Here are some tips I’ve compiled based on my skiing experience over the years. Some of the tips are for pre-trip and some for during the trip. The first tip is to read this document completely and ASAP so you will make better decisions at each stage.
Start Exercising Now! Exercising will help you enjoy your ski trip more and will also help prevent injury.
There is a lot of info on the internet about exercising for skiing and the trainers at your gym may be able to help you as well.
* An excellent ski conditioning workout (Recommended 3x/week together with a regular cardio and strength workout regime): http://youtu.be/pKnP88kWTKA
* A good explanation of the muscle groups you need to work on:
Health – Being out in the cold all day coupled with the exertion of skiing, partying, traveling, and being in close quarters with lots of other people is a recipe for weakening your immune system and getting sick. (Check out this cool video on the link between being cold and getting sick.)
Bring vitamins… Multi and C and your favorite supplements. Start taking before the trip and take every day during.
Energy – Bring some energy or protein bars. They are easy to pull out on the trails when you need some more calories. You likely won’t be able to buy kosher energy/protein bars at the resort. I recommend you bring one per day of your trip.
Swimming – Bring a swimsuit and swimming cap. Some hotels in Europe require that both men and women wear swim caps to use their pools. In the event that your hotel doesn’t have a pool many resorts have a public sports center as well as several spas where you can use a pool, jacuzzi and other facilities for a fee.
Backpack – Bring a backpack to carry food, water and extra garments for the changing weather conditions during skiing. Best are ski/snowboard backpacks which have all kinds of useful features. Get one with a water bag or just carry a bottle of water. If you get a backpack designed for a water bag it is best to get one that has a closed zipper section (insulated hydro-sleeve) in the shoulder strap for storing the water tube. If it is very cold put a heat pack in the zippered section together with the tube in order to keep the water in the tube from freezing or after drinking blow the water in the tube back into the water bag. The tube should be insulated. The backpack should have a waist strap for added stability. Good sizes are 20L or 25L. Dakine brand makes some really nice packs. A backpack also serves to protect your back and spine in case of a fall and is considered a safety item so don’t be bummed that you are carrying it around with you all day. It is protecting you. Safety note: Be sure to take your backpack off and hold it when you are on ski lifts, especially on chairlifts. It is a safety requirement, not only because wearing it causes you to sit dangerously forward but also because the straps can get snagged in the chair and prevent you from getting off. I have seen people get dragged by the chair and nearly injured because of this. Be safe!
Heat Packs – It is a good idea to have a few heat packs in your backpack. They are light and small but can be very welcome if needed. No need to power them up on a regular basis but they are great to have around.
Ski Stuff You Need to Bring:
Ski Jacket/Pants – You cannot rent ski jackets, ski pants, or goggles at the resort. You must either bring them with you or purchase them there. Ski jackets and pants can be rented in Israel and I’m sure in other home countries. Borrowing a ski jacket and ski pants is also a great option.
Thermals – Wear thermal, moisture wicking, undergarments that will pass the sweat away from your body.
Socks – It is recommended to use good quality, thin ski socks. They pass your movements to your boots and skis more responsively and will give you better control. They, together with your insulated ski boots, will keep your feet warmer than thick socks will because they allow for better blood circulation.
How to Dress for Skiing – Underwear, ski socks, thermal bottoms (over the socks), thermal tops; ski pants, some type of neck warmer (gaiter), ski jacket, goggles, helmet, gloves and or mittens. Keep extra warming gear – like a ski cap, face mask, ear muffs, and maybe a fleece, in your backpack. Most of the extra gear is light and will not drag you down. And, as I mentioned above, the backpack has a second and very important role of protecting your back in case of a fall.
Warming gear – A soft, windproof, water-resistant neck gaiter (better than a turtleneck sweater and safer than a scarf); ear muffs; a face mask, a warm hat, etc. are important to have and keep in your backpack. If the weather gets harsh you will be glad you have them.
Gloves or Mittens – You obviously need one or the other. The advantage of gloves is dexterity if you need to adjust something. The advantage of mittens is that they keep your hands warmer. I’ve found that it’s best to wear both: glove liners inside mittens. This will give you amazing warmth within the mitten and if you need to take the mittens off to use your “fingers”, the glove liners will protect you from the worst of the cold.
Ski Helmet – It is highly recommended that you wear a helmet when skiing. This will not only protect you from falls and “moving trees” but also from other skiers and snowboarders. Better safe than… unsafe! You can rent a helmet at the resort, but I recommended you buy one. This way you know that it hasn’t been weakened by other renters falling with or dropping it. Make sure the helmet fits well with your goggles or sunglasses. If you are going to purchase a helmet, I strongly recommend one with a mechanism that enables you to open and close the vents without dismantling the helmet.
Eyewear – You will need goggles or sunglasses. Goggles are prefered for many reasons: Good ones are treated to prevent fogging even on cold, wet days; they protect your eyes and a larger part of your face against snow, wind, sunburn and glare; and they remained secured on your face better at higher speeds. Beginners can make due with sunglasses but should use ones that will prevent light from getting in from the sides. Whether you choose to wear goggles or sunglasses, it is best to have yellow, Polarized, UV filtering lenses to cut down glare, improve clarity, and protect your eyes. Goggles cannot be rented; you must either bring them with you or purchase them in the ski resort.
Ski Boots and Skis – If you like skiing, buy your own boots. This is recommended mainly for comfort since renting boots is often a pain, literally. Your own boots will mold to your feet and shins and there is really no comparison comfort-wise. Generally, renting skis is fine, especially while you are learning. There are benefits to both owning and renting skis but you will know when, and if, you need to buy.
Ski-School – All new skiers should learn how to ski from a certified instructor. There is a lot of technique involved in skiing some of which are counterintuitive. Some may prefer learning with group lessons which can be fun and are cheaper, while others may prefer private lessons. Either way, for your safety and enjoyment, be sure to take lessons “at least” until you are able to confidently ski intermediate level runs, mainly because you cannot get around the mountain without this. Optimally, you should take lessons until you are an all-mountain skier. The better you get, the more you will enjoy the sport and the more options you will have of where to ski and who to ski with.
Even seasoned skiers can benefit from a private lesson at least once at the beginning of each season, best a few hours into the first day. This helps correct bad habits and get you focused on proper technique. Skiing gets more enjoyable as your skills increase and instruction is the quickest, safest and surest way to increase your skills.
Ski-School on Video – Watch the videos at the links below a few times before the trip. I recommend downloading them to your smartphone or laptop and watching them in the evenings at KeneSki as well.
* This is an excellent video series. Watch the Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced playlists.
* Another great ski learning series. The videos are not in order on the page. Watch them in order: 1-12 http://www.youtube.com/user/LasseLyck/featured
Ski Apps – Download an app with trails maps for the resort. Best if the maps have integrated GPS so you can always know where you are.
Ski Pass – Save your Ski Passes. Many resorts provide a web based service where you can view your ski history online, giving you a nice recap of your trip during the ski week or after you have returned home.
Storing Your Skis – If you store your skis at the hotel you will have the flexibility of skiing in a different area in the morning if you decide to, and most importantly, you will not have to rush back to the rental place at the end of the day to get your shoes out of the locker and will be able to extend your stay at Apres Ski! Beginners will be told by the school, where they should store their skis.
VAT Refund – Countries in Europe will return the VAT (Sales Tax) for items purchased in that country which you take with you when you leave. There is a minimum purchase amount in order to be eligible. For example, in France, if you purchase more than 175.01 EUR worth of items (including VAT) you can get the 20% VAT refunded to you. You submit the refund request at the airport or by mail. Be sure to ask the stores for the proper receipts and forms. Sources:
Cash – At least 150 EUR in cash is recommended. Generally about 100 will be spent on the bus to and from the airport and the tip for the hotel staff. Cheapest to buy while still in Israel or your country of origin. You can always get more from an ATM there so it’s fine to bring less and get more as needed.
Credit Cards – Visa and MasterCard are widely accepted, less so American Express and Diners. Israelis should make sure to bring an international card. Also, you will need to use your PIN for all purchases, unlike in Israel, so make sure you know it.
Cellphone – If you want to use your cell phone number during the week, you should arrange for an international roaming package with your cell phone provider. If you can use a different number for the week, you can purchase a local SIM card, available everywhere. This option is generally less expensive. Note that your phone must be “unlocked” in order to use a SIM from a different provider than the one you use at home. You can test this by trying someone’s SIM from a different provider while you are still in your home country. Unlocking the phone is not a complex process but you should have that done before the trip. You can also rent a phone in your country of origin that already has a SIM which is good for the country of destination. Google “International cell phone rental”. Whichever option you choose, you will probably want a couple of GB of data usage for the week. The hotel charges for WiFi usage so having your own data can be useful, depending on your needs.
If you use Golan Telecom, you may want to upgrade your plan to include international service. That plan includes service within 24 countries outside of Israel including France and Italy.
Camera (Stills) – It is nice to have a camera which is waterproof, shockproof, and works in extreme temperatures. They are more likely to work when you want them to. Here is a good review of rugged pocket cameras:
Great for the beach and hiking too! I like to buy this type of thing from B&H. They have very helpful customer service. Call them up and ask their advice before purchasing online.
Camera (Action Video) – Helmet mounted video cameras like the GoPro are cool! It’s a great way to share the fun and relive it when you get back home. Often they can be rented at the ski resort.
Electrical – If you are going to need to charge devices at night bring one universal plug adapter (and/or power converter if needed) and a power strip from your home country. That way you and your roommates can plug in all your devices at the same time without needing an adapter for each device.
Car Rental – If you plan on trying out some of the other resorts in the area you can check for public transportation options; hire a guide who will drive a group of you there and show you the best spots or you can rent a car. If you do rent a car for any reason, including just to get to and from the resort, it is essential that you rent one with winter tires. Some countries (Germany and Austria for example) mandate winter tires during winter months and you can be sure that cars rented there during the winter already have the proper tires (verify anyway). Other countries (Italy, France & Switzerland) do not require them but you will still want them. Snow chains are also recommended to carry with you just in case. See this link for legislation in different European countries regarding winter tires and snow chains.
I have found one car rental search site which indicates if the car comes with winter tires. Enter the standard search criteria and on the results page search for “Winter Tires Included”. http://www.autoeurope.eu/
Choosing a Ski Resort – The Kosher resorts in Europe change a bit from year to year with some opening just for Chanukah and some just for a couple of weeks here and there. There are some regulars too. This travel agency specializes in kosher ski trips to Europe and their web site has the up-to-date info detailing which Kosher resorts in Europe are available: http://www.idealtours.co.il/en/resorts/
For those that want to make their own kosher self-catering here are two great resources for helping you choose a ski area:
* This site has a great filter system which lets you choose a resort based on criteria that you select – see the “Ski Area Finder” link on the left. For example you can input a location, such as a ski resort or town in the “Vicinity search“ field and choose the maximum travel distance and minimum KM’s of ski runs of different levels and it will find the resorts that match your criteria. It also has lots of info on each resort: http://www.bergfex.com/
* This site rates and tests ski resorts on a wide variety of criteria. It is a great resource for helping you choose the best resort for you: http://www.skiresort.info/
Caveat – Don’t ever trust the snow-depth or lifts/runs-open reports of apps or websites like the ones above, they get their info from 3rd parties and are often not up-to-date. Go to the resorts own website to verify.
* Weather Reports – This a great and trusted site for ski resort snow reports:
That’s it for now. If you have any additional pointers let me know and I will add them to the doc.