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Five rookie ski-trip mistakes

By Marnie Hunter
CNN
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(CNN) -- Making your debut on the slopes can get tricky long before you slide off the chairlift.

From choosing a resort to gathering gear (and learning how to lug it around), the preparations leading up to your first smooth run may affect whether you'll want to book a follow-up ski trip.

Here are five things to avoid as you make your way toward the mountains:

Losing sight of the big picture

Snow and mountains are the main draw, but you'll want to consider your group and what kind of off-slope experiences you want to have on your trip.

If fine dining is important, you don't want to end up in an area with limited restaurant options. On the other hand, kids might not fully appreciate everything a buzzing town such as Aspen, Colorado, has to offer.

Ski.com agent Kelly Wallace books a lot of family trips to Keystone in Colorado, where snowshoeing, ice skating and sleigh rides are popular with all age groups.

If you're looking for nightlife and a range or restaurants, find out about that scene before you settle on a destination. Wallace often sends clients looking for nightlife to Aspen or Whistler, British Columbia.

Some resorts have a lot more beginner terrain than others, so get specifics before you go. In Aspen, Wallace advises novices to shuttle to adjacent Buttermilk for beginner slopes and lighter crowds. At some resorts, beginner and intermediate slopes are set apart from more advanced terrain, so that advanced skiers don't zip past the beginners at the end of their runs.

Wardrobe malfunctions

Waterproof clothing is a must.

"I see people all the time on a hill trying to ski in Levi's. Really bad idea, especially for a beginner because you spend a lot of time on the snow, and then you get cold, the snow melts and then it's really uncomfortable," said Ron LeMaster, author of "The Essential Guide to Skiing: 201 Things Every Skier Must Know" (VeloPress, 2005).

He also urges skiers to avoid cotton against their skin in favor of a fabric such as polyester that wicks moisture away from the skin.

Long ski socks, gloves or mittens and goggles or sunglasses are other essentials. (Click for ski apparel essentials)

Less-than-ideal equipment

Borrowing skis from a friend or relative probably won't yield the desired results. In addition to being a hassle to travel with, such equipment may not be as up-to-date as the resort's rental gear. Skis that are selected based on your skill level will make learning easier.

"If you're not a practitioner, you don't realize how much of a difference the right gear or the wrong gear can make," LeMaster said.

"It's really so much easier to go to the destination and get the equipment," said Ski.com spokesman Dan Sherman. The local ski shop and ski school can help pick out appropriate skis, boots and poles.

LeMaster suggests calling a couple of weeks ahead of your trip to reserve equipment, especially during busy times. Some resorts even rent clothing, so you might want to ask about that if you don't want to invest in waterproof gear.

Going it alone

Winging it or trying to learn to ski from a travel companion who has skied before is tough for beginners.

"They find it intimidating. They try to keep up; they're scared; they're frustrated. If they do the lesson, they can have fun and meet other people that are learning this as well. It really changes the whole experience," Ski.com agent Wallace said.

Lessons cover more than techniques for getting down the slope.

"A lot of what you'll learn from the instructor in the first couple days is just how to get around. How do you deal with all this equipment? ... How do you get on the lift?" LeMaster said.

Punishing yourself for a better price

While staying farther from the base of the mountain likely will save you some money, it might not be worth the added hassle of shuttling people and equipment back and forth.

"It's a false economy to say, 'I'm going to save 30 bucks a night, 50 bucks a night and stay 10 miles away.' With as much as a whole package costs, to save that much money is just not worth it," LeMaster said.


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Keystone Resort in Colorado is a family friendly destination.

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