So you’re tired of standing in those rental lines? You’re ready to take the next step and purchase your own gear. As daunting as it can be we are here to help. We are going to break down everything you need equipment-wise as a beginner skier. Listing the necessities to the optional extras one might want.
Starting with the simpler parts of what you will need when getting on the mountain is base layers and outerwear. We are going to be on top of a mountain remember, so getting gear that is made for the conditions is important.
This is more important then a lot of people newer to skiing realize. Choosing the base layer the best suits you will depend on multiple things:
- The temperature and conditions of the mountain you plan to ski on
- How well your body regulates heat and breathability of material
- What type of material best suits you
- Getting the right fit
Keeping in mind that every mountain get’s crazy weather from time to time. Understanding what a typical day on your routine mountain looks like, will help you get a idea of what base layer suits you best. If you plan on traveling to a variety of mountains choosing something a little warmer may be best.
Probably the most important thing to be aware of. When you get moving on the mountain your going to sweat which is great for helping you stay warm. That is until you sit back down on that ice cold chairlift. Once you get moving again you are going to get cold there’s no way around it unless you are wearing something that can breath and help wick sweat. Cotton kills is a common term with seasoned skiers and it’s for a reason.
Base Layers generally fall into 3 types of categories Lightweight, Midweight And Heavyweight. All 3 have different advantages and uses but for resort skiing Midweight and Heavyweight are the only two really used
Midweight is definitely the most common and versatile of the bunch. A variety of Synthetic materials get used to make up different base layers in this category. Polyester is definitely the most used synthetic for midweight base layers. With great moisture wicking abilities and know to be more comfortable to some people over Merino.
Synthetics will also be light in weight, durable, dry quickly, and affordable. Nylon and polypropylene are two other synthetic materials you will find in base layers both share similar qualities. Disadvantages compared to merino are only really warmth and not being as odor resistant.
If you love skiing so far but don’t love how cold you get this is the base layer for you. Merino is a amazing material unlike the old itchy merino wool stuff back in the day. Now known for comfortability, breathability, odor resistant, and being warm for it’s weight.
With all those great features comes a cost of course merino is the most expensive type of base layer. Durability is also a factor as merino base layers won’t last as long as synthetic. On top of that most require you to hang dry them which is difficult when on longer trips.
Making sure you find the right size is a crucial part of the process. From a comfort and performance perspective nailing the fit of your base layer will optimize, moisture-wicking and warmth. They Designed base layers to have a close to your body fit for a reason.
Lastly comes socks nobody likes cold feet especially not when skiing. Socks often aren’t important to some people – wearing two pairs won’t cut it. Much like top and bottom base layers merino is the popular choice. Comfortable, warm, and breathable is what you want .
Make sure you find a ski specific pair with the right padding. Not doing so can be the difference between a good and bad day on the mountain. Finally, make sure they aren’t to thick plenty of brands make thin merino socks that are less likely to make your boots uncomfortable.
Another important piece to the puzzle is outerwear not having a proper jacket and pants can make your day on the mountain miserable. Much like base layers, outerwear should help keep you warm and comfortable on the mountain. Since this is your outer layer though the main job of both your jacket and pants is to keep you dry. Doing so will allow your base layer to work properly and keep you warm throughout the day.
The main features you should be looking for in a jacket are:
- High waterproof rating
- Windproof ( The majority of jackets are but it’s something to be aware of)
- Insulation (Some jackets/pants are just shells)
- Breathability (Just like base layers you need breathability)
These day’s more jackets are waterproof then not. The most common tag you will see on most jackets is GORE-TEX. Seeing this tag means you can trust that this jacket is waterproof and will stay waterproof if taken care of properly. However over the last few years new waterproofing companies have become more well know.
Sympatex is one example so be sure to check tags when looking to see a jackets waterproof rating. I recommend getting at least a 15k waterproofing jacket anything less usually won’t cut it.
Insulated or shell
Depending on where you live plays a large role into if you need a insulated or shell jacket and pants. For example if you live in the Pacific Northwest the moisture content of the snow tends to be higher and so do the temperatures.
For that reason more people tend to go with a shell that has a higher waterproof rating and little insulation. If you decide on this combo make sure you have a good upper and lower base layer and maybe even a mid layer for those random cold snaps.
On the flip side, if you plan to ski in the mid west or East Coast where the snow is usually drier due to colder temperatures. The drier snow means you can have a bit less waterproofing and more insulation keeping you warmer on those chilly chairlift rides. Be aware if you already have a warm base and mid layer you may not need a lot of insulation. Being to warm isn’t fun either.
Much like base layers you want your jacket to breath. Doing so will allow the heat your body is creating to escape so you don’t get sweaty and cold once you stop moving. Make sure to check for armpit venting as well. This will help on those warmer spring days. Opening these vents allows airflow to come through making breathability even better.
Smaller Features to Consider
- Pockets: Where they are located and how many
- Jacket/pant integration (Some brands have zippers or snaps allowing you to connect them together creating a onesie that keeps the snow out)
- Powder Skirt another way of keeping the snow out
- Hood adjustable for helmets: You want to make sure you can put your hood over your helmet when you need to. Many have a hood visor now as well to keep snow from sitting on top of your goggle frame so they wont fog.
Choosing a pair of ski pants is essentially the same as choosing your ski jacket:
More often then not people will buy the same brand of pants as they do jacket. With so many offering unique integration features it only makes sense. Regardless I recommend following the same steps as finding the right jacket.
Identify your climate, make sure it has a high waterproof rating and then figure out how much insulation you think you’re going to need. Keep an eye on venting again. Look for vents along the inner thigh area for warmer temperatures. Finally, make sure they fit over your ski boot its rare these days but it does happen.
Nobody likes cold, wet, numb fingers. It’s the worst feeling. Finding a good pair of gloves or mitts shouldn’t be to difficult but keep in mind the only difference between the two is finger separation. Other then that it’s personal preference.
Just like jackets and pants a good glove will have these features:
As we have already broken it down with jackets and pants, waterproofing and breathability is key. Many gloves are GORE-TEX or leather and will keep your hands dry and warm. Make sure your gloves are going to breath hands gets warm and sweaty easily. Look for gloves that have synthetic insulation. This material will stay effective even if a bit damp and it will dry out quickly.
Regardless of whether you choose a glove or mitt, the fit needs to be right. Make sure you have a bit of room from the end of your finger tip to the end of the glove or mitt. This will ensure your finger tips don’t go cold and numb. Finally decide if you want a first layer glove. Some gloves will come with these while most mitts do not. If you find your hands get cold easily or you need to take your gloves off frequently to use your phone etc.. these may come in handy.
Other Gear to Consider
Some other clothing you may want on the mountain may include:
- Facemasks (Great for colder or windy days)
- A buff or neck gaiter (Usually incorporated on facemasks)
- Beanie (We recommend helmet use but if you choose not to your going to want something to keep your head warm)
Now that we have covered softgoods it’s time to look into the hardgoods portion of skiing. As you may have already learned, 3 pieces (or 4 if you include poles) of gear allow you to go skiing which are:
We will just be covering the basics here. If you wish to learn more about a specific ski brand you can check out one of our overviews like this. Keep in mind we have individual ski reviews as well like this one
Also check out our Ski Buying Guide
While choosing a ski depends on a number of variables let’s narrow it down to some of the bigger ones:
- Ability Level (Be honest with yourself here you know what your capable of on the mountain get a ski that fits accordingly)
- Physical Specs (It’s important to know your height weight when choosing a ski)
- What type of terrain you want ski (Everyone wants to ski certain terrain identify what that is park, groomers, powder, backcountry etc..)
If you’re a beginner, check out our:
A lot of technology surrounds ski bindings that we won’t get into. You can once again browse through our website to learn more about them. Ski bindings are a critical piece to the puzzle they connect your boots to your skis thus allowing you to ski. Some factors to consider however are:
- Ability Level (Once again getting a ski binding that fits your ability level is very important)
- Boot sole length (Without it your bindings can’t be adjusted accordingly)
- Physical Specs (Just like skis you will need to know your height, weight, and age)
- Compatibility (While most bindings and skis are compatible its a good idea to make sure)
What I consider the most important piece of gear. The difference between a great day on the mountain or a miserable one. Ski boots can be comfortable if you take the necessary steps to ensure you get the right fit.
- Ability level (I know this is getting old but it’s the most important thing to consider throughout this process)
- Physical Specs (To ensure you get a proper fit you should know many thing’s some being weight, foot width, and arch)
- Skiing style (Decide what type of skiing you will be doing most this will give you a better idea of which type of boots best suits you)
While not everyone rides with them its not a bad idea to when your first starting out. Riding with poles has more advantages then disadvantages when learning to ski which include:
- Turning (Sharp or normal turns ski poles can help)
- Pushing up hills or through flat spots
- Getting up in deep snow or just in general
- Allow you to get out of bindings easier/faster
Often considered not important, goggles much like boots can be the difference between a good and bad day. If visibility on the mountain is already low you want a good pair of goggles with the proper lens to help you out.
Lens choice is the most important factor but having proper venting and helmet compatibility also go a long way. On top of all this they protect your eyes from many elements such as the sun, tree branches and terrain.
Safety is important. We are after all travelling down a mountain pretty quickly. Having a proper ski helmet has many benefits. It will keep your head/ears warm, keep your head dry, and most importantly protect your brain!. When picking a helmet make sure it’s a snug fit that is compatible with your goggles/hood of your jacket.
Other Safety Items
Here are a few other safety item’s to consider:
- Wrist guards
- Impact shorts
- Knee/elbow pads
As you have probably learned buying ski gear/equipment is no small task. Take your time. You don’t necessarily have to buy everything in one go. However, buying quality gear is important. In the long run it will save you money. Having to rent/buy the same gear over again gets expensive.
I hope this list has helped making the step from renting to buying somewhat easier. It’s a learning experience but in the end you will rejoice in your new gear!