Equipment Guide

What You Need, and How to Get It

EQUIPMENT IS NOT INCLUDED

Equipment is not included. Students MUST bring equipment each week to the mountain. Please do not expect to rent equipment weekly on the mountain, without expecting to spend up to one hour to do so! To avoid wasting time with daily rentals, try Take Home Season Rentals.

WHERE TO PURCHASE YOUR EQUIPMENT

Pro shops train their staff to understand product and service equipment. Most of their sales personnel will be able to clearly explain why you should select one product over another. Almost every manufacturer makes a range of equipment which is appropriate for your skill level and goals. A skilled salesperson will make several recommendations and provide sound reasoning for their choices. Expect this kind of treatment or find somebody else to help you. See our 'Recommended Equipment Vendors' below.

RECOMMENDED EQUIPMENT VENDORS

Bothell Ski & Bike 425-486-3747 bothellskiandbike.com
Eastside Ski & Sport 425-485-7547 eastsideskiandsport.com
Gerks Alpine Hut Redmond 425-883-7544 gerksonline.com
Kitsap Sports 360-698-4808 kitsapsports.com
Play It Again Sports 425-481-8676 playitagainsports.com
Pro Ski & Mountain Service 425-888-6397 proguiding.com
Ski Mart Bellevue 425-637-8958 skimartnw.com
Sturtevant's 425-454-6465 sturtevants.com
Summit Central 425-434-7669 summitatsnoqualmie.com

 

SELECTING THE RIGHT SKI EQUIPMENT

BOOTS

  • Your ski boots are the most important piece of equipment of all.
  • The easiest possible thing to do is to get ski boots that are too big.
  • If your ski boots are too big then it is likely that –
    • Your shins will hurt and you will not want to flex your ankle. 
    • Your ankle will be loose side to side, reducing edging precision. 
    • Your foot will move fore/aft, possibly blackening toenails from impact. 
    • Your foot will move up and down, reducing your ability to pressure and control your skis. 
    • You want to over-buckle your boot, thereby putting pressure on the arteries on the top of your foot.
  • Any sort of aftermarket insole to replace the pathetic stock insole will help your skiing;  the more structured and supportive the replacement insole, the better your skiing response will be.
  • The closer the hinge of your ski boot corresponds with your ankle joint  the more natural your movement up and down will be.  Rear entry ski boots are very convenient for children but they do impede skiing progress.
  • Your ski boot size does not correspond to your street shoe size.
  • An easy assessment – pull the entire foam liner out of the plastic ski boot shell, insert your stockinged foot into the bare plastic shell and slide the foot forward until the toes just touch the front of the shell.  There should be 3cm, 1.25”, or a finger and a half between the heel and the shell.  If more than 4cm, or two fingers, then the boot is too big;  2cm or one finger behind the heel is a race-fit and for aggressive skiers.  More than 4cm, two fingers side by side, is highly detrimental to your skiing.
  • No Cotton Socks.  Only wool or wicking synthetics.  And only socks down in the boot, all long underwear, pajamas, levis, and ski-pant powder cuffs should be above or over the top of the boot cuff.  One pair of socks adequate.  Two pair of socks is too much marshmallow junk in your ski boot.  A thin pair of liner socks inside a thin pair of ski socks can be functional, but one pair of ski socks allows fewer wrinkles and folds and is more sensitive.
  • Straight alignment of your leg bones so that you are standing on top of flat skis is critical for effective and efficient skiing.   Being bow-legged, knock-kneed, or pronated affects your ability to edge your skis, and this can be compensated for with your equipment.
  • A stiffer boot flex will result in quicker response, while a softer boot will let you flex and absorb terrain more easily.  More than ability level or even skier weight, the range of motion that a skier possesses in Achilles tendon flexibility and range of dorsiflexion should determine exactly what stiffness you may need.

Skis

  • New skis are coming out of the wrapper these days exceedingly well tuned and do not need further work beyond being waxed.  Your skis should be waxed regularly though, as often as possible if you would like to help your ability to turn easily.
  • Wipe your skis dry with a cloth or towel after every ski day – this helps keep the ski edges from getting oxidized and rusty, which really affects your skiing.
  • The length of most adult recreational skis should be about face-height.  For beginning children or small, light people, chest-high is a reasonable minimum; chin-height gives a bit more platform as a skier begins to ski faster.   For rockered (without camber) fat powder skis, add at least 10cm to get a longer platform to be able to ski deep snow.
  • Remember that powder snow is much less common than hard, packed, sometimes icy snow.  The entire ski industry is entirely optimistic about powder snow and wants to sell you wide powder skis, which are much less effective and fun on ice and hard snow.  Narrower skis put the ski edge directly under the ski boot which helps your ability to edge the ski and control speed on groomed snow.
  • Lightweight skis are much easier to carry and are less of a burden to ride up the chairlift with, however they are much less stable and smooth on hard snow and let vibration upset the skier’s stability on ice.  Metal layers in a ski handle vibration much better, and make you, the skier feel much more confident and secure.
  • Generally, the cost of a ski reflects the internal materials that reduce vibration as you ski.  Race skis are marvelously complex and stout and sometimes can be quite forgiving and fun to ski, but they are rare and expensive;  fat powder skis are supple, soft, and floppy – great for planning in deep, uneven snow conditions, but they are compromised for edge hold and stability.  There are exceptional values of ski performance that accommodate a wide variety of skier abilities, skis which can handle a variety of terrain choices and different snow conditions,  that are available and can be found through professional advice and/or thoughtful ski demos.

POLES

  • Ski poles have several uses – sensory, balance, timing, propulsion – but mostly they are a tool for timing the unweighting movements in parallel turns, and until a skier understands this movement and usage, the ski pole becomes basically a distraction.
  • For measuring a ski pole, the skier should hold the pole upside down and grasp the shaft just under the pole basket and the skier’s elbow should be at a 90 degree angle.  Longer poles than this are good for deep snow, steep slopes, and racing.  Shorter than this can be helpful in moguls and terrain parks, and possibly for skiers who sit back too much.
  • Expensive lightweight poles can be less fatiguing and are helpful in quicker, more intense turns but they can be more fragile.  Less expensive poles are made out of cheaper materials and are weaker and more easily bent.  A good alloy pole of moderate price can be reasonably light, quite strong, and durable.

BINDINGS

  • Ski bindings are generally a safety item, and therefore are more important than your skis.  They release the boot from the ski when the skier is in trouble, in an attempt to protect the skier from injury.
  • Bindings are also a performance item in that every turn, and every move that the skier wants to make, is transferred to the ski through the solidity of this connection.  If the binding is a less expensive, lightweight, less stout device, then it is compromised in this attachment and some imprecision of control results.  Therefore, purchase bindings of a quality that is comparable to the value of the skis, or better, as otherwise a considerable portion of the performance value of the skis is wasted and inaccessible.
  • You should never attempt to adjust your ski bindings yourself unless you are a certified ski binding technician;  considerable injury may result from an incorrectly adjusted binding releasing inadvertently or failing to release in the event of a fall.
  • Many ski binding systems allow adjustment for various skier stance needs – such as canting, position fore & aft on the ski, and ramp or forward lean of the binding, which can help the skier stand taller and more relaxed and pressure the tongue of the boot, and thereby the ski, much sooner.
  • Bindings do need periodic function testing for proper release values, and should be tested at a certified ski shop.
  • Binding manufacturers have a determined lifetime for all ski bindings, discovered through rigorous testing, and all bindings will eventually become too dated, too fatigued, to meet testing standards and will therefore fall off of the approved list of safe bindings, called the Binding Indemnification List, and should be retired and disposed of. 

CLOTHES

  • Layers. It is better to use a shell parka and several layers of sweaters, T-necks, and underwear than one heavy parka. This is called the layering principle which is most effective in controlling body temperature.
  • Helmets protect the head when a rough fall occurs (not if but when)!!! It also provides additional warmth during cold or rainy weather. A considerable amount of body heat is lost through the top of an exposed head on cold days. A good helmet also can be vented when you get hot. A good helmet doesn't restrict your hearing. If you choose a hat, wool hats are recommended since dampness does not affect wool's ability to maintain warmth. No-itch wool hats are available with non-wool liner material.
  • Thermal socks. Your feet get wet because of perspiration and sometimes snow gets inside the boots. Thermal socks are somewhat water repellent and maintain enough dead-air space when wet to act as insulation and keep the feet warm. Cotton socks should be totally avoided. Cotton wicks moisture into the boots.
  • Thermal underwear has the same characteristics as thermal socks. It is warm even when wet. Underwear constructed with polypropolene wicks perspiration away from the body so the moisture doesn't cool the body.
  • Pants should be loose fitting, reinforced in the knees and seat, and extremely waterproof.
  • Turtlenecks and sweaters should be lightweight. One or several may be worn depending upon the warmth of the skier. As it gets colder more sweaters could be worn to create greater dead-air space which provides further insulation against the cold. A cotton T-neck or sweater is not recommended.
  • Shells (parkas) are usually unlined and are worn in warmer weather or with more sweaters or vests. When fitting a parka, pay particular attention to the cuffs. The cuffs should butt right up to or fit snugly so the wrists are not exposed. Also look for a high collar since it may be zipped or snapped up around the neck and chin for additional protection and warmth.
  • Mitts are warm since all four fingers are encased in one area and touch one another (it's warmer in a crowd). Fingered gloves allow greater freedom of movement so the hands may do more things without taking off the gloves. In both cases a thermal liner adds to the warmth. Gloves should be sprayed with a waterproofer or sealed with a water-repellent wax. Mitts should always be worn while skiing, even on sunny days. They protect against cuts caused by the roughness of the snow during a fall.
  • Goggles protect the eyes from the wind and snow. Light-colored lenses are recommended because they are usually worn during cloudy, stormy weather. Thermal lens goggles (like thermal pane glass - two lenses) or coated non-fog goggles are available and work the best. A no-fog cloth may also be used to make ordinary goggles fog-free for a short period of time. Those who wear glasses should select goggles specifically designed for use with glasses.
  • Sunglasses protect the eyes from the intense ultraviolet light of the sun which is predominate at high altitudes and reflect off the snow. Select shatterproof sunglasses with a very dark lens. They provide additional safety and protection for your eyes.
  • Raingear. Plastic raingear keeps the rain out and the perspiration in. Fabric raingear is better because it allows perspiration to escape. All clothing should be sprayed with a waterproofing substance. Trust me!