Our Beginners Guide to Skiing

Ski-ing (skē’ing) ‘1. n. The art of catching a cold and going broke while rapidly heading nowhere at great personal risk.’

Skiing: A snow-slider’s dictionary / by Henry Beard and Roy McKie

If you’re on the countdown to your first ski/snowboard trip or looking for some questions answered, this guide will cover everything you need to know about coming out to the mountains this winter

To be good at skiing and snowboarding you don’t have to be good at sports, but it does help to have a little bit of co-ordination, knowing your lefts from rights is a useful trick and the willingness to learn something new.

Where do I start? Here! We at Meriski will make sure you get the absolute best start possible to your ski/snowboard ‘career’.

Should I visit a Snowdomes and Dry Ski Slope before I travel? If you happen to have one close by I would recommend it simply so you can get a flavour of what to expect. If not, don’t worry at all, nothing could be more perfect than having your first go on real snow.

Do I have to ski/snowboard all day? Not at all, ski/snowboard to your heart’s content, or until the lifts close! Take it in your stride, it’s your holiday. Our chalets are there for relaxing in and Méribel is a wonderful place to explore should you decide to end your day early.

“Instructor – Canny individual who, after years of struggling to profit from his or her own skiing mistakes, has finally figured out how to profit from other people’s. “

Skiing: A snow-slider’s dictionary / by Henry Beard and Roy McKie

Do I need lessons? We couldn’t recommend this highly enough, to give yourself the best chance possible at the beginning of your ski career. 

Shared or Private lessons? Shared Lessons are great for learning in a group, meeting new people and they are cheaper than private lessons. Private Lessons are the best for learning quickly. These lessons are 1:1 tuition (or only your family and one instructor). Having this dedicated focus with the instructor will set you on a steeper learning curve than a Shared Lesson. 

Do the instructors speak English? Yup, just tell the reservations department and they’ll align you with an English instructor.

Where do I meet for ski/snowboard school? You’ll be sent this in your confirmation of your ski/snowboard school or told at the time of booking. Don’t worry if you forget, tell us who you’re with and we’ll drop you at the location with our driver service.

How do I get to my lesson? We’ll drop you off, let us know your start time and location. Our driver service is available from 8am – 8pm. You’ll be given the driver’s numbers upon arrival in our chalets and when you call them to arrange pick up times, you can inform them of the lesson times. We can also do this for you in the resort. 

How long are the lessons? Typically a morning lesson will be 9am – 12noon, you can book by the hour for private lessons or by the session for shared. We’d recommend as a beginner getting full days as you’ll soon pick it up and cruising around with the others in your group before you know it.

Can I go skiing/snowboarding without an instructor after my lessons? Absolutely! Just take a piste map, We highly recommend not trying any new slopes. Revisit the ones you’ve been on with your instructor and focus on that technique. Try not to learn any bad habits.

On the mountain attire? For Sub 0’c temperatures we’d recommend a Merino Wool thermal base, breathable fleece and ski jacket. For the bottoms, thermal long-johns, ski pants (salopettes) and a good ski sock. Glove liners and waterproof gloves, Buff for the face and neck as well as goggles or sunglasses followed by your helmet. If It’s a warm day, perhaps just a t-shirt, fleece and ski jacket. Ski pants and socks for the bottoms with a single pair of waterproof gloves with goggles or sunglasses with helmet

What to take on the slopes? A good question, we try to refrain from wearing a backpack, ski jackets often come with deep pockets so you should be able to fit in the following recommendations. Take a case for sunglasses, your wallet for lunch, a small bottle of water and snacks. These are available in your Meriski chalet every day, fill your boots! (Not literally). Perhaps a hat so when you take your helmet off you can keep your head warm

Goggles or Sunglasses? Personally, I can’t ski with sunglasses, I want my eyes to be completely shielded so I go with goggles. If you don’t want to look like a panda after a sunny day then get some shades, make sure they’ve got larger lenses though as the sun will reflect from the snow too.

What do I wear in the chalet? Comfort is key here; after a long day skiing/snowboarding, it’s important to remember this is your home too. Dress as you would normally, slippers are recommended for added comfort and warmth in front of the fire. (Do not worry, we do have actual modern heating throughout the chalets…) Also, you aren’t expected to dress up to the 9s for dinner.

I do not own any winter clothing! Not a problem, lots of high street shops such as Decathlon, Ellis Brigham, TK Maxx and Mountain Warehouse stock everything you’ll need for skiing/snowboarding. Even consider asking your friends, chances are they’ll be happy to lend.

Ski/Snowboarding Equipment? We use our preferred local partner Oscar at Méribel Ski Service (MSS). We will assist you in pre-booking the Ski Boots, Skis, Poles and Helmet online and his team will come to the chalet the night before you start your weeks skiing to give you a comprehensive fitting. You won’t need to go walking around town bartering for the best price, we’ll get that for you, and MSS will make sure you have the best gear in stock for what you need.

Sun Cream – It may be -5 out there but the sun will be stronger than you think, take a small bottle with you. Lip Balm too.

Outdoor Shoes? Important to make sure you’ve got a couple of pairs. Make sure you pack a good sturdy pair of shoes, it can be icy underfoot on the footpaths. Trainers are comfortable but don’t always offer the best grip. Snow boots or walking shoes are the way to go.

Shoes in the chalet? No outdoor shoes are permitted in the chalets so make sure you bring a comfy pair of socks or slippers.

Mountain lunches? My favourite part about my time on the mountain. The Three Valleys are covered in amazing places to go and eat, all depends on what you fancy. Our hosts can recommend a whole list of restaurants and huts, they’ll even reserve a space for you.

Post Ski/Snowboarding Activities in a Meriski Chalet? The ski day is done, the lifts are closed, you’re back in the chalet after your first day, treat yourself! Book a masseuse to come to your chalet, take your socks off and soak in the hot tub, put your feet up in the cinema room, cut a well earnt hefty slice of cake, double up on the tea or just sink on the sofa in front of the fire with a good book.

What else can I do in the resort apart from ski/snowboard? If you decide to finish early for the day don’t worry, there is plenty in town that you can explore. The resort is so accessible to all that you can easily fill your holiday with other experiences to compliment your ski trip. Fancy parapenting over the mountains? Sledging down the dedicated tracks? Watch some Ice Hockey? Trying the local produce? Shopping until your heart’s content? Méribel has something for everyone. In the evenings you can often catch a firework display or walk through the local market.

Children often have an advantage when it comes to learning to ski. Their fearless attitude often means they’re very eager to try something new, being curious is a good trait and as children’s ski school is usually in groups, they’ll be with children their own age making it easy to make new friends for the week. Being so small their centre of gravity really helps them pick up the basics and they’ll soon be little rippers cruising around the mountain and running laps around you! We make sure we work closely with you and your family to build the perfect holiday. Making sure the kids have all the right equipment, clothing and lessons is critical which is why we’re here to help. Let us know if you have any questions and we’ll be on hand to reassure you. 

Can my children be in the same ski/snowboarding school as me? As wonderful as this would be, it’s ill-advised. Kids learn at their own pace, which is usually quicker than adults, they’re fearless and with their lower centre of gravity, they are pretty good at balancing. The only way around this is to go with a private instructor for your family.

Can my kids go into ski/snowboarding school on their own? Yes, children will be in ski school with other children their own/similar age.

What if my kids do not want to ski/snowboard? It happens, sometimes it can be too intimidating for the young ones, there is daycare available in the resort. We can help book this for you and we can also assist with nannies who are welcome in our chalets.

What can I do with my kids in town? Lot’s of activities are suitable for both adult and children. Méribel prides itself on caring for the whole family. Bowling, play area, markets, Father Christmas, fireworks, ice hockey, ice skating, sledging, snowball fights, snowmen and more!

Are the mountains safe for kids? They’re just as safe for kids as they are for you. There are dedicated areas that only children can go to. There is a dedicated kid learning area and lots of fun parks around the mountains for you as a family to visit. Fo example, the Yeti Park.

Lift Passes? In Méribel there are two types. Méribel Local Pass & Trois Vallees Pass. For a beginner, we would recommend the Local Pass, you won’t need to exploit the full area of the resort just yet, that’ll come next time. Pre-book these with us and we’ll print them in the chalet for you.

What do the coloured lines mean on the piste map? These are slopes, your instructor will worry about these but it’s worth keeping an eye out on the poles as you ski down, they’re on the side of the slopes.

Green is for Beginners
Blue is for those with a couple of lessons under their belt
Red is for solid intermediates
Black is for advanced
Double Black Diamond for high end advanced but not used as much in Europe.

If you happen to have a question that we haven’t answered, please just give us a call on 01285 648 518 or email us [email protected] and we’ll be more than happy to assist! 

We can’t wait to see you in one of our chalets this winter, share your story and holiday images with us. #Meriski We look forward to raising a glass with you and hearing your success stories! 

Photo Credit:
Covern, Food, Snowboarder & Sledges – ©Sylvain Aymoz – Méribel Tourisme 
Instructors – Marmalade Ski School