Hat, jacket, goggles, ski boots – if you are learning how to ski, acquiring all the essentials can seem intimidating and expensive. Although skiing is one of the more costly sports, you can find the skiing essentials for beginners for cheaper than you think.
The 13 skiing essentials for beginners are:
- Ski pants
- Ski jacket
- Base layer
- Mid layer
- Ski socks
- Neck gaiter
- Ski helmet
- Ski boots
An old skier saying goes, there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad equipment. You will need to invest some money to get the right equipment for you, but it doesn’t have to be extortionate. Before we discuss each of these items in more detail, let’s consider what you need in a general sense.
What Are The Essentials For Skiing?
Before we go through examples of each essential, and look at the specific items you need, it’s worth outlining some terms. There are a few ways to categorize skiing gear. We’ll start with your outerwear.
Your outerwear will be your first defense against the elements and the clothing items that you will use for years to come if you decide to pursue the sport. Because of this, you want to invest some money into your jacket and snow pants. However, there are some excellent options to keep your outerwear under $400, but the cheaper you go, the lower the quality tends to be.
No, I am not talking about boxers or briefs here! In skiing, your underwear includes the layers that trap pockets of warm air close to your skin. These layers are important, but they are also where you can get away with saving a little money as a beginner. Using yoga pants as your base layer is an excellent water-wicking option you might already own!
Once you are dressed for deep powder, it’s time to make sure you have the essential gear. If you are going on a ski vacation and only plan to use your gear once, I would recommend renting your gear at the resort. But if you are moving to a ski mountain or plan to ski multiple times this year, you may need to do a bit more planning.
Your skiing gear in this sense includes things like your skis and ski poles. While you will probably find that beginner options are cheaper than the more advanced stuff, it’s important to pay attention to a few key factors when choosing boots, skis and poles. One of these factors is flex.
The softer the boot or lower the flex number, the more kinetic energy you lose in each turn.When making a turn, the ski pushes back against the ground, sending resistance into the ski boot. That resistance then sends the skier’s body in the direction they want to go.
With a soft flex, kinetic energy is lost in the boot, resulting in a slower turn. A flex indicator of 80 is perfect for beginners because it will slow the turns down without being too mushy or releasing too easily from the ski.
For choosing skis and ski poles, it’s a good idea to check out some sizing charts either at the store/resort, or online before you buy your equipment. This will ensure you choose the right lengths of ski for your height, and can save you from buying the wrong things! Now that we’ve covered the basics, it’s time to look at each of these components in more detail.
The 13 Skiing Essentials For Beginners
1. Ski Pants
One of the unavoidable hurdles of becoming a skier is falling down. This unfortunate reality is why I recommend bibs or overalls instead of traditional snow pants. You can roll around on the ground and never get a snowflake down your pants. There is nothing worse than a snow-burned, bright red behind after a long day of skiing!
These bibs are some of the cheaper options on the market, but the quality is not lost. They are waterproof and windproof with a two-layer nylon shell. These bibs use synthetic insulation, which makes for quick drying if snow does make it to the inside of your bibs.
The inner thighs come with zippered vents for hiking or warm spring days, and the chest has a zippered pocket for any valuables you want to keep close. My favorite part about this gear is that it is fair trade certified and made of recycled materials!
2. Ski Jacket
This ski jacket takes the concept of layering to the next level.You can wear the outer shell by itself in warm weather, or only wear the liner for a light puffy jacket. You can also combine the shell and the puffy liner for those bitter cold mornings where the snow is falling sideways.
This jacket is fairly inexpensive and made with synthetic insulation. It is breathable with underarm zippers for extra ventilation, and is waterproof and windproof. The pockets on the outer shell make storage a breeze too. It even has a handy arm pocket for your lift ticket/ski pass.
In addition, it has pockets for your hands, your goggles, as well as an insulated pocket for your phone to prevent it from freezing. The liner also has separate pockets for your hands for when you want to wear that alone.
Gloves can get pricey, and most of the time you are just paying for the branding. Kincos are what I use personally and also what most of my skier friends use as well. They are cheap, made in the USA, and hold up year after year.
These were initially made for construction companies working in harsh winter conditions, so they can take a beating! Made of pigskin, the leather is tough, breathable, and pliable.Plus, their trademarked HeatKeep insulation will keep your hands warm and dry.
4. Base Layer
This base layer is water-wicking,meaning that when you sweat, the moisture is transferred to the top layer to keep the bottom layer dry and warm. No matter what base layer you choose, a good water-wicking fabric will prevent any sweat from freezing on your body. These base layers have a fleece-lined bottom layer and are made from a mix of polyester and spandex.
They are fairly inexpensive with solid seams and odor-fighting technology. One of my favorite things about these simple base layers is the elimination of tags. Tags on my base layers have driven me crazy for years, and it is nice not to have a scratchy problem beneath all your other layers!
5. Mid Layer
Having a mid-layer will further help to trap pockets of warm air close to your body.A great mid-layer is a lightweight fleece pullover. You might shed this layer quickly depending on the weather, but it is always good to have with you. If you don’t have much experience with mountain weather, it’s always wise to bring extra layers to stay warm.
6. Ski Socks
Ski socks are one of the most important items of ski clothing. Your feet are arguably the most crucial part of your body to keep dry, warm, and comfortable.If your feet hurt or are freezing, you will not be able to ski. Many beginners think that any old pair of socks will suffice in a ski boot, but this is not the case.
Ski socks must be thin, quick-drying, and made with ski boot functionality in mind. There is not a lot of space inside a ski boot, and for a good reason. Any movement of your foot dramatically influences the way your skis turn. These socks are perfect for staying warm and comfortable. They are lightweight and non-itchy, with odor control to prevent stinky ski boots.
They have anatomic toe boxes that indicate a specific left and right foot to prevent blisters and Achilles support keep your socks in place, while seamless toe closures create even more space. In addition, these socks are economical, made in the USA, and come with a lifetime guarantee.
7. Neck Gaiter
A neck gaiter might seem like a frivolous luxury to be considered essential, but this is the furthest thing from the truth. A neck gaiter protects your neck and can be used to cover your face on those extra chilly chairlifts. Because this piece of clothing touches your face, I recommend going with a higher quality item.
The Buff is my favorite because it will not freeze if it gets wet. A frozen neck gaiter is one of the most annoying things to deal with while skiing. Fleece neck gaiters might feel great at the base area but cause irritation once frozen on the slopes.
The Buff prides itself on being multi-functional and boasts 16 different ways to style it. It styles as a headband, a neck warmer, a cover for your mouth and nose – the options are endless!
When trying to ski in snowy conditions, cheap goggles will fog up and make navigating impossible. There is nothing worse than trying out a new sport blind, so you want to invest at least a small amount of money on quality goggles.
Smith makes excellent goggles with compression-molded foam that prevents any moisture and wind from sliding through the cracks and stinging your eyes. Smith is known for its Fog X technology that absorbs and disperses moisture inside the inner lens of the goggles.
I use Smith goggles as a skier who gets over 100 days a season, but I opted for the more expensive pair with interchangeable lenses. The benefits of using the interchangeable lenses are more definition of your terrain on the heavy snow days and more sun protection on those beautiful bluebird days.
9. Ski Helmet
Ski helmets have been rising in popularity as head trauma is one of the most common injuries to skiers. I never ski without my helmet, even though I consider myself an expert skier.
I have been hit from behind by a beginner that lost control of their skis, so I wear a helmet even on easy groomers. As a beginner, tackling the learning curve might have you falling in all sorts of ways, which is why a helmet is a beginner essential!
I love pairing my helmet brand with my goggles brand because they usually function better when paired together. The Smith Holts Helmet is a great beginner’s choice. It pairs with the Smith goggles perfectly, allowing for further ventilation and fog reduction.
There is also a goggle strap holder in the back of the helmet to keep your strap from sliding around, but this piece is removable if you prefer to wear your goggles under your helmet.
This particular helmet comes with 14 vents, so you are not tempted to remove your helmet on warm days when your body is working extra hard. A buckle clasp secures this helmet to your head, and it comes in a bunch of different colors.
10. Ski Boots
Ski boots are notoriously tight and uncomfortable. So, when buying your first pair of ski boots, you want to find a comfortable pair without breaking the bank. A fancy pair of boots for the advanced skier can run as high as $2,000, but you can get away with a more economical pair as a beginner.
The Tecnica Mach Sport HV 80 boots are great starters. They are comfortable, warm, and easy to use with a low flex number. When learning, it can be dangerous to have too high of a flex number because your boot will not release from your ski when it needs to.
Of course, once you get more comfortable on skis, you will want to invest in a better, more expensive pair of boots, but you can get away with a pair like these until you are ready to hit more intermediate terrain.
Even if you are a beginner skier, I recommend buying a pair of skis that you can grow into. Skis are pricey, but they will last a few seasons, so a solid intermediate pair is a great place to start. Intermediate skis have more rocker than beginner skis, which will help you make quick turns.
These particular skis are at home on groomers, but they can handle light powder conditions as well. A wood core with a carbon layer gives the Experience 78 skis a stable feel at slow to medium speeds. If you are looking for a ski that spends most of its time on groomers and is very easy to control, this ski is for you.
Bindings are another item that you will most likely rent as a beginner. Even if you do not rent your bindings and buy the pair I recommend, you should let a professional outfitter adjust them for you.
Trying to ride on bindings that are incompatible with your boots or adjusted to the wrong setting can cause serious injury. Being a beginner, you will not need high-release settings (unless you weigh more than 230 lbs) or lightweight racing gear.
The Marker Squire 10 is a perfect binding for beginners and gentle intermediates. They are lightweight while still tough enough to handle the ups and downs of the learning curve.
The anti-friction devices make sliding out of your binding a breeze once the toe lock is unlocked. These bindings are compatible with GripLock and Alpine Boot soles, which are typical boots you will find in beginner rental shops and stores.
These boots’ DIN setting (German standardization of ski binding settings) is between 3 and 10. Once you are comfortable on these bindings and start making more aggressive turns, you will have to upgrade to a higher DIN setting binding, but these economic bindings are perfect for beginners.
Ski poles help to stabilize your turns and get out of the snow when you have fallen. A beginner’s ski pole doesn’t have to be fancy, and most are lumped into rental costs if you decide to go that route. The Salomon Arctic Poles are a great lightweight option for beginners and intermediates.
They come in a variety of colors and are made from aluminum. The handgrips are comfortable, but sometimes the straps have a hard time staying in place. I go without my straps on if they start to annoy me, so this will come down to personal preference.
Skiing is an expensive sport – there is no way around it. To be completely outfitted for a ski vacation can set you back a couple of thousand dollars depending on the gear you choose. To stay safe and warm on the slopes, you are going to want quality gear.
The gear I have mentioned above will perform well with beginner skills without completely breaking the bank.Don’t forget that lots of ski resorts have rental packages that come with lift tickets. It’s not worth buying $2,000 worth of stuff if you’re only going to use it once!