Cross-country skiing at Chief Joseph Pass

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.



Abigail Wise

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

Sports

Get the formula right and you'll never have to resort to the treadmill again

You're never too old—or too good—to brush up on your technique

The latest technology takes the sport out of the shacks, onto the ice, and nets you big catches

Skills

Getting outdoors in the winter doesn't have to be miserable. Here, musher Blair Braverman shares her top ten tips for keeping cozy in frigid temperatures.

From where to go to what to pack, here's everything a newbie needs to know to pull off a successful first hut trip

Stop paying the shop for a simple task that you can do at home

Gear, classes, and other resource recommendations for those who want to get far, far out there in the winter

Falls happen. From skiing to bouldering, learn how to do it safely.

Keep the cold at bay with these 9 moves that you can do anytime, anywhere

What you need to know about navigating the ski season to come

Everything you need to know to ensure you don't ruin your skis, boots, and kit before next season

Looking for an outdoor mentor? So is everyone else. Here's how to make yourself a little more competitive.

Gear

Stay warm and get outside more during these colder months with smart gear picks

Advice on everything you need, from boots to a ski jacket to layering

One writer's meditation on the confusing world of snow-sports apparel

We’ve been testing skis for decades. These are our all-time favorites for groomers, backcountry bowls, and everything in between.

Leave the snow pants, helmet, and goggles at home

On skinny skis, access to socially distant outdoors time is easy. But picking out the right gear isn't.

Stay warm, dry, and comfortable while eating outdoors, without sacrificing style

Skis aren't the only way you can exploit gravity and snow

Going to the bathroom while skiing is notoriously difficult. These bottoms ease the burden.

Our favorite models for everything from resort shredding to backcountry touring

Want to learn how ski but don't want to spend all your wages on expensive ski gear and rentals? Here are some tips for saving on gear from a life-long budget-savvy skier.

Blair Braverman answers your countless questions (How did she choose her parka? What are her favorite insulating materials? How does she pee?) about her Iditarod wardrobe, which is both lifesaving and affordable.

Cozy Up

Pull your van or RV into the cheapest slopeside lodging you can find: an overnight parking space

The mountains aren't the only things that are steep these days, but you don't have to spend your life savings on after-ski libations

This season we may not be able to have a post-ski beer at the lodge, but these decked-out tailgate setups will keep things festive

We'll never speak ill of hot cocoa, but sometimes it needs an adult upgrade, especially after heading back to work post-holiday