around you safe. The best way to navigate the runs is to be accompanied by a trained professional, Palmintere says.

“We recommend taking a lesson for your first time out and your instructor will know how to keep you safe and advise you of all safety measures,” she advises.

Why should I?

It may seem like a lot to handle just to get started on the mountain, but to a lifelong skier like Palmintere, the benefits of hitting a few runs in the winter are a big payoff, especially if you’re new in the state and looking to make yourself at home.

“I think last year, we really proved that skiing is one of the best ways to socialize outside safely with all of your friends,” Palmintere says. “I know that’s how I socialized last winter during the height of the pandemic. It’s so fun, so bring a friend, especially if you’re just learning. That’s a great activity to bond with your friends or your family as well.”

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