The 2 most common bindings used for track skiing are SNS and NNN. Both consist of a bar which clips into the toe of the boot, and raised section/s running along the ski to stabilise the boot and helping to prevent sideways movement of the boot. Cable bindings, where a cable runs around the heel of the boot are heavier but give greater stability are often used for skiing off track where steeper terrain must be negotiated.
Classic boots should be a comfortable fit, firm but not too tight. Skate boots are stiffer than classic boots.
Make sure the boots are compatible with the binding type!
Pole length: Classic: turn the pole upside down. The basket should fit comfortably under the arm pit. Skate: Pole length is normally between chin and nose height.
Generally a shell outer jacket is worn, with layering underneath. Cross-country skiing is a very aerobic activity so you need to be able to take off those underlayers as necessary. Pants - normal ski pants may be worn, or overpants over the top of other pants. Kinetix pants are great, but are very hard to obtain these days, and cannot be bought at normal retail ski outlets. For racing events, don't be surprised to see top competitors in lycra.
- Alpine Touring, Ski Mountaineering or Ski Randonee are terms used interchangeably. The basic concept is of bindings such as the Fritschi Freeride (and other brands) which allow one to ski downhill as per usual, then release a catch that allows the heel to go free for the uphill travel, and lock down again to ski down. Ski.com.au forum members have a bit to say about comparing AT bindings
- AT is popular in The Alps of Europe, and the Southern Alps of New Zealand, and anywhere else where there are reasonably steep mountains in the backcountry. Mountaineering skills are required for many AT trips in the big Alps. AT can be used on gentler slopes, but is slower than cross country gear on such terrain.
- Normal downhill skis can be used, but AT skiers go for the lightest and shortest ski they can, knowing that they will, at some stage of the day, undoubtedly be carrying them on their pack.
- Skins are required for uphill travel on snow. These have short nylon (or sometimes mohair) hairs on them, with a "nap" which allows forward travel, but grip the snow so as to not slide backwards. Good for going up steep hills. The skins have some sort of attachment on the front and back, and an adhesive side which sticks to the ski base. They are attached for the uphill climb, then removed for the ski downhill.
- AT boots are similar to normal downhill ski boots, but generally softer. They have a catch which when flicked into "climb" mode, allows them to flex much more at the ankle, and when in "ski" mode locks them into ski position. They usually have vibram soles and fit automatic (clip-on) crampons well, so steep ice mountaineering can be done in them (and may be necessary on AT tours in glaciated alpine terrain).
One Piece Suits
These will probably come back into fashion. OK, unlikely, but weirder things have happened. Great for keeping wind and snow out. Unequalled practicality on a powder day. You will not pick up.
Can be very good for little kids (1-5 or 6 yo) as you don't have to worry about them getting snow down their pants and up their backs. Will keep them warmer and dryer. Only downside is you need a bit more effort for them to go to the toilet but 3yo + can pick that up pretty quickly and the benefits outweigh the downsides here. If young kids are wearing them to ski school/kids club put shorts on under them as they will probably want to take them off when inside for play/lunch etc.
Skins are tight fitting compression sports wear that are designed to apply a balanced and accurate surface pressure over specific body parts, this triggers an acceleration of blood flow, which in turn increases oxygen delivery to the working muscles to enhance their performance. The circulation improvements also help the body to eliminate Lactic acid and other metabolic wastes. The Skins are also designed to wrap around key muscle groups to reduce muscle movement and focus the direction of muscle movement, this wrapping combined with the compression dramatically reduce muscle vibration, resulting in less soft tissue damage and muscle soreness.
You wear them while you are skiing and that evening to help prevent lactic acid build up. Most people that wear them swear by them and claim they don't seize up the day after like they used to and claim they are the best single purchase they ever made to improve the enjoyment of their ski holidays. You regularly see professional sports people training with them on. An indication of the effectiveness of skins is that, if you have some residual soreness in the morning, this soreness disappears or is noticeably reduced when you put skins on in the morning.
Skins are awesome. They are so good that, if your muscles still hurt in the morning, the hurt almost always disappears after you put your skins on. On the other hand, I now wear undies, skins, thermals and a shell. One learns to keep one's legs crossed.
Most skins have NO thermal properties so should not be used as a replacement to thermals in cold climates. Some manufacturers are producing skins with thermal properties. Under Armour, a US brand, is one.
("Skins" is also a term for the nylon bristles which stick to the underside of AT skis to climb steep hills.)
Snowshoes are designed to allow you to walk in soft snow without sinking in. After years of only having a few brands available, there are now over half a dozen brands on sale in Australia, so shop around. There are two main types of snowshoe. The first is the plastic plate style with a fixed heel which is best for snow on terrain that isn't too steep. The best known model is the Australian made Yowie Agility. Some American companies make racing models and these are beginning to appear in Australia.
The second type are the aggressive, heavily cramponed snowshoes with an external frame and a free heel binding. You can go just about anywhere with these including ice and steep grades. Examples are some models from Tubbs and the MSR Lightning.
Then there are compromises between these two styles, allowing limited mobility on steeper grades (although not ice) while being less cumbersome on flat terrain. The best known in Australia is the MSR Denali, which is a plastic plate with a free heel and a little extra cramponing.
Always use poles with snowshoes or you will move like Frankenstein's monster. Adjustable poles are especially useful as you can shorten them for going uphill and lengthen them for moving downhill.
There is a temptation to assume that thicker socks are warmer. This is not so. There are several disadvantages to thick socks.
- They can often bunch up in the boot, causing pressure points.
- They are less precise in transmitting foot angle to the boot and ski.
- They can get sweaty, damp and uncomfortable.
- They are not really any warmer.
Most experienced skiers wear thin socks. You can spend a fortune on "specialised" socks for skiing, but, in this contributor's opinion, the cost benefit equation makes these unnecessary (assuming there is in fact a benefit). Your basic merino/acrylic sock will do. Long socks are a very good idea. If the sock is higher on your shin than the top of the boot there will be no pressure point at the top of the sock. Some people recommend wearing two pairs of socks. Don't.
There are two main types of Ice Axe. A ‘Walking axe’ is all you will need on introductory trips. A 70 cm shaft means they can be used as a walking stick in your uphill hand and easily swung around to self arrest if you slip. The second type is the shorter handled ‘Climbing axe’, with a much more aggressively angled blade. These are really just for serious climbing with ropes, harnesses and ice screws for protection. Climbing axes are avaliable with either an ‘Adze‘ and a ‘Hammer‘ at the non-pointy end of the blade. If you are serious about moutaineering buy one of each.
Crampons stop your feet slipping on steep snow and ice. They can be loosely defined by the number of points they have. 'Instep' crampons are attached to the instep of your boot and are often called '4 points' even if they have more. They are fun and cruisey and great for messing around in. '6 points' are a bit more serious and are attached under the ball of the foot. ‘10 points’ are the full length of a boot and typically have 6 points under the ball of the foot and 4 under the heel. 12 points are similar, but have extra forward pointing spikes for serious climbing. Be careful not to gash your leg with these more full on crampons.
Cheaper crampons are often stamped out of a few pieces of metal, then welded together and bent to shape, whereas quality crampons are assembled from a lot of separate components. For most Australian purposes, either is fine.
If you have crampons that extend the full length of your foot, you should wear them with rigid boots as they are not designed to flex under the arch of the foot. If you don’t have fairly stiff boots, full length crampons can fall off, bend or break.
While AT or tele boots are perfectly adequate for most climbs, if you’re keen, there are specialised climbing boots, which come as either high quality leather or plastic. Leather often better a performer, but it is colder to wear and has a tendency to get wet then freeze up. The cons of plastic are that they do not always fit perfectly and the liner has limited give for unconventionally shaped feet, so you risk a shocking trip if they do not fit well.
A harness is necessary if you are to use a rope (e.g. for pitch climbing or glacier travel). Most alpine climbers purchase a light harness without the usual padding and gear loops that characterise rock harnesses.
Avoid cotton ones as they will just get wet as they trap the moisture, apart from that you can get wool (merino is excellent if you can afford it) or silk ones. Polypropylene ones aren't as warm. Thermals should be snug fitting (not loose like a T-shirt) and hug the body without being too tight. They will absorb the moisture and take it away from your skin keeping you warmer and dryer.
Thermals should not be mistaken for skins which have no thermal properties.
It is important to keep bases flat and waxed, and edges sharp. You can leave your skis with a ski shop to have them tuned, or do it yourself. A basic tuning kit consists of:
- A file guide that allows you to sharpen to the desired side edge bevel angle
- A Chrome file
- A medium diamond file
- A waxing iron
- A plastic scraper
- A horse hair brush
- Wax the that suits the snow temperature of the day.
A guide to how to tune can be found at Tuning Skis and Board
Where to Buy or Hire Equipment
You can elect to hire or buy on snow or offsnow. Each has their advantages and disadvantages and you will find advocates of each. Hiring at the resort means that you can take damaged gear back easily, and if the boots are uncomfortable swapping is easy. Off mountain hire is usually cheaper. The same considerations apply to buying boots - adjustments are easy. If you buy skis in resort you have the opportunity to test ride (usually called demo) several brands and models before you buy.
Recommendations here probably relate directly to those that own those shops!
First a first time snow experience, it probably doesn't matter too much where you hire your gear. Close to the mountain may be a good idea - if you have a multi day trip you can get your equipment changed if it is not fitting correctly. In subsequent trips you will have a better idea of what you need to get.
The price of the hire generally scales with how good the gear is, and how close to the mountain it is. Multi day hires are cheaper per day as time goes on. It is also worth seeing if on mountain hire places will allow you to exchange skis of boards if you change your mind half way though the holiday.
Most hire places have a couple of standards of ski to hire. A premium package will cost a bit more, but will give better quality gear. Beginners will not need the premium gear, but as you advance it might be worth trying. If you can tell the difference in performance between the standards you should probably be on premium gear. Another level up is trying demo gear from a ski shop. This will depend on whether the shop will cooperate, but you can try top level gear for a price. The system allows (requires) you to swap frequently. If you expect to be in the market to buy in the next year or so this is a really good way to work out what you want in a ski.
If you are a frequent skier and have children who are growing at a rate of knots, have a look into hiring for a season.
If your skis or board get damaged most ski or board shops will be able to do repairs, or at least tell you if the gear can be repaired. It is surprising what is reparable.
For clothes, in Sydney try Venus Repair Workshop, 36a/104 Bathurst St, Sydney NSW 2000 (02) 9267 0706. They do a professional job and understand the requirements of outdoor clothing.
What Do I Buy First?
- Buying a full set of skis and boots can be an expensive exercise (poles are cheap - the only good news). You do not have to buy the whole kit at once.
- There is no doubt that boots are the first things you should buy. The difference in comfort and performance from hire boots to your own, properly fitted, footbedded boots is beyond description. It will be a revelation.
- Having your own skis is a cost/benefit equation (with a bit of snobbish irrationality thrown in). Some people never buy their own skis. The cost of hiring over the life of a pair of skis may be less than the cost of buying. This is particularly so if you are a one week a year skier. On the other hand, having your own skis means that you will be skiing on skis that you bought and which suit you. You will also avoid the hassle of hiring each time you go skiing. What is available for hire may not be suitable, even if you hire premium gear. If a shop will cooperate, hiring demo skis can work. If you do hire from the right place you may be skiing on the latest gear every year. Seasonal hire is becoming popular, this is where you rent equipment for the full season and return it at the end of the season, a guide to price is usually equivalent to 10 days hire, seasonal rental equipment is usually brand new equipment.
- Look for a well priced package, these will cost you somewhere between $550 and $800 and should include boots, board and bindings.
Like everything else, you can buy ski & board gear online. In this contributor's opinion you would be nuts to buy boots online as they cannot be fitted properly. Everything else is possible.
One thing to consider is the greater good - if everyone from Australia buys online from overseas the Australian ski shops will wither and die, and the service available for snow sports folk will be diminished. Other cons are no warranty, or limited warranty, the prospect of dodgy gear and the possibility of non-delivery. Another trap can be excessive delivery charges. Depending on the type of gear and the value you may also be hit for customs duty and be liable for GST on the price. Imports under AU$1,000 are duty and tax free into Australia. Customs Information. With skis and bindings, if you are not confident about fitting the bindings yourself, you will have to have them fitted at a ski shop. You will be charged, and don't expect the owner to be happy about the sale he or she has lost to the Net.
Ideas that never quite took off
There have been innovations throughout the history of skiing and boarding. Some have worked and stuck. Some have not quite caught the imagination of punters, and have drifted into oblivion. Usually for good reason. And some ideas from 1939
- Rear Entry Boots A single buckle at the back, and a hinge below the ankle that made it easy to slip your foot in. The problem was that, no matter what straps, ratchets and other internal things they tried these boots never fitted well enough to give adequate firmness for reasonable control. At best, they only worked for beginners and low intermediates.
- Lever ski bindings These had a soft boot and a lever from the binding that cradled the calf at the back. I saw some once. Only once.
- Vibration absorption systems Because every time you went skiing your teeth fell out from the vibration. Plates (Rossignol), red bubbles (Dynastar), flashing piezoelectric lights (K2), powerbars (Salomon) and a million others.
- Vail Resort A fail. It will disappear real soon now.
Pages in category "Equipment"
The following 33 pages are in this category, out of 33 total.