As the fall is about to kick in, it’s never too early to start thinking about winter. After all, winter sports hold a special place in our hearts, reserved for hitting fresh powder while breathing in the crisp air. It’s about the mountains, the clear blue skies, and that undeniable feeling of making the most out of a season most folks find otherwise unbearable.
Yes, enjoying winter sports can make the colder months some of the most fun out there, which is why it might be a good idea to start thinking about possibly suiting up this year for some skiing. While some might consider it a luxury sport, when buying used, it can actually be a pretty affordable way to have some fun. Granted, I’ll note that buying all your equipment at once is going to come with a heavier upfront cost, but the payoff will be something you can enjoy for the next five, ten, or even twenty years. However, to receive the full benefit of long lasting equipment, you’re going to have to know what to buy.
If you think finding used equipment can be tough, don’t worry! Today we’re going to walk you through how to find equipment, as well as what types you should buy. Considering the investment, you’re about to make; it’s good to be educated on exactly what you’re getting into as skiing can be one of the most rewarding winter activities out there. Trust me, after reading through this; you’ll be ready to hit the slopes in no time.
Finding Your Fit
Like most cases with used equipment, you’re going to have to check into how the goods were treated beforehand, as well as the specific environment they called home. For example, someone in the New England area who is selling skis that were only used at a resort the past couple years will probably be better than say someone who who skied on and off trail in Utah. Think of this like buying a car: where it came from can tell a lot about the wear and tear, regardless of age or model.
Once you’ve established where the product you’re interested is coming from, another important thing to note is the type of usage it endured. This basically boils down to how often the skis were used, how old they are, if they made any alterations or customizations for the types of terrain it was exposed to (I.E.: on trail skiing vs off trail and most importantly how well they were maintained.)
All of these factors are going to play a huge role in price. For example, a pair of skis that were used on trail at a resort and well taken care of might have a higher reselling value than someone who skied off trail and didn’t maintain their skis. Check and see what type of skiing the seller most often used the skis for and how well they were taken care of, as well as follow up on some of the other factors that are pertinent to you.
Determining a Ballpark Figure
When it comes to used equipment, determining a fair price on something with such a steep upfront cost can be a tough battle. After all, most of us are probably looking at which pieces it would be alright to go cheap on while wondering what other portions we should invest serious cash into. Overall, my strategy is going from the ground up.
The first thing you should invest in is the actual skis themselves. While I know this sounds obvious, a solid, well-maintained pair of skis can last for decades and is going to be the core of everything else you’ll buy. The second thing I’d recommend would be your boots, as the fit on these is going to largely dictate the activity. And finally, your bindings should not only match your boots but be fine tuned to your liking by a professional. From there, the other stuff can be things you invest in quality later on.
Estimates for a full-suite of equipment can range from $1,000 on the low end to upwards of a couple thousand. Keep in mind, this isn’t true for everyone, as some folks find deals at yard sales, going out business sales, etc. However, as I stated above, this is going to be a long term investment, so approaching the primary pieces as such could actually save you tremendously in the long run.
When To Buy
Considering that the winter sports season is coming about within the next few months, it’d be best to hop on the opportunity to purchase your primary pieces of equipment ahead of time. Prices can go up the closer it gets to November or December, so take the time to consider investing sooner than later. However, if you already have the equipment and are looking to upgrade, perhaps wait until the spring. After the season ends, you’ll not only find more clearance sales but folks who are cleaning out what they don’t use anymore or have purchased other stuff.
I’ll note that when it comes to used equipment, it’s not necessarily always a bad thing if someone has upgraded their equipment and are looking to get rid of their old stuff. In fact, these people can be some of the best to buy from as they’ve taken the sport seriously enough to buy new gear, which might allude to them taking good care of their older set. Finally, always factor in how skiing season varies from state to state, which is going to play into consideration on when your purchase would be most advantageous.
Searching for Equipment
Below we’ve listed a few helpful tips on each of the type of equipment you should buy for getting into skiing. A lot of it is going to be contingent on the type of skiing that you’re aiming to do, where you’re trying to go, as well as your experience level. While I know it might seem overwhelming; the process can actually be pretty simple if you follow the right steps. Overall, being able to hit the slopes every winter can be one of the most rewarding investments you’ll make, which is why we’ve listed a few key points below:
When it comes to buying used skis, you first have to consider the type of skiing that you’re going to do. As REI notes, there are numerous types depending on the types of terrain and style you perform. For example, all-mountain skis are ideal for any terrain, while all-mountain wide skis are better groomed for powder skiing. Additionally, there are options available for strictly powder and backcountry as well.
Once you’ve decided on the types of skis you’re after, take a close glance at the maintenance that was performed on them. Look at the edges to see if they were sharpened regularly, and have little rust damage. Additionally, the skis should have proper tune-ups performed, as well as waxing done too. How often these services were done is heavily contingent upon how often the person had used them, but at the very least, should have been performed at least once a season.
The overall feel of your skis is going to vary when buying used, so don’t be too surprised if they feel awkward. Remember, the other owner most likely broke them in through use, so it’s going to be more curtailed to their riding style and body type. This in combination with where they rode is factors you should consider as well.
Finally, in looking for used skis, you’re going to want to invest in something that’s long-lasting. Even though buying secondhand can be an excellent way to save money, your skis are going to be the core component of your gear, so it’s imperative you invest in something that will provide the highest value and usage for the lowest cost. In terms of brands, folks like Atomic, Volkl, Blizzard, Fischer, Rossignol, Head and Nordica have been some solid, tried-and-true choices, with other brands like Salomon, Stockli, 4FRNT and Line contributing some great products as well.
When buying used, boots can be tricky. Unlike buying a used pair of shoes, the breaking in process in your ski boots is going to matter quite a bit. However, that’s not to say you won’t find something that will suit your needs.
First and foremost, it’s highly suggested you try on the boots before purchasing. Doing so will allow you to gauge if it’s the right fit or not, and can test the mobility and movement. Start by seeing how snug they are. It’s okay if your foot shifts and touches the toe casing, but you don’t want it to feel as though it’ll continuously rub against there. Additionally, if your heel is coming up, that’s alright as well. Overall, the fundamental goal is for your boots to be snug and firm, but not to the point that it’s constricting.
If you have your heart set on used boots, make sure to ask how old they are, how often they were used and how much “work” has been done on them. Work means the boots have been custom fit to the previous owner, and therefore their fit might not be suitable to yours.
A big thing to factor in when purchasing your bindings is the level of expertise that you have. As REI notes, beginner to intermediate skiers, are level 1-2, meaning they do not need the highest release setting, with more advanced skiers at a level 3 needing a higher release setting and more durable bindings. Level 3 essentially means that it takes more force for the skier to get out of the binding, which to some might sound safer, can actually be quite dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing.
Another factor of note is how your bindings fit with your boots. Quite simply, if you’re just starting out with used equipment, I’d focus on finding boots with a great fit first, followed by bindings that fit them. There’s a variety of styles and options when it comes to bindings, and trying them on in tandem will serve you best in the long-run.
In terms of what specific brands to look after, a few mentioned above can serve your needs, as well as Marker, who makes some excellent quality stuff.
When it comes to poles, the size and style can vary greatly. Keep in mind when shopping for a set that there’s a variety of different types depending on the kind of skiing that you’re doing (I.E.: Downhill, speed, etc.) However, if you’re looking just to do standard recreational skiing, then downhill poles will serve fine.
To get fitted, strap on your boots and hold the pole upside down with the grip towards the floor. Ideally, your arm should be at a 90-degree angle. This is imperative to get right as your poles are going to dictate a lot of your split-second movement, especially in changing direction.
When checking out used poles, look at tips and see if there are any glaring errors or damage. Additionally, make sure the grips are functional, and there aren’t any major nicks, scratches, or dents. These could throw off your balance quite a bit, which defeats the purpose of the pole in the first place.
In terms of brands, there’s a little bit less scrutiny regarding what to go after. Any of the folks mentioned such as Fischer or Rossignol will be fine choices, as well as companies like Swix and Leki. Finally, don’t stress too much about the material or weight if you’re just starting out as these factors really are geared more towards competitive skiers.
While a lot of your fellow skiers might forgo a helmet, it’s something that could potentially be life-saving. Whether you’ve been doing this for years or are brand new to the sport, it’s never a bad idea to provide yourself with a layer of protection. And no, the weight won’t throw you off.
In terms of your fit, a helmet should fit snug (much like your boots mentioned above), and shouldn’t move around at all. Additionally, it’s important to note that you shouldn’t substitute a winter sports helmet with say a bike or skateboarding helmet as these are drastically different in terms of design and usage. Skiing helmets are specially made to handle the change in temperatures, as well as can accommodate with the other layers you possibly could be wearing. Finally, your helmet should also go in accordance with the goggles you pick out as well.
If looking into used helmets, it is important to check the age of the helmet as well as how much wear it has endured over its lifetime.
Goggles are a crucial portion of your skiing equipment. Beyond just protecting yourself from blaring winds and other objects coming into your eye, they also can be a great tool for sun protection as well as if you have vision problems. Try on as many pairs as you can to get a feel for your size before you buy, as loose goggles are going to be a pretty big waste. In terms of brands, a few stylish options that also provide a fantastic product include Spy, Oakley, and Smith.
Most winter gloves that are thick and made out of either nylon, GorTex, or Kevlar will serve you fine but beware of them being too bulky. Skiing gloves are traditionally designed to give you a little more range of motion and grip, especially when it comes to contact with your pole. Additionally, your gloves are going to be everywhere on the slopes, so it’s important to get a pair that’s waterproof. Most manufacturers have a set of gloves, but my personal recommendations include Hestra, Spyder, and The North Face. Burton or Dakine also make a quality product.