Ski resorts target beginners to get off growth plateau
Experts share fitness tips and advice on thwarting altitude sickness
February 23, 1999
Web posted at: 12:01 p.m. EST (1701 GMT)
(CNN) -- Ski resorts are adding new gondolas and high-speed lifts to get everyone where they're going faster. But another industry trend goes back to basics -- by courting beginners.
"There's a big effort to attract new people to the sport and, in fact, never before has there been a better time to learn how to ski," said Andrew Bigford, editor-in-chief of Ski Magazine.
One skier says it's not so difficult to learn. "If you took a lesson, you would find that it's pretty easy. You can figure out how to ski in two or three days," she said.
Each year, 54 million visitors take to the slopes of U.S. ski resorts -- a figure that has not changed much over the past decade. The industry is trying to lure new people to the sport with programs that teach skiing and snowboarding.
Resorts are spending a lot of money on making snow, grooming existing trails and developing new terrain, including more beginner slopes. And, these days, no matter what your ability, you're more likely to be able to enjoy the view from the top of the mountain.
"Our Beaver Creek resort has all of its beginner terrain at the top of the mountain, and traditionally beginner skiers, the most exciting thing they ever saw was the second story window of the base lodge," said Adam Aron, chairman and CEO of Vail Resorts.
Start your regimen before a trip
Whether you're a beginner or an experienced skier, working out before a trip can help you ski better.
"For ski fitness, there are really five key components. There's balance, agility, strength, cardiovascular and flexibility -- and probably the most important is strength," said Helen Olsson, senior editor of Skiing Magazine.
Experts recommend you start working out about 12 weeks before a trip. The regimen should include aerobics, such as walking, running or biking, for cardio conditioning, and weight lifting -- concentrating on the legs and torso -- for strength training.
If you experience headache, nausea or dizziness on the slopes, your body may need time to adjust to the higher altitudes.
Michael Jaquet, associate publisher of Freeze Magazine, has some tips on making a smooth transition: "Plan on coming in in the afternoon, having a nice dinner and getting to bed early, making sure that you're drinking about two glasses of water an hour. When you wake up the next morning, you'll be fine with the altitude sickness."
It also helps to pace yourself. "By taking that very first day off and taking it easy, you can help yourself out a lot because you'll be skiing by the fifth day of your vacation as opposed to (being) laid up in bed."
Experts also recommend renting and trying out equipment before you buy. "You're probably going to grow quickly and improve quickly and then after two or three times, it's time to buy your first pair of skis," Olsson said.
Hitting the slopes without breaking the bank
In addition, keep in mind that a ski vacation doesn't have to break the bank.
"There's a lot of two-for-one deals. There's a lot of discount season passes," Jaquet said.
He recommends doing research on the Internet to look for bargain ski trips. "It's not that expensive at all. It's way cheaper than going to Disneyland," Jaquet said.
Travelers also should look for packages offering deals on airfare, hotel and lift tickets, either from ski resorts or your travel agent.
CNN Travel Now Correspondents Carolyn O'Neil and Kalin Thomas-Samuel contributed to this report.