When you find yourself wanting to hibernate all winter, it may be time to discover a winter sport. While downhill, or alpine, skiing may not be the easiest sport to master, you can get the basics down pretty quickly. If you’re gliding (safely!) down the slope with a smile on your face, you’re doing it right. To get to that point, you’re going to need to invest in some gear. Here’s what you want to pick up to get started.
Your first stop: the nearest ski shop. It’s hard to choose your first pair of skis as a beginner. There are so many types and brands out there that it’s hard to know where to start.
The skis you choose will largely depend on the type of terrain you’ll be skiing on. More likely than not, your local ski expert will point you toward a good pair of all-mountain skis that will work well on most slopes.
If you’re looking for a deal, check out ex-rentals from local ski shops. Of course, another option is to rent skis—this allows you to test out the sport without committing.
Be wary of any upselling. Spendier skis are often geared toward experts.
When it comes to ski gear, there are some items worth dropping extra dough on. Poles are not one of these items. Inexpensive, all-mountain poles, like all-mountain skis, will be enough to see you through your early efforts.
The pole length you need is dependent on your height, so refer to sizing charts when making your purchase. Aluminum or composite poles are heavier than poles made out of other common materials, but they’re very durable, and that’s important when you’re just learning how to stay on your skis.
Ski boots have a reputation for being uncomfortable, but they don’t have to be. It’s worth investing in a pair that fits you properly.
If possible, visit a professional boot fitter. They’ll carefully analyze your foot to find the best possible boot for you. You might be better off waiting until you get to your ski resort of choice to pick up boots, as it’s more likely to have pro boot fitters on site.
Of course, the first few times you head up the mountain, you can rent boots—just know that when you buy your own, they should be much more comfortable as they pack in around your foot.
Bindings are the devices that connect to your skis, allowing your boot to clip in when you step atop of your skis. The width of your skis will determine what size bindings to buy.
It’s strongly recommended to have a pro mount your bindings to your skis. They can also help you determine the right DIN setting, which is the “release force setting” that basically sets how sensitive your skis are to detaching under force. This depends on your weight, your height, and your ability level, and your ski shop staffer can help you determine the magic combo for you.
Snow jacket and pants
When choosing your ski jacket and ski pants, consider where you’ll spend most of your time skiing. Hitting the icy slopes in the East? Think warm, insulated layers. Shredding the soggy snow in the Pacific Northwest? Waterproof shells are your best friend.
Avoid the temptation to choose your outwear based on looks—instead, focus on fit, comfort, and design details like pocket placement. Save some dough by picking last year’s models, as more likely than not, all that’s changed is the color or pattern.
Gloves or mittens
Keep your hands warm with a good pair of gloves or mittens. The choice of gloves or mittens comes down to personal preference: Gloves allow a little more dexterity, while mittens are better if you tend to have cold hands.
Unless you’ll be skiing in extreme temperatures, regular ski gloves will do the trick. Aim for waterproof where possible, but be aware that your gloves will still probably end up soggy after a day playing in the snow.
Visibility is crucial to your safety while skiing. That’s why it’s key to find a good pair of goggles. Choose a pair with lenses that match the conditions you’re most likely to ski in—some are better for clear, bluebird days, while others help you ski safely in low light. Many goggles allow you to change out the lenses, which may be a good investment if you plan on picking up different types of lenses in the future.
Goggles that don’t fog easily are essential. Always dry your goggles out properly—and remove them from your helmet—before storing them away. Speaking of helmets, bring yours with you when you’re buying your goggles to ensure that they fit nicely together.
That noggin of yours is protecting a pretty important organ, so make sure to wear a helmet! You don’t need an especially fancy one—as long as it’s in good condition and hasn’t been through any crashes before, it’ll do the trick. Previous crashes will weaken a helmet, and even if there is no visible damage, there can be structural issues you can’t see. Be careful. Buy a new helmet if you can afford it.
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