Buying your own ski equipment can be a big investment, but can offer big rewards on the slopes. However the last thing you want is to get two runs in to your Niseko ski holiday and realize you've made a poor choice. Here are our 6 essential tips for buying new ski equipment.
Boots are number one
Boots are undoubtedly the most important piece of kit in your ski bag. The right pair can be the difference between a fantastic holiday and a very painful one, and you’ll get much more performance out of the skis you’re on if you’re in a well-fitted pair (see the next item). Conversely, a set of top-of-the-line skis are not much good if your feet are moving around inside the boot when you ski.
If you’re tossing up on whether to buy boots or skis first or how to allocate your budget, always put boots first. You might have to spend a little more than you intended, but in the long run it will be well worth it.
Use a recommended boot fitter
At most ski resorts there will be a handful of professional boot fitters with a great reputation, so make sure you find out who they are. Good boot fitters will often have a background in podiatry, so they’ll be able to put you in a boot that’s not only comfortable but good for your feet (and your skiing) in the long run.
It’s important to remember that there may only be a couple of boots in the store that are right for your foot and ability, so don’t get too hung up on color, style or brand. You should also keep in mind that a pair that feels comfortable in the store will probably not feel the same way in sub zero temperatures, or after two weeks of skiing in them.
In Niseko, we recommend a company called Boot Solutions (next to Rhythm Snowsports). Led by experienced podiatrist Ned Buckley, they have been operating in Japan since 2006 and offer the largest selection of boots (ski and snowboard) in the country. Make an appointment here.
Find a ski that suits your style and level
The last few years have seen a rapid trend towards wider, longer powder skis. Powder skis are fantastic in the conditions that they’re designed for, but if you’re a skier who tends to stick to the marked groomed runs in the resort, choosing a model that is too wide for you can hurt your skiing.
Pick a ski that is not only right for your ability, but also for the terrain that you’ll mostly be in. As a general rule wider, longer skis are better for the deeper snow, while shorter narrower skis will work better on the groomed runs or the bumps. Stiffer skis are more suitable for expert skiers, while softer skis tend to be more forgiving and better suited to beginners.
Chat to the staff in your local store to get a recommendation on the ski that’s best for you. In Niseko, we recommend a store called Rhythm Snowsports, which has a great selection of gear and a team of knowledgeable staff.
Pro tip: Pick the brains of your ski shop staff about the different types of camber in a ski, and you’ll really get a feel for the way ski technology has evolved over the last few years!
Make smart choices if you’re buying second hand
For budget conscious skiers, buying second hand gear can be a good way to save a bit of cash. While we generally don’t recommend buying a second-hand pair of boots, purchasing a used ski can be a good option if you know what to look for.
Remember that skis have a life span, and even when they appear to be in good condition, may have lost their rigidity and liveliness over time. Find someone selling a ski that they’ve used on a couple of holiday trips, rather that the ex-rental pair that has been on snow for the last three seasons.
It’s also very important to check the condition of the base of the ski. Minor scratches are generally fine, however damage to the edge, bubbles in the surface or scratches that reach the core are not. Ask the seller about any repairs they’ve made to the ski, and if there’s existing damage, check with your ski repair shop that it can be fixed before handing over your hard-earned cash.
Demo your skis
What you might not know is that many ski shops deduct the cost of ski rental from the price of the new skis if you decide to make the purchase. So get out there are work out what you like the best! Is it the 130mm pow ski that floats like a dream, or the ultra-stiff race ski that has you laying trenches down the groomers?
Know the discounts
It’s no surprise that many shops offer great discounts outside of the peak ski season, so plan to do your shopping over the summer or look out for the end of season discounts.
Buying last season’s model can be another great way to save a few dollars. Often companies will leave the construction of a particular ski model completely unchanged from season to season, choosing only to update the graphics on the top sheet. The manufacturer’s website will often tell you if there have been any changes, so if you insist on having all the latest technology packed into your ski, then jump online and do some research.