How to Ride the Chairlift and Other Questions You Were Too Embarrassed to Ask

You’ve got all the clothing and gear you need, and you’re ready to hit the slopes. Whether this is your first time out or you’ve been skiing a couple times, there may be a few lingering questions that you’re too embarrassed to ask your friends. That’s where we come in. Here, you’ll find a list of the most common questions that we hear from new skiers and snowboarders.

How to walk in ski boots

Let’s be honest, walking in ski boots can make you feel a little clumsy. First, be sure to loosely fasten the buckles and straps to make the boots secure for walking, just don’t tighten them as much as you would for skiing.

Many ski boots have a “walk mode” switch on the back that makes the material flex more comfortably for a walking stride. Take steps as you would normally, raising your front heel slightly as you firmly plant your back foot. Concentrate on the entire sole of each foot making contact with the ground as the opposite heel or toe lifts in stride.

Ski boot soles are generally quite slippery, so be especially careful on icy walkways.

Carrying your skis and poles may not feel natural at first.
© Vail Resorts

How to carry skis/snowboard

The snowboard is easy. With the base of it facing your body and the top with the binding facing away, hold it perpendicular to your body against your side with one arm over the middle.

Skis and poles, on the other hand, are more cumbersome. Your first inclination might be to hold the four pieces in front of you like a stack of firewood, but don’t do this. Make sure the skis are pushed tightly together with the bases touching one another and the brake stems stacked snuggly. Place both skis over one shoulder. Hold onto the front of the skis with one hand and carry your two poles in the other, with the tips of the poles facing downward so as not to stab anyone behind you. Be aware that as you turn your body, the skis on your shoulder swing wide.

<<Expert fitters can answer all your questions when you are renting your gear. Book your gear now.>>

How to get in and out of your ski bindings

This will probably be covered in your first ski lesson, but if you want to practice ahead of time, place the toe of one ski boot into the front of the binding and step down with your heel until the brake bars rise off of the snow and you hear a click. Most skis and bindings are symmetrical, but if they’re not, the right will be marked with “R” and the left with “L.”

If there is snow on your boot it can prevent the binding from locking, so use one of your poles to remove snow from the bottom of your boots by tapping the side of the pole against the boot. To get out of your bindings, use one hand or the end of your pole to push down on the heel of your binding behind your foot until it clicks and unlocks.

2cd0gcwoykuYaSgcIey2uOIt can be helpful to take a lesson to learn the fundamentals before heading out.
© Vail Resorts

How to skate on a snowboard with one foot out

If you’ve ever been on a skateboard, this technique will come much more easily. If not, the sensation of having one foot on the ground and the other on a slippery board can be rather unnatural (once you get your own board, you can get a stomp pad to put on your board for more traction).

But it’s important to get used to it because while your front foot is always strapped to the board, your back foot needs to be free to get on and off the chairlift. To practice, find a flat surface and with your front foot strapped in, practice taking small sideways steps with your back foot as the board glides on the snow.

Some riders prefer to skate with their back foot in front of the board, some with the back foot behind the board, but it’s a matter of personal comfort. The important point is to keep your front shoulder pointed in the direction you want to go and keep your sideways gliding steps no wider than your rear binding. This will prevent you from inadvertently doing the splits.

Once you can take small skating steps, practice placing your back foot just in front of your rear binding as the board glides. The key is taking small sideways steps, keeping your front shoulder aligned with the front of the board and skating in a straight line, just a couple of feet at a time as you become familiar with the sensation.

How to get on a chairlift

Good news! Riding the chairlift is really simpler than you think.


Once it is your turn to get on the chairlift, use your poles to move up to the “load here” line. Place your poles in one hand so you can grab the chair with your other hand. Be sure you are only holding on to the poles, not the straps while you’re in line for or on the lift.


Take one foot out of the bindings and skate to the “load here” line. Keep your board straight, and after you sit down, your board should remain somewhat straight. When the lift takes off and you put the safety bar/footrest down and place the board on the footrest, your hips will remain slightly turned to keep the board straight.

For both skiers and snowboarders, just sit down when the chair touches the back of your legs. Always use the safety bar. If you are riding with strangers who have not put the safety/footrest bar down, simply ask or announce that you are pulling the bar down.

5as871z1J6g84KcYO64CuYFeeling confident on the chairlift can make your ski day much more pleasant.
© Vail Resorts

How to get off of a chairlift

As you approach the top of the lift, make sure everyone’s feet are off of the footrest and put it up. Stay where you are on the seat until you reach the “unload here” marker.


Keep your skis flat with the tips up as you approach the top of the lift. At the “unload here” marker, once your skis are gliding on the snow, stand up and keep your knees slightly bent and your poles up in front of you. Glide slowly down the ramp to a stop, making sure you are clear of others getting off of the lift behind you.


Make sure your board is pointed straight and flat with the tip up as you approach the top of the lift. After your board hits the ground at the top of the lift, place your back foot on the board in front of your rear binding and at the “unload here” marker, stand up with your weight on the center of the board. Keep your front shoulder pointed forward and your back foot on the board as you glide slowly to a stop, making sure you are clear of the ramp. Find a flat area to comfortably strap into your rear binding.

<<Questions about rentals? Here’s everything you need to know.>>

4lstc1lSjuGc0cwAeWqsSqIf you have questions, chances are your friends do, too.
© Vail Resorts

How to get up after a fall

As you may have learned, falling is likely to happen at least once. There are numerous positions you can land in after a fall, but the ticket to getting up is turning so that your skis or board are downhill from you and perpendicular to the slope.


With your skis perpendicular to the downhill slope so they won’t slide away when you stand up, lay with one hip and shoulder on the ground. Use your arms and/or poles to push yourself off of the snow to a standing position, using the edge of your inside ski for traction. If you have lost one or both skis, you’ll have an easier time standing, but make sure you find a flat area of the slope to put both skis perpendicular so they don’t slide as you step back into your bindings.


With your board downhill and perpendicular to the slope, turn onto either your stomach and push yourself to a standing position or onto your bottom and use your knees and arms to hoist yourself up.

That should cover the basics. And don’t be embarrassed – if you were wondering, chances are that someone else was wondering, too!

About the author