Learn to ski

This page is for everyone who wants to read back what he heard during my ski lessons. Going through this page is also a good preparation for lessons that you are about to follow soon or as a refresh for the coming winter season!


1. Curriculum
2. How to choose a ski school
3. How many days?
4. Tips
5. The perfect turn
6. Pistes
7. Rules for the Conduct of Skiers and Snowboarders

1. Curriculum

The Austrian Ski School Association (ÖSSV) is the umbrella organisation of all regional Austrian ski instructors’ associations (Vorarlberg, Tirol, Salzburg, Snowsports Academy (Vienna), etc). All ski schools in Austria are member of one of the ski instructor associations and follow the same curriculum.
For ski beginners the curriculum is:
  • Introduction
  • Schussing
  • Snowplough braking & turning
  • Alpine skiing posture
  • Edging, traversing & sliding
  • Snowplough steering
  • Poleplant

There are differences between the several associations. It is like with dancing schools: some begin the quickstep with the left foot, others with the right. But the basic principles are the same everywhere.

There is a wonderful Snowsports Academy website available nowadays with a good explanation of the techniques and superb demonstration video's: Learnhow2ski.com. It is meant for (future) ski instructors, but I can really recommend it to everyone.

2. The ski school

Pick two items out of these three: quality, time, money.
  • Learn to ski well in a short amount of time: take private lessons (high price).
  • Learn to ski well for a low price: take 5 or 6 days lessons at a cheap school (big groups).
  • If you want to take just 2 or 3 (half) days of lessons for a low price:
    you aren't going to learn much...

Check the internet for reviews: Google Maps, TripAdvisor, Facebook, etc. Also check the maximum size of the group you will join. The perfect size is 6 to 8 people. In high season it happens in some places that there are groups of 18 persons! True!

Reserve your place. It really can happen (in high season) that a ski school is full and there is no more place for you and/or your child. Check on which days the group lessons start. Most off the time that can be on as well Sunday as on Monday. Make sure that you know exactly where the meeting point is and be on time. Don't forget any vouchers you need to give to the ski instructor!

Scheduling in a ski school is complicated: availability of teachers, school holidays, group composition, group size, available slopes, illness, even the weather: there are a lot of factors that come into play. If you want the same private ski teacher as last year: book him at least six weeks in advance. Otherwise the roster is probably already fixed. If it is a popular teacher: book him a few months in advance!

Kids which have never skied before go to Kinderland, adult starters have their own group. The more experienced kids and adults have to ski a little slalom ("Vorfahren") so they can be divided into the right group. Smart parents excersise a little bit with their kids the day before or the hour before das Vorfahren!

Check when and where (and at what time) the races ("Rennen") are. They can be in the valley, but also on the mountain. They can be on Thursday, but also on Friday.

3. How many days?

You need approximately five fulltime days in a row for the above mentioned curriculum. Some people will be a little slower, some people a little faster. On the third or fourth day you start to learn Snowplough Steering. On the fourth or fifth day you exercise on a slope that is as steep as the blue slopes in the ski area. When the days are not fulltime and in a row: you are going to need much more days!

Children till 14 years old learn very quickly. The youngest (three years) learn to break within 1½ day and learn to make turns within one day. So after three days (at the most) the ski teacher can take them to a blue slope: they learn by doing/playing the rest of the days.

A young child should be able to make a pizza (while standing). If it can't you have to wonder if it's ready for ski lessons.

If you are a parent and want to ski with your children: start taking lessons a few years earlier. Otherwise your children will be too fast for you very quickly! 😂

An indoor ski hall with a rolling carpet is a perfect place to learn how to ski. A lesson is one hour and you will get three times ten minutes of very concentrated, individual training. It is very efficient, weather is never an issue and you can budget and plan it very strictly. I can really recommend it to as well (small) children as adults. Nice side effect: much less muscle pain during the ski holiday!

If you have the budget to take private training: do it only when you have the budget to take enough lessons. If you are a really advanced skier you can learn an awfull lot in just two or four hours. A beginner or intermediate skier needs time to understand and feel the excercises, let alone to automate new correct or improved movements. Consistent, continuous feedback from a professional is needed. Forget learning to ski on your own or from a friend: your body will say the wrong stuff and your friend has no clue which steps and feedback are needed to make you a good skier.

4. Tips

I think the following tips are usefull for all beginners:
  • For the smaller children: consider to let them wear diaper pants. In case of a "pee accident" the consequences won't be so great.
  • Of course it is nice as a parent to go skiing with your child at the end of the day, when your child returns from ski lessons. You have to ask yourself though whether it is wise to do that for a long time or whether it must necessarily be a black run. And ski lessons, and making a snowman, and going for a swim, and eating out until late on the same day is too much, simply unwise and calls for accidents.
  • Taking a few lessons every year in an indoor ski hall in your home country is a perfect preparation for as well beginners as more advanced skiers. It helps your technique and prevents muscle pain.
  • Don't look at other people to learn how to ski: most people can't ski!
  • Rent cheap skis, poles and helmet. You won't notice the difference.
  • Wear a helmet.
  • Wear multiple layers of merino wool shirts. Merino wool doesn't stink very quickly and also isolates when it is wet.
  • Ask advice which ski pass you should buy! That can save you a lot of money.
  • Return the ski pass at the end of your holiday. Most of the time there is a refund ("pfand").
  • Always wear gloves when carrying your skis. The edges are very sharp.
  • Always wear your gloves when skiing. Even though it's hot. If you fall you can hurt your hands considerably.
  • How to hold your ski poles video
  • Standing up after a crash video
  • Schuss video
  • Snowplough video
  • Snowplough turns video
  • The Alpine skiing posture is as follows:
    • Skis are parallel (hip wide, +/- 10 cm apart from each other).
    • Mountain ski is half a shoe forward relative to your valley ski.
    • Put 90% of your weight on your downhill ski.
    • Bring the skis on their edges, knees to the mountain.
    • Ankles, knees and hips are slightly bent. (How much? Put your hands on your knees: that much! And everything is bend in the same angle.)
    • Advance your uphill ski, -hip, -shoulder and -arm (Open to the valley. Shoulders, hips and hands are parallel to the ski tips).
    • Lean your upper body slightly forward-downhill. Bend your hip and knees. How Much? You should be able to put your hands on your knee.
    • Head to the valley, over your downhill ski. (Vomit in the valley, shit on the mountain.)
    • Bring your slightly bend arms in front of your body (pretend to hug your ski teacher).
  • The position of your arms is very important. It helps with being "movement ready", putting pressure on your ski tips, preventing rotation and is necessary for a correct pole positioning.
  • Alpine skiing posture video
  • Edging & sliding video
  • Don't go faster with your body then you can think with your mind.

  • Don't use the whole width of the slope. Rule of thumb is that you shouldn't use more than half of the width.
  • Don't use the left or right one and a half meter of the slope. That can be used by someone out of control who doesn't want to hit you.
  • Don't ski from bump to bump. Look at the next 7 meters of the slope. That way it is much easier to anticipate a bumpy slope. Look forward, not down. Ski the slope, not the next turn.
  • Don't ski lazy. If you ski in a very relaxt holiday style you will learn your body to ski lazy. It is a sport: put on your ski face!
  • Prevent static skiing: you will be just a passenger of your skies. With dynamic skiing you decide where the skis are going.
  • Don't ski with the same speed all the time. Ski with different speeds: fast turns 1 2 3 4, slow turns 5 6 7, fast turns 1 2 3 4, etc. This keeps you dynamic and agile.
  • As with walking: unwind your feet all the time: toes, full sole, toes, full sole. This also keeps you dynamic and agile.
  • Control your speed, don't go faster with every turn. What helps is slow counting: 21, 22, 23, etc. Every beat is one, whole turn.
  • If it gives you a good feeling to touch the snow with one of your poles while skiing: touch the snow with your valley pole: that assures your weight is not too much to the mountain.
  • Make a video of your ski partner with your mobile phone and evaluate together.

5. The perfect turn

  • All (up/forward) motion should be fluid.
  • With the up/forward motion I mean: go on your toes to the front, to the valley. Use your toes and knees for this, not your hip.
  • An alternative for the up/forward motion is to push your shoes backwards. Same effect!
  • 50% Of the curve is weight distribution. The other 50% is the down movement. Go for the 100%!
  • We can't do a lot in the fall line. (The spot with the 50/50 weight distribution.) But in preparation of the turn we can make sure that our posture is correct. After the fall line we can make sure that we are going to stand on our lower ski and take the time to steer out and go down with our body to build pressure. (How much down? Put your hands on your knees: that much!)
  • Saying in your head what you should do helps to pace the turns.
  • Take your time, speed is not important. We want fluid turns: not too fast to the 50/50 and not to fast away from the 50/50.
  • Don't make the next turn until the current turn is ready!
  • Tip 1 for the advanced parallel short turns skier: Extend mountain ankle/put pressure on your mountain toe right at the start of the turn: this helps to put pressure on the outside ski right away: you start your turn really immediately.
  • Tip 2 for the advanced parallel short turns skier: Make a quick, agressive, short, much bigger banana (edge more) at the end of the curve. You will get an enormous rebound from your skies. And you will notice immediately when you are leaning backwards or are in the middle of your skies too much!

6. Pistes

A piste is a marked ski run down a mountain for snow skiing, snowboarding, or other mountain sports. In Europe, pistes are classified by a color-coded system. The actual color system differs in parts for each country. Shapes are not always used, sometimes all ratings are circles.
The ratings are:
  • Green: Learning or Beginner slopes (Spain, France, Scandinavia, UK, Poland).
    These are usually not marked trails, but tend to be large, open, gently sloping areas at the base of the ski area. Sometimes marked as a Green circle.
  • Blue: Easy slopes.
    Similar to the North American Green Circle. These are almost always groomed. The slope gradient shall not exceed 25% except for short wide sections with a higher gradient. Sometimes marked as a Blue square.
  • Red: Intermediate slopes.
    Similar to the North American Blue Square. Steeper, or narrower than a blue slope. These are usually groomed, unless the narrowness of the trail prohibits it. The slope gradient shall not exceed 40%, except for short wide sections with a higher gradient. Sometimes marked as a red rectangle.
  • Black: Expert slopes.
    Equivalent to the North American Black Diamond or Double Black Diamond. Steep, may or may not be groomed, or may be groomed for moguls. In Austria, Italy and Switzerland black pistes are nearly always groomed, as non-groomed pistes are marked as skiroutes. In France, some black pistes are groomed, but most are not. Black can be a very wide classification, ranging from a slope marginally more difficult than a Red to very steep avalanche chutes. France tends to have a higher limit between red and black. Sometimes marked as a black diamond.
  • Double or triple black diamond: Extremely difficult slopes (Scandinavia).
  • Orange: Extremely difficult slopes (Austria, Switzerland).
  • Yellow square, orange square, red diamond: Ungroomed and often unpatrolled skiroute.
    In Austria, ski routes are usually marked with orange squares. It is also common to mark those pistes with a red diamond or a red diamond with black edges (the latter being more difficult).

Alpine slope classification in Europe is less rigidly tied to slope angle than in North America. A lower angle slope may be classified as more difficult than a steeper slope if, for instance, it is narrower and/or requires better skiing ability.
(Source: Wikipedia - Piste)

7. Rules for the Conduct of Skiers and Snowboarders

In Austria it is a felony to ski away from an accident (you are a witness) or someone that needs help! FIS has published rules for the conduct of skiers and snowboarders.

1. Respect for others

A skier or snowboarder must behave in such a way that he does not endanger or prejudice others.

2. Control of speed and skiing or snowboarding

A skier or snowboarder must move in control. He must adapt his speed and manner of skiing or snowboarding to his personal ability and to the prevailing conditions of terrain, snow and weather as well as to the density of traffic.

3. Choice of route

A skier or snowboarder coming from behind must choose his route in such a way that he does not endanger skiers or snowboarders ahead.

4. Overtaking

A skier or snowboarder may overtake another skier or snowboarder above or below and to the right or to the left provided that he leaves enough space for the overtaken skier or snowboarder to make any voluntary or involuntary movement.

5. Entering, starting and moving upwards

A skier or snowboarder entering a marked run, starting again after stopping or moving upwards on the slopes must look up and down the slopes that he can do so without endangering himself or others.

6. Stopping on the slope

Unless absolutely necessary, a skier or snowboarder must avoid stopping on the slope in narrow places or where visibility is restricted. After a fall in such a place, a skier or snowboarder must move and clear of the slope as soon as possible.

7. Climbing and descending on foot

A skier or snowboarder either climbing or descending on foot must keep to the side of the slope.

8. Respect for signs and markings

A skier or snowboarder must respect all signs and markings.

9. Assistance

At accidents, every skier or snowboarder is duty bound to assist.

10. Identification

Every skier or snowboarder and witness, whether a responsible party or not, must exchange names and addresses following an accident.