For the newcomer to skiing there is a lot to learn - not only about the techniques but also how to organise the kind of holiday you will enjoy. Here are 10 rules to help avoid the pitfalls:

1 The sooner you take up skiing the better. The later in life you leave it, the harder it will be to learn - and the fewer seasons of enjoyment you will have ahead of you. (If you detect some regret on my part at starting late, you are right.)

2 Have a go at home first. Skiing on dry slopes - hillsides carpeted with plastic bristle - bears only a slight resemblance to skiing on snow. But it employs the same equipment and techniques, so a couple of sessions will give you a head start. But be warned: compared with snow, a dry slope is hard work, and a hard surface on which to fall. Resolve before you try it that you will not let it put you off the real thing.

3 Do not worry too much about where you go to ski. With few exceptions, all ski resorts cater for beginners, providing nursery slopes (near-flat areas and slow ski lifts) and one or more ski schools with at least some instructors who speak English.

4 But if you have a choice: look for sensible beginners' lift arrangements. In your first few days you do not want to be forced to buy a pounds 100-a-week pass to a vast network of ski-lifts. Look for resorts with nursery slopes at village level - rather than up the mountain - and that can be reached by cable-car; and for resorts where the beginners' lifts are cheap, or even free.

5 Avoid resorts which appeal mainly to experts. Even if it has good beginners' facilities, a resort that attracts thousands of experienced skiers can be a daunting place for a novice. You may be more comfortable in a place where short beginners' skis are the norm in the lift queues, and stories of incompetence are the norm in the bars. (As a bonus, you will probably save money: prices in big-name resorts are higher.)

6 Look for plenty to do other than skiing. Some resorts offer very little else. Better by far to go somewhere that offers alternatives for those afternoons when you feel like a change - or for the rest of the week if you do not take to skiing after all. Possibilities include skating, curling, tobogganing, swimming, walking and tennis.

7 When you are choosing your holiday - destination, style of accommodation and package (most skiers, particularly beginners, go on packages) - take full account of your appetites and budget. Big Alpine resorts are great places in which to indulge yourself if your credit limit is not under threat, but miserable places in which to economise. Eastern Europe is ridiculously cheap, but primitive. Self-catering is cheap only if you do in fact cater for yourself and do not eat out in restaurants twice a day.

8 Rent, do not buy, equipment. The skis and boots that are appropriate at the beginning of your skiing career will not remain appropriate for long; buying them is throwing money down the drain. Many skiers purchase boots as soon as they know they are hooked - after the first week, that is. Do not be pressed into buying boots or skis until you feel confident about assessing alternative brands and models, and have tried a few of them out.

9 Rent equipment there, not here - and be wary of 'ski packs'. If you rent once you have arrived, you retain the freedom to chop and change as you wish - not only swapping boots until you find ones you are comfortable in, but also going to different hire shops if necessary. Paying a tour operator in advance for equipment hire can commit you to the operator's chosen supplier; renting in Britain gives you no freedom of manoeuvre at all.

10 Do not spend a fortune on clothes. Ski clothing is as much about fashion as function. If fashion matters, you will probably be prepared to fork out the staggering sums that are asked for smart ski suits. At least have the sense to buy stuff that is versatile, in case you never ski again; you will not find many other uses for a one-piece, whereas you might for a jacket. The rational approach, however, is to beg or borrow from friends, and exploit your existing wardrobe. Thin roll-neck jerseys and thick walking socks transfer readily from the hills of Britain to the mountains of Europe. But do not kid yourself that a pair of baggy waterproof trousers will keep you dry: if you are relying on non-ski gear, the fabric must be light and warm; and the ankles, wrists and neck must fit well enough to keep out the snow and the cold.

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