As you stand atop a steep ski run, your stomach twisted in knots, it’s easy to feel intimidated about skiing. Whether you’re new to the sport, returning from injury, or just nervous about taking it to the next level, you can calm your fears and master the mountain with these 10 fear-fighting tips:

1. Take a Lesson

The single best way to reduce ski anxiety is signing up for a professional lesson. Sure, you’ll spend a few bucks upfront, but lessons teach you proper form from the get-go and help you overcome ski anxieties. Sure, you could have a friend/partner/spouse teach you, but it often creates tension and can even cause disagreements. Instead, start with a half-day lesson then meet your friend for afternoon turns. On a budget? Participate in Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month to get a lift ticket, first-timer lesson, and rental for a reasonable rate.

2. Go Slow

Getting down the mountain isn’t a race. In fact, injuries from high-speed crashes at resorts have prompted many to put up Slow Zone signs in busy areas. You’ll do your best and reduce your risk of injury by skiing in control, at your own pace. If your friends ski faster than you, let them go ahead and plan to meet at the chairlift. And if your ski crew wants to do a black diamond when you still only feel confident on blue squares, use that time to take some solo turns instead of winding up over your head on expert terrain.

3. Beat the Crowds

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With fewer people around, it’s easier to navigate the slopes.

© Vail Resorts

The early bird gets the corduroy (that’s ski speak for freshly groomed snow), and if you get to the mountain early, you can catch the first chair and have the mountain practically to yourself. You’ll have an easier time turning on soft-groomed snow before it turns to ice or moguls at the day’s end. Plus, when there’s more room to turn across steep terrain—without fear of hitting another skier or snowboarder—you’ll gain confidence in getting down difficult runs.

4. Practice Falling

This may sound counterintuitive, but if you purposely take a few falls on the bunny slope, it can help you know what to expect, and learn how to fall wearing skis without getting hurt. Plus, once you’ve tumbled a few times, you’ll realize it isn’t nearly as scary as you expected.

5. Go Back to the Basics

Psych yourself out on a steep blue run? If you’re shaking like a leaf after a fall and feeling nervous, head back to the green circle runs to rebuild your confidence. Once you’re feeling self-assured on smaller slopes, venture back to the tougher terrain and try again. If that doesn’t help you relax, take a full-stop hot cocoa break before skiing another run.

6. Breathe and Let Loose

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Take a moment to relax before a run, and take a break along the way if you need to catch your breath.

© Vail Resorts

When you find yourself saying, “I can’t,” on a ski run, take a moment to stop, breathe, and relax. The deep breathing brings a sense of calm that helps relax tense muscles, allowing you to ski your best down the mountain. If you start to feel nervous again while skiing, pull over on the hillside, take deep breaths, and refocus before continuing.

7. Act Positive, Be Positive

Your mom was right: Thinking positively makes you feel positive. Instead of saying to yourself, “Don’t fall. Don’t fall. Don’t fall,” as you make your way down the slopes, focus on what you want to accomplish. Try saying, “Smooth round turn,” or count down your turns until you reach the bottom. Instead of thinking about how afraid you are, focus on how proud you are for pushing your ski abilities.

8. Don’t Overthink It

Once you’ve progressed from pizza wedges to French fry turns, it’s time to step up your skiing. But sometimes, thinking too hard about how to ski can hamper performance. Once you’ve got the basics, trust your equipment and your skills and distract yourself from fear. Try singing a song, appreciating the mountain views, or counting the turns you make down the run.

9. Invest in High-Quality Goggles

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A good pair of goggles can make a big difference in helping you feel comfortable on the mountain.

© Vail Resorts

Goggles are one of the most critical pieces of ski gear. There’s nothing worse for your ski confidence than not being able to see the slopes in a whiteout or flat light. Sunglasses do little to help you with changing lighting conditions, and they don’t do much for protecting your face in the cold like goggles do. Instead, opt for goggles with swappable lenses built for varying light conditions. Choose a pair that fights condensation and bring along a goggle wipe to clean them on the chairlift.

10. Quit While You’re Ahead

Skiers aren’t always superstitious types, but you’re sure to elicit gasps if you say two words on the slopes, “Last run.” Why? Because skiers are more likely to fall on the day’s final run because they’ve kept going beyond the point of exhaustion. So never say “last run.” Instead, tell yourself you’ll take two more runs, and skip the last one. Better yet, just be sure to call it a day before fatigue sets in.

Written by Jenny Willden for RootsRated in partnership with Rent Skis.

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