The Beginner’s Guide to Winter

Dropping temperatures don’t mean you have to stay inside. Consider this your welcome kit to getting after it this season.

How to Be a Beginner (and Get Over Your Ego)

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Editor's Letter

I worked at Outside for four years before I learned to ski. Our office enjoys dawn patrols together and has unspoken late starts on powder days, so I’m pretty sure I set some kind of record. My Outside colleagues pushed me to learn, and I had one simple goal: to join my friends and coworkers on their monthly full-moon skin up our local hill.

Getting started wasn’t easy. Everyone had a different opinion about which skis, boots, and poles I should buy. One Santa Fe gear-shop employee even tried to talk me into a cross-country setup, claiming it’d be easier for me to learn nordic first. It was tough not to feel discouraged when my best friend, who started last year, too, was such a natural that he scored a job on ski patrol by the end of the season. Meanwhile I struggled with nasty blisters and painful shin bruises—until a colleague passed me the name of her favorite boot fitter and my friend asked me why I was wearing mid-rise socks instead of socks designed specifically for skiing. I pizzaed straight down the green runs, only embracing the French-fries stance after my partner convinced me that skiing turns would save my aching calves. In short, having knowledgeable friends to give me advice saved my beginner season.

Being a beginner is always intimidating, but especially as an adult. You’re experienced enough to feel self-conscious and compare yourself to everyone around you. It’s hard to figure out how to hone your technique, who you can tap as a mentor, and which gear is actually required to get started. I wish I’d had a collection of resources that offered everything I needed to know about the sport before I dove in—it might have saved me some bruises and blisters.

With a pandemic-induced record number of people heading to public lands, and COVID-19 forcing us to rethink how we recreate and après, we know a lot of you are looking for a little help getting started on winter activities. Our goal is to provide you a one-stop shop for learning how to embrace a new sport, the equipment you need to do it right, and tips for staying warm once you’re out there. Maybe you’re an avid backpacker but haven’t braved winter camping yet. Or maybe, like me, you’re brand-new to skiing. We’ve got you covered. We want this package to feel like your experienced friend this winter and be the stack of advice I could have used last year.

In the end, I did finally make it to a full-moon party on the mountain. Sure, I gave myself an hour head start, since I skin much slower than everyone I know. And I got so scared by how steep the uphill was that I ended up skiing down a cat track instead. But for 20 blissful minutes, as a dozen of us crammed into a tiny ski hut under the full January moon, I was a skier, passing around a flask of whiskey at the top of the run as I greeted friends and coworkers stumbling in from the cold. —Abigail Wise, digital managing director


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