Ski Equipment Buyer's Guide

Red pair of ski standing in snow. Mountains in background.
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If you're planning a trip to the slopes, you'll need to make sure you've got the right ski equipment. This means skis, boots, and the right clothing and gear. If you've never skied before or only go skiing once a year, investing in a lot of pricey equipment doesn't make financial sense. You can rent ski gear and clothing at most major ski resorts for a fraction of the cost of buying. But if you ski regularly, investing in your own gear is a sound move. Here's what you'll need:


Skis: Choosing the right kind depends on the type of skiing you do. There are skis for generalists, backcountry, and trick skiing. For advanced skiers, you'll also find models designed for cutting through fresh power or carving into icy slopes.

Boots: Much like skis, picking the best boot depends on your skill level. Beginners will want a boot with plenty of flex to make learning easy, while pros will need a stiff, custom-fit boot for skiing a range of challenging conditions.

Poles: You don't need poles to learn to ski, but most adults like to start with them. Kids generally shouldn't use poles until they're ready for proper turning (not snow plowing). As you advance, you'll learn how to use your poles to execute precise turns on steep runs.

Helmet: A well-fitting helmet is a safety must, period. Look for vents to keep your head cool when you work up a sweat, as well as a liner to stay warm when the temperature drops. You can also find helmets with mounts for action cameras and Bluetooth headphones.

Goggles: Not all skiers like to wear goggles, but it's a wise idea to protect your eyes from blowing snow, wind, and the sun's harsh UV rays. If you can't see clearly, you're putting yourself and your fellow skiers in danger.


Base layer: Invest in long underwear designed for winter sports that breathe and wicks away perspiration. Your base layer should be form-fitting and contoured so it fits smoothly under your ski clothes.

Mid layer: It's important to dress in layers so you can be comfortable with a range of weather conditions. Look for light- to medium-weight long-sleeve shirts and jackets made of synthetic fibers, Merino wool, and fleece. These layers should fit snugly but provide complete coverage. Another option is a ski vest, which keeps your core warm without bulkiness.

Outer layer: Your ski jacket is key in keeping you warm, comfortable, and dry. Above all, it blocks the wind and keeps out snow. Invest in a well-fitting ski jacket that is waterproof or at least water-resistant and breathable. Make sure your it allows for mobility and falls below the waist to keep cold air and snow out.

Ski pants: As important as your jacket, pants should be waterproof, insulated, and long enough to be pulled down over your ski boots. Ski pants should also have a contoured, comfortable fit; you want your pants loose enough to allow your hips and knees to bend, but you shouldn't have to be pulling your pants up after every run.

Socks: A good pair of ski socks ensures an optimal fit for your ski boots, plus added compression support. They should have adequate wicking and be fast-drying.

Gloves: Don't skimp on cheap gloves. They need to be waterproof, durable, warm, and washable because your hands sweat, too. Ski gloves offer the most dexterity, while ski mittens are the warmest choice. If you do prefer gloves, wearing glove liners can add an extra layer of warmth.

Gaiter: Sometimes called a neck warmer, these keep your face and neck protected from the wind. They're also a better option than a scarf, which can be hazardous if it becomes tangled on the ski lift or unravels on the slopes.