It’s that time of the year, when everyone starts preparing their gear, making sure everything is in perfect condition for the beginning of the winter season. Skiing is without a doubt, one of the most popular winter mountain sports, which we strongly advice you to try, if you haven’t already done so, however, in order to fully enjoy it, stay comfortable and minimize injuries while practicing it, you will have to invest a respectable amount of your savings into buying the gear required. If you are starting now or you know that you will be skiing for only a couple of times, during the season, we think that you’ll be better off by renting the equipment required. For those determined to start or to skiing, on a regular basis, we have prepared the following guide with a few general considerations and recommendations, you should keep in mind, before investing on new or replacing your existing gear. Here is what you will need:
a) Skiing boots f) Goggles or sunglasses
b) Skiis g) Clothing
c) Ski bindings h) Gloves or mittens
d) Ski poles i) Wrist guards & pads
e) Helmet j) Sun & wind protection
Boots are the single most important component of your ski setup and it’s worth spending extra time and energy to get the right boot with the right fit. Your boots are your only way of translating your body’s intentions to your skis, so a precise fit is important for control and performance. The goal in ski boot fitting is to find a size and shape that you’ll be comfortable in without compromising too much performance.
Everyone’s foot is unique, so there is no one “right” way to fit boots. The size, shape, flex and features of your ideal boot will vary depending on ability level, aspirations, height and weight, frequency of days on the hill, and other factors. Because of their construction and the job they have to perform, ski boots will never be as comfortable as street shoes and you shouldn’t try to fit them the same way. Remember that the foam used for padding inside the boot will compress with use, so what seems like a very snug fit in a new boot will become more relaxed after just a few days of skiing.
Here are some things you’ll want to consider when choosing boots:
Your skiing level is definitely going to give you an idea of what type of fit, flex and features to look for in a ski boot. We’ve broken skier types into three groups based roughly on ability:
Beginner / Intermediate. You prefer green and blue runs and typically like cruising on groomed terrain. You’re still working on mastering the mechanics of the sport, but are making regular progress. The best option for beginner/intermediates is a softer to medium flexing boot and a fit that will allow them to be comfortable all day long.
Intermediate / Advanced. You enjoy a variety of speeds and conditions, including moguls and steeper terrain, and require more precise steering and control from your boots. You ski blue and some black runs, cruise groomers with confidence and experiment with off-trail terrain. Intermediate/advanced skiers often have several years invested in the sport and should look for a medium flexing boot with a fit that’s precise enough to allow full control in a variety of conditions.
Advanced / Expert. You ski the entire mountain in all conditions with confidence. You easily make the transition from designated trails to off-piste in a variety of snow conditions including deep powder, crud, ice and moguls. You should be looking for a boot with a stiff to very stiff flex and a very precise fit. Note: Expert park and pipe skiers often prefer a roomier fit and softer flex in their boots compared to "traditional" experts.
Slight to moderate pressure on your longest toes when the boot is buckled and your leg is in an upright position is usually an indication that the boot will be the right size after some use. If the boot feels too short, try flexing the boot hard with the uppers buckled – drive your knee forward into the tongue several times with force. This will push your heel back into the heel pocket of the boot and create more space in the front - you should feel little if any pressure on the toes while flexing the boot forward. Check the fit of the liner with it out of the boot shell to see if the source of the pressure is the toe of the liner rather than the hard plastic shell – if so, this can usually be stretched by your shop. All ski boots will fit looser after a few days of skiing, and your object is to have a perfect fit at the end of the season rather than when the boot is brand new. Keep in mind that while it’s usually possible to enlarge a boot that’s a little too small, it’s virtually impossible to shrink a boot that's too big.
The length of your boot isn’t your only fit option. Like feet, every ski boot interior has a unique shape. Most manufacturers of alpine boots now make two or three distinct models or “lasts” to fit various types of feet. Generally, these lasts can be divided into narrow, medium and wide, and are based on the width of the forefoot measured on a slight diagonal across the metatarsal heads. Lasts with a wider forefoot normally have increased interior volume elsewhere in the boot as well.
Narrow Last. Narrow lasted boots normally have a forefoot width of 97 mm to 98 mm, and are quite narrow through the midfoot as well. These boots are best for people with narrow and low volume feet.
Average Last. Average lasted boots have a forefoot width of around 100 mm. These boots fit average feet well out of the box, and have a more relaxed fit through the midfoot and heel than narrow lasted boots.
Wide Last. Wide lasted boots are best suited to skiers with wider and higher volume feet, and typically have a forefoot width of between 102 mm and 106 mm. If you know what width you normally take in a street shoe, you may be able to pick which of these forefoot models most closely matches your foot. An “A” or “B” width foot, for example, usually works best in a narrow lasted boot, while a “C” or “D” width normally fits an average last of around 100 mm. Skiers with an “E” or wider foot should look for a wider, 102 mm or wider last. As with boot lengths, the forefoot width is not an absolute standard among different boot manufacturers, and each has their own formula for determining other dimensions inside the shell, but this is a good general guideline.
Boot manufacturers often build more than one model or flex using each last, so if you can find a boot that fits well but the flex isn’t right for you, look to see if it’s available in a softer or stiffer version.
Flex in ski boots refers to how difficult it is to flex the boot forward. Boot flex ranges from very soft to race stiffness, indicated by a numeric “flex index” that’s usually a number from 50 (soft) to 130 (very stiff). Often this number is written on the outside of the boot cuff. The method of determining flex index is not standardized between boot manufacturers, and one company’s 100 flex boot may not equal another company’s 100 flex boot, so use the numbers as a starting point but don’t get too hung up on them. Also, some companies use a 1-10 scale to for their flex rating, which is why we characterize flex as soft, medium, stiff, or very stiff in addition to giving a number rating.
Beginner-Intermediate men’s boots range from about 65 to 80 flex index, with Intermediate-Advanced boots going from about 90 to 100. Advanced-Expert boots normally are in the 110 to 130 range. The stiffest race boots are rated at 140 to 150, which is far beyond what most skiers need or want and usually reserved for high level competition skiers. Again, since there is no industry standard for measuring flex, it’s best to use flex index only as a general guide to choosing which model you’re interested in or as a way to compare models within a single brand.
Terrain, speed and type of snow play a role in choosing your flex as well. Pro level Freeride and Big Mountain skiers often choose a slightly softer boot than top World Cup racers, and pro park skiers go softer yet. Variable snow and very steep terrain often demand a bit more cuff movement, while a hard and uniformly smooth surface (like a race course) and techniques that demand tip pressure require a stiffer flexing boot. Personal preference and physical makeup are equally important. An athletic beginner may do just fine in a medium to stiff boot, and some expert skiers prefer a moderate flexing boot to a very stiff one.
Your height and weight are also contributing factors in choosing the best flex. Someone who is short and light doesn’t put as much leverage on a ski boot and a very stiff boot will limit natural body movement, while someone who is larger may require a stiffer boot, even if they are new to skiing. Keep this in mind if you are smaller or larger than average.
Matching the cuff to the size and shape of your calf is an important part of your ski boot fit. The shape and height of both the shell and liner cuff can be a big consideration for women (whose calves are generally lower and proportionately larger than men) or those with very large calves. If the upper buckles on a boot are extremely tight out of the box, most boots have upper buckle ladders that can be moved to several different positions, sometimes with a screwdriver or allen wrench, to give you more adjustment range.
Most manufacturers are now offering women specific boots that are designed to fit larger and lower calves, and many women’s models offer an adjustable cuff that will flare out to give you more fit options.
Alpine ski boots normally have a fixed forward lean of between 11 degrees and 18 degrees from vertical. Most modern boot designs reflect the shift in ski technique toward a more upright style and have less forward lean than boots of a few years ago, but the forward lean that works best for each skier is highly personal, and most boots have some adjustment capability. Often this involves installing or removing a spoiler or shim in back of the calf. Alpine touring boots commonly come with two forward lean options.
Ramp angle, or the angle of the boot board (bottom interior of the boot) relative to the ski, is normally fixed as well, but can sometimes be adjusted by a bootfitter or by installing shims under the bindings or wedges between the bootboard and liner. Some skiers are more sensitive to ramp angle than others.
Where you like to ski most of the time is the biggest factor in determining what type and shape of ski you'll want to buy. Here we'll talk about what each type of ski means and you should easily be able to see which category you fit into.
Just as the name states, all mountain skis are for skiing the entire mountain. This is by far the most popular type of ski, taking over from piste skis. They are designed to handle anything you throw at them including powder, ice, groomers, steeps, heavy snow, and everything in between, but they aren't necessarily a master of any one terrain. If you’re only going to own one ski to do it all, this is what you want. That said, all-mountain skis come in a range of shapes and widths to match the specific needs of different skiers, and the conditions. All-mountain skis generally have what we call mid-fat waists that range from 80-110mm. The key is to figure out where you will be spending the majority of your time on the mountain and what type of terrain you like to ski most. Remember, it’s not just about what you ski now but what you aspire to; trust us, today's skis can help you make leaps in ability that will blow you away.
For those that like the classic feeling of laying a ski over on edge and arcing a perfect turn, piste / carving skis are what you want. These skis have narrower waists and shorter turn radii for edge to edge quickness and responsive turn initiation and exit on groomed runs and hard pack. The beginner-intermediate skis in this category are designed to make learning how to turn as easy and as you progress through the range they get stiffer, more powerful and more aggressive If you're into charging hard and only really ski on piste, you can't get much better.
Park and pipe skis, often called freestyle skis, are for skiers who spend the majority of their time in the terrain park. If jumps, rails, and jibs of all kinds are your thing then check out this category. Though traditionally park and pipe skis have narrower waists with full camber profiles, this category is incorporating more rocker patterns and different shapes. You will almost always find these skis with twin tips as well as other park specific features like thicker, more durable edges, dense extruded bases, and butter zones. If you're into big kickers and back country booters you'll want a slightly longer ski, if jibbing is your thing then go shorter.
These skis are for the deep days. If you like to find powder stashes in resort, go on backcountry missions for the freshest of fresh or heli ski trips into the mountains, powder skis are what you need to stay afloat. Skis in the powder category are wide and most often have some form of rocker or early rise plus a relatively soft flex. You will see unique sidecut shapes; the tip and tail are not always the widest parts of the ski. Many powder skis today are versatile enough to handle mixed conditions and harder snow Big Mountain
Big mountain skis are designed for charging big lines with high speeds and big airs. These skis vary in width from wide, powder-oriented skis for skiing Alaska spines to narrower, mixed condition skis for ripping the beat up headwall at your local mountain. Skis in this category tend to be on the stiffer side, often with more rocker in the tip and less in the tail.
Alpine touring skis are as much about the journey up as the journey back down again. Alpine Touring skis incorporate lightweight constructions with cutting edge technology to ensure that they perform as much on the hike up as they do on the ride down. Alpine Touring skis come in a huge range of sizes and width's designed for different styles of touring, whether you do it for the hike up or the ride down.
When looking at skis it is also important to look for suitable bindings. Ski bindings are an essential bit of kit for every skier. Quite simply, a ski binding is the connection between you and your skis. They are the system that transfers energy from your body into movement on the snow. Different bindings will suit both different skiers and different skiing environments such as freestyle skiing or powder skiing. It is important to make sure that the bindings you choose are suited to both the skier and the type of skiing that you will be doing. Some skis comes with pre chosen track mounted bindings. These have been specifically selected by the manufacturer to give optimal performance for the level of the ski.
There are two main parts to a standard alpine ski binding - the toe piece and the heel piece. These work together to ensure that the bindings perform precisely as they are designed to. AT (Alpine Touring) and Telemark bindings differ from the below Alpine binding however these types are less common. Check out the main parts of an alpine binding below.
The toe piece is the front section of a ski binding which secures the front of your boot to your ski. The correct function of a toe piece is imperative during twisting falls. Twisting falls are one of the worst injuries a skier can sustain, often resulting in damaged ligaments in the knees. Because of this the toe piece has a horizontal release mechanism which allows the boot to slide out of the binding sideways but not vertically. Vertical release is left up to the heel piece. The toe piece consists of horizontal wings, an anti friction device (AFD) and DIN setting.
The horizontal wings work with an internal spring. This spring makes the wings grip your boot, preventing you from just falling out of the bindings. The spring has a specific retention range, or DIN setting, which can be adjusted and equates to the amount of pressure it takes to open the horizontal wings and remove the boot sideways from the binding, thus preventing injury. Ski binding toe pieces come in two basic designs. Traditional toe pieces have the spring mounted parallel to the ski, in the direction of the bindings travel. This is a strong design which provides a large amount of elastic travel. Newer designs incorporate a spring mounted perpendicular to the ski, or at a 90 degree angle. This produces a compact toe piece which has a centre of gravity which is closer to the skier. These designs are becoming very popular with freestyle and backcountry skiers. Racers still prefer traditional toe pieces as they can be made to a high retention setting than newer compact toe pieces.
The brake on a binding has one simple function - to make sure you don't lose your skis if they come off! When you are stepped into the bindings the brakes will raise and sit flush with the top of the ski. This keeps them away from the snow and out of the way. When you release from the ski the brakes pop up and the brake arms extend below the ski. These then catch the snow and lift the ski off of the snow. This prevents the ski from disappearing down the slope and getting lost. If you are choosing your own bindings for a pair of skis you need to make sure that you get bindings with the correct width brake. This is because a binding with a small brake won't open correctly and engage with the snow. Similarly a brake that is too wide won't sit flush on the top of the ski and may drag on the snow even when you are stepped into the binding.
For some people a pair of ski poles is just a pair of poles. Nothing fancy, nothing over the top. For others a ski pole is a precision piece of equipment that can help change the way they ski. However you see your ski poles it is still important to choose the right ones. Poles that are too long or too heavy can be cumbersome and awkward whereas poles which are too short might not provide you with the right balance. Just follow the guide below and you'll get all the information you need to choose the right ski poles for you.
The truth is that there is not right or wrong answer here. An incorrectly sized pole can cause you problems and could even hinder your skiing however a certain degree of personal preference also comes into play. Some people like to have a longer ski pole which they can plant and turn around whereas other prefer their poles shorter where they are nothing more than an additional balance aid. If you're unsure then keep to the size chart below, it's spot on for 99% of skiers!
Alpine ski poles are the most popular type of ski poles as they suit the majority of skiers. Alpine ski poles will have a straight shaft, comfortable handle and standard hard snow basket making them suitable for use on piste and occasionally off piste. Some alpine ski poles will come with special features such as additional snow baskets which can be easily changed to suit soft snow or powder skiing. If you spend most of your time cruising the piste then alpine ski poles are the best for you.
- Powder / Backcountry Poles
Powder or backcountry ski poles offer improved soft snow perfromance. This is usually through the use of a large snow basket which improves float and prevents the poles from sinking. Powder and backcountry poles will sometimes have a thicker shaft to protect them from hitting rocks or trees in the backcountry. Some backcountry and powder poles also come with adjustable shaft lengths. This allows you to transport them easily and even pack them away inside a backpack as well as adjusting them for varied terrain. We recommend sizing down slightly for a powder/backcountry ski pole to reduce swing weight and improve performance.
Some people like to ski freestyle or park without ski poles whilst others like the additional balance and ability to push along the flat that poles offer. Freestyle or park poles are often much shorter than other ski poles and have skinnier shafts and grips. This makes sure that they don't get in the way when hitting park features such as rails and boxes but still help to increase your balance. Sizing for freestyle and park poles is much ore subjective than other ski poles and is down to personal preference. We would recommend trying a few different sized poles to get a feel for what you are after.
Race poles are more specialist than alpine, powder or park poles. They often have an ergonomic shape and feature high tech constructions including materials such as carbon and fibreglass. Ergonomic shaped poles hug around your body to reduce drag, allowing you to ski faster. They are also less likely to get caught on slalom gates. High tech constructions such as carbon and fibreglass allow race poles to be much stronger and lighter than traditional aluminium poles. This does however make them more expensive. Some poles even incorporate new shaft designs including triangular shapes to increase strengtha dn reduce weight even further.
Nordic ski poles - also called cross country ski poles - are designed for hiking, trekking, snowshoeing, skating and cross country skiing. They usually have very narrow shafts and lightweight constructions and feature a spiked tip with a different shaped basket to traditional ski poles. This allows you to get maximum power when pushing along. Nordic and cross country ski poles are sized differently to most other poles. You would generally choose a pole that reaches up to your collarbone or chin, depending on the type of Nordic skiing you will be doing.
Skiing helmets are insulated, provide impact protection and reduce the risk of head injury by at least 30%, but only if they fit your head. Once fastened, your helmet should not move around your head when you turn your neck.
Whatever the weather, you'll need some kind of eye protection. Even on overcast days, you'll be exposed to UV light, not only from above, but also reflected from the snow. For skiing in mild conditions sunglasses with 100% UV protection are usually adequate. For colder conditions or in snow, wind or rain, goggles offer better eye protection. Select goggles with 100% UV protection for daytime skiing and untinted goggles for night skiing, so you can see the bumps and icy patches.
You'll need a minimum of 3 layers of clothing for skiing - a base layer such as thermal underwear (top and bottom), an insulating layer such as a wool, fleece, polypropylene or fibre-pile sweater, and a protective layer (top and bottom) that is wind and waterproof. Weather conditions can change quickly and so can your body temperature - one minute you are hot from the exertion of skiing, the next minute you are cold in the wind on a chair-lift that has stopped. Even in dry skiing conditions, chances are you'll end up with more than your skiing in the snow - making waterproof gear necessary at all times.
Ski gloves or mittens protect your hands during a fall and keep your hands warm. It is advisable to select waterproof gloves or mittens that wick moisture away from your skin. Mittens may take away some dexterity, but they tend to keep hands warmer in cold conditions.
Ski wrist guards provide some protection against wrist sprains and fractures and are recommended for all ski riders, but particularly beginners and those who like to challenge themselves with new skills and skiing conditions.
Hip, knee and elbow pads can be worn over your base layer of clothing and reduce the amount of bruising from falls onto hard-packed snow. While learning to balance on skiis you are likely to fall, landing on outstretched hands, your hips and bottom and/or your knees.
Apply sunscreen and lip balm before you head outdoors for skiing. Keep sunscreen in your pocket to reapply as directed on the tube. Even if the day is not windy, you will be traveling at high speeds in cold weather and a wax based skin protector can help protect against frost bite and wind burn.
Hopefully, we’ve made your life a lot easier, when it comes to choosing your skiing gear. There are a lot of variables to take under consideration, so don’t rush, take your time and try as much as possible before investing your money on new equipment. Finally, remember to always take all the necessary precautions when practicing your favourite sport. We’ll see you on the slopes…
You can download a pdf version of our guide by clicking the link below.