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You've decided to ski this year, but you've never done it before and you have no idea what you're going to need. (read more)
The first time we went skiing as a family, we were invited by some close friends to join them at Mt. Snow in Vermont. Thankfully, my friend and I are very similar in size, and she has a son who is the same age as my oldest. She also had friends with smaller kids she was able to borrow things from to clothe my youngest son.
So basically, we went skiing and didn't have to buy anything except for some appropriate pants for my super tall husband.
We didn't ski for a couple of years afterward, but when we did decided to get back at it, we went alone and didn't have anyone supplying the gear.
It was a bit daunting!
Now that I'm three years in to yearly skiing trips with the family, I can share exactly what you ought to buy to maximize your comfort and minimize your expense.
When I first started skiing, I spent some $$$ on super whamadyne (that's not a brand, just a word I like to use) base layers. I really thought they'd somehow be better if they cost more.
Maybe it's just that we're recreational skiiers, but for us, a base layer is a base layer.
I have some long sleeved shirts I love, and I will generally wear those if it's above 30 degrees. If it's in the 20's, or even in the teens (which is what we're driving in to right now), I'll wear an actual base layer, but it's not one that cost a ton of money.
The picture below is not me, but those are my base layers, when I wear them. Mostly though, you'll find me in a long sleeve any brand shirt, and a pair of yoga pants that double as my "around the house" pants.
Whatever base layers you choose, just be sure they are form fitting. If they bunch at the leg (where your ski boot covers your leg) they can rub as you ski and quickly turn into painful hot spots.
If I wear yoga pants, I wear the kind that are boot cut and I pull them over my boot, leaving my socks to keep my lower leg warm.
This is going to be an important purchase, and it's one I would recommend spending money on if you need to. While your ski boots are going to be quite warm and you won't worry about the cold while you're skiing, things can get downright chilly when you're on a lift, especially if it's a lift to the top of the mountain.
Still, at $16.00 - ish for a pack of three, it's not a huge expense, and your toes will thank you.
I am a big fan of Buttons And Pleats:
In all honesty, I don't wear anything more than my base layer and ski clothes, but if you feel the need to dress in layers, you might want to put something on top of that base layer and below your ski clothes.
I'd suggest something flexible, like yoga pants, but would caution you against blue jeans. If thick cotton gets wet, it will get stiff and crunchy, and will feel cold for ages. Hopefully it never gets wet, which should be the case if you've got a good ski layer, but still, steer away from blue jeans under ski clothes.
These are what I like to wear. They go nicely over my boots, and the elastic cuffs on my ski pants keep them from getting wet.
Oh how I wish I'd purchased a good pair of gloves to start! I learned my lesson the hard way, so hopefully you won't repeat my mistake.
The first year we went skiing, I bought gloves that looked cute. I hadn't been on the mountain a day before they ripped and every bit of snow I touched became water than pruned my hands and kept me cold. That was just my pair. Out of the two pairs I bought for the kids, one was not at all waterproof, and the other came out of storage in tatters, literally falling apart.
The next year, I bought a good pair of gloves, and I still have them, same goes for my boys. My husband is the only one who spent money on a pair of Outdoor Research gloves initially, and he still uses them. They were expensive, but they are still going strong.
Whatever you get, do your research, make sure they have good reviews (and lots of them).
Here is a brand we really like, even my husband has a pair that he swaps out with his OR gloves.
This was something I wasn't initially convinced I needed to buy. We were already renting skis and boots, an I knew our favored mountain also rented helmets, so why not just rent one?
Well, two things.
1. The cost - A helmet will cost you $30 (for kids) on Amazon, and around $50 for adults. The mountain where we ski does rent them, but they're $10 a day, flat fee. If we ski for five days (which we do), we're paying more to rent than to purchase outright.
For adults, this is really an easy choice. Your head isn't growing anymore. You can use the helmet over and over for years. Renting it doesn't make any sense.
For kids, even though their heads do grow, the helmets are adjustable to a point and you can get a few years out of one. My oldest has been using his helmet for three years, and I don't think he'll be outgrowing it any time soon. Once he does, we can pass it down to his brother.
2. The Ick Factor - If this doesn't bother you, no big deal. For me, knowing that a bunch of other people have had their head in my helmet bothers me. It's like bowling shoes. I don't love it.
Also, if it's your helmet, you know how to adjust it, how it should fit, and you can spot it if there's a problem. You can also get a cool color your kids will like, and go fancy with ear flaps, etc.
Buy a helmet, you won't regret it.
Thankfully, unless you have a very small skier, goggles with last a very long time.
Not only do they keep things out of your eyes (like piles of snow when you face plant on a hill), but they cut the wind and the sunshine, making it much easier for you to see while keeping your face warmer than without.
I used to hate skiing with goggles, but now I have a hard time skiing without them. Just the safety factor should be a tipping point though. If you fall (as I said) or if it's windy and you get snow shards whipping up into your face, goggles are going to make things much more bearable.
We all ski with Bolle, but I have been wanting to try the frameless type. I'll list both here and you can decide.
The first time my good friend pulled one of these down over my oldest's head, I had no idea what it was.
Now, it's a necessity.
We all carry one in our ski jacket, even if we think we won't need it, because all too often, you wish you had it. It keeps the wind off your face and lips, gives an added bit of protection from whipping snow, and keeps the sunburn at bay.
Don't leave home without it.
This is probably the area that will cost you the most money. A good ski jacket and ski pants aren't inexpensive, but, as long as you maintain your weight, you will be able to use them over and over again.
As for your kids, you can always pass them down to younger siblings as they grow.
Now, you can absolutely rent ski clothes. Starting at around $35 a day, you can get pants, a jacket, gloves, and goggles. So, if you ski for five days, you're spending $175.
You'll spend that on a good ski jacket and pants, but you'll only spend it once. If you rent, you've got to spend that every year.
If you do want to rent, I'd recommend doing it only for one year. After that, go ahead and decide if skiing is something you're going to want to do consistently, and if so, get your own stuff.
You can check out an online rental shop here - SlopeThreads
If you want to get your own jacket, you really can't go wrong with Columbia gear. Wantdo is another, less expensive, but still highly rated alternative.
I have an APTRO, which I really like. I love that they offer lots of different colors and patterns. It makes me feel like I'll be easier to find should Ski Patrol ever need to seek me out.
A good pair of ski pants will keep you cozy, give you room to move, and make sure your under layers don't get wet. They also provide pockets convenient for storing your phone, keys, gaiter, etc.
They will cost you, but again, as long as you maintain a stable weight, you can reuse them indefinitely. I'm a huge fan of Columbia ski pants and have them for myself and my kids.
Make sure you get a pair that leaves you room to move, and aren't so tight that you can't add a thin base layer, should you need one.
These are my pants. I love their bright coloring, again, making sure I can be seen on the slopes.
There are things you may want to add to the list, like shoes good for the snow, a balaclava if it gets super cold where you're skiing, a harness if you're teaching your littles to ski, etc.
But, if you've got these basics, you can have a great week on the slopes. Just store them in a big container and call it a day, until next season rolls around.
Happy Skiing! Be Safe!