What To Look For
When shopping for skis and boots for downhill skiing, first consider the type of skiing you will be doing and the location where you will be skiing. Skiers in the northeast will prefer narrower skis that are designed for the hardpack and icy conditions in that region. Skiers in the Rockies and the Pacific Northwest might want multiple skis; a wider, softer ski for powder and a shorter, narrower ski for chutes and tree skiing.
While beginners like rear-entry ski boots for their ease of getting on, experts prefer a front-entry boot with four buckles. Getting a boot to properly fit can be an exhaustive ritual. After selecting the best model, it is best to further customize with the help of an expert bootfitter (a good reason to buy boots from your local ski shop).
Too often, skiers, especially beginners, get caught up in the latest and greatest ski to hit to the market. However, boots should be the first consideration when buying ski equipment. Many stores near major resorts have excellent skis available for rental; however, a good fitting pair of boots, selected with the skier and her ability in mind, can make a huge difference in learning to ski or excelling at skiing, if she is an expert.
Where To Buy
While good deals can sometimes be found at online retailers like Backcountry.com and REI, it is best to go to a local specialty store when shopping for ski equipment. Call around to find one that has a good selection of brands, and ask if they have a knowledgeable boot fitter who can help custom fit a boot.
Ski boots can cost anywhere from $200-$800, and skis, with bindings, $300-$800. Try to shop either at the end of ski season or at the beginning of ski season to find the best deals on equipment, especially last season's models.
Besides skis and boots, skiers need a good pair of poles and, more and more, a helmet. The best poles are adjustable, and, for those venturing into more extreme terrain, can be fitted together to form a probe pole in the event of an avalanche. Ski helmets are not foolproof, and are often only rated for crashes at moderate speeds, but they can help cushion the head in the event of an impact against the snow.
Candace Horgan has worked as a freelance journalist for more than 12 years. Her work has appeared in various print and online publications, including the "Denver Post" and "Mix." Horgan holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and history.