It only hurts if you fall. Start small and work your way up. You don't need body armor (if you can afford it, why not get it though), but definitely wear a helmet. Most importantly, don't mind the rest of NS or people on the mountain who will make fun of you.
"This is complete bullshit. Stop spreading horrible granny panty propaganda already, you're making yourself look like a goddam vagina gaper." -Huck_Norris
See what you want to focus on, some rider love jumps, some riders love rails. If you like jumps go to your backyard with shovel and build yourself a small kicker to learn things on. If you like rails, go to lowes and pick-up some pvc and build a rail. Get used to tricks with your friends so when you get to the mountain you are more confident. +K please
As everyone else said, learn the basics. Get your pop down off a jump - racing teaches you to absorb lips, but this is drastically wrong in jumping.
Work on small features and get real comfortable. Work your way up to the big stuff, and then repeat for various tricks.
In terms of staying out of the way, just always stick slightly to the side of the inrun/outrun of a feature. I'm sure if you've been racing you'll have a sense of not standing in the centre of a race course, so this is same dif.
I wore pads for a while with rails, as some of the falls there won't kill you but they sure as hell will sting. Of course, couple of bruises from rails is a badge of honor.
The most important thing when doing rails is make sure that your feet are always wider than shoulder width apart. Most racers will attempt to hockey stop on a rail, and this will lead to falling back and getting the rail either in the hips or ribs. Both suck regardless of pads.
Feet shoulder width apart on rails, proper pop on jumps, and success in the halfpipe means you got 30 hits in, not 3.
newschool is a state of mind, not a style of skiing.