When it comes to skiing or snowboarding, there’s nothing worse than feeling cold, soaked, or unprepared for the elements. It doesn’t have to be miserable. Rather, the feel of pointing it down a slope and letting gravity do the work should be a joyful experience for everyone. In our equipment for skiing guide, we’ll make sure you have everything you need and more!
What To Buy, Rent, or Borrow
The price tag on skiing essentials can quickly balloon to thousands of dollars if you don’t watch it. As a beginner, focus on things that will touch your skin first. Things like base layers, socks, and gloves. For all other soft goods like goggles, jackets, or pants you can go ahead and borrow. Heck, for our 1st time out on the slopes all the gear I was rockin’ was from my Uncle. Lastly, make it easy on yourself to learn and rent equipment like skis, snowboards, boots, or poles. Technology has changed A TON since the 90’s. Using the latest ski gear will make sure you’ll enjoy yourself and pick up the sport that much quicker.
The first and most important piece of equipment for skiing is what you wear. If you’re too cold or too warm, the time out on the slopes will be dismal. As a quick overview, here’s our basic list of clothing you need for skiing & snowboarding.
We’d recommend investing in a pair of ski or snowboard specific socks. They aren’t as thick as wool socks but will in fact keep you warmer by not bunching up. They’ll also wick away sweat AND provide better circulation.
For most weather conditions, a mid-weight base layer like 250 Smartwool Merino Layer will keep you warm and toasty but not too warm. Even if you’re skiing and snowboarding in cold weather, be sure it’s moisture wicking and tight fitting.
Hands are typically the first body part that gets cold when out on the slopes. In cold climates with dry snow, the exterior insulation can be water repellant. But if you ski on the coasts or in warm weather, waterproofness is essential. Finding a snug glove is key, but not too tight. At the end of your outstretched fingers, you should have about a quarter inch of fabric.
Ski Jacket & Ski Pants
When it comes to your jacket and pants, find something that has a minimum of 15,000 mm waterproof rating. Even if you’re expecting to ski in dry snow and sunshine, mountain weather can change quickly. You’ll be glad that your gear is waterproof.
Head over to our comprehensive clothing to find out what clothing you need, how do identify waterproofness, and a rundown of what to wear in any weather condition:
Clothing Made In The US
You may have heard of skis or snowboards that are made in the US or Canada but is there clothing that’s made locally? The answer is yes! It’s a great way to reduce your carbon footprint and support passionate locals making products the hard way. Here’s a list of our favorites – Made By Locals 4 Locals: Clothing Edition. We believe in it so much that we actually picked up a pair from a company called Northwest Tech. To read the full review head over to our article: NWT3K Review – Made In USA Custom Ski Pants.
We’ll be honest. When we first started skiing, we thought helmets were the “uncool” equipment for skiing. I still remember that fateful day when my perception changed. After hitting this perfect tabletop in the park at Tyrol Basin dozens of times, I came up short on a spin slamming my head onto the landing. Waking up dazed and confused, I then realized the importance of wearing a helmet. Luckily, they’ve gotten better looking.
The ski season can run up to 6 months or longer meaning the weather can be brutally cold or warm and sunny. We look for helmets that have the most ventilation options as possible so when we are spring skiing, we aren’t cooking.
From a safety perspective, nearly every helmet passes either the ASTM snow helmet safety standards (American) or CE EN 1077 standards (European). Personally, we like the brands that go one step further and have MIPS technology. Short for Multi-directional Impact Protection System, this is the gold standard for mountain biking so why not have that kind of technology protect your noggin on the slopes too.
Additional Things To Consider
If you already own a pair of ski goggles, you’ll want to consider trying the helmet on along with your goggles to make sure they fit together appropriately. Another feature we look for is a small visor on the helmet. If it’s snowing heavily, it’ll keep the flakes from flying into the top of your goggles.
Unless it’s a warm and sunny spring day, sunglasses aren’t gonna cut it as your eyewear equipment for skiing. Have you ever tried to run in the winter? Your eyes start watering pretty quickly making it difficult to see. Goggles help make sure that your vision isn’t obscured and that you don’t come home with sore and irritated eyeballs. In summary, they help increase contrast, reduce glare, and make sure that your eyes are safe if you do fall. From the budget friendly Wildhorn Roca Ski Goggles to the premium level Dragon X2 goggles there are A LOT of eyewear to choose from. For 20/20 vision on all the brands and how to pick them the right way, head over to our all-encompassing guide:
If you’re cost conscientious and in the market for a pair of budget friendly snow goggles consider picking up a pair of Wildhorns. We had a chance to demo these and were impressed with the quality of product for the price. For a deep-dive on why we liked them so much head over to our article: Wildhorn Ski Goggles – Review Of The Roca & Pipeline.
For The Skier
Out of any guidance, correct fit is paramount for this essential piece of equipment for skiing. Although we all would like to rock the sick boots with the awesome graphics, more likely than not they’re not going to fit your foot well. In fact, out of the dozens of boots on the wall at a ski shop, one or two pairs will most likely work without too much customization.
Biggest Misnomer: Great performing ski boots should fit like a cast.
What Is A Good Fitting Ski Boot
A great ski boot shouldn’t be like a cast. Rather, it needs to be tight in the right areas and comfortable overall. From the mid-foot and back, you want to reduce the amount of movement. That means the rear of the boot needs to hold your heel down. It should be like a firm handshake. The forefoot, on the other hand, can be fairly relaxed in fit. You want the toes to barely brush the front of the liner since the boots over time will pack and become roomier.
Additional Things To Consider
The boot is the connection to the skis so you want perfect fore-aft balance. That means you want to put your height, body mass, and leg length into the formula when picking one. Another variable to include in proper fit is the amount of time you ski. Are you a weekend warrior that likes to après? Or are you a hard charger that goes bell to bell and been skiing for years? For aggressive skiers, you want a performance fit. Think like a sports car with a manual transmission versus a sedan with an automatic. This performance fit could play into circulation issues.
Not Too Stiff
For example, if you put a petite and lightweight person in a new pair, you want to avoid too stiff of boots. If they are too stiff, you’ll be stuck too far forward and won’t be able to react to things on the slope. Flexing at the ankles is where you get the power of the turn.
Not Too Soft
On the other side of the spectrum, if you’re a tall lanky person, you want to avoid too soft of a boot. The geometry of a tall person has long levers. This then introduces a ton of heel lift inside the boot which translates to not having the right balance.
It’s all about fit, comfort, and flex when it comes to the bootfitting equation. To find out if it has the right flex, stand in a shop and flex forward. If the knees bend forward but not past the tip of the boot, you found the right flex.
The biggest mistake most skiers make is they go too wide or too tall for their skis. That’s fine if you have a quiver of skiing equipment to choose from, but terrible if that’s your only going to have one all mountain pair. When in doubt, go shorter and go narrower. For the average skier, you want:
- A waist width that’s in the 90-100 mm range
- Length that’s from your shoulders to your eyes
- Sidecut is around 16-20
- Moderate Flexibility
Stay tuned in the coming weeks as we release our in-depth guide on how to pick a ski, be it beginner, intermediate, or advanced.
Skis Made In The US & Canada
The next generation of craftsman are being given a voice. For the first time in history, creators are seizing the opportunity to build things that were once impossible…. like skis. From the midwest to the east coast and even places like Whistler, they all have a local ski manufacturer. To wave your “Made by a local” flag and see which companies made the tough business decision to have their skis made in the US & Canada, head here: Made By Locals For Locals – Skis Made In The US & Canada.
To find the right poles for your piece of equipment for skiing, it’s pretty straight forward. Flip the ski pole over so that the handle is on the ground and the basket is up. Standing straight, grab just above the basket. You want your upper arm to be in line with your upper body making a 90-degree angle. If you’re an aggressive skier or enjoy the bumps, you’d want to go for a shorter pole. For Powder Hounds and deep snow fanatics, a good option is to pick up an adjustable pole so that you can change the length based on the conditions.
For The Snowboarder
Very similar to ski boots, fit is paramount. Don’t look at how the boot looks. See how it FITS. For snowboard boots, consider even going down a ½ size. Since they’re “soft”, they will pack out and become more comfy over time. For a full deep dive on the criteria to look for in the best snowboard boot, read our article:
It may focus on the best womens snowboard boot, but you can use the same criteria for men and kids as well!
When picking a deck, it’s all about what you want to use it for. Are you going to focus on riding powder? Spend the day in the park hitting booters and kickers? Lay out some oh so sweet carves on some corduroy?
For the average rider, you’ll typically get a day or two of true powder per season if you’re lucky. Maybe hit up the park when you’re bored and spend most of the time carving on groomers. For those kinds of requirements, focus on the following or better yet read our article Shape up Or Ship Out On Snowboard Shapes – Types, Terms, & More.
- More Camber than Rocker – From a personal preference, we steer away from a true rocker snowboard. They’re great in powder but feel like a limp banana on all other snow. A true camber board can be challenging to harness at first, but once you figure out how to engage a turn, there’s nothing better to lay out carves in. The best option is to get a hybrid leaning towards camber. If you want to learn more about what’s rocker, camber, and hybrid be sure dive into our article about the debate on Rocker Vs Camber And Which Is Best For U.
- Length of the deck is somewhere between your nose and your chin
- You want to find a snowboard width that’s just slightly narrower than your boots. Too narrow and you’ll have overhang. This means there’s a chance you’ll drag your boots on the snow and make you lose control.
- Moderate flex
Snowboards Locally Made In The US
Snowboarding is coming into a new renaissance as it pertains to snowboards made in the US. Here are not just one or two but TEN snowboard companies that still are waving the made by locals for locals’ flag. From affordable decks all the way to custom built, you’ll find a company that fits your needs: Made By Locals For Locals – Snowboards Made In The US.
This is the last piece of snowboarding equipment you should purchase. Why? For starters, the binding needs to fit your board size. Second and more importantly to make sure the binding fits correctly, you need your snowboard boot as well. While bindings do allow adjustments to fit the board and boots, they don’t have infinite possibilities. Lastly, let’s say you buy a Burton snowboard with their patented channel system. There’s a small possibility that the mounting hardware won’t work with that style of binding.
With all that being said, for an average snowboarder, we recommend a medium-to-stiff binding. For Jaime, she LOVES her Ride DVA bindings which are equivalent to this year’s AL-6 due to their aircraft aluminum baseplate and tight ratchets. Me, on the other hand, enjoy the Burton Malavita. They provide a surfy feel but at the same time stiff when I engage a heelside or toeside turn giving me confidence.
We hope this helped remove some of the mysticism when trying to find equipment for skiing and snowboarding. Continue checking in as we expand out on giving you more tips, gear reviews, and everything else in between. Happy shredding!
There’s no two poles about it you’re going to have to travel to go skiing or snowboarding. With so much equipment involved how do you make sure that you don’t forget something? Simple, create a packing list. Or better yet use ours! For tips on how to pack AND a FREE printable ski trip packing list head here:
Maintenance: Wax, Tune, Care & Repair
Like any piece of equipment the better you treat your gear the longer it will last and the better it will perform. During the season we try to wax our snowboards once every five days on the slopes and more often in the spring due to how dirty the snow gets. When it comes to the edges we keep a close eye to see if they’re sharp. A quick test is to take your finger nail and run it against the metal edge. If it shaves off a bit you’re good to go. Last, but not least don’t just throw your skis or snowboards without putting some attention to it. Why? Because the worse shape you leave the more it’ll cost to fix next season. For tips on how to store is for the summer read our article: Ensure Gear’s Ready For Next Season How To Stores Skis & Snowboards.