Ski season is here and you are looking to get yourself set up. Well, in my humble opinion you came to the right place. Hopefully, I can help put you down the right path to getting even more stoked for ski season.
All this advice should apply whether you are a grom (young/new skier) just getting into skiing or you got a few years under your belt and you now want to get a new setup to shred. I will go over what to get if you’ve got an “infinite budget” as well as, where you should focus your hard earned dollars if you’ve got a “tight budget”. If you have any questions leave a message in the comments. Here are my 5 tips to getting the right ski setup for you.
I can’t stress it enough. Get in the proper boots. Don’t try to be your own boot fitter. This isn’t like buying shoes. Go to a store and get properly fitted for boots. They will have knowledge of what boots will fit better for different foot shapes, whether you have a wide or narrow foot, or a narrow heel, or even if you have a club foot. A good boot fitter will make your feet happy and help you avoid the age-old adage of “ski boots are meant to hurt”. The wrong ski boots will sadly break your day, a lot of stress gets put on your feet and lower legs from skiing, and having poorly fitted boots will be the deciding factor on how long you get to play on the mountain that day.
• Infinite budget: Buy boots from your trusted local ski shop.
• Tight budget: Buy boots from your trusted local ski shop.
This is where I get controversial and a lot of people might not agree with me to some extent. If you live on the west side of the continent of North America, get skis that are 100mm underfoot or wider. They are typically softer and more forgiving, but the width underfoot gives you more stability and in my experience with new skiers more confidence. If you are out east or typically have icy days make sure you have good edges… And maybe somedays skates are a better option.
In terms of ski profile, this is typically a preference and needs to be figured out by skiing on different skis. General guidelines are; Rocker/Tip and Tail rocker – if you will be skiing in powder. Camber – if you are skiing on-piste and don’t get a lot of powder. However, with new technologies out there, a lot of companies are finding ways to make both rockered and cambered skis work for whatever you are skiing. More info on this can be found here: Rocker vs. Camber.
• Infinite budget: Go to your trusted local shop as they will likely have tested most of the skis there and they will be able to help nail down your riding level and style and match the ski accordingly.
• Tight Budget: Research and look at what people are skiing that you want to ski like and talk to friends and then hit up sample sales, craigslist/kijiji, or consignment ski fairs.
This is very dependent on the type of terrain that you will be skiing. If you have your avalanche safety training (AST) and are planning on backcountry ski touring a lot, I would recommend a touring binding on your setup. Anything from marker dukes/atomic tracker to marker kingpins/dynafit beasts will still ride strong in resort and backcountry. Last season and this coming season, I am on marker kingpins and been very impressed with the energy transfer edge to edge on my 118mm underfoot faction 4.0s. If you know that you are only backcountry touring, then I still recommend Marker Kingpins. If you will be only skiing at a resort, then a regular Alpine binding is perfect. You can always get different accessories to do short tours, such as Daymakers. Alpine bindings still have the best release abilities as well as the best opposition to pre-release.
• Infinite budget: Backcountry only – Marker Kingpins, Backcountry/Resort – Marker Kingpins, Resort only – Look pivot 14 or Marker Griffon ID
• Tight budget: Used or last years model of the above bindings (Most shops still have a few kicking around that they will sell cheaper)
Helmets will save your brain from damage and even your life. This is not a place to cheap out on and use your circa 1998 Ninja turtle skateboard helmet. There is so much technology going into helmets, for instance, MIPS that can significantly reduce concussion severity and the resulting brain damage from a head impact. Helmets are a one-use item. Once you take a head hit, that helmet is done and you need to buy another to replace it. The structure of the old helmet becomes compromised and unable to absorb another hit. For more info on helmet safety, check out this fact sheet from the CDC.
I add goggles into safety because if they are fogging up or scratched then you can’t see and you are now a hazard to others and yourself. Take me for example, on hot dog day two seasons ago, wearing my Dad’s scratched up goggles from 1982, I clotheslined myself because I couldn’t see the orange rope marking the entrance to the terrain park. A fogged lens will obstruct your vision and constantly wiping them dry will destroy the lens. Smith Optics IO7s have worked great for me over the years and I recommend matching them with a Smith Optics helmet to improve the ventilation through the goggles.
If you are in the backcountry a lot, I highly recommend an airbag backpack. I think your life is worth more than $1000 and hopefully, you do too. I will stress that you should never ski a high consequence line with the notion that your airbag will save you. It should only be there in case something goes absolutely wrong. I have had one for the last 5 years and the only time I have inflated it was when I fell off my snowmobile doing donuts on flat land and caught my handle on the handlebars when I got flung from the machine.
Lastly, make it fun, because if you aren’t then what is the point?! Go skiing with people you want to ski with and remember everyone else out there is only trying to have fun as well. If you are skiing with someone not up to your level, don’t yell and force them to do runs that make them uncomfortable. If you find yourself angry or upset, maybe take the skis off and go in and have a beer to calm down. Then get back at it.
Put your ski socks on last… Keep your ski socks dry until the very last moment. This will help you keep your feet and toes warmer in your ski boots. And if that fails, buy some heated socks they will work wonders and will prevent screaming barfies when you are out on a -30 C tour trying to impress your significant other.
Pass this on to someone who is thinking about getting a new ski setup or just getting into the sport. Share the stoke and comment below any questions you got. Stay stoked… Winter is here!!
All shop photos are taken at Ski West in Calgary, Alberta, which is my “local trusted ski shop”.