How to buy your first pair of skis

Thinking of buying your first pair of skis? Have you been renting for a while, grown tired of the clunky, sometimes painful rental equipment, and are ready to commit? Let the Ski Bums help!



Contents


Buying your first pair of skis can be an intimidating task. In the world of the interweb, you might do a quick search for the best skis and be left with more questions than answers. This guide is aimed at the beginner to intermediate skier who wants to be informed before making their first ski purchase.

There are many factors to consider when buying your first skis. Let's start with the basics…


How often do you Ski?

This is the first question most people ask themselves before making a ski purchase. When does it financially and logically make sense to stop renting and make the financial commitment to buy skis?


Here’s a rough estimate: new skis, boots, poles, and a helmet will pay for themselves after your 10th to 25th day of skiing.


This depends on the cost of renting (which can range upwards of $100 a day for better equipment) vs. how much you're planning to pay for a new pair of skis. So, generally speaking, if you're planning on skiing at least a few weekends per year, buying is most likely your best option.



Advantages of purchasing skis as opposed to renting...


Better Skis, Boots and equipment

Oftentimes, rental gear can be… let's just say, well-seasoned. It’s often cheaply made to be used and abused by hundreds (if not thousands) of people, then tossed after a few seasons. Purchasing skis, on the other hand, means you get NEW skis! New skis offer lighter and better performance for beginner to intermediate skiers.


Consistent feel on the slopes

To become a better skier, you need to feel comfortable on your skis. This comes with repetition and practice. If you are renting regularly, you are constantly having to adjust to different skis and are not able to focus on consistent mechanics.


Comfort

Anyone who has spent a full day in painful rental boots will understand the importance of comfort. When you purchase ski boots, the inner liner and outer shell mold to shape your foot. This makes the boots feel like an extension of yourself. Being comfortable isn't just a luxury – it will help you ski better and longer and will ensure you get the most out of your days on the slopes.


Grab and go!

When the mountains are calling, you can just grab your skis and go! No more added costs, rental lines, and wasted time.







Where do you Ski?

Knowing where you ski will help narrow down which ski type is best for you. Geographically, snow conditions vary depending on climate, snowmaking abilities, and other factors. The terrain that interests you will also play a factor. Do you see yourself skiing like a downhill racer one day? Nailing back flips in the park? Dropping off cliffs into waist-deep pow? Or just cruising those Greens like a highway superstar?

Let's break this down…


Geographic Factors

Geographic differences mainly come down to East vs. West Coast skiing (the Rockies being the divide). You should also consider how far north you will be skiing.


East Coast

When skiing on the east coast, you can expect mainly groomed and sometimes icy conditions. The occasional powder day does still exist but normally will only consist of a few inches overnight. There are a few, infrequent large storms that can drop a few feet of snow. Also worth noting, what is considered powder on the east coast tends to be a little heavier and more densely packed than what would pass for powder on the west coast.


What does this mean for East Coast skiers?


When choosing your first pair of skis on the east coast, you might want to consider an all-mountain, freeride, or carving ski with a relatively narrow waist – something 90mm or less that can handle hard-packed to icy conditions.


West Coast

West coast ski conditions are often deeper, softer, and lighter, leaving you less reliant on the hard charging skis you would need to take on the icy conditions of the east coast. Powder days should be taken into consideration when purchasing your first pair of skis for the west coast unless you plan to stay on machine-groomed trails.


What does this mean for West Coast skiers?


West coast skiers may want to look for a lighter, more playful all-mountain, freeride, or carving ski. If you're planning on taking advantage of those powder days (and why not?!), consider a slightly wider waist between 90mm to 100mm.



Terrain Factors

Which terrain best suits your riding style? Or, where do you eventually want to ski? There has been some debate around buying a particular type of ski when starting out, but today’s selection makes it easy to find beginner to intermediate skis in most of the main categories.






What's your ability level?


There are a few factors to consider when choosing the right skis for your ability level. Not only do your skills and experience play a role, but your physical abilities are important to consider as well. How can you determine your skiing ability? For the purposes of this guide, we’ll be breaking down beginner and intermediate skill levels.


Skill Level


Beginner

Beginner skiers range from never having skied before to having skied a few times in their life. Beginner skiers are either still learning on the bunny hill or are cruising Greens with control.


Beginner skiers should look for a shorter, narrower ski depending on their height and weight.


Intermediate

Intermediate skiers have gone skiing more than a few times. They can control their speed, make shorter turns, and comfortably avoid obstacles. Intermediate skiers can navigate Blue trails without falling.

Intermediate skiers should look for mid- to lower-length and width range depending on their height and weight.








Physical Considerations


Height

Height is one of the most important factors when choosing skis. For example, beginner skiers should look for skis ranging from shoulder to chin level. Intimidate skiers, on the other hand, should look for skis that reach the lower part of their face.


Weight

Skis: Weight can be a sensitive subject. It's not commonly discussed when purchasing skis, but it’s worth mentioning as it pertains to your build. If you are stocky for your height and could stand to lose a few pounds, you may want to consider a shorter ski. On the other hand, if you have an athletic to muscular build, a longer ski may be a better choice. The key takeaway is that you should buy skis that are a comfortable length and that you can control.


Boots: Weight is an especially important factor to consider when purchasing boots. Because boots have a flex rating or stiffness rating, your weight will determine how they perform. If you choose a boot with a flex rating that is too low for your weight, your boots will not perform and will instead soften or “flex out” in a short period of time.


For more information, check out these helpful sizing charts:






Buying Around Your Budget

Now that you have an idea of which skis you should look for, how much do you want to spend? Most of us have budget restrictions and don’t have unlimited funds to spend on skis. That being said, there are a few things to consider before pulling the trigger.

If you plan on getting a lot of use out of your new ski setup, you might want to consider spending a little more. More skiing equals more wear and tear, and you need your gear, especially your boots, to last you at least a few seasons. On the other hand, if you're planning on just using your skis for a few day trips here and there, a less expensive ski package will probably do just fine. You can always upgrade when you are ready.

If you’re ready to buy but are on a tight budget, here are some money saving tips that will help:



Money Saving Tips


Make Boots a Priority

Ski boots are arguably the most important part of your ski setup. Like we previously mentioned, anyone who has ever spent a day in uncomfortable boots will probably never make that mistake again. Purchasing a pair of well-fitting boots will not only provide comfort but will allow you to ski longer with more energy behind each turn. If you’re questioning whether you should buy skis or boots first, make the boots your priority.


When you buy boots first, you’re able to demo skis before you buy them. This leads us to our next money saving tip…



Make demo days your friend

Demo days allow you to try out multiple skis in a single day. Just bring your boots, and you’re ready to go. The advantage of trying different skis in the same day is that it allows you to test different brands and styles on the same snow. This helps you make an even comparison because it provides a frame of reference.

Almost all mountains host demo days. Check your favorite mountain’s calendar, or call and ask when their upcoming demo days are.


Buying Used

If you’re trying to save some cash, buying used gear could be a good option. Many online retailers even offer used skis for sale, so finding used options isn't difficult. Purchasing from a reputable retailer comes with the reassurance that your skis are in good condition. Sure, there may be some scratches and flaws on the top sheet, but this is a great option for someone looking to get quality skis for a fraction of the price.


Where to buy used ski gear?




Buying Last Season

Want to save a few bucks, but still want new skis? Buy last-season or closeout late-season skis. This can be tricky, especially since retailers want to sell out of their inventory. Finding the right ski type and size can be difficult, but with enough of research and a little patience, you might get lucky.




Buying to Resell

Buying to resell is another money-saving option. Just keep in mind that you will likely have to sell your used gear at a steep discount. When buying to resell, try to buy skis with an integrated binding system. Integrated bindings are set on rails and can adjust to multiple boot sizes, so your skis will have more potential suitors when you’re ready to resell.