Beginner or expert, there are a few things you can do before you go to make your ski holiday a more enjoyable and safer experience. Preparing for your ski holiday by being fit, in balance, flexible and on well-maintained equipment will help you make sure you have a great time.

There are a few things you can do in advance of your winter holiday to make it a more enjoyable and safer experience. Skiing is a wonderful pastime, but if you’re badly prepared it can seem like one of the worst.

Top 5 Questions asked about the "First Day"

What will it cost?
How long will it take to be able to ski or ride?
Do I have to be in shape?
Should I take a lesson?
How can I find out the conditions before I go?

What will it cost?

Lift ticket pricing ranges from $40 weekdays to $62 weekends at Cataloochee. Ski and snowboard equipment can be rented at the ski area with ski rental costs ranging from $22 for juniors to $27 on adults for either skis or snowboards for any session.

Outer gear rentals such as overall bibs and jackets and accessories can be found either at Cataloochee Ski & Sports Shop in Maggie Valley or here on the mountain at The Shop at Cataloochee. Bib and jacket rentals are available for a $9 per piece or $16 for the set and a $20 cash only deposit.

Food and lodging costs in the Maggie Valley area are economical as well – check our Lodging Guide for more information on recommended properties in our area.

How long will it take to be able to ski or ride?

Just in your first day, you’ll learn how to turn, slow down, stop and ride the lifts. Generally if you are trying skiing for the first time, you should be able to do quite a bit on your first day. Snowboarding is a bit more difficult the first time. However, the learning curve is much easier after just a few tries. With the help of Cataloochee’s staff of trained ski and snowboard instructors, you’ll be skiing and riding in no time.

Do I have to be in shape?

You don’t have to be an athlete to ski. However, if you do some exercises before your first ski experience, you will enjoy it more. First of all, you’ll learn faster, because you won’t tire so easily during the learning process. You’re going to fall down some while learning so you’ll bounce back better if you’re in shape. Walking briskly, jogging, jumping rope and stretching are best.

Should I take a lesson?

YES! It’s the easiest and quickest way to learn. During the first lesson you will learn how to walk, maneuver and control your skis by turning, slowing down and stopping. When you are ready, your instructor will show you how to ride the beginner’s lift and will ski down the beginner’s slope with you. After your lesson you can continue practicing what you’ve already learned. After you have mastered the fundamental skills of skiing (turning, slowing down, stopping and riding a lift), you’ll be able to explore other trails while you practice what you’ve learned. Keep to the “Easier”’ trails which are marked with green circles. There will be signs marked as such at the beginning of the trail.

How can I find out the conditions before I go?

Cataloochee publishes a “conditions” report or a “snow report.” It’s done on a daily basis and gives you a summary of the temperatures, trails open, lifts running, weather conditions, and more. We update our reports every evening after close. We put our conditions report on our website, phone systems, and publish it to all the major news agencies that report national ski conditions.

Here’s some tips to keep in mind for different temperatures

40° AND ABOVE – TORSO: turtleneck or shirt or T-shirt, plus wind shirt or light jacket. LEGS: pants only. HEAD/FACE: light hat or none. HANDS: light gloves or liners. FEET: light socks. Put lift ticket on a garment that will not be removed.

28° TO 40° – TORSO: turtleneck or shirt plus medium parka or jacket. LEGS: long johns and pants; or pants and warm-ups; or bib ski pants. HEAD/FACE: light or medium hat. HANDS: medium gloves or wool mittens. FEET: light socks.

15° TO 28° – TORSO: turtleneck, light sweater, and medium to heavy parka or jacket. LEGS: thermal long johns and heavy pants; or medium pants and warm-ups; or long johns and bib ski pants. HEAD/FACE: medium to heavy hat. HANDS: heavy gloves or wool mittens with liners. FEET: medium socks.

5° TO 15° – TORSO: turtleneck, shirt, medium sweater or vest, plus heavy parka or jacket. LEGS: thermal long johns, pants and warm-ups; or thermal long johns and bib ski pants. HEAD/FACE: heavy tight-knit hat that covers ears and forehead. HANDS: heavy gloves or heavy wool mittens with liners. FEET: wool socks.

5° AND BELOW – TORSO: thermal undershirt, turtleneck, shirt, heavy sweater or vest, plus heavy parka or jacket. LEGS: heavy thermal long johns, heavy pants and warm-ups; or heavy thermal long johns and bib ski pants. HEAD/FACE: salve on face. Face mask or scarf and neck gaitor over mouth and nose. Goggles to cover eyes. Heavy tight-knit hat that covers ears and forehead. HANDS: heavy gloves with liners or heavy wool mittens with liners and windproof shell. FEET: wool socks. Keep boots loose to aid circulation. If windy, add another layer to torso. No exposed flesh on head. Add hood to parka if available.

Skiers and Riders Checklist

Items we’d recommend you bring to help make the most of your ski trip! Remember, it’s easier to take clothes off if you get warm than to find extras to put on if you’re already cold. Keep in mind that the amount of layering depends entirely on the weather.

To keep the bottom half of you drier, you can easily and safely waterproof a pair of pants with Scotch Guard. Ski Bibs and jackets can also be rented from Cataloochee Ski & Sports Shop in Maggie Valley as well as The Shop @ Cataloochee for $10.00 per day with a $20.00 refundable deposit per piece.

  • Sunglasses
  • Goggles
  • Sunscreen
  • Lip Balm
  • Bag to carry change of clothing, boots, and extra equipment
  • Long Underwear
  • Ski Pants or Bib Pants
  • Outer Layer Jacket (Preferably waterproof/breathable shell)
  • Gloves or Mittens (Waterproof is preferred)
  • Neck Gaitor
  • Turtleneck
  • Sweater or fleece
  • Socks or Sock Liner (one thin to medium pair)
  • Vest (for insulation)
  • Face Mask
  • Change of clothes for after skiing or riding
  • Hat or Headband (80% of your body’s heat escapes through your head….brrrr!)

Note: Many of these accessories and more can be found in at Cataloochee Ski & Sports Shop in Maggie Valley or The Shop @ Cataloochee. If you discover after you arrive at the area that your gloves are not warm enough or that you have forgotten your sunglasses, check The Shop @ Cataloochee for a reasonably priced replacement. In addition, you’ll find Cataloochee souvenirs from hats to pins, sweatshirts to T-shirts and everything in between! The Shop @ Cataloochee is conveniently located on the main floor of the lodge and accepts cash, Visa, American Express and MasterCard.


Two visits to the gym or a single jog around the block in the week before departure isn’t enough preparation. To ski well your body demands the use of muscles that are seldom used in everyday life. In addition you’ll have to deal with altitude and low temperatures. To prepare properly start your exercise programme at least two months before your holiday to build up your cardio-vascular fitness – this will help you deal with the lack of oxygen at higher altitudes. Remember that a sound skiing technique uses a lot less energy than a bad one – once tired a skier with a better technique will find it less difficult to remain in control.

Weak technique + poor fitness = tired muscles = even weaker technique = more fatigue = a Bad Day.

Because most skiing muscles are “internal rotators”, or balancing muscles, it takes time and effort to prepare them. Although general fitness helps a lot, specific ski fitness is best developed using things like ‘balance boards’ and in-line skates, or playing sports such as squash and football (or others that demand quick movements and rapid changes of direction). First-time skiers will find the sensation of standing on a moving object unusual enough and activities like ice skating and roller-blading help you get used to this feeling and make your early ski lessons a little less daunting. For more advanced skiers horse riding, mountain biking, dirt bikes and gymnastics all help to develop co-ordination and balance. You can easily make your own ‘balance board’, although there are lots of impressive-looking and expensive boards on the market. Learning to balance takes time, but will definitely improve your skiing.


Flexibility in the muscles and tendons is important. Low temperatures can mean muscles are stiff, slow to react and lack range of movement. Developing flexibility through regular stretching before your ski holiday will help your ski performance and can mean that a fall on day one (that might otherwise ruin your holiday) will be nothing more than a forgettable mishap with no ill effects. It’s important to warm up when you stretch, and avoid static or bouncing stretches. A gentle moving stretch is better, avoiding pain. Don’t forget to warm up and do a simple stretch before you ski, then the preparation you did before the holiday will pay off.


If you have your own skis, make sure they are serviced. This should include, as a minimum, waxing of the bases and sharpening of the edges. It’s also a good idea, at the start of the week, to ask a professional technician to do a safety check of the binding and a base grind – this latter process restores structure to the ski base and helps it retain wax. Properly ground, waxed and edged skies make turning easier, and more responsive, which not only flatters your technique but make a significant difference to your enjoyment of the sport.


If you don’t already own your own equipment, buy boots first, not skis. Make sure your boot shop knows what they are doing – it can be instructive to “hang about” and watch what happens when boots are fitted. Does the technician take the time and trouble to get things exactly right? Although it may mean spending more money, it really is important to have correctly-fitting boots that are adjusted as necessary to your feet. Boot flex is important as well; too stiff and they will prevent you from applying the correct techniques.

Boots have three main components, all of which can be customised by a good boot fitter: inner boot, outer shell and foot-bed. Although most ski boots include an inner in the price several companies provide custom inners, and a good ski shop will advise if these are, in your case, worthwhile. When hiring, ask for a different boot if the first choice is too stiff or too big: the shell of the boot must suit your level of skiing and, if rental shops run out of stock, they may attempt to compromise by using shells that are too stiff, or too large, padded out with thicker inners and foot-bed. All ski resorts have a number of boot outlets so shop around until you find what you need.

Pre-trip Skiing

Skiing on indoor snow slopes will hone your skills, improve your balance and get back that essential feeling of being at home on skis again. It also gives beginners a head-start before their first few turns on real snow.

Preparing for your ski holiday by being fit, in balance, flexible and on well-maintained equipment will help you make sure you have a great time.