Ski Buying Guide for Beginners
Skiing can seem like an exclusive activity. If you’re new to the sport, but you have friends who are avid skiers, then you’ve probably been a part of many conversations where you feel like you’re on the outside looking in. Skiers kind of have their own invisible club. They have their own lingo, they get super hyped every time it snows, and they’re gone pretty much every weekend during the winter. The only way to gain access to this elusive club is to, well, ski.
If you’re ready to take the plunge, congrats! You’ve made a good decision. And you’ve come to the right place. We’ve got skis, boots, bindings, ski jackets, goggles, helmets, poles -- virtually every piece of gear you'll need to get started on your skiing journey. So whether you’re looking for powder skis, or an all-mountain set up, look no further than SidelineSwap to get you ready to hit the slopes in any type of conditions.
How to Choose a Pair of Skis
The first, most obvious thing to consider is ski length. The length of your skis is mainly determined by your height. A general rule of thumb for beginner/intermediate all-mountain skiers is that skis should land somewhere between your nose and the middle of your forehead when you hold them upright. Consult the sizing chart below for some general guidance on what ski length is right for you:
In addition to your gender and height, the type of skiing that you plan to do also plays a role in what length of skis you'll need. Here's a (very) brief breakdown:
- Park skis: If you plan on park skiing, you'll need a pair of skis that are slightly on the short side. Many park skiers will opt for a pair of twin tip skis. This style of ski allows you to ski -- or land -- forwards or backwards with ease.
- Powder skis: For backcountry and powder skiing, your skis should be slightly on the longer side, but generally speaking they shouldn’t be too much taller than you are.
- All-Mountain skis: For a versatile, all-mountain ski, we recommend sticking to the sizing chart outlined above. A good all-mountain ski should be one you feel comfortable riding on most types of trails, and in most conditions.
Most Popular Ski Brands
Some of the most popular ski brands include:
These are just a handful of the major ski brands that have been in the game for decades. There are dozens of "indie" skis brands on the market today, smaller companies that focus on quality over quantity when it comes to their annual ski production. We have a good mix of indie ski brands on SidelineSwap, so be sure to check those out.
How to Size Ski Boots
Ski boot sizing is important to get right. There’s nothing worse than having boots that are too tight, too painful or too hard to get on. You also don't want to have boots that are too big for you! Having too much wiggle room in your ski boots will decrease the amount of control you have. Based on your skiing ability - beginner, intermediate, or expert - the type of boot you need will vary.
- Mondopoint Sizing: Another thing to note about ski boot sizing is that ski boots are measured on a Mondopoint scale. The idea behind the Mondopoint sizing system is to create a boot sizing system that is universal for skiers all around the world. To find your Mondopoint size, simply measure the length of your foot in centimeters. Important: Be sure to measure both of your feet, and then size to your smaller foot. Ski boot fitters can always stretch a boot if you have one foot that’s bigger than the other, but it’s virtually impossible to “shrink” ski boots down to a smaller size.
- Flex: The flex of a ski boot refers to how easy or hard it is to “flex” the boot forward. The higher the flex of a ski boot, the stiffer the boot is. Ski racers, for example, need very stiff ski boots to provide them maximum control at high speeds. It’s important to note that flex ratings aren’t always universal between different brands of ski boots. In other words, an 85 flex may feel differently in a pair of Lange ski boots versus a pair of Atomic boots. As a general rule of thumb, beginners will typically use a lower flex. Advanced skiers who are taking on more intense terrain will need a higher flex.
Best Ski Boot Brands
The best ski boot will be different for each individual, but some of the most popular ski boot brands include:
Salomon ski boots are ideal for intermediate skiers who want to focus on their downhill technique. For advanced skiers or ski racers, Lange or Tecnica ski boots offer great functionality without compromising comfort. For a good versatile boot, Atomic ski boots can take you from skiing down groomers to hiking up trails easily with their lightweight flexing designs.
Ski Jacket Sizing
Depending on your preference, a range of fit options are available for ski jackets, including slim, regular and baggy fits. You can customize your ski jacket sizing further by selecting your desired length. A waist length offers a precise fit, which is suitable for skiers who want to reduce bulk. The most common fit is hip length. This length is versatile for a range of skiing activities and provides coverage without being too long. Thigh length jackets are usually the longest fit available and offer the most coverage, perfect for keeping snow away from your body.
Most Popular Ski Jacket Brands
Once you have chosen your desired fit and length, the next decision you face is which brand to select. There are a number of popular brands including Columbia, Spyder, Salomon and Helly Hansen. Columbia ski jackets are super durable and ready for action, with a number of insulation options available to suit your chosen climate. For windproof and waterproof jackets, Spyder jackets offer the ultimate protection while being breathable for a comfortable fit. Salomon ski jackets are designed based on simplicity and efficiency. The result? Jackets that are functional and dependable.
Best Ski Goggle Brands
There are a number of factors to consider when it comes to buying ski goggles. The biggest thing you'll need to consider is lens type. There are two different types of ski goggle lenses: cylindrical or spherical. Beyond this, there are a number of different features available, depending on your requirements. Polarized lenses are better at cutting out glare than a standard mirrored lens, for example. While ski goggles are designed to prevent fogging, some goggles will have a more resilient anti-fog coating than others.
If you’re someone who skis in snow or shine, you might consider buying interchangeable lenses. That way, you can wear lowlights on foggy days when visibility is low, and polarized lenses during a bluebird day to keep the sun out of your eyes.
What are the Best Ski Goggles?
A few popular models of ski goggles right now include Smith I/O ChromaPop goggles. These offer skiers superb optics, a snug fit, comfortable ventilation and a frame that supports interchangeable lenses. Another solid option are Anon's M3 MFI goggles, which boast the most efficient lens-changing system currently available on the market. Other quality goggle brands to check out include:
What Are Ski Poles Used For?
Most skiers who are just starting out opt not to use poles at first. Ski poles help with balance, especially when you become more advanced and are making deeper turns at higher speeds. In addition, poles can help you regain your momentum when you get caught on a cat track. If you've ever watched a ski race, you'll notice that ski racers use bent poles. This bend in racing poles helps to reduce drag, and thus increase speed for ski racers.
Ski Pole Buying Tips
There are three major factors to consider when choosing ski poles: the fit, the strap, and the basket. To find a pole with the right fit, stand in your ski boots and hold your pole at your side. If your arm sits comfortably at a 90 degree angle, then your pole is the perfect length. If the angle is smaller than 90 degrees, you need a longer pole. The basket -- aka the piece of plastic or rubber that acts as a stopper at the base of your pole -- can come in a handful of shapes and sizes. The basket shape that is best suited for you depends on the type of skiing you will be doing. As a general rule of thumb, use a larger basket with more surface area for powder skiing, and a smaller basket one on icy, groomed or hard-packed snow.
The Importance of Wearing a Helmet
Last but not least, we need to talk about protecting your head. As fun a sport as skiing is, it doesn't come without risk. Falling happens often, and the best way you can protect your head in the event of a fall is by wearing a helmet at all times while you're skiing.
Ski Helmet Sizing Guide
To ensure you get the correct size helmet, measure your head with a tape measure just above your eyebrows. Compare your head’s circumference to a sizing chart from the manufacturer of the helmet you wish to buy. When you try a helmet on, it should feel secure and the helmet should not move when you shake your head vigorously. Most helmets come with an adjustable fit system to help you create a perfect, customized fit. Another thing to consider is what “type” of helmet will best suit your needs. For example, an in-mold helmet is lightweight and absorbs shock. A hard-shell ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene) helmet is super durable (and budget-friendly)! Lastly, a soft shell helmet is not quite as industrial as a hard-shell option, and is designed to withstand only mild to moderate impacts.
Most Popular Ski Helmets
No matter your age or experience level, a well-fitted ski helmet is essential for your safety. Some of the best ski helmet brands include POC, Smith, and Salomon. POC ski helmets combine thorough safety features with a comfortable fit. For a budget-friendly option, the Smith Holt helmet is an ideal choice. Holt helmets are easily adjustable, and come in a wide array of colors. The Salomon Mtn Lab helmet is lightweight and offers the ultimate combined levels of protection and ventilation. Choose your helmet based on fit and purpose.