Determine Your Level
An accurate assessment of your ski level is crucial to selecting the right equipment. Take a lesson with a certified ski instructor who can assess your level of proficiency. Beginner skiers usually ski on green or easy terrain, and use a "wedge" position. Intermediates ski on blue or intermediate terrain. They are beginning to ski parallel, and carve their turns. Advanced skiers are proficient parallel carvers, and can ski black or advanced terrain, as well as moguls. Since your skill level will rapidly improve if you are taking lessons while a beginner, either rent equipment during the learning phase, or purchase skis or boots that are rated slightly above your current level.
Boots Before Skis
While skis are the "sexier" purchase, your boots are the most important piece of equipment you can buy. They provide direct communication between your feet and your skis. They should be purchased before buying your skis. Your boots will be your most challenging purchase. If they feel too comfortable, they are probably too big. The boots should feel snug. You should not be able to slide your heel back and forth. If your toes are cramped, the boot is probably too tight. Be sure to wear ski socks when trying on boots.
Choose the Right Flex
Flexible skis and boots are designed for beginners. As you become proficient, stiffer boots and skis provide greater support on steeper terrain.
The Right Equipment for the Right Terrain
If you are skiing predominantly on groomed terrain, you will want a ski with a deeper sidecut. Sidecut refers to the shape and dimensions of a ski. Skis that are designed for carving will be curvaceous, with waistlines measuring between 65 to 75 millimeters. In contrast, powder skis, often called "phat skis," will have waistlines as thick as 95 millimeters or higher. However, these skis do not work well in groomed terrain. If you ski a combination of groomed and powder conditions, consider a midfat, with waists ranging between 80 and 90 millimeters.
Ski Length Calculation
Ski length is determined by height, weight, level of proficiency and preferred terrain. In general, beginners choose chin-length skis, intermediate skis reach the nose and expert skis reach the top of the head. Use a ski length calculator for best results.
Wear your ski gloves when selecting poles. Turn the pole upside down and hold it directly under the basket. When your elbow is bent and pressed against your waist, your forearm should be parallel to the floor. Composite poles are more expensive than aluminum poles, and are less likely to break during a fall.
Women's skis tend to be more flexible. In many cases, the bindings are mounted forward to compensate for a woman's lower center of gravity.