Thinking of heading to the snow this winter, or planning a Northern Hemisphere ski trip? Consider these tips before you go, writes Eli Orzessek.

Choose your tribe

Before you leave, figure out if you're more of a skier or a snowboarder — there are major differences between how the two hit the slopes. For beginners, skiing tends to be easier to learn but harder to master, whereas snowboarding is harder to learn but easier to master. When snowboarding, beginners tend to fall far more often — and this can be less arduous on your body if you're younger, or in good physical shape.

Get fit in advance

On that note, if you're going straight from the couch to the snow, you're going to feel the burn pretty quickly. Skiing and snowboarding are both very physically demanding activities, so it can't hurt to prepare by getting in shape. As skiing can be taxing on the legs and thighs, do some general leg-strengthening exercises, or go cycling.

Snowboarding needs more core strength for turning and balance, so get your strength up in that area — think crunches or Pilates. If you want to hit the slopes with some skills behind you, practise at an indoor ski slope before you leave. Your only option in New Zealand is Snowplanet in Auckland, which offers private and group lessons at beginner to advanced levels.


Choose the right resort

You've chosen your snow sport, now it's time to choose the resort that's right for you.
They offer a variety of runs with different gradients and levels. In Europe, the easiest pistes are classified as green, moderate pistes are blue, intermediate are red and difficult pistes are black. It differs slightly in North America, Australia and New Zealand, where green trails are easiest, blue are for intermediate and black are for experts. If you're just starting out, you'll want to look for resorts with lots of green and blue pistes.

For beginners — and those who haven't used their skills in a while — lessons are highly recommended. Find a resort with good ski-school reviews and book your lessons along with your holiday. Don't rely on more experienced friends and family to teach you — they'll get sick of it eventually and you may end up out of your depth. You may also want to look for a smaller resort with quieter slopes, as it can be less intimidating.

It's much cheaper and easier to rent skis, boots, snowboards or poles rather than buying your own. Many package deals will include rental gear, or you can shop around online for deals and promo codes on equipment in your chosen resort.

Accommodation is also something to keep in mind and most resorts offer a variety of options. If you don't have car, you'll want to look for something in close proximity to restaurants and shops — and most importantly, the lift and pistes.

You'll also want to consider what you want to do after the lifts shut. If all you want to do is chill by the fire after a day on the snow, this may not concern you. For those who like a little more entertainment, however, look for a resort with a lively apres-ski scene.

Pack right

Once you've got your workout set and made all the tough choices, all that's left to do is pack — and that's an exercise in itself. Winter temperatures overseas can be colder than our mountains. Don't take a lot of clothes, just warm ones. Although you may want to look your best on the slopes, don't splash out on ski wear if you're a beginner. Try to borrow gloves, goggles, fleece, a ski helmet and ski suit. However, you will want to buy your own ski socks and thermals. If you're going somewhere particularly windy, you may want to take a balaclava or face mask as well. You'll also want to be equipped with a good backpack, to carry a spare change of clothing, water and food.