Having the right equipment before you hit the slopes is essential. The right gear will help keep you safe and make your skiing experience more enjoyable overall.
Here are six items you’ll need when you ski – whether you’re a pro or just starting out.
1. Ski Helmet
It doesn’t matter if you’re a pro skier or a complete beginner – you’ll need a helmet before you even think about hitting the slopes. A good ski helmet won’t just protect your head from sharp objects and nasty tumbles; it will also help keep you warm.
Your helmet should have a comfortable, foam inner layer and a hard outer shell. Be sure to replace your helmet after every serious fall because it may not be able to protect you as well when it’s been damaged.
When deciding on a helmet, try on a variety to see what feels the most comfortable for you, and make sure it fits with your goggles – there should never be a gap between your helmet and your goggles. Ski helmets come with extra features, such as built-in speakers, a camera mount for your GoPro, thermostat controls, and adjustable vents. Choosing a helmet that fits you securely and comfortably will keep you safe on the slopes.
2. The Right Skis
When you’re deciding on a pair of skis, what terrain you plan to ski on makes all the difference. Consider whether you’ll be on a mountain with packed snow or if you’ll be skiing off-trail. Different skis are designed to perform better for different conditions.
For the packed, groomed snow that you find at the best ski resorts, consider track skis for maximum grip on groomed slopes and trails. For terrain with a powder mix, Choose versatile, all-mountain skis – these are wider and suitable for most terrains. If you’re skiing in the backcountry, consider making your own tracks off the trail with freeride skis. If you intend to race, look for narrow race skis – these are the best for speed and going downhill. For snow parks, choose freestyle skis – these are designed for doing tricks in the snow park.
3. Ski Bindings
Key bindings are essential for skiing – they are what tie you and your boots to your skis. When it comes to choosing ski bindings, there are two options available – you can choose integrated bindings or you can buy the bindings separately.
Integrated bindings come pre-installed with the pair of skis you purchase because they have been specifically designed for that pair of skis. Integrated bindings are convenient, and they also tend to be more flexible.
Expert skiers may choose to buy their bindings separately so that they can customize their setup according to their individual needs – if you choose to buy bindings separately, make sure you get them installed by a professional.
Ski bindings don’t just hold your skis to your boots, though – they are designed to disengage from the skis when you crash. You can adjust the release settings according to your weight, height, age, and ability. Again, make sure your bindings are adjusted by a professional.
4. Ski Boots
Ski boots have a hard outer protective shell and a soft, comfortable inner layer. Some boots have moldable layers inside so that you can experience a more customized fit.
Ski boots range in flexibility, which is called the “flex index.” The “flex index” relates to your level of expertise – the more experienced you are, the higher the number. Higher numbers on the “flex index” are stiffer.
Beginners usually begin with a soft flex – around 85 for men, and 75 for women. Intermediate skiers do best with a medium flex – around 90-110 for men, and 80-95 for women.
Advanced skiers use a stiffer flex, which is usually less than 115 for men, and less than 100 for women. Stiffer flex indexes are better for speed and steep slopes.
5. Ski Poles
Ski poles are handy, but if you are a beginner, they may not be necessary. Ski poles are useful for pushing you along when you’re heading back to the lodge or ski lift.
Advanced skiers use ski poles to make quick turns and aid with balance.
When choosing ski poles, make sure they are strong enough to support you on turns but light enough that they don’t become cumbersome.
When choosing the right length for your height, stand in your ski boots while you hold the poles. Bend your elbows at a 90-degree angle, and make sure your nylon wrist strap sits comfortably on your wrist.
Goggles help deflect the sun’s glare and protect your eyes from harmful UV rays, but they also protect your eyes from snow and debris. When choosing goggles, make sure that they fit snugly when you have your helmet on.