You may be wondering why I am writing about buying ski gear now that winter is over and everyone is packing away their skis and boots for the season. Well, that’s because…if you want to get a good deal, now is the time to buy your ski gear!
Most winter gear, including those expensive skis and boots, are marked down about 40-50% off! And, if you aren’t opposed to having “last seasons” gear at the start of next winter, it’s the perfect time to buy. And honestly, the gear is not changing much from year to year so it won’t make any difference. It’s kind of like buying a car. If you buy a 2015 car versus a 2016 car, it’s still gonna get you where you need to go, and there isn’t going to be anything revolutionary about the next year’s car. So, why not save a few bucks (or a few hundred) and go shopping this Spring for your next winter’s gear!
Unfortunately, I can’t say that I took my own advice. This was my first winter living in Oregon and I was super excited about gearing up and getting my season pass to Mt. Bachelor. So, I didn’t wait. I bought my skis and boots in the beginning of the season and paid full price. It pains me a little to see my skis on sale now, but I had a great season in them so all in all it was a success!
I didn’t know what I was doing when I set out to buy my ski gear, but I asked a lot of questions, did some research and learned a lot about how to buy my first pair of downhill skis and boots.
Here’s some tips that should help you gear up for your next ski season:
A Beginners Guide to buying Ski Boots
By far your boots are the most important thing. Start here.
The fit of your boots is actually what is going to make you ski better, not the ski itself. Not to mention, if your feet are in pain, you’re not going to want to get out there and practice.
When buying your boots, make sure you go to a local ski shop and get fitted for the boot by a professional. You may think that your foot length is the only thing to be considered, but that is far from the truth. A good boot fitter will also measure the width of your foot, the arch height, the flexibility of the foot and toes, and the change in the shape of your foot when standing versus sitting, etc.
Once they have thoroughly measured your foot and have asked you about your ski style, they will choose a few brands of boots to try. If you end up in a shop with only one brand, go somewhere else. The boot brands will vary in the way their boots fit, so make sure to try a few different ones (as recommended by your expert boot fitter).
There are two numbers given on each boot to take into consideration:
The Boot Size
This one is kinda obvious. Just like with any shoe, you have a ski boot size. Except ski boots have their own size ratings that can be converted from your typical USA shoe size. For women, the typical ski boot sizes are from size 22.0 to size 25.5, which would convert to a size 5 to 8.5 on the sizing chart.
You want your boots to be tight so your foot is not sliding around when skiing. Going down a half size or whole size from your normal shoe size is recommended.
I wear a size 7 shoe, which would convert into a size 24.0 ski boot. However, I ended up in a 23.5 for a tighter fit. Your boots will loosen up as they are broken in, so it’s better to get them tighter to start with. The first time I tried to put my boots on at the mountain, it took about 30 minutes and some help from my husband. Now, after a full season of skiing in them, I’m glad I didn’t go any bigger.
The Boot Flex
The flex is essentially how flexible the boot is. if there’s a lot of give in the boot then that is considered to have a lower flex rating. If it is much more stiff, it has a higher flex rating. There is no bad or good flex value, it depends on your ski experience level, ski style, body weight, and preferences. Most aggressive skiers go with a high flex value and beginner or leisure skiers typically go with a lower flex value, but that can vary a lot from person to person.
The flex ratings range from soft to medium to stiff to very stiff. I ended up in a boot with a flex rating of 80, which is in the medium to stiff range.
Once you find the boot that feels best on, you can talk to your boot expert to determine if any modifications to the boot are needed, such as toe covers or arch support inserts. Because the boots are not custom made for your foot, these small changes can help the boot fit your foot like a glove. Some boot inserts can even be “molded” to your foot using a heated method. I didn’t go this far, but my husband did and was raving about it.
I ended up trying 3 different brand boots. The first and third one felt good, the second brand I tried on pinched at my heel and was not good for the shape of my foot. After trying on the three, I narrowed it down to the Lange RX 80.
It may be tempting to look for the boot in your favorite color, or the brand that you know of. But, those things are of least importance when buying ski boots. Find the boot that fits your foot best, not matter what the color or brand may be.
A Beginner’s Guide to Buying Skis
Secondary to finding the right ski boot, you must have the right ski of course. Fortunately, there’s not quite as much to consider when buying skis. You’ll want to get skis based on your:
2. Height and weight
3. Skill level
4. Desired use
Your ski length will depend primarily on your height and weight. For adults, ski lengths range from about 80 to 200 cm. I ended up in a length of 159.
The width of your ski will vary depending on your skill level, as well as the desired use of the ski. For an all-mountain ski that will do well in most conditions, a ski width of 95-110 is ideal.
The ski flex is how stiff or soft the ski is. The more advanced of a skier you are, the stiffer the ski, as you will typically be putting more pressure on the ski.
The best way to find the right ski for you is to demo them!
After getting your boots, find a local ski shop that will let you demo some skis for a day. Most on-mountain shops will have this service available. Take advantage of it.
Other Must-Have Ski Gear
I never used to ski with a helmet until one day I got one free with my rental gear and decided it probably wasn’t a bad idea.
Now, I will never go back to no helmet. Not only does it give me peace of mind that I’m keeping my brain safe, but the helmets are so light that I don’t even realize it’s there AND it keeps my head and wars warm without the need of a beanie. I love that!
Definitely invest in a helmet. I ended up with the Giro Flare helmet in a pretty teel color. This is where you can go for a little style with your ski gear.
Ski socks are extremely important. They can make the difference between a wonderful day on the slopes and a miserable one. You want a good fitting sock that won’t bulk up your ski boot, slip or bunch up, or make your feet cold.
I used to swear by the Smartwool socks until I noticed that my toes were always freezing cold in my boots. That’s when I gave the FITS Ultra Light OTC socks a try and fell in love. They are super thin, which you’d think wouldn’t be very warm, but they are the most comfortable and warmest ski socks I’ve ever owned!
Do you feel ready to gear-up for next year’s ski season?! Be sure to leave a comment below if you have any questions!
What’s your favorite ski gear?