What To Look For
When buying ski gear, fit is paramount. Ski gear that fits properly is comfortable, warm, fun to use and minimizes the risk of injury.
A good ski shop will take the time to answer questions and find a customer the right gear.
Choose the right tool for the right job. Buy skis suited to your ability level and preferred terrain. If you are an advanced or intermediate skier you probably don't need a high-performance race ski. If you plan to ski in New England, don't buy skis built for the softer snow and bigger mountains of the Rockies.
Where To Buy
Deep discounts can often be found from online retailers, but local ski shops provide the best personal service and follow-up. If you are a return customer, the staff will get to know you by name and may offer you special discounts on goods or services.
New skis can range from $400 to $1,200. Boots usually cost between $200 and $800. Bindings are between $50 and $250. Accessories like poles, goggles, helmets and parkas run similarly broad ranges for all budgets.
It's important to try before you buy. Manufacturers and retailers often host "demo days" at ski resorts, where for a small fee one can try literally dozens of ski and boots to help find the perfect combination. Reputable ski shops will apply the cost of a demo to the purchase of new equipment.
Common accessories include goggles, poles, racks, helmets, hand and foot warmers, boot and ski bags, backpacks and hydration systems, socks, gloves, hats and outerwear.
Two valuable and often overlooked accessories are a good boot dryer and a cable lock to prevent theft.
Ski manufacturers usually will not change a ski model design over the course of two seasons, except for cosmetics. Great deals can often be found on discontinued or previous year models.
Ski shops also offer their used demo gear at reduced prices. A frugal and informed shopper can find as-new gear for as much as 50 percent off.
Denver-based Shan Sethna holds a Masters degree in journalism and has written for daily newspapers, wire services, consumer magazines and websites. His diverse background includes experience in public relations; higher education; at the Olympic Games; on Wall Street; at an African environmental non-profit; and as a ski instructor and wilderness guide.