A guide to skiing and snowboarding equipment
To buy or not to buy ski and snowboarding equipment
Last year’s snowboarding holiday saw me ditching my snowboard of 10 years (bought from top snowboarder Lesley McKenna after I was lucky enough to be given a few first lessons on the board) to try another, more modern board. But within 30 minutes I realised the hire board and boots, although newer than my own, were nowhere near as light and useful on the slopes. Before the day was out I’d returned the hire board and gone back to my own old, but much trusted, board. It was a comfort thing. I had also spent 10 years using the same board and although it isn ‘t the most modern it is what I am familiar with. This year I will be having the edges sharpened and the base waxed.
So if you asked me whether I think it’s a good idea to buy your own snowboard equipment I’d say: “Definitely.” I bought my boots specifically to fit my long, narrow feet and to tie securely around my thin calves. (I’d never find the same in a hire shop as they are more of a one-size-fits-all.) My snowboard, although quite pricey, has seen me enjoying some 15 or so holidays – and so I’ve not paid for board hire (except for half a day last year!).
On each trip I have had to pay for the snowboard and boots to go in the plane’s hold (this used to be about £20 and seems to creep up every year, especially with the no-frills airlines) but I would still reckon that I have saved more than the cost of the board because I haven’t required hire. Having my own snowboard and boots also means I can nip off to the slopes in Scotland whenever I want.
So, I think if I were a skier I would also be keen to buy my own skiing equipment. It is so much more comfortable having your own ski boots to wear on holiday. I know some people prefer just to buy their boots and then hire the latest carver skis on holiday.
If it’s your first trip- skiing or snowboarding I’d advise that you hire both skis and boots. Find out if you’re going to love this sport (I bet you do!) before shelling out on all the kit. This is fairly obvious, advice but some people do worry that the hire boots and skis won’t be up to scratch. Most resorts have good quality equipment or you could hire the kit in your home town or city and take it with you.
Is there a one pair of boot and skis to suit all types of skiing?
In recent months, the G-Force has been investigating the possibility of buying a ski boot that would allow him to do downhill skiing as well as cross country skiing. There are some boots that claim to offer the best of both worlds but on further investigation at a couple of shops and on-line it seems that it’s rather like cycling. You can buy a hybrid bike, but if you’re into mountain biking or road biking then it’s better to have a bike that is made specifically for the purpose.
(The same is mostly true for snowboarding. There is a board design best suited to off-piste snowboarding, one for freestyle and one for on the slopes and another for novices. But generally you should be able to find a board that is mostly suitable for on and off-piste.)
The G-Force is now planning to buy ski boots and skis for downhill holidays and hire the equipment for cross country trips in Scotland (“because I’ll be doing more downhill trips I hope,” he says.) Like me, he thinks that buying boots and skis will be worth it in terms of saving money in the long-term – and for comfort.
What about the rest of the kit for skiing and snowboarding?
Another question is: “Do you need ski or snowboard specific jackets and trousers for skiing and snowboarding?” If it isn’t going to be too cold then you could easily wear a number of baselayers with a walking-style waterproof jacket over the top. The same goes for trousers. Gloves, hats and buffs are similar to those used for walking in the mountains but there are some useful differences.
To be honest, I have found that clothing designed for each sport is usually the best, but only if you have the spare money and you are planning to go skiing or snowboarding most years.
A ski jacket will be designed with skiing in mind. So most have an inner skirt that stop the snow going up your jacket if you fall over and skid through the snow. There will also be a useful pocket for your ski pass.
Whether you buy a padded ski or snowboard jacket or a thinner one is up to you. It depends on how cold it will be on holiday and whether you like to peel off layers rather than having one padded layer.
Ski and snowboard trousers also have useful zips at the bottom of the leg to accommodate your larger style ski boots and snowboard boots. Again, these can be padded or lighter, and what you buy depends on how warm you want to be. I prefer boarder style trousers that have a lower cut waist and a looser style. Other people prefer more fitted ski wear. It’s all a matter of choice and what is the latest fashion.
Likewise some like their ski wear to match while others (that’s me) prefer not to be matching!
Ski specific gloves are a good idea because they will usually be properly insulated for being outdoors in the snow and most have extra details to prevent wear and tear where the ski poles rub. I have a pair of heated gloves that have been fantastic for very cold days on the slopes.
Ski socks are usually shaped like tubes so that there is less potential for rubbing in your boots.
Increasingly skiers and snowboarders are wearing safety ski and snowboard helmets. It is possible to hire these but I much prefer to know whose sweaty head has been wearing my helmet. I have been knocked over a few times and landed on the back of my head so I feel that a helmet is safer when I am on the slopes. It’s a personal choice but in some resorts the guidelines on helmets a becoming more strongly enforced. In some countries it is a requirement of law that you wear a helmet.
A bag for carrying your skis, snowboard and boots is a must if you’re planning to fly. You will be required to have the skiing equipment properly packaged to go in the plane’s hold.
* Thanks to Ellis Brigham for their advice and information for some of this blog.