- 1 Bindings
- 2 Boarding Boots
- 3 Cross Country
- 4 Alpine Touring
- 5 Goggles
- 6 Gloves & Mitts
- 7 Helmet
- 8 One Piece Suits
- 9 Pants
- 10 Parkas
- 11 Poles or Stocks
- 12 Skis
- 13 Ski Boots
- 14 Skins
- 15 Snowboards
- 16 Thermals
- 17 Tuning
- 18 Little doodaddy things that make life a little bit better
The bits of machinery that connect your boots to your skis. Bindings perform two important and mutually exclusive functions. The first is to keep you connected to your skis for as long as possible. The second is to disconnect you from the skis when the forces developed in a fall are likely to hurt you. The basic way they achieve this is spring loading, so that they release when the force of a fall exceeds the force of the spring.
Different skiers have different heights, weights and abilities. The force of the spring is adjusted to compensate for this. The likely forces are calculated and set out in a table, and the bindings set accordingly. Unless you are reasonably knowledgeable this should be done by a trained technician.
There are a number of types of cross-country ski.
For trail skiing, the main types are Classic and Skate.
Classic skis may or may not have a patterned base. The pattern aids uphill skiing by reducing backward slide. In the absence of a pattern, classic skis should use grip wax or klister to achieve the same effect. The length of a classic ski should be more than the height of a skiier, but less than the height to the raised wrist. The profile of a classic ski is traditionally 44 44 44, although these days, wider waisted skis are sometimes used for recreation. The 2 most common bindings used 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.
Skate skis do not have a patterned base and do not use grip wax or klister. The length of a skate ski is normally about 10cm shorter than a classic ski.
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.
- AT is popular in The Alps of Europe, and the Southen 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 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).
Goggles are there to protect your eyes from wind and sun. With most goggles it is easy to see in bright light. Different goggles have different properties in low light, fog and snow. The main factors here are lens colour and coatings. Different people swear by different colours and coatings, so it seems that there are no absolute rules - it is a question of personal preference. Some brands offer multiple lenses which can be swapped depending on conditions and preference.
When you buy goggles think about compatibility with your helmet, if you wear one. Take your helmet with you when you buy goggles (and vice versa). Goggles have different shapes. Hold them up to your face without pushing. Thhe one that most closely fits your face with its natural shape is the one that is most likely to be the most comfortable.
The bane of goggles is fogging up. This occurs when moisture condenses on the inside surface of the lens. There are some tips to avoid fogging:
- Double lens goggles work. There is a layer of dead air between the two lenses that insulates your warm face from the cold outside.
- Try to keep moisure off the inside surface. Holding goggles so snow or rain falls onto the inside lens means that moisture is already there.
- Keep vents clear. The foam covered holes on the top and bottom of the frame are designed to let air circulate. Make sure they are clear so that the right amount of air circulates. This can mean occasionally clearing them of snow, and making sure beanies, scarves etc do not block them. This reduces fogging.
- Do not polish the inner surface. This generally has a fog reducing coating. If you use inappropriate cleaning methods the coating is damaged or removed. Follow the manufacturer's instructions.
- Do not put your goggles up onto your forehead, particularly if you are sweating. If the goggles are there you will sweat into them. Sweat is the dreaded moisture.
- If, regardless of everything else, your goggles are still fogging, higher volume goggles (bigger frames so there is more air behind the goggle lens) are less prone to fogging.
Gloves & Mitts
Your hands sweat. See waterproof/breathable under How to Choose a Parka.
A great option is gloves with a waterproof/breathable shell, and removable fleece liners. Washing (and desmelling) are much easier, and on spring days you can either ski in the liner or the shell and be comfortable.
Leather is an option, but leather requires maintenance to keep it supple and waterproof. A well made leather glove is a pleasure to wear.
Look for reinforcing on the palms and where you grip your pole or wherever boarders experience wear, like on the knuckles.
Gauntlet style gloves that extend up your forearm are a good idea because the more overlap you have the less weather penetrates. These are often sold as boarder gloves, but it is an area where boarders are undoubtedly ahead of skiers. If time is important it is harder to read your watch.
Gloves help dexterity. Mitts are warmer. What you need depends on your metabolism.
How important is your brain? Helmets are a no brainer. Different brands of helmets have different shapes. Try a few on and see which is most comfortable. Look for adjustable vents that can be opened on hot days, and closed on cold. Also think about compatibility with your goggles or be prepared to buy new goggles. Also, some helmets have ear coverings, others do not.
One Piece Suits
These will probably come back into fashion. Great for keeping wind and snow out. 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.
A lot of the factors that apply to parkas also apply to pants (OK - maybe not the stuff about hoods.)
The eqivalent of the collar and powder skirt is the cuff. Make sure that there is an elasticised inner cuff that closes around the top of the boot to stop snow getting into your boots. Some pants do this with an elasticised outer cuff, but this looks dorky.
Pants should be high waisted enough to overlap the parka to provide a weather seal with the parka (unless you are so cool that your pants have to be half way down to your knees.)
Some pants have zippered vents on the inside of the thigh for ventilation.
Braces are great for holding your pants up, but can mean getting almost totally undressed to go to the bathroom. Particularly for women, a belt is more convenient.
Washing and care is the same as for parkas.
What to look for in one
- Waterproof and breathable Particularly in Australia, a waterproof outer layer is vital as our conditions tend to be warmer, and thus wetter, than most other places. Breathability is important because as you exercise you sweat, and if the sweat cannot escape, it condenses and you get wet from the inside. Manufacturers have developed waterproof and breathable fabrics or coatings that stop the water getting in, and let the sweat out. They do this on droplet size and a water repellent coating on the exterior surface.
- A waterproof and breathable outer layer will make you a lot more comfortable. Fabrics are rated, typically with 2 numbers in the thousands. One is for waterproofness, and the other for breathability. In both cases, the higher the number the more effective the fabric (and, usually, the higher the price). As a rule of thumb the waterproofness equates to 1 hour of waterproofing per 1000, so a jacket rated as waterproofing of 5000 would keep you dry for about 5 hours. Higher breathability is best, a plastic raincoat may be super waterproof but wont breath leaving you hot and sweaty.
- Sealed Seams There is little point in having a waterproof garment if the waterproofing is pierced by thousands of tiny holes caused when needles stitch the panels of the garment together. Water will also penetrate where the join is as the waterproof membrane cannot be continuous across the join. Manufacturers overcome this by placing sealant over the seams on the inside of the garment. The sealant is either a narrow tape (about 1.5 cm wide) glued over the seam on the inside or, less often, a line of gunk that looks like silicon sealant along the seam. You will be able to see the seam sealing with a shell, but it will probably be hidden by insulation with a padded parka. Seam sealing is almost 100% effective, but it can fail. There is some logic in buying a garment with the minimum number of panels to reduce the number of seams and therefore reduce the possibility of failed seam sealing.
- Insulated or Shell? A shell is a waterproof and windproof garment without padding for insulation. Many people like them because they can control temperature by layering, without taking the insulating qualities of the garment into account. An insulated parka means one less item of clothing. Personally, I am a great fan of shells. An insulated parka can be too hot for spring skiing, where a shell may be just right. If you are getting cold you can always add a layer.
- An apparent compromise is shells with linings that can be zipped in or out. Superficially, these look like a great idea, but practically they are no different to a shell with a separate insulating layer.
- Hoods & Collars A good hood or collar gives you a place to hide in bad weather. A good hood is one that gives you protection but does not impede visibility. There are no magic fixes - try before you buy. Some parkas have hoods that are attached by zips or press studs, others have hoods that tuck into a pouch in the collar. Both systems work. The best hoods I have had are detachable because (I think) there are no compromise for volume when folded. On the other hand, it is easy to lose a detachable hood (although I have a pocket in my boot bag where all stuff like this goes). A good collar is one that is high enough to tuck your nose into. The secret is minimising exposed skin. Some collars, and most hoods, have drawstrings to tighten the apertures and stop wind and precipitation penetrating. The collar should be big enough that you can fit a neck gaiter inside it without the collar being uncomfortably tight.
- Effective Wrist Closures Another thing that stops the weather getting in. Make sure the closures at the wrist are a tight but comfortable fit on your wrist. Some people close the wrist over their gloves. If you think that this might be you make sure that there is enough room for this as well. Most wrists are elasticised with a velcro adjustment.
- Pockets You can't have too many, or pockets that are too big. Look at whether there are internal (inside the main zip) and external pockets. Make sure that there is at least a flap of cloth, if not a velcro closure, over the zip on each external pocket. Any gap is a way for water to breach the seal of the parka. Some parkas have special pockets for MP3 players, others for water bottles. If it is important to you these things are important.
- Storm Flaps These are cloth closures on the main zip. They can be in front of the zip, or one can be behind (although the flap behind is less efficient) One flap will not be enough. Two overlapping flaps are necessary to keep weather out.
- Powder Skirts An elasticised internal skirt inside the parka near the bottom. They form a seal around the top of the pants to prevent snow getting up inside the parka. If you think you will be skiing deep powder, or fall a lot at high speed these matter. Some parkas do not have an internal skirt, but have an elasticised drawstring at the waist. This performs a similar function, although a separate skirt is probably more effective as the elastic sits lower down.
- Pit Zips Zipped vents under the armpit. Useful to control ventilation, and thus temperature.
There is such a thing as a perfect parka. I have had two, one made by Far West, a Kamloops company, and my present parka by Marmot. But it has taken me 35 years of good and bad decisions to know what I really need.
You can wash parkas/pants/ski suits but just be careful. NEVER dryclean. When washing use the gentlest option your machine has and zip up all zips/tags etc before starting. Do an extra rinse cyle at the end and you can usually tumble dry on a mild setting.
As for detergents, some people reccommend lux or the most mild detergent you can find but the best thing you can use is something like Nikwax or a special sports detergent for the fabric you are using. Many technical fabrics don't like lux and must be washed in synthetic only detergents. Gortext and Entrant do react differently so try to get something for your fabric. Nikwax is perfect for Gortext and you can get it at any outdoor specialty shop.
Poles or Stocks
The sticks that people carry in their hands. Their primary function is to assist in the timing of turns by rhythmic planting, and as a means of maintaining good body position. Poles have numerous secondary functions, such as whacking errant children, impromptu sword fights, pushing along flat bits, aids to the prevention of other people gaining unreasonable advantage in lift lines, forming crucifixes for the discouragement of vampires, handles for towing small children and stranded snowboarders and any number of other functions.
Poles come in various lengths. To work out the right length for you, put the handle on the ground with the tip pointing up. Grip the pole below the basket (between the basket and the handle) with the top of your hand touching the basket. The correct length for you is the pole where your forearm is parallel with the ground (or your upper arm and forearm form a right angle - same thing).
The long thin things on your feet that make sliding possible
Skis come in a bewildering variety of length, width, separate widths of tip, waist and tail, longitudinal stiffness, torsional stiffness and, of course, colour. There are a variety of gizmos aded to skis including flashing lights, torsion bars, magic shapes and whatever else the marketing department comes up with. The only good news is that colour does not affect performance, nor, I suspect, do many of the gizmos.
As a general proposition soft (more flexible) and shorter skis deliver easier turns and faster progression for beginners. As your ability increases stiffer and longer skis deliver better performance and control. There are exceptions to this rule, such as park skis and specialised powder skis.
The ideal way to buy skis is to demo them before you buy. Many ski shops located in resorts have a stock of skis of various brands that they will let you try before you buy. This allows a direct comparison. You will generally pay a hiring fee, but if you end up buying this fee is almost always deducted from your purchase price.
When you are demoing do not go overboard with the number of skis you try. Talk to the ski shop about what you want and listen to their recommendations. It is hard to remember the characteristics of more than 3 or 4 skis each day. Try to ski each ski on the same runs so your comparison is as accurate as possible, although you should remember that snow conditions will change over the day and that as you get more tired your technique may deteriorate which will affect your perception of the ski. Once you have narrowed your choice to a couple try those two again, unless one ski is an absolute standout.
You may hear references to "shaped" (or carve, or parabolic) and "straight" skis. This refers back to a revolution in ski design that happened in the mid 1990s. The change was an increase in sidecut (the difference between the tip and tail measurements, and the waist measurement). At the same time skis became shorter. The additional sidecut made skis easier to turn, and made carving easier. Straight skis are the old style skis. Compared to the newer ones they look straight although they all have some sidecut. There was resistance to the change from old farts, but that argument was lost long ago. No manufacturer makes straight skis any more.
Powder skis are fat. Big wide, soft, flexible boards. They tend to have not much side cut, but rely on the flex of the ski, and angulation, to turn within the snow. Turns on powder skis tend to be wider radius. Generally only worth getting if you ski NZ club fields or powder-rich northern hemisphere ski areas.
The clunky plastic things on your feet. They are clunky to ensure that the force and position of your leg is transferred precisely to your skis so you can turn when and where you want.
Depending on how well they fit, boots (regardless of brands) can either be torture devices or so bloody comfortable that you forget you are wearing them. To ensure comfort, you should spend a bit of time with a good bootfitter who will look at your feet and put you into boots that suit your foot shape and ability level. Different brands of boot, and models within brands, are made on different lasts and suit different foot shapes. The only thing that matters is the fit. Whether or not your mate likes a particular brand is irrelevant, because you will have a different foot shape. Be honest with your bootfitter. The bootfitter could not give a rats about how good a skier you are, and just wants to do a professional job and put you into the right boots for you. They also have a financial interest in not having you come back under their fit guarantee. Adjusting boots is an expense.
Most reputable ski shops will offer a fit guarantee which allows you to return to the shop an unlimited number of times for adjustment until the boot is comfortable. Comfort in the shop does not necessarily mean comfort on the hill. This is because the shop is nice and warm thus causing your foot to expand a bit. While on the actual ski slopes, it's wet and cold thus making your feet shrink in size. Trust your bootfitter here, but if they are uncomfortable when you ski take them back to get them fixed.
There is a strong arguement to buy on snow rather than a shop off snow. The key to this is still to find a good boot fitter and that you are there for at least a week. This way you can get the boot fitted and adjusted to your foot then go out and ski in it and take it back a day or two later and get more adjustments made to it if necessary. Any shop that doesn't offer this free should be avoided. Boots like all shoes tend to pack down and wear in a bit so how they feel on day 0 (in the shop) and after day 3 can be different and if you are on snow you can get this sorted then and there rather than skiing in pain for a week and then going back into a shop later and maybe not going back out in your boots again for weeks (or months!). A weekend isn't really long enough to achieve this.
One thing that is almost always worth having is customised footbeds - individually shaped foot supports for under your feet. These improve both comfort and the boot performance and cannot be recommended highly enough.
One, apparently counter-intuitive, tip is that if your shins hurt try tightening your top two buckles. Often sore shins are caused by boots rubbing against the shin. If the buckles are tight, there is less rubbing. Another tip is to make sure your bottom 2 buckles over the arch of your foot and toe are so loose they almost come off. These are only there to ensure the boot holds its basic shape and are easier (possible) to get on. If you tighten them you will restrict blood flow to your toes and this results in cold feet and possibly cramps.
Skins are tight fighting compression sports wear that are designed to drive lactic acid out of your muscles and hence reduce fatigue and decrease recovery time. You wear them while you are skiing and that evening to stop 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 sportspeople training with them on.
Skins have NO thermal properties so should not be used as a replacement to thermals in cold climates.
("Skins" is also a term for the nylon bristles which stick to the underside of AT skis to climb steep hills.)
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 guide to how to tune can be found at Tuning Skis and Board
Little doodaddy things that make life a little bit better
- Goggle Squeegees Some gloves have a rubber blade, like a window cleaner but smaller, for wiping precipitation from goggles. You can also get similar things that hang off a garment. Not strictly necessary - of course not. But who hasn't tried to clean stuff off the front of goggles with your glove?
- Boot base protector things One brand is Cattracks. They are rubber treads that fit over the bottoms of your boots when walking around. It is important for your safety that the boot/binding interface works properly. Worn boots can affect this. If you expect to do a lot of walking off snow (as can happen in Thredbo) these may be a good idea.
- The Ski Coach Magic, apparently.
- Silk Balaclava Takes up almost no space in a pocket or backpack and weighs nothing, but when things get cold and windy they provide an effective insulating layer on your head. They fit under helmets and beanies without problems.
- Neck Gaiters Tubes of fleece fabric that you pull over your head and which sit around your neck. They help weather sealing around the neck. You lose a significant amount of heat through your neck as the arteries are near the surface. A neck gaiter reduces this heat loss. Finally, you can pull them up over your face to protect your face from the weather. The best gaiters are pink. They just are. Trust me on this.
- Neoprene Face Mask Another thing for face protection in extreme conditions.
- Sunscreen & lip balm in one package Doh, but it is unique to Australia.
- Split ring for lift ticket Completely useless, and resorts do not permit their use. However, if you need to shift a ticket from one parka to another during the day if you feel it necessary to change for fashion reasons, a split ring might (theoretically) make it easier. On the other hand, if a lifty picks it up, you will have a trip to the ticket office to do it properly this time.
- Windscreen Scrapers Credit cards, Medicare Cards and drivers' licences are great for scraping frost and snow off car windows in the morning, but service stations and ski hires in the snowfields areas sell coloured windscreen scraper jobbies for a few bucks that have a variety of scrapers (plastic, rubber, teeth) that are something bigger to grip that do a great job.
- Locks Sometimes people "inadvertently" pick up gear that is not their own. There are a variety of types of lock to encourage the inadvertence toward some one else's gear.
Pages in category "Equipment"
The following 33 pages are in this category, out of 33 total.