It’s happened. The days of COVID lockdowns and travel restrictions seem to be behind us. As a Queenslander, I’m finally free to roam between states for a snow holiday, or even pop over the ditch to be reunited with the mountains of New Zealand.
But as the group chats light up again, and the lift tickets are booked, and the logistics are locked down for a season of ski trips – there is a thought that continues to pop up in my brain, over and over again.
This will be my first time back on skis since January 2020. My first time seeing snow in over two and a half years.
And I think I’ve forgotten… literally everything.
Enter: Ski anxiety.
Not so long ago, I was a privileged little ski brat. I did several seasons in Canada, followed by Japan, and then settled in Australia ready to jump on any snow holiday opportunity that presented itself.
But the pandemic hit, and my skis got packed into a ski bag that has not been unzipped for a loooonggg time. I am genuinely scared to crack it open in case there’s a collection of vermin that have decided to make their home among my bindings.
I’m also overwhelmed thinking about how many items are required just to navigate my way down a slope. I’ve barely had to put on pants in two years, and my hair-washing schedule has taken a serious hit; how am I supposed to remember not one, but two ski gloves? And all those layers to pack?
Do I remember how to get on a chairlift? More importantly: do I remember how to get off a chairlift? Do my legs remember how to… turn my skis?
And I’m not the only one having these thoughts…
Ski anxiety on so many levels
In a very informal survey of my mates, it turns out everyone has very similar concerns for their upcoming trips – and then some. Here are some of the responses I received…
“I haven’t snowboarded since 2020. I won’t forget how to board but I think my pants might have forgotten how to do up.” – Jodi
“Due to babies and then COVID, our planned snowboard trip hasn’t happened for five years. I will have gone from confident right back to the beginners slope.” – Naomi
“Two words: ski muscles. Have I still got them?” – Georgia
“It’s been over three years for me and I am definitely worried about eating shit – with a welcome-back-to-boarding, catch-a-toe-edge face slap.” – Mads
“I haven’t been for two years and I think I will have to move the après part of the day to the beginning and gain some liquid confidence.” – Cat
So many nerves, so little time. So where do we go from here? Well, I’m so glad you asked.
Your ski anxiety remedies
Firstly: if your pants don’t fit anymore, don’t beat yourself up about it. Mine don’t either. We’ve been in survival mode, eating handfuls of shredded cheese while working from home (just me?) – there are no prizes to be won for whatever size you are, or aren’t. Try to make peace with it and buy yourself a new pair as a treat.
As for the other points, I spoke to some experts to get their top tips for anyone who’s nervous about scanning that lift pass and getting back up to the top of the mountain… and there’s quite a bit you can do to help yourself.
1. Be sure to ease yourself in.
Alex ‘Lex’ Parsons is a backcountry guide in Thredbo, and has been a snowboard instructor. She’s spoken to many nervous first-day-back skiers and boarders over the years.
“Know that the first day or so on snow will feel weird. There is no way around that,” she says. “Just accept it, have a bit of a laugh, feel like a kook and know the skills will come back.
“Enjoy that feeling of progression and embrace all the other things that are great about skiing – fresh crisp air, beautiful views, time spent with friends and family. Don’t put so much pressure on yourself to ONLY be there to ski and ride well – it’s the whole experience that we love.”
2. If you can swing it, take a lesson.
“With professional instructors and guides, we deal with beginners all the time and are happy to try and make you feel more comfortable,” Lex points out.
“But we can’t help much if we don’t know. So tell us if you’re feeling unfit, worried about injuries, anxious, out of your depth. And consider a private lesson so you can go at your own pace.”
3. Come prepared.
Maddie Devlin has been a ski instructor for many Canadian seasons over, and she knows what’s required for a successful day on the slopes.
“My first day is always a write-off!” she says. “You’re just making sure that your gear still fits and works, that everything’s still waterproof. Rest assured it’s like riding a bike – you’ll remember, but it might take time.”
She also has some key items to add to your packing list when you’re getting ready to go.
– “You’ll be sore after a huge first day back. Have an electrolyte drink before you get on the slopes and pack Epsom salts ready to go for the bath afterwards.”
– “Get a good pump-up playlist going, whether it’s on the drive up or while you’re on the slopes! It makes all the difference.”
– “Bring friends that are in the same boat, and then you can at least laugh at each other together or encourage each other – you know, whatever your friendship is like.”
– “If you’re not able to take a lesson, even just go to Youtube before your trip and watch a couple of drills. Remind yourself of where your weight should be distributed throughout your turn, things like that.”
4. Have fun.
Above all, as Lex says: “At the end of the day, it’s just skiing. You’ll never win a Nobel prize for it, it doesn’t make you a better person. We’re just here for a good time!”
See you all on the slopes. I’ll be the one in brand-new pants, maybe falling off a chairlift.