Learning to Ski or Ride

We know how intimidating it can be to learn something new, so we designed this portion of our site to answer any of your questions before you come to our mountain.

So go ahead, explore and come to Whiteface Mountain – the finest learn-to-ski mountain in the Northeast!

Step One: Have Fun!

The key to having a memorable experience at any mountain is to have fun!

Step Two: Smile!

We encourage you to smile, laugh and be merry when you are at Whiteface.

Step Three: Bring your friends!

When you have fun with friends, it makes learning the sport that much better.

See you on the slopes!


Should I take a ski or snowboard lesson?

Many would-be skiers and riders have headed out on the hill with the best of intentions accompanied by friends or relatives eager to get them started, but a good skier isn’t necessarily an effective teacher. Our ski and snowboard instructors are experienced in demonstrating the proper techniques to get you on your feet and learning fast, and they’ll make sure you’re on the best trails for your skill level. In a nutshell: A lesson will help you to get the most out of your experience on the mountain!

lesson »

Where do I go for my lesson?

All lessons and programs for all ages will begin at the Bear Den Lodge. You may drop off your gear in the loading and unloading zones at Bear Den Mountain Base Lodge before parking in one of our two lots. Please note the name of the lot you are parked in so you can properly inform the shuttle bus driver upon your return to your car at the end of the day.

map »

When should I arrive for my lesson?

You should plan on arriving at the mountain 1-1.5 hours before your lesson start time, in order ensure you have enough time to park, unload, register and get outfitted with your rental equipment. During holiday periods you may want to arrive earlier. Generally, our lessons begin at 9:00 am, but please refer to the details on your specific lesson or program to confirm.

Where do I keep all of my stuff during the lesson?

Lockers are available on both levels of the Main Base Lodge and over at the Bear Den Lodge, as well as bag check and overnight ski storage in the lower level of the Main Base Lodge. If you plan to keep your valuables on your person while skiing or riding (e.g. keys, wallet, cell phone), make sure they’re secure in a zippered pocket and will not fall out easily. We also provide ski and snowboard racks for temporary storage at several locations throughout the mountain (you may secure your equipment with your own lock or rent a lock from one of our apparel shops).

Lockers »

Can I rent equipment on the mountain?

Yes! We also carry a beginner ski/ride rental packages as well as a high-performance line of rentals for more advanced skiers. Rentals are available at both the Main Base Lodge and the Bear Den Lodge. If anyone in your group is taking a lesson, we ask that the entire group picks up their rentals at the Bear Den Lodge. Please check the details for your specific lesson or program to see if rentals are included or not.

rentals »

Are lift tickets included in my lesson or program?

Lift tickets are included in the price of some but not all lessons and programs. The best way to find out if a lift ticket is included is to check the information listed for your specific lesson or program. Feel free to give us a call us at (518) 946-2223 (option 3) for more information!

tickets »

Do lessons include lunch?

Group lessons do not include lunch. If you would like to bring snacks, you may do so as long as they do not contain nuts. Our facilities are nut-free.

dining »

Do I need to make a reservation?

Advanced reservations are required for all lessons, group and private. Please contact us at (518) 946-2223 (option 3) to make a reservation. All reservations are to be paid in full when booked and are non-refundable within 72 hours prior to arrival. Reservations canceled before the 72 hours are subject to a 15% cancellation fee. Reservations for ages 13+ group lessons are not necessary.

Snowsports General Inquiry

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

What to wear

Dress Appropriately is the best advice we can give you. Remember that temperatures vary at different times of the day and on different locations at the mountain. You should dress in layers – if you are warm, you can always take off a layer!

Helpful Hint:

Wait until after you get your rental equipment and are ready to go outside before you put on your final layers. If you happen to forget something, our Retail Shop is likely to have what you need.

What do I wear to ski or snowboard?

Winter sports means crazy winter weather – To make your day a more enjoyable one, dress appropriately. Check the on-mountain ski and weather report before you head up to the mountain for the day. Do not wear cotton or blue jeans as these absorb water causing you to freeze. Try to find wool or synthetic materials like fleece and polypropylene. These materials will whisk water and moisture away from your body, keeping you warmer. Don’t forget to cover your head and hands!

Body Wear

Always dress in layers. By wearing layers of clothing air is trapped between layers making your clothes a better blanket of insulation. It’s easier to take off a layer if you are too warm then to try to add more. Your outermost layer should be both wind and water-resistant.

Hand Gear

Wear proper hand protection. Gloves or mittens are fine, but make sure you have a good waterproof pair. Do not wear cotton or knit material as they will absorb water causing your hands to get cold. Always bring an extra pair of gloves and socks so that if they do get wet you have something dry to change into.


90% of your body’s heat escapes from your head. To stay warmer on cold days, always wear a hat and/or helmet. Avoid hats that have long stockings and tails as well as long scarves or dangling clothing as they can be dangerous if they get caught or stuck in the lift.


Do yourself a favor and purchase a good pair of ski socks. Wear only one pair of socks – do not layer your socks! To keep your feet the warmest, do not drive to the mountain wearing your ski socks – change when you arrive. Your feet will sweat in the car and your socks will be wet when you arrive. Bring an extra pair so that you can change if your socks become damp during the day.

Tips for fixing cold feet

  • Stomp your feet while waiting in the lift lines – as the blood moves it warms your extremities.
  • Loosen your boots a little bit.
  • Wear one good pair of medium weight of socks.
  • Do not stuff your pants inside of your boots.
  • Never leave your boots in the trunk of your car or outside where they can get cold and damp.
  • Put your boots in a boot dryer. If one is not available use the hand dryer in the bathroom.

Want to learn more about what to wear?

Learn More »

Other wear

Some items you may want to purchase are sunglasses on a bright sunny day or ski goggles for snow and blizzard conditions.

Lesson Information

Do I need a lesson?

Like most other outdoor activities, lessons are not required, but they are a great idea and highly recommended! Lessons are the key to understanding the fundamentals of skiing and/or snowboarding. A lot of people will try “self-taught” techniques which may ultimately lead to frustration and disappointment, but here at Whiteface Mountain we offer a variety of different lessons and programs that will help you reach your goals! For more advanced youth programming, try some of the season-long programs, weekend workshops, clinics and race camps.

When and where do lessons meet?

Lessons will meet at the Bear Den Lodge. We have a variety of lessons available to you – from private lessons to group lessons for ages 4 and up. Visit the lessons and programs page for detailed information about lesson times and to choose what lesson is correct for you.  All of our lift, lesson, and rental packages will be available for purchase though our online store.

Can my friends show me how?

Professional ski and snowboard instructors are trained to teach in the most efficient manner so you can start skiing or snowboarding on your own ASAP. Friends and family members that are not professionals should not give you pointers. Their techniques may not always be right and learning the right way the first time is a lot easier than correcting bad habits before you begin to progress!

Can I take a lesson with my family and friends?

Yes, you can! However, it is strongly recommended that people taking lessons together are the same ability and similar age. It is much harder for you to learn, and the instructor to try and teach different ages and abilities in the same lesson. For example, and five year old and a 50 year old. Adults have different needs and learn at different speeds than children, what’s good for one may not be good for the other. There are many approaches to teaching and the terminology used is designed to be beneficial to the individual skier or snowboarder.

How many people are in a group lesson?

This depends on a variety of factors, such as midweek vs. weekend, holiday vs. non-holiday, peak vs. non-peak season. There will be more people in a group lesson if you take one during peak times. It depends on how many people sign up for that particular lesson. When everyone is signed up, the Snowsports School will then ski everyone off (test their ability) and put them in groups accordingly. They try to keep the groups as small as possible.

Are lessons expensive?

Not at Whiteface! We offer a variety of packages that will suit your needs. Browse our lessons page to discover the different types of lessons the mountain offers.

How long before I am able to ski from the top of the mountain?

Skiing from the top of the mountain varies from person to person and how fast you pick up on the fundamentals. It is important to take your time while you transition between the green and blue trails.

Ski and Snowboard Equipment

Renting Equipment

Our Rossignol Experience Centers have ski or snowboard rental options for every skill level, with more than 1,200 pairs of skis from Rossignol and 200 snowboards from Burton, as well as an additional 150+ pairs of high-performance rental and demo skis.   If anyone in your group is taking a lesson, we ask that the entire group picks up their rentals at the Bear Den Lodge.

All rentals should be purchased online in advance!

You may buy your rentals at any time, including while purchasing your online lift tickets. If you are taking a lesson, don’t forget to purchase your rentals online in advance.

Buying Equipment

Even though equipment can be expensive, there are some deals out there if you know where to look. Ski shops offer sales during late spring and early summer, ski swaps, even friends and neighbors. Just remember if you are buying used equipment, make sure you have them checked out and tuned up before you start to use them.

Watch this video to learn more about ski gear!

Learn More »

How To

Do …

  • Be a considerate skier or snowboarder.
  • Stretch your muscles before and after you ski or snowboard.
  • Set goals for yourself.
  • Take lessons, you can never learn enough about the sport. Things change every day!
  • Pack proper clothing.
  • Get your equipment tuned up before the season starts.
  • Have Fun.
  • Dress in layers.

Do Not …

  • Hold your ski poles straight out in front, or behind you (they then become spears instead of poles).
  • Leap off of trees or rocks into trails.
  • Stick your tongue to the chairlift or flagpole.
  • Stay outside when you get cold.
  • Take a cafeteria tray and slide down the slopes.
  • Eat yellow snow.
  • Ride back down the chairlift.
  • Don’t give up on the sport without taking a lesson and giving it a chance!

Watch this video to learn how to properly exit the chairlift!

Learn More »

Know the Lingo

Trail Difficulty Ratings



Ski Condition Reports

What does the condition report mean?

The condition report is a very detailed report that is distributed twice a day throughout the mountain stating the conditions of the trails, which ones are opened and closed, the base depth of the snow, what lifts are operating, current weather, upcoming forecast, special events, and any hazards or warnings. It is the skier’s responsibility to check this report before purchasing a lift ticket and to decide what trails are skiable for his or her ability.

Check out the condition report before you hit the slopes. There is a ton of useful information on the report that you should be aware of.

There are 3 terms that you should be aware of, Green, Blue and Black.

  • GREEN – Green Circles are the color and symbol used for the beginner’s easiest trails to ski or board on. This is where are the beginner ski or ride.
  • BLUE – Blue Squares are the color and symbol used for more difficult trails or for intermediate skiers and riders.
  • BLACK – Black Diamonds and Double Black Diamonds are the trail color and symbols used for the most difficult and extremely difficult rails.

How do I read the condition report?

It’s easy to understand the abbreviations used. As you ski more and more you will become more familiar with these terms and the ski conditions. If you do not know what any of the terms or meanings are, please ask any of our staff.

Skier Classification

Determining your skier type is your responsibility. Your skier type, height, weight, age and ski boot sole length are used by the ski shop to determine the release/retention settings of your ski bindings. Be sure to provide accurate information; any error may increase your risk of injury. There are 3 classes of skier types – Type 1, Type II and Type III.

Type I
“Cautious skiing at lighter release/retention settings”

Ski conservatively. Prefer slower speeds. Prefer easy to moderate slopes. Favor lower than average release/retention settings. This corresponds to an increased risk of inadvertent binding release in order to gain increased release ability in a fall. Type I settings apply to entry-level skiers uncertain of their classification.

Type II
“Moderate Skiing at average release/retention settings.

Ski moderately. Prefer a variety of speeds. Ski on varied terrain, including most difficult trails. Are all skiers who do not meet all the descriptions of either Type I or III.

Type III
“Aggressive skiing at higher release/retention settings”

Ski aggressively. Normally at high speeds. Prefer steeper and more challenging terrain. Favor higher than average release/retention settings. This corresponds to decreased release ability in a fall. In order to gain a decreased risk inadvertent binding release.

Glossary of Riding & Skiing Terms

  • Alpine Skiing – Downhill Skiing.
  • Apres-ski – The nightlife following a day of skiing.
  • Base – The average depth of snow on the mountain AND the bottom of the mountain where the lodge is. Example: Base Lodge.
  • Bunny Slope – The area where beginners are taught.
  • Carving – Making turns while the edges of your skis or snowboard are cutting into the snow.
  • Catching an Edge – When the edge of your ski or snowboard accidentally digs into the snow and usually resulting in a fall or a near fall. (Happens to the best of them)
  • Catching Some Air – After riding over a small hill or mogul, your skis or snowboard comes off of the ground.
  • Corduroy – The result of snow made by groomers.  Closely spaced parallel grooves that resemble corduroy pants.
  • Cruising – Making a long run at less than breakneck speeds.
  • Fall-Line – The straightest and steepest line down any slope.
  • Freshies – Freshly fallen snow with no ski or snowboard tracks.
  • Gaper – A person who stops on the slopes to look at the views OR space between your goggles and helmet.
  • Glade Skiing – Special Trails for skiing through the trees
  • Goofy – Right foot forward on a snowboard.
  • Granular Surface – Granules look similar to rock salt, usually formed after a powder snow thaws, re-freezes and crystallizes; or an accumulation of sleet. Loose granular also may characterize surface conditions produced by machine conditioning of frozen granular or icy surfaces.
  • Head Wall – The area on top of the mountain where you are just about to come down the slope usually at the start of a black diamond.
  • Heli-Skiing – Skiing that can only be reached by helicopter. Not available at Whiteface Mountain.
  • Mashed Potatoes – Wet, heavy snow.
  • Milk Run – The first run of the day.
  • Moguls – Mounds of snow (aka – bumps).
  • Off Trails – In most cases, they are places that you should not be, such as closed, ungroomed, and unpatrolled slopes. If you are caught skiing or boarding on a closed trail, Ski Patrol will clip your ticket and ask you to leave.
  • Pizza – See Snowplow.
  • Powder – Light, ungroomed snow.
  • Schussing – Skiing straight downhill, often in a full tuck. (Not usually recommended).
  • Shaped Skis – Curved or hourglass-shaped skis.
  • Snowplow – Also referred to as wedge. It is one of the first ways we learn to stop. It is when your ski tips are almost touching forming a triangular shape (aka – Pizza). Also the piece of machinery that clears the roads after a snowfall so we can get to the mountain.
  • Terrain Park – An area maintained by a resort that is full of jumps and/or a halfpipe, rails, and other obstacles.
  • Wedge – See snowplow
  • Yard Sale – A wipeout fall in which skis, poles, hat, goggles, sunglasses, mittens, and anything else you may have on your person ends up strewn along the mountainside.