What equipment is used in skiing?
The main items of equipment used in skiing anywhere in the world include a pair of skis, ski boots, ski poles & a helmet. A ski helmet is not compulsory everywhere in the world, though it is compulsory in some resorts.
There is no denying that skiing is a sport and hobby enjoyed predominantly by the well off and fortunate. Unfortunately, due to location of ski resorts and the upkeep costs of a ski resort, there is no easy way make this activity affordable for the masses. The cost of ski equipment and ski clothing however, does have some large disparities between purchasing affordable equipment compared to forking out for the expensive high-end brands. I won't say you can do skiing on a budget, but if you are careful with your money, there are some ways to make the holiday that bit cheaper.
Below I have given you an insight into the most essential pieces of equipment you will need to arm yourself with in order to enjoy a day on the slopes. This article is in addition to What to pack for skiing (link to article) where I detail all the different items of clothing and accessories you will need to bring with you on your ski holiday.
- Ski poles
- Ski boots
The advantage of each of these items required for skiing, is that they can rented very easily from any resort you will visit, with the exception of goggles. Renting skis, ski poles, ski boots and a helmet is an option that the majority of skiers take, simply due to the convenience of it. You can rent top quality equipment at the foot of the mountain, instead of purchasing your own equipment and having to lug it around with you on the plane and to and from your chalet every day. Why buy your own skis then? The big advantage of purchasing your own skis is being able to choose exactly the type of skis you want and that suit you best, as well as it maybe making financial sense in the long run if you intend to do a lot of skiing! Your preferred skis can only be worked out after many weeks of skiing, and through trying out a number of different brands and models of skis.
Are skis worth buying?
If you intend to go skiing multiple times per year, or even if you intend to make a skiing holiday a regular occurrence each year, it is definitely worthwhile purchasing your own skis. Not only will this save money in the long term as you won't need to rent skis each time, but you can also purchase your favourite skis, that suit your preferred skiing style. If you are a beginner skier, it may not be worthwhile buying skis until you reach a more advanced stage. As you improve at skiing, you will move on to more advanced skis for the purpose of improving technique and speed. You may find yourself needing to buy a new pair of skis quite quickly if you buy too early.
The more skiing you do, the more you will realise how many variations of skis there are, and how different every single one of them feel to ski on. The main categories of skis there are to choose from are carving skis, all-mountain skis and powder skis (link to Powder skiing article). Each of these types of skis will be useful for different types of snow and the conditions on the mountain, as well as the type of skiing you would like to do. As a beginner skier and even as an advanced skier to a point, you don’t need to worry about having to pick the exact skis you want. Nobody expects you to be able to pick the skis you want from the selection of rental ski available. Any staff working at the ski rental shop should be able find you the sort of skis you are looking for, and the skis you need to suit your ability and the conditions on the mountain. Have a look at these articles for some of the best carving skis for beginner & intermediate skiers, as well as some of the best skis for advanced and expert skiers.
How much does skis cost?
Skis vary in price a lot. For beginners a pair of skis may cost around $500-$600, whereas if you are an experienced skier, you could expect to pay up to $900 - $1200 for a pair of high-end top quality skis. The price of skis will also vary a lot based on the brand you choose, with some brands being notoriously more expensive than others, such as the expensive Kästle ski brand in contrast to other brands which make beginners skis as well as high-end skis, such as Rossignol or Salomon. When you purchase a pair of skis it is important to remember that the price you see will not necessarily include the price of bindings. Some skis do come with pre-attached bindings, however most do not, therefore you will need to consider the price of choosing and buying bindings for your skis as well.
If you are renting skies at the resort, ski poles will almost always come with the skis, included in the price. There is no point in buying ski poles unless you are also buying skis, as you’re not going to save any money. If you are a more advanced skier and you have already purchased skis, it is worth buying your ski poles as well, you don’t want to have to rent these when you get to the resort. Generally, more expensive ski poles are lighter and stronger. It is also possible to buy extendable poles to make them easier to transport, as well as for ski touring if this is the type of skiing you intend to do (for experts only). If you are an experienced skier, have a look at What is ski touring (link to article) to find out more about ski touring.
Buying more expensive ski poles is not exactly going to transform you into an amazing skier, but when you do become more advanced at the sport, you may notice a slight advantage of having slightly lighter poles. This really is the last place I would advise you to throw away money if you are trying not to spend too much on your ski holiday! The cheaper poles you see fulfil the purpose of ski poles, even if they may not be quite as nice to look at. It is possible to spend up to as much as $100 for extendable top of the range ski poles, though as I mentioned above, this isn't entirely necessary if you are looking not to spend too much money.
How tall should ski poles be?
Ski poles should be long enough that when you hold the ski pole vertically on the ground with your hand, your arm will form a right angle. Sometime people opt to ski with shorter poles such as park skiers, as this suits them better, but for the vast majority of skiers, this is the best length to use.
Do ski poles matter?
As a beginner skier, ski poles are not necessary, and it is unlikely the ski rental shop will even offer them to you. As you become more advanced at skiing, poles become very important for you to be able to keep your balance as you ski quickly, and will even help you plant your poles when you are skiing especially steep terrain.
Finding the correct ski boots is the most difficult part of choosing ski equipment to get right. Comfortable ski boots can make or break a ski holiday.
Is it worth buying ski boots?
As with purchasing your own skis, if you can see yourself skiing regularly, purchasing ski boots is a good investment, not only for comfort, but also to save on costs in the long term. More people own their own boots compared to owning their own skis for the reasons above, however there are certainly still a large proportion of people who rent boots alongside skis. Once you have decided that skiing is something you will do regularly, after having bought all the appropriate ski clothing (and helmet), ski boots is the next thing you need to buy. Comfortable ski boots, that are moulded to your feet perfectly, and are the correct stiffness for your ability, will transform your skiing holiday. Not all ski boots on the market have the ability to be moulded to fit your feet, but if you are buying ski boots, I would highly recommend paying that bit extra for ski boots that are mouldable.
Ski boots are made with different stiffnesses. Generally speaking, the more advanced a skier you are, the higher ‘flex’ rating you will need for your ski boots, as this will allow you to lean forward into your boots, to take full control of your skis. For beginner skis, it is much more recommended to learn to ski in much more flexible boots to make it both easier and more comfortable to learn. Have a look at the following articles to see some of the best boots to buy if you are a beginner skier or if you are an advanced skier.
Do I need a helmet for skiing?
Over the past couple of decades, helmets have become more and more common to the point that is it very rare to see anyone skiing without a helmet now. Hitting your head on the compact snow at any speed is dangerous. Don’t be mistaken into thinking the snow is soft enough, that if you fall and hit your head it’s not going to hurt. The resort compacts down the snow on-piste to make it easier to ski on. Even if you are going slowly, you could do yourself serious harm if you fall without a helmet. If you are debating about whether or not to wear a ski helmet on the slopes, have a look at Do skiers wear helmets to find out a bit more information about it. Helmets can easily be rented or purchased at shops in the resort.
As with the price of skis and the price of ski boots, the price of helmets varies quite a lot too. You are able to pick up a decent ski helmet from as little as $100 or so, depending on the shop, and you are able to spend up to $300 on helmets as well. The higher the price of the helmet, the more protective technology has gone into making it, and the safer your head is likely to be. This is not to say that cheap helmets are useless or not safe. Any sort ski helmet you buy from a reputable brand will be better than not wearing a helmet at all, and will help protect against falling and hitting your head of the hard, compacted snow. Some of the best helmets to buy are detailed on What is the best ski helmet?
Some sort of protection for your eyes is essential when you are skiing, both from the sun and from the snow. On most days you will need to wear goggles if it is snowing or misty, although on sunny days you may prefer to wear sunglasses. Due to the speed you’ll be travelling at, you’ll need to protect yourself from the wind in your eyes if you want to stand a chance of being able to see anything. Goggles vary in price from $60 for a basic pair of goggles that will do the job and protect your eyes, right up to $250 for state-of-the-art ski goggles which will come with a number of different lenses for different light levels and different conditions. High end ski goggles come with interchangeable lenses – one lens for when it is a bright and sunny day, and another lens for cloudy, overcast or snowy days. It is remarkable how much of a different each lens makes to your visibility and your ability to ski well. Have a look at these articles Best ski goggles under $150 and Best ski goggles over $150 to see if there are any goggles that take your fancy!
What should I look for in ski goggles?
The main and most important attribute of ski goggles which will make your ski holiday much more pleasant, is have anti-fog goggles. Different brands have different technologies for ensuring your goggles don’t get fogged up on snowy or overcast days, and I have gone into detail in my article Best ski goggles over $150 about what anti-fog in ski goggles is and how it can help.
- Hand warmers – These could be considered a bit of a luxury, however if you are sat on a chairlift on your way the peak of a mountain with strong winds and heavy snow blowing in your face, it might be something you wish you had for a bit of extra warmth.
- GoPro – If you want the opportunity to show off the beautiful weather, the incredible après-ski or your slick skiing skills, the GoPro is definitely something you will want to invest in to use for years to come. Initially the GoPro may seem like an expensive purchase, however when you’ve recorded countless videos and memories from your holidays, it’s hard to put a price on how invaluable a GoPro can be.
- Sun cream – This is something that is often completely forgotten about for winter holidays. While this is an excusable mistake given the temperatures and the abundance of snow, on a clear day you are at the sun’s mercy. The sun’s UV light not only hits you directly, but also reflects off the snow, making skiing a prime activity for getting sunburnt. Even on cloudy days, because you are spending all your time outside, the UV light is able to penetrate the clouds meaning you are still at risk of getting sunburnt even when you can’t see the sun.
- Lip balm – As above for sun cream, lip balm helps to protect your skin from the elements. When you spend long periods in the cold, your lips will become chapped. This is almost inevitable for anyone skiing, which is why for the sake of a few dollars, it is definitely worth buying some lip balm.
- Malleable water bottle – You will find yourself getting thirsty as you ski, so having a way to keep yourself hydrated is important. Unless you bring a backpack with you, you’ll struggle to carry a bottle comfortably with you on the mountain. There are companies that make water bottles which are very flexible and malleable (something between a water bottle and a bag), to allow you to carry the water in your pocket without you even being aware it is there. Much easier than trying to force a plastic water into your jacket pocket.