Skiing is one of the most exciting sports in the world but finding the right skiing gear that perfectly fits you and suits your needs is not a simple task. Every item you zip up and strap on each winter could make the difference between an amazing and a horrible trip. Before buying any skiing gear, it is imperative that you do your research well and take time to understand every piece of equipment.
Here, we have compiled a skiing buyers guide that should include all essential skiing gear you need in order to get a running (or gliding) start. From the different kinds of goggle lenses available to the type of ski boots, you will find a whole lot of information as you read.
With the right kind of ski, you can enhance the safety and excitement level of your skiing experience. There are a lot of factors to consider while choosing the perfect ski for you.
Understand the Terrain
Before choosing a ski, the first important factor you should consider is the type of terrain you will be on. Different types of skis are best suited for different conditions.
A few examples are
Backcountry- Freeride skis work well so that you can make your own tracks off the trail. If you’d like to see our favorite backcountry skis, you can check out our article here.
- Groomed terrain- use track skis in such terrain
- Racking- narrow skis are great for downhills and racing.
- Powered/ groomed mix- wide all-mountain skis are great.
Know Your Skill Level
By choosing a ski that operates close to your skill level, you can improve your stability and control on the mountain.
The skill level will be dependent on the waist width, the flex, and the type of terrain you’ll ski on. A ski with softer flex is easier to control for beginners, while expert skiers will prefer a stronger ski.
Types of Skis
- All-Mountain Skis
All-mountain skis are popularly used since they can perform really well under any condition on the mountain. These skis have a waist width between 85-95mm and are mostly used on-trail, but you can take them anywhere else on the mountain.
- Frontside Skis
These skis are best suited for making carved turns or skids on trails and groomed paths only. They have a narrow width and come in a large range of skill sets.
- Freestyle Skis
These skis are best for high flying skiers. Most of these have twin tips for both forward and backward skiing.
- All-Mountain Wide Skis
With waist widths between 95-105mm, these skis are your go-to’s. They perform well on any turn or carve or through bumps and crud.
- Alpine Touring Skis
Alpine skis are extremely lightweight and are designed to either go up hiking or come down thorough snow. They come in a wide range of waist widths.
- Race Skis
Race skis are designed to take you as fast as they can all throughout the journey.
- Powder Skis
These are over 111mm underfoot and enable maximum stability and floatation through deep snow.
Rocker and Camber Profiles
There are basically three profiles of camber, each for excelling in different functions.
- Traditional Camber
The shape of a traditional camber is curved slightly upwards; thus, when the skier initiates a turn and puts pressure on the ski, the ski comes in full contact with the snow along the edges. These skis provide amazing power in and out of turns.
- Reverse Camber
This profile is also known as a rocker or early rise. Unlike traditional camber, reverse camber focuses on enabling the skier to perfectly smear, pivot, and surf the mountain. The tips and tails have early rises that help with turning in deep snow.
This profile is a combination of the traditional camber underfoot and early rise on the tips and tails. This is most popular since it aims to give the increasing power and edge contact of a traditional camber and the float and maneuverability characteristics of a rocker.
Find the Right Flex
The flex of a ski depends on the weight of the skier, how aggressive the skier is, and the skiing conditions. An aggressive or expert skier should opt for a stiffer flex since more pressure is put on the skis.
Types of Flex
- Very Soft
These skis are easy and forgiving. They are best for children and beginners.
Mainly for those who want a ski that can be easily controlled and require lesser energy to maneuver the ski. It is a good option for beginners or intermediate level skiers.
These skis are best suited for skiers that ski at different speeds. These can be controlled easily at slower speeds while offering good stability at high speeds.
These skis are highly responsive at high speeds and are for heavy skiers.
- Very Stiff
These are for the most aggressive skiers.
- Find Out the Waist Width
The kind of terrain you’ll be skiing on determines the waist width of your ski. Narrower waist width skis are better for easy maneuvers on beginner trails. A wider waist width gives more floatation and stability on broken snow and in crud.
Skis under 85mm are a good choice for skiers who mostly ski on groomed terrain. Expert skiers can opt for waist width between 80-85mm which is wide enough to smoothly pass through pops of crud on the trail.
Another essential piece of skiing equipment on your gear list is ski poles. They help you hike, give you balance, allow you to time your turns, and so on. Ski poles are measured in increments of five centimeters or two inches and are always sold in pairs. It is important to have the right size of ski poles. If your ski pole is too short, you may be too far forward, while in the case of too long poles, you may tend to ski on your heels and lose control.
We have written a more complete ski pole buying guide if you are looking for the perfect ones to fit your style.
Before choosing ski poles, here are a few factors to consider.
Different Types of Ski Poles
Almost every kind of ski pole can be used for regular trail skiing, but there are a few specialties found-
- Freestyle Poles
These are shorter in length for extra maneuverability and come with smaller grips for ease of use.
- All-Mountain Poles
These poles come in a range of materials, from basic aluminum to expensive high-tech carbon fiber. They are available for all abilities and ages.
- Race Poles
These come with the most durable materials that are designed for excellent aerodynamics under speeding conditions. They have cone-shaped baskets that are small in size in order to avoid hooking up on gates.
Aluminum is a durable material and is very economical, thus making it a great material for beginner poles. It is heavier than carbon fiber and other similar materials.
- High-Grade Aluminum
The high strength to weight ratio makes this material durable and popular among high-end poles. It gives a stiffer and stronger feel than other carbon fibers or lightweight composite alternatives.
Poles made of composite materials are durable and highly flexible and can bend multiple times without breaking.
Along with its high strength to weight ratio, carbon fiber poles are also very flexible. This is why it is found in expert poles.
- Standard Baskets
These baskets are smaller in diameter and designed to be as light as possible while limiting the sinking of poles into the snow.
- Powder Baskets
With a larger diameter, these baskets keep the poles from sinking too deep.
To measure the appropriate length of ski pole you need, flip the pole upside down and grab it just underneath the basket. While doing that, your forearm should be parallel to the ground, or the angle from your shoulder to your hand should be 90 degrees or more.
Bindings are a very important piece of equipment because they not only keep you attached to your skis but also prevent any injury or mishaps. Bindings should only be adjusted, mounted and tested by certified ski technicians.
Some of the features of bindings that you should consider are-
Ski bindings come with safety brakes that are available in different width. Before buying a binding, make sure that the brake width is at least as wide as the ski’s waist. However, don’t go for ski bindings that are more than 20mm wider in width than your ski’s waist.
The DIN range of bindings determines how easily the boots will release from the bindings. A higher DIN rating will make it harder for the boot to detach from the ski than one with a lower DIN range. This factor is mainly important for freestylers, aggressive skiers, and free riders. A few of the typical DIN ranges are –
- .75-4.5 – under 109 lbs youth skiers
- 4-12 – under 200 lbs intermediate to advanced adults
- 9-16- over 190 lbs advanced to expert skiers
Types of Binding
- Alpine Bindings
These kinds of bindings are designed for hiking up the mountain and then skiing down. They are also suitable for backcountry and work as well as downhill bindings, with the added benefit of allowing you to ski down.
- Downhill Bindings
Downhill bindings are designed particularity to ski downhill with standard fixed toe and heel.
- Race Bindings
Race bindings have a narrow platform to fit well on the narrow waist of racing skis. These usually have higher DIN ranges for higher speed events and use extra metal components for more durability.
Ski boots are very important and need to be properly understood before purchasing. An improper fit has ruined many skiing seasons. It’s best to be careful because you don’t want to mess up with the fit of your boots. Some important things to consider are-
Female ski boots are designed and shaped to fit women’s feet perfectly. A female’s leg shape is shorter and fuller, while the foot is typically thinner. A female foot has more taper between the forefoot and the heel. Manufacturers consider these factors and design women’s ski boots that have a narrower heel pocket, a narrower width, and a fuller and shorter cuff to accommodate the leg and foot shape.
Men’s ski boots have a stiffer flex, taller cuff, and wider foot shape specially designed to accommodate the male’s leg and foot shape.
Ski boots for kids are designed to be lighter with a much narrower width. The flex is softer with a short cuff allowing the young skiers to smoothly flex, blend and have good control over their skis.
Mondo point size is the standard used to measure ski boots. They are basically measured in centimeters, and your mondo point size is the length of your foot in centimeters.
If you want to find the correct shell size of your lower leg and foot, simply remove the boot liner and then place your foot inside. Thereafter, the boot fitter will place a tool to measure the space between your feet and the back of the boot. The fit of skiing boots is generally categorized as ” performance,” “comfort,” and “race.”
Last is the forefoot area of a boot. A lower number of last signifies a narrower fit and vice versa. The Last of a boot is measured by the reference size for both men and women separately. For women, it’s 25.5, while it is 26.5 for men.
Typical widths found in boots are-
These boots range between 95-99mm and can be shaped and sculpted by the boot fitter according to your foot size and shape. Narrow boots are usually race or high-performance boots.
These boots measure between 100-103mm and are usually advanced or high-performance boots.
Wide boots measure between 104-106mm and are constructed for comfort. They are usually designed for recreational skiers.
The pressure required to bend a ski boot is referred to as its flex. A higher flex rating of a boot indicates a stiffer boot. Stiffer boots are typically favored by advanced and stronger skiers for the additional support, control, and rebound over their skis that they offer. In the case of a beginner, it is recommended to have a boot that is soft and more forgiving and does not require much pressure to flex or bend.
There is no industry standard to measure the flex rating. A boot’s flex rating will depend on the type of plastic used to build the boot, the number of buckles in the boot, the design, and the manufacturing company. In order to actually find the proper flex for yourself, you can consider the factors-your height, weight, how flexible your Achilles tendon is, and your skill level.
Leg and Foot Shape
The shaft of the leg or the calf volume refers to the area from the ankle of your foot up to the knee. Some skiers have a high volume (thick and wide calves), while others have low volume (skinny and very narrow legs). Wearing a boot that is too narrow for your leg will cause great discomfort from difficulty in buckling your boot to stopping the flow of blood in your leg. However, if the boot is too wide for you, the boot won’t move with you as you flex and bend, and also cause blisters in the middle of the shin. Hence, it is important to determine your calf volume before choosing a boot.
The instep of the foot is another factor to consider. The instep is the part of the foot just above your arch. The height of the instep generally corresponds to the height of your arch. If you wear a boot that is too tall across the top part of the foot, then it can cause slippage and discomfort. Check your instep and see that it matches the boot.
When it comes to skiing, a clear vision of your surroundings is paramount. Not only can you enjoy the view of the scenic beauty around you, but also ensure that you are safe as you navigate through the mountains. Here are a few essential features you should consider before choosing one-
There are different types of lenses that will suit the light conditions you are skiing in and your view of the mountains.
- Polarised Lens
These lenses work to reduce glare from the snow and sun but do not compromise on visibility under low light conditions. Less glare is better since it won’t tire your eyes.
- Mirrored Lens
Mirrored lenses or chrome lenses have reflective surfaces on the outside, and the mirrored coating on them can block too much sunlight under bright conditions. These lenses also reduce glare by allowing less light to reach your eyes. These lenses are not recommended on overcast days since they have low visibility.
- Non-Mirrored Lens
These lenses are best used on overcast days since they don’t have reflective surfaces like the others.
- Photochromatic Lens
These lenses are most versatile, in the sense that the lens can automatically darken or lighten depending on the surrounding light conditions. These lenses give excellent visibility because of its ability to adjust to UV light from the sun. With stronger sunlight, the lens becomes dark and vice versa.
- Cylindrical Lens
These lenses are curved on the horizontal axis for enhanced performance and style. They are more budget-friendly than others.
Spherical lenses are curved on both axes and give great vision both up and down and side to side. This curvature also reduces distortion and glare.
Toric lenses resemble the shape of a donut. It combines the advantages of both cylindrical and spherical lenses.
- Contrast “Tuning” Lenses
Contrast tuning lenses are designed to adjust the level of colors and light seen by the eye, according to the particular surrounding and light intensity. The adjustments are made during manufacturing by adding lens coatings and dyes. These lenses boost the surrounding colors for mind-blowing visuals. Lenses are designed or built differently for a specific environment or sport in order to enhance the performance.
Quick-Change Lens System
A quick-change lens system has the ability to allow the wearer to quickly change or swap lenses depending on variables such as incoming clouds, fog or even lens damage. The swapping is done using various mechanisms such as levers, buttons, magnets, etc.
Visual Light Transmission
Visual Light Transmission is a measure of the amount of natural light that can pass through the lenses of the goggles. It is measured in percentage, and a lens tinted between 10-35 percent VLT is designed for sunny days, while transparent tins between 35-80 percent are for overcast days.
Integrating the Helmet
In order to prevent goggles from fogging, make sure that the vents of both the helmet and the goggles are in line to enhance ventilation.
Many goggles have an anti-fog coating on the inside of the lens. This coating can be damaged by dirt or your fingerprints, so make sure you keep your hands off of them. In case your goggles fog up, air them up or gently wipe with a soft cloth.
Buy a helmet that fits you well as well as looks good on you. Make it a point to try the helmet with your outerwear and with the goggles to see how they line up, and check for ventilation. Here are a few factors to look into-
Size and Fit
This is the most important factor in a helmet. The helmet should fit properly and protect you from any head injury. If you want to find the perfect size, then use a measuring tape to wrap the circumference of your head just above the eyebrows. Helmets are measured in centimeters.
A helmet that fits properly should not have any gaps in between, and the padding should fit snugly against the head. Once you wear the helmet, give it a few pushes from the back, front and top and check if your eyebrows or skin move with it.
Shell Types and Materials
This shell is made up of impact-resistant ABS or similar high-quality plastic attached to a tough foam liner. These are the traditional type of shells that give the best protection against penetration by sharp rocks, ski poles, and are greatly helpful in high energy impacts. However, there is a high risk of bouncing in this type of shell.
- In-Mold Shell
In this type of shell, the outer shell is made of polycarbonate and is bonded to a foam liner through one molding process. These helmets are soft and can be easily deformed. They are fragile and not the best option in the event of a penetration accident.
- Goggle Integration
There should be a seamless integration of the goggles and helmet for increased airflow and ventilation. Nowadays, there are helmets by companies like POC that are designed with integrated goggles for the perfect match.
Wearing attractive and a proper-fitting outwear will give you confidence and enhance your skiing adventure altogether. Apart from patterns and colors, there are other technical specs you should know before you choose one.
Two-Layer vs Three-Layer Construction
These terms refer to the protective layers and membrane of the outerwear. The waterproof or breathable layer is the membrane that is attached to one, two or even three layers to keep it secure. The outermost layer of the outerwear that has all the designs and colors is called the “face fabric.”
In the case of two-layer construction, the membrane is fused with the outer fabric, and there is nothing to protect the delicate membrane. This kind of jacket usually needs an inner lining.
In three-layer construction, the waterproof membrane is bonded to the face fabric. Thereafter, the two layers are then bonded to a backer in order to protect the delicate membrane from dirt or oil.
Insulation is meant to increase the warmth of your outerwear. For this, it is filled with either synthetic material or down feathers. The insulations is mostly placed in areas that have high chances of heat loss, such as the hood and torso. The warmth of down is measured through its fill power. In this test, a graduated cylinder is filled with an ounce of down, and the volume the down occupies, which is measured in cubic inches, is its fill power. Ratings are given based on this test.
Garments are numerically rated based on their level of insulation. A warmer garment will have a rating of about 800, while lower insulation will be rated 500. The use of down for insulation is a great choice because of its high warmth-to-weight ratio.
Breathability and Waterproof Ratings
A higher breathability rating shows that the garment is better at allowing air in and out. The ratings are determined through a test that measures the amount of water vapor that can seep through a square meter of fabric in 24 hours. The unit of measurement is grams per meter squared per day.
In the same way, waterproofing is also rated through water column tests. A tube measuring one-inch in diameter is placed on top of a piece of fabric till the time the liquid seeps through the membrane. The rating of the fabric is the amount of water (in milliliters) it can handle before soaking. The higher the rating, the higher the waterproofing capability of the outerwear.
Finding the most effective ski gloves that will give you the best combination of warmth and comfort is not an easy task. But with guidance in the right direction, you don’t have to worry about anything.
Breathable and Waterproof
Breathability and waterproofing are two important factors to consider when choosing skiing gloves. Waterproof gloves are essential because when you are skiing on the coast where the air is not dry, your hands may become wet. If that happens, your hands may freeze, and it could even make you sick. The breathability of ski gloves is equally important because airflow and ventilation will keep your hands free from moisture and sweat.
Insulation is important because your hands need to be kept warm for you to perform well. People who cannot withstand colder temperatures should surely find gloves with thick insulation. Gloves with good insulation will also allow vapor to pass in and out of the fabric so that your hands don’t accumulate moisture.
Gloves should comfortably fit your hands. If they are too loose, then you will need to use more of your body heat to fill up the space in the gloves and you may even find it difficult to maintain a good grip on your ski poles. While smaller gloves will make you feel uncomfortable by compressing your skin. Gloves that are well-fitted should have enough room for outstretched fingers.
Ski gloves come in two cuff lengths- one that is long and extends way past the jacket sleeves, while the other is short and ends on the wrist. Long cuff length gives you better insulation and warmth, but short gloves give you more mobility around the wrist area.
Unfortunately, ski gloves are one of the pieces of equipment that break most easily. Very often, the buckles will tear off, leaving the inside of your gloves exposed. When looking for gloves, make sure that they are extremely durable, but also make sure that they come with a good warranty in case they break.
Skiing is a sport that requires dedication, time, and a good knowledge of the types of gear required. Mentioned above is a detailed skiing gear guide that you can thoroughly read and use to your advantage. Keep in mind that every piece of equipment should ensure your comfort and safety at the same time.