I love finding new ways to get moving and when I was thinking of my next trip that I wanted to plan, I tried to keep that in mind. When planning a vacation, I usually think of a beach somewhere that I can lay around and soak up the sun all day. There is nothing wrong with that, I love doing that. The beach is one of my favorite places to be — especially as a Midwestern girl, nowhere near such a thing. The beach is a treat.

But I wanted to do something different. I have always wanted to try skiing but always opted for a warmer destination. So this year I decided to suck it up and hit the slopes. I would have to say that is one of the top misconceptions that people such as myself, who don’t know anything about snow sports, have — they actually are not that cold. In fact, you are moving around so much and if you catch a sunny day, you can even start sweating in your snow gear. So where do you start when planning a ski trip? I decided to start small. Plan a trip to a destination that was within driving distance and where I could get a good bang for my buck. I asked around to a few friends that I knew skied on a semi-annual basis and found a great destination in Sundown Mountain in Dubuque, Iowa.

Ski trip sundown mountain

The view from the Sundown Mountain Ski lodge was beautiful!

None of us had ever skied, we didn’t know if we liked it. Therefore, we didn’t want to spend too much money going to Colorado or Lake Tahoe, where one day’s lift ticket (not factoring in lessons or equipment rental) cost just a little less than two days of skiing (that includes EVERYTHING) on our weekend trip. It turns out, we all fell in love with the sport and will definitely look to splurge a little more the next go-around. But this trip allowed us to get the basics down. When you go into the trip empty handed, you will need to rent equipment (skis/snowboard come with your sticks and boots that fit into the skis or snowboard), purchase a daily lift ticket, and I suggest starting off the first day with a lesson. Many resorts have beginners specials where you are able to get a package deal between your lesson, rental and lift ticket. We really enjoyed our lesson which taught us how to use your skis, put them on, take them off and get back in them after a wipe out (trust me it happens and it doesn’t hurt as bad as you might think — remember, its just fluffy snow). Your instructor will gradually take you down the bunny hill teaching you how to reduce your speed, turn, steer, ride the lift, etc.

By the end of the lesson you will be ready to spread your wings and go out on your own. You will be itching to try a harder hill and graduate from the bunny slope. The one thing to prepare yourself for: the “big kid hills” will make you go fast. I was not prepared for the speed on my first time down one of the “easiest” hills (which should be marked on a trail map on the outside of the lodge).

That is probably the one thing I took away from the trip, you have to learn to slow yourself down, move your hips and skis from side to side down the mountain.

Don’t get me wrong, the speed is thrilling, but it does take a few times down to get used to it and master slowing yourself down. The first time down the “big” hill, I admit, I crashed just to slow myself down. Kind of like the kid at the roller rink who slows themself down by running into the wall because they can’t stop.

Don’t worry, you will master this with time and find yourself wanting to try out harder hills.

Truthfully, the harder hills, in my experience, were easier. They were less crowded, therefore, you don’t have to dodge as many people, they are bigger, giving you more space to slow yourself down and get in your groove and are just more fun period.

By the end of the two day ski adventure, I felt so comfortable and so confident I was ready to plan my next ski trip.

Ski trip packing essentials

  • Thermal base layer: I recommend Target’s Power Core lined, Under Armour-like cold gear in tight pant leggings and long-sleeve top. It is an inexpensive alternative to Under Armour. I also use this gear under my workout clothes during the cold season and while hunting.
  • “Fluff” layers: Layers are good, you can always shed layers if you get hot. I wore a Columbia Fleece or a sweatshirt and yoga pants over my thermal base layer.
  • Ski coat: I already had a ski coat that I had purchased on sale a few years back. When looking for a ski coat, I recommend Columbia’s Omni-Heat reflective technology. I am always warm in my coat!
  • Ski pants: I opted to get snow bibs because I figured I might be falling down a lot as a beginner and I wanted something with straps and a bib to keep the snow out of my pants. But several people I was with had pants and did not have any issues with them. I found a good pair of bibs at Sports Authority on sale for about $30.
  • Gloves: Gloves are VERY important. Make sure to get waterproof gloves that have a good thermal liner. Although if you fall a lot, there is no preventing your gloves getting wet and your fingers getting cold. When that happens, its time to take a break in the lodge with a cup of hot cocoa and time to dry yourself out. I recommend Hotfingers, which I also found at Sports Authority.
  • Hat: A good hat to keep your head warm is a must. (It can also be cute.)
  • Goggles: I was on the fence about getting goggles before our trip, but I am VERY glad I got them. The goggles act as sunglasses, they keep your face and eyeballs warm and keep the snow and water out. They make your experience more comfortable. I found a good deal on white Giro goggles at Dick’s Sporting Goods.

Here’s a video from the second day of skiing on one of the “more difficult” hills: