So you want to teach your partner to ski! Whether you’ve just started a new relationship or whether you’ve been nagging them for years to try your favourite winter sport, hopefully this is the year you’ll get the chance to share your love of skiing with the love of your life. There’s nothing like waking up at the crack of dawn and heading outside into the crisp mountain air to earn first tracks on the virgin powder snow. Finding myself in a new relationship with a non-skier, I was determined to share my love of the mountains with him. And although the ski resort had excellent ski instructors, we opted to undertake this experience just the two of us together. Here are some things I learned while teaching my partner how to ski.
Some of us might not even remember learning to ski, it was so long ago. What we DO know is that we have an avid love for the mountains and everything snow. But a person’s appreciation of an alpine winter wonderland is shown to decrease in proportion to the number of times they fall down while attempting to pull off the perfect snowplough. Before your partner is able to enjoy the adrenaline rush, they’ll have to learn all the boring basics – the pain of uncomfortable ski boots, the art of balancing on skis, the patience to overcome yet another fall. If you want your partner to enjoy the sport and come skiing with you again in the future, then you’ll have to let them learn at their own pace.
Mastering the perfect snowplough - it helps to put your hands on your knees
Those kids with their private ski instructors make it look so easy, but learning to ski as an adult can be way more difficult than you think. Go slow and focus on the basics, and your partner will thank you for it when they finally do attempt more challenging runs. Oh, and don’t bother giving them their own poles until they have more experience – they’ll only get in the way. I lent mine to my boyfriend whenever we had to hike across a flat bit.
First things first, stretch. We aren’t as young as we used to be! Then, after putting the ski boots on and making sure there aren’t any nasty pressure points, make your partner practise walking with them for a few minutes to get used to the weight. Have them click into their skis in an absolutely flat area and get them accustomed to having a pair of metal sticks strapped to their feet. Some useful exercises include sliding one foot at a time backwards and forwards; lifting one foot at a time into the air; and crouching and then springing up into a jump. Finally, have them jut out one foot at a time in the motion you would use for braking. These movements will come in handy later on.
Moving to the nursery slope, teach them the principles of the snowplough and have them practise braking until they can safely come to a stop. You should be able to get to this point by the end of the first day. When your partner is ready to learn how to turn, explain the principle of putting weight on one leg to steer the skis in the other direction. Turning is a skill that will take a few days to master, so be patient and don’t expect them to pull off a perfect turn right away. You can experiment with airplane arms, raising and lowering a pole, pointing at the sky... anything that will get them to distribute their weight correctly.
Kids are awesome. Do you want to know why they learn so fast? Because you can tell them to be an airplane, or have a sword fight as you ski down the hill together, and they’ll happily go along with it, no questions asked. Adults, as I learned, will second-guess everything you tell them, and if they don’t feel like assuming a particular position, they won’t do it. I found myself channelling the spirit of a French ski instructor: Bend ze knees! BEND ZE KNEES! Oh Lord, what have I become?
If your partner wants to know the rationale behind the ridiculous positions you’re making them pull off, tell them! In most cases, this will help them get a better idea of how they should position themselves, and it will prevent them from ‘cheating’ by overcompensating with the wrong muscle groups. You want them to develop a solid foundation for when they learn to carve, so take the time to really perfect each step together. An added bonus of having to stop and think about WHY we learn to ski with a snowplough or why we lean our weight on one ski when turning is that you yourself will gain a deeper appreciation of the mechanics behind the sport.
The airplane looks silly but it helps learn how to turn while skiing
Avoid getting so carried away that you’re totally oblivious to lunchtime! If it’s almost the end of the day and you’re frustrated because your partner isn’t able to grasp a totally simple concept, maybe it’s because they’re weak with hunger. Stay hydrated, take breaks and remember to check in with your partner every once in a while to make sure they’re still having fun.
Don’t forget to stop and assess yourself every once in a while, too. It’s been a few years since I last took ski lessons and I’m rusty on a lot of things. We were lucky enough to be sharing the nursery slope with some excellent ski instructors teaching all levels of skiers, so I took inspiration from some of their techniques. But I have to be realistic: once my boyfriend gets to a certain level, I know I won’t be able to coach him properly, and he’ll have to take proper ski lessons.
You’re the reason this person is overcoming their fears to learn skiing, so you have to be the rock they can lean on if they accidentally end up on a too-steep run or freak out getting on the chairlift for the first time. There’s a fine balance between keeping it light by laughing together when your partner does a faceplant, vs. making them feel uncomfortable and scared. When we accidentally ended up on a narrow blue run with a drop-off on one side (yes, my bad!), I had to calm my boyfriend down while I helped him sidestep down the first third of the piste. We are still a couple, only because he trusted me and gave me the benefit of the doubt, and I didn’t belittle him or get frustrated when he refused to use the turns we’d spent all morning practising. Of course, I also recommend waiting a few more days before attempting a blue run... oops.
I’m ecstatically happy to announce that we pulled off a very successful ski weekend together and are already thinking about planning our next one. I get to share my favourite activity with my partner, and he gets to experience a whole new world that he was totally missing out on! But this only worked because both of us recognise the importance of communicating and being patient with each other. In the end, the important thing is to have fun together, so don’t worry if you’re stuck on the green runs for a few years – as long as you’re having fun, everything will turn out ok!
Want to teach your significant other how to ski? Check out some great ski resorts for beginners >
Born and raised in the ski paradise of Vancouver, Canada, I learned to ski before I can remember, balancing precariously on my parents’ skis as they sailed down the hill. I started snowboarding in my teens and am now delighted to be exploring everything Europe’s ski scene has to offer!
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