Sunday, January 11, 2009

Ski/Snowboard equipment buying guide

I originally wrote this as a response to a friend who wanted to know if she could/should buy gear online. She got a much bigger response than she expected (ha!) but I think its a reasonable ski or boarding checklist or at least reasonable to post here.

What are you buying? Skis? Boots? Bindings? Poles? Clothes?

In general, the stuff that I'm okay buying online is clothing / apparel and bindings. Everything else, you probably want to see and have a professional fit you out with good things rather than go online.

Skis: Go to REI / Play It Again Sports / Sports Basement and they'll help you out with the size and style of skis that you need depending upon their level. If you have an iphone around, you can cross check the price against Evo and see if its comparable. I've bought a TON of stuff from
Play-It-Again, both in Bellevue and in Seattle and their service has been excellent (replaced broken boots for me no problem) and their staff has been pretty informative and helpful. REI is the same, though they tend to be busier; however the Redmond staff was great.

Bindings: Most skis now come with regular support and thus bindings are interchangeable. However, most ski systems you buy will come with bindings as a package, so most likely you won't have to deal with this.

Boots: This is the one thing that i would *not* buy online. The fit is extremely important and most places will give you a fit guarantee - they'll custom mold your boots if they don't fit perfectly. You really want this because boots change their fit after the first couple of
weeks of wear - for ski boots, the inner layer will mold to your foot, but the outer plastic won't. Almost all ski boot people will tell you to get a shoe that is a bit tight, wear it for a couple of weeks and see if it "opens up". In some cases, they will have to modify the
plastic itself, which they can do as well. So again, strongly recommend bricks-and-mortar (evo has one too) store over online.

Clothes: Definitely stuff to buy online and cheap. I'm sure you guys have gone skiing before, so you have most of the stuff, but just in case, here's the clothes checklist, especially if it is going to be extra cold:
  1. long underwear: silk, performance stuff, REI brand is great, underarmor makes awesome stuff as well. Usually $50 / upper and $50 / lower. Worth every penny.
  2. Ski pants: waterproof outer ski pants, any brand will do, just make sure they're water proof, *esp* if you are learning.
  3. Fleece pants: optional, if you're the kind that gets really cold, really fast. Get a pair of these, they're cheap (~20-30), and last forever.
  4. inner fleece (upper body): you're living in seattle, so you have to have multiple of these lying around.
  5. outer shell: again, water proof is the most important part.
  6. ninja mask: I own one of these and its *awesome* when its cold and windy. Worth the $20 bucks.
  7. inner gloves: thin, inner gloves - only if you're the kind that gets very cold.
  8. outer gloves: most likely you already have this, waterproof is the most important part. I've used the REI brand for years and they're great.
  9. wrist guards: *only* if you're snowboarding.
  10. goggles: don't make the mistake of going skiing with sunglasses; it only works in california, if you're lucky.
  11. hat: common mistake people make is to not get a waterproof or water resistant hat and it gets snow on it and wet very fast. Try and see if you can get a waterproof one. Also make sure it has ear protection.
Also remember that both REI and Play-It-Again will rent stuff out.

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