Starting to Ski
Professional skiers probably started down the slopes before they could walk properly. For the rest of us, the first ski trip maybe when we are at secondary school. Every year (except during Covid) thousands, possibly 10s of thousands, of UK secondary school pupils head for the European slopes with a school ski trip.
For many, it will be their first time skiing on real snow. Some of the new skiers will have managed some practice runs on dry slopes or man-made snow in the UK, most likely organised by the school too.
Skiing in the UK
There are reputed to be (data taken from the Ski Club GB website):
- more than 50 Dry slopes across the UK
- 6 real snow slopes (but since 5 of those are south of Leeds it seems a safe bet to say the snow is man-made rather than natural)
- 5 Ski resorts – all in Scotland
Elements to prepare
For those new to skiing, it will be their first time getting ready for a multi-day ski trip. There are lots of elements to getting ready but we will look only at the big 3: Safety, fitness and packing the right stuff into the suitcase for a multi-day ski trip.
Every school provides detailed safety briefings and gets the kids, and probably the parents too, to sign a waiver of some sort against the possibility of suing if young Joe or Jo hurts themselves.
Getting fit for the slopes will also be discussed but in a little less detail. We are talking about secondary school pupils—generally fit and healthy young people who may be slightly unfit when they start the holiday but can, because of their age, turn into fit and healthy skiers over 10 days.
The school will also provide a kit/packing list and some strict instructions about must-haves and must-not-haves.
As with all school trips, whether day-trip or residential, safety comes first. No one; not the school, the teachers, the parents/carers, or the pupils wants anyone to get hurt. The first three groups put a lot of effort into making sure that doesn’t happen. Mostly, the pupils, as with all young people whatever they are doing, assume that nothing bad will happen and focus less on the safety briefings than maybe they ought.
The safety briefings are provided first by the school and then, once they hit the slopes, by the ski instructors. These briefings cover everything:
- starting with the journey to the resort
- the safety around the resort
- the use of ski lifts etc and finally
- the fun bits about safety while skiing
Fitness required for a ski trip:
It might have made sense to talk about the fitness issues before the safety elements above. But then we couldn’t have written Safety first!
Most schools don’t mandate very strict training regimes for the kids before they reach the resort. The underlying assumption seems to be that the group of pupils who want to ski are likely to be moderately fit and healthy before they sign-up in the first place. Generally, there are efforts made to stop someone travelling with pre-existing injuries which could be exacerbated by skiing. Common sense stuff.
But, many schools do provide training plans for how the kids can maximise their enjoyment of the trip and minimise their chances of injury by preparing well, in advance. Many also offer extra-curricular sessions to encourage the growth of team spirit by training together.
The two things which seem to have the biggest impact on the attitude of the pupils to the training sessions are:
- First, the issue of altitude. The idea of 5 to 7 hours doing even light exercise at some altitude is enough to scare most kids into putting the effort into their training.
- Second, the threat or worry that they might be too tired after a day on the slopes to enjoy the après ski activities they are most looking forward to.
The prime targets of the training provided are: building overall stamina and strengthening specific muscle groups especially the legs and core. The exercises are often grouped by: stamina workouts, circuit and strength workouts, stretching sessions and core stability sessions. Amazing what a few weeks of preparation can do, both for the fitness levels and the team spirit.
What to take:
Based on previous years’ experience, and/or advice from the resort, the school will provide each pupil with a comprehensive packing list. There will be things that have to go, optional items and things that must not be taken. Often there is some sort of sign-off process by the students/parents to confirm that Jo/Joe has everything they should have and nothing they should not have.The lists vary widely between schools and resorts depending on the nature of the trip. Some trips have no expectation of the kids having to do any laundry, for others laundry is expected. Some trips expect a smarter turnout (but still not formal) in the evenings, at least for some evenings, and most others less so. Some clothing items are mandated e.g. the ski hoodie and others are left to the individual’s discretion.
Ski equipment itself is usually hired for the whole group when at the resort. For those pupils who already have skis and boots etc arrangements can generally be made to take those.
Below are a couple of example packing lists to give some idea of what is usually included:
Packing List – 1
Wash Kit (inc. lip balm and moisturiser)
Travel Sickness Medication
Packing List – 2
Ski jacket – to wear skiing and if you go out in the evening
Ski trousers (salopettes/ski pants)
Several pairs of ski socks
Thermal trousers and top if it is really cold
Basics (for when you aren’t skiing)
Tops and jumpers
Underwear and socks
Hat, scarf and gloves
Toothbrush and toothpaste
Shampoo, conditioner, and body wash
Sun cream and lip block
Preparation pays dividends
A few weeks ago we wrote about What makes for a great school ski trip? There is no doubt that getting the preparation right beforehand is a key consideration. Schools make massive efforts to ensure that the kids who are going are well prepared. That they:
- know the issues affecting their safety and what to do in all circumstances
- have prepared mentally and physically for the trip
- have packed the right stuff into their luggage
Messing-up on any of the major issues can wreck the trip and not just for the individual concerned but for everyone. So, it is in everyone’s best interests to ensure that the preparation is well thought out and thorough.