A winter activity guide for beginners
Ever feel like the new kid on the block? Ever show up to cross-country ski with fleece sweatpants and skate-skis from the ’80s? I have. Which is why I know it’s no fun to be the rookie. Thankfully, many of my beginner-days are well behind me, but I’ve endeavored enough winter sports to know that at some point, you will look out of place. The fact is though, if we want to add to our outdoor activity repertoire we all must put in our time being inexperienced.
So, if you’ve ever attempted a winter bike ride with summer tires only to see a pro fly by with mittens the size of oven mitts and the fattest tires you’ve ever seen – this guide, dear beginner, is for you.
Gather your beta
Find a friend who enjoys the activity you’re hoping to get into, attend a group class, or read a blog. However you do it, prepare yourself with some preliminary knowledge about your sport including what gear is necessary, what safety precautions to observe and areas to try out new activities.
Great local sources for learning a new skill are REI or The Mountaineering Club of Alaska. Both boast an impressive list of group outings and classes this winter to get you started. The added bonus of beginner courses? You won’t be the only newbie in the group.
Borrow or buy used
It’s hard to say what makes you look like more of a beginner – outdated, almost broken gear, or shiny new state of the art gear with nary a scratch or tear. Either way, when you’re first outfitting yourself for skate skiing, ice climbing or any other winter sport, make sure you’re geared up properly. That being said, you shouldn’t invest in the highest-end gear until you’ve established you both like your new hobby and plan to do it often.
Your best bet is to peruse Craigslist or head to Anchorage’s Hoarding Marmot for some used – but still functional – gear. If that doesn’t pan out, find a friend willing to let you borrow. Keep in mind though, for activities that involve being roped up (like ice or alpine climbing) items like used harnesses and ropes should be approached with caution. Because these items are often life preserving, it’s important to know how many falls they’ve taken and that they’re up to the task of keeping you secured.
Start slow, start fast. Just start
I’d love to tell you that you should just start slow when undertaking a new activity. However, we all have that one friend that insists on barreling down the mountain like you’ve done it a million times before. My introduction to the slopes of Alyeska was far from the warm coddling of a ski instructor and was more akin to a death race down icy slopes. But hey, I made it and I lived to go back – and snowboarding is still on the top of my list of favorite outdoor activities. Bottom line, don’t overthink how you’ll start, just get out there and try something new at whatever pace makes sense.
You’re gonna look like a rookie – and that’s OK
Don’t worry; we’ve all endured sliding down pizza style next to a toddler on the bunny hill. But, to fly down the North Face or run long snowy miles on the Coastal Trail, we all have to start with baby steps. The fact is, the first time you try getting out into a new activity your inexperience will show. But, walking away bruised and scratched (both physically and mentally) is part of the game. The reward? A new way to enjoy Alaska in the winter, new skills to keep yourself active, and a funny story to tell later.