The winter season is a wonderful time of year, full of festivity, family and fun. However, for many, the highlight of this time of the year is the opportunity to get active and spend the holidays skiing down snow-covered pistes.
From the Swiss Alps to the Canadian Rockies, the possibilities are endless, and the potential for hours of thrills and adventure are too good to miss. Plus – the scenery and panoramic views of the mountain tops are something truly awe-inspiring.
No matter your age or level of experience, anyone can enjoy the wonderful thrill of the slopes, as long as you have the right gear.
So, before your first day of skiing, make sure you have the right equipment and appropriate clothing. Not only for style but more importantly to keep you dry, warm and safe.
The wrong gear will leave you feeling miserable and frustrated. So, don’t just ‘make do’ with what you have, but instead, spend a little extra time and money preparing for the upcoming season, you’ll thank yourself later. The world of ski equipment can seem a little intimidating for first-timers, however with the help of the following guide; you will be feeling like a pro in no time.
Picking a Helmet
The world of snow sports, as fun as it is, still presents a level of risk and requires a few precautions to be taken to enjoy the slopes safely. Most importantly – your helmet.
Skiing is a physically active endeavour, and the possibility of a fall is not out of the question. Don’t be fooled by the soft appearance of snow and assume there’s no danger. Once you start gaining confidence and a little speed, the chances of falling become very real, so be sure to put your head protection as a number one priority.
Using a helmet will greatly reduce the chance of a head injury and could make the difference between a fall that simply bruises your ego, and one that sends you to the hospital.
Most resorts rent helmets along with the other ski gear, so be sure to choose wisely and get a helmet that fits well and will be comfortable for the whole day, and you will feel much safer.
Yes, there is nothing macho about skiing without a helmet!
Another vital piece of equipment to keep you safe on the slopes are your goggles. Clear visibility at every moment is the key to having a safe and fun-filled day. Skiing goes better when you can see – it’s that simple.
Besides, at such high altitudes, UV rays are more intense, and the reflection off the white snow can make it a real challenge for your eyes and can even lead to a condition known as snow blindness. Freezing temperatures can cause irritation to your eyes and even debris from other skiers can be a real obstacle.
So be sure to prepare fully for your next ski trip with a good quality pair of goggles. Either you can find a pair from the rental shop, or even buy a simple pair online for about 30-$40. No serious skier will be without them!
Besides your head and eye safety, the next key element to any skiing adventure is the ability to withstand the freezing conditions for hours without getting chilled to the bone. A good combination of clothing will make the difference between an unpleasant freezing day on the slopes, and an awesome day enjoying every piste in the dry and warm.
First things first – make sure your body has a base layer comprised of quick-dry, synthetic fabric. A good quality pair of underwear or thermal bottoms combined with a woollen base layer will provide the first layers of protection against the cold.
Be sure to include quality ski socks in your preparation too. Being longer than regular socks, they are a key element to feeling comfortable and warm throughout the day. Why not buy a good pair of socks made from performance fabric, such as wool?
Further, a second layer is recommended, preferably a fleece zipped jacket so that it can be undone if you get too warm.
Finally, there are the outer layers. These layers need to be water resistant, and it would help if they were a bright and colourful – style, making you easily visibility to other skiers.
Ski trousers and jackets are insulated to varying degrees, so make sure you plan your outfit appropriately, choosing the right outer layers based on the layers and insulation you have below.
Most ski trousers have a waterproof and windproof rating which will vary between 5,000 and 20,000mm (5-20K). Obviously the higher the rating, the better the waterproofing properties of the apparel. We recommend you opt for jackets and trousers with at least a 15K rating.
Look for trousers that are not constricting, and it would be wise to choose a pair of insulated trousers, because as a beginner, you may be spending a lot of your time on your bottom.
The jacket again must be a comfortable fit, paired with waterproof fabric. Some jackets also have the option of “pit zips”, great for cooling off when you get overheated. There are a variety of designs, kitted out with a cool selection of pockets to store your smartphone or even connect your headphones to enjoy some tunes while heading down the slopes.
Look out for that all-important Lift Pass pocket – you may not realise just how useful this can be, but a convenient lift pass pocket will get you through the controls on the slopes in a snip. Just imagine having to look for and dig out a lift pass from somewhere, removing your poles, gloves and so on – it may be a real challenge.
If you are considering clothing for snowboarding – an important point to consider – as opposed to the ski apparel which can be of a slimmer fit, the snowboarding apparel should be more loosely fitting. This is not only fashion but allows for the much more diverse movements and flexibility that are required during snowboarding. Otherwise, if you proceed with slim fit apparel, you will soon discover that it restricts your movements and you can even tear it apart.
The final element of clothing are the gloves. Gloves can make the difference between fun and misery, so it is important to get it right. A pair of gloves that are made for freezing temperatures will protect against the very real threat of frostbite. Also, you don’t want your fingers turning numb inside a pair of cheap gloves.
There is the possibility of mittens or fingered gloves, but that is a personal preference. Keep in mind though, mittens keep fingers warmer, but offer less dexterity. Most outdoor clothing stores will offer a wide selection of clothing and accessories, so take your time to find the best solution suited for your personal tastes and preferences – but never compromise!
Skis & Ski Boots
Once you have managed to put together your stylish protective wardrobe, it is time to find the right pair of ski and ski boots.
Buying, or renting skis can be a daunting experience, but if you understand the basic features of the skis, you will be well equipped to choose the perfect pair of skis for your next winter adventures.
There is a variety of ski designs, all suited for different skiing conditions and personal preferences. However, as a beginner, there are 3 key features to look out for, that will significantly affect your ride – width, length and stiffness.
Width dimensions are measured at three parts of the ski, the tip (the widest point), a waist width (under the foot), and a tail width (e.g. 122-86-155mm). These widths are important as they will determine two factors: average width and the radius (radius is a technical term that determines your theoretical turning circle).
Depending on your skiing conditions and the type of ski style you would like to use, it is important you choose a suitable ski. For example, skis with a narrow average width will have a smaller surface area on the snow. A greater width would allow you to stay on top of deep snow rather than sink into it, therefore being better suited for freeride skiing, as it allows the rider to float on the surface of the snow.
On the other hand, piste and race skis will have a narrower average width and also a shorter radius. As a beginner looking to experiment with the slopes for the first time, it would be good to look for a ski that allows you to perform well on the pistes and get a good feel for the terrain.
A set of skis with a slightly narrow average width will allow you to practice your turns, transferring from one edge to the other more quickly. You will find they are more responsive and you will have the ability to take sharper, cleaner turns eventually. But keep in mind, if you are interested in adventuring out into freeride territory, make sure you get skis with a slighter wider average width.
The next factor to watch out for is the length of the skis. As the average width was a factor of the surface of the area, length has the same effect. As the ski gets longer, the surface area increases, preventing the rider from sinking into deep snow as quickly, increasing manoeuvrability and momentum.
In addition, a longer ski increasing the surface area will create less friction on the snow, increasing its acceleration and maximum speed. So once again, if you are looking for a set of skis, be sure to take into consideration your personal skiing style. A good starting point would be somewhere between a slalom ski (165cm) and a downhill ski (215cm). The slalom ski will be great for performing turns and a little straight-lining. However, a downhill ski will not perform so well during turns.
Finally, there is the simple concept of stiffness to consider. As a rule, freeride skis are softer, as they need to be more forgiving to absorb bumps. On the other hand, skis designed for on-piste performance are stiffer. This is an aspect that you will have to learn a little by trial and error.
Generally, the stuffer skies are for stronger skiers who are more confident in the pressure that they exert in cornering. They are much less forgiving in bumpy snow and are more specifically machined for performance.
Probably the most important element of your ski gear, are the boots. As they are the key link between your body and your skis, finding boots well-matched to the size and shape of your feet is a high priority – nothing worse than ill-fitting boots to put an early end to your day on the slopes with aching painful feet.
Hence, spend as much time as you need getting this right.
Ski boots consist of a hard outer shell for support and a soft liner for cushioning and warmth. “front-entry overlap” designs are most common for adult boots, secured by three or four buckles. There are also “rear-entry” style boots that open in the back, which make them more comfortable and user-friendly for beginners.
When shopping for your ski boots, it is critical to try them on and feel for comfort and fit. As a beginner, look out for boots with a soft to medium flex. They are typically best if you are new to the sport or you are looking for a leisurely day on the slopes. Boots with a stiff-flex are highly responsive and designed for those who ski with confidence and speed on challenging terrain.
The lining of the ski boots also varies, with some boots having non-mouldable generic padding, and others offering thermoformable foam liners that will create a custom fit after a day or so of skiing. If you are looking to treat yourself to some high-end ski boots, why not find a pair with ski/walk mode that allows for comfortable walking to find some fresh powder?
Other models may offer flex adjustment, so you can adjust the stiffness to match a particular type of skiing. In the end, the most important factor is that you are comfortable in your boots and ready to take on the slopes for hours.
Besides the essential items to have a safe and comfortable skiing experience, there are a few other extras that will make sure your trip is even more enjoyable. It would be a good idea to own a pair of comfortable waterproof shoes that can withstand walking in shallow snow, to help you get around to and from the ski resort.
It is also very important to keep hydrated with water throughout the day, and also protect from sunburn with a good quality sunscreen. In the end, you are looking to have a fun-filled day, so it is best to go prepared.
The Importance of the Right Gear
Of course, skiing can be a little intimidating for first-timers, but with a little time and research, you will be well prepared to face the slopes. Make sure you spend enough time researching the world of ski gear, so you are prepared to make the right informed decisions.
Nowadays the online trade is very popular and convenient for more and more people. There is a vast choice of various websites, but keep in mind nothing can substitute the purchase in your local ski shop. You have the chance to try the apparel and receive some recommendations from the staff.
Most ski resorts provide ski gear for rent, with the option to rent by the day, week or even for an entire season. You may even find a ski shop selling their rental equipment after a couple of years, so keep on the lookout for some good deals and bargains.
Keep in mind, the mountain can be a beautiful princess, but it can also be a fierce monster. Weather conditions can change significantly in a matter of minutes, and you may experience some unpleasant situations in the case you are unprepared.
Therefore, make the most out of your preparation time, so when the time comes to hit the mountains, you are ready to have a blast on the slopes.