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What ski equipment do I need for my first ski trip?

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So you’ve finally decided to join the dark side? Good for you! Skiing is a lot of fun.

If you’re anything like me, you’re probably a bit confused about what you need to bring on your first ski trip? And you probably don’t even own a pair of skis? Well, not to worry.

Here you’ll find the ultimate gear list for your first ski trip as well as advice for each item on the list.

1. Skis. You definitely need skis!

A good place to start is with a pair of skis. After all, you are going on a ski trip, right?

You don’t need to buy a pair of skis for your first ski trip, though. Instead, I would advise you to rent them instead.

Don’t rent stuff over the internet. Instead, visit a local shop at the resort, you’re going to.

Even though you’re a beginner, you should not settle for the cheapest and most worn-out skis in the shop. 

Old worn out rental skis usually have blunt rounded edges, which doesn’t dig into the snow very well. Also, the camber of the ski will not be as springy, which will make it more difficult to turn.

As a beginner, the last thing you need is a pair of crappy skis. I mean, you have enough to think about as it is already.

Old rental skis should be burned and the ashes cast into the nearest crevasse, not given to beginners (or anyone else for that matter!)

Instead, you should rent new skis if possible, even if it is a bit more expensive. Usually, rental shops will have different packages, where you can get better skis if you pay a bit more.

Make sure to tell the rental shop, if you’re a beginner, so they can adjust the bindings accordingly.

You can read more about how to choose the correct ski size and about things like cambered and rockered profiles in this article: What ski length should I get? Choose the correct ski size

2. Boots. You definitely also need ski boots

Ski boots are the next essential thing you need to have for any ski trip.

You can often get a deal at the rental shop, which includes skis, boots and poles – and maybe even a helmet too.

If you’re going to rent ski boots, look for some new ones. Even if it costs a bit more.

Ski boots are designed to mold to the feet of the skier. So imagine a pair of boots, which have had 20 pairs of feet in them, before you got to put them on.

I personally loathe rental ski boots. And I’ve skied in rental boots for years before I finally saw the light and bought my own pair.

If there’s one thing, I would advise you to buy as quickly as possible, it’s definitely your own pair of ski boots.

You can read more on how to find the right ski boot in this article: How to find the right ski boots when you have weird feet

3. Poles

Ski poles are nice to have. They are good at helping you keep your balance, and later they will help you to turn as well.

Ski poles are also good for removing snow from your boots and bindings when you put on your skis.

Ski poles are also excellent for making various drills when learning how to ski.

Don’t go out and buy a pair of ski poles for your first ski trip. Rent them at the rental shop instead, together with your skis.

When you’re in the rental shop, turn the ski pole upside down and grab the pole underneath the basket. Your elbow should be at a 90° angle to get the right size.

If the angle of your arm is less than 90°, you should get shorter poles. If the angle of your arm is more than 90°, you should get longer poles.

Any good rental shop should be able to find you a pair of poles.

4. Ski jacket and ski pants

After the boots, the ski jacket and pants are the most important thing.

They need to be waterproof and breathable at the same time.

You can borrow your ski jacket and pants from your friends if they have your size.

If you can’t or won’t borrow your ski clothing, you need to buy some. 

Luckily, you can get ski jackets and pants of excellent quality, which actually isn’t very expensive, as long as you stay away from some of the most popular brands.

Another tip is to look for ski clothing from last season’s collection, which you can usually get with a huge discount. Not much has changed in how ski jackets and pants are made since last year – except for the colors.

Read more on how you find the right ski jacket in this article: Are ski jackets warm? The complete guide to ski jackets

If you are looking for ski clothing, you should check out Recommended ski clothes – from baselayer to shell which has some nice suggestions from everything from baselayers, socks, jackets, and pants.

5. Base layer

Base layers used to be known as thermals, but today’s base layers are not designed to keep you warm. The exception to this is base layers made from heavyweight Merino Wool.

The base layer is the clothing you put on first. They are designed to wick away sweat from your body, so you always stay dry and warm.

The last thing you want on a freezing mountainside is to have wet clothing clinging to your body. You’ll start to freeze in an instant. You might not feel it, when you ski down the slopes, but as soon as you hit the chair lift, you definitely will. And that’s pneumonia just waiting to happen.

You should definitely buy a base layer before your first ski trip.

Here’s a tip for you. Don’t buy full-length pants, because you don’t want the pants to go into the ski boots. That can cause a lot of sore skin and they’ll conflict with your ski socks. And baselayers are usually so tight, that you just can’t pull them up over the boots (not without being too tight around your shin and calf).

Buy 3/4-length pants instead, like these from Helly Hansen. They’ll stop right above the boot, which is perfect. Here’s a link to the women’s version btw.

6. Mid-layer

The mid-layer is your thermal layer, which you can ad if it is cold, and remove if it is warm at the end of the season.

Which mid-layer you should choose depends on the base-layer (thermal or non-thermal), your ski jacket (i.e., is it a hardshell, softshell, insulated, or 3-in-1 ski jacket you have?), and on how hot or cold it is, where you ski.

You can use fleece, a thin down jacket or even a softshell ski jacket (worn under a hardshell) on really freezing days. 

7. Ski gloves and mittens

Gloves and mittens are essential for skiing unless you want to lose a couple of fingers to frostbite, which I guess you don’t.

Don’t bring your knitted finger-gloves for the slopes. They’ll get wet and cold in no time.

Ski gloves and ski mittens need to be waterproof, windproof, and breathable just like jackets and pants. They need to be able to protect your hands and fingers from the elements.

Mittens are usually a bit better at keeping your fingers warm than gloves.

But ski gloves actually serve another important function as well. They protect your hands from cuts and bruises from the sharp edges on the skis and snowboards, if you fall or have a collision with another skier or rider.

For that reason, I usually prefer gloves, which have a bit of leather for extra protection.

Keep in mind, that you can get ski gloves, for different temperatures. Warmer isn’t necessarily better. If you ski late in the season, you should choose thinner gloves.

Read my guide on how to pick the best gloves and mittens for skiing.

8. Ski helmet

You should definitely wear a ski helmet. Helmets help reduce the severity of a range of injuries like skull fractures and lacerations.

And a helmet might just save your life one day, if you fall and hit your head on a rock, a tree or on a hard icy slope.

Often you can rent a helmet in the rental shop. You can rent them as a stand-alone item or it might be included in a full rental package together with the skis, poles, and boots.

The problem with renting a helmet though is, that you don’t know how it has been treated by the customers before you. You don’t know how many crashes and collisions it has seen, and you don’t know if it has been handled properly (e.g., not dropped a lot on hard surfaces).

If your helmet looks banged up and bruised, you should definitely ask for another one.

And as soon as you decide, that skiing is for you, you should buy your own.

You can read more about why you should wear a helmet and how to choose the right one in this article: Should I wear a helmet when skiing?

Here are five recommended and affordable helmets for skiing: Top 5 affordable ski helmets 2019

9. Back and spine protector

Speaking of safety, you should also get a ski body armor to protect your back and spine.

I know this can sound a bit excessive when you’re just starting out – I mean, you probably aren’t hitting the snow park and doing tricks the first week – but actually it is not.

When you’re first starting out, you’re gonna fall a lot. A back protector will absorb and distribute the energy from the point of impact. This might just save you from a displaced vertebrae.

Even though you might ski responsible, the sad truth is that not everyone does. I’ve seen my fair share of nasty encounters with skiers and snowboarders who were riding at speeds above their level. Or beginners who decided, they didn’t need ski school, and because of this didn’t know how to stop, which resulted in some bad collisions.

You never know, who might run you over from behind and at what speed.

Here in Europe, back protectors are common for all levels of skiers. In the US it is most professional skiers, who wear them, but hopefully, that’ll soon change.

As for renting or buying a back protector, you’ll run into the same questions, as with ski helmets; you don’t know what kind of impacts a rental back protector has been put through with its formers skiers.

I would advise you to get your own back protector as soon, as you know, that skiing is for you.

I recommend you read my guide on how to choose the best back protector for skiing.

10. Goggles and sunglasses

You need ski goggles! End of story.

Ski goggles will help protect you when it’s snowing, windy, and from getting drifting snow in your eyes. They also help protect you from the harmful UV-rays of the sun and from going snowblind due to the bright light from the sun, which is reflected in the snow.

Getting blowing snow in your eyes, when you’re near a mountaintop or ridge or while you ski down the slopes can really hurt. So you should always have ski goggles.

Goggles come with various types of colored glass, which makes the contrast between shadows and brightness in the snow better. When it is cloudy or it is snowing, all the small bumps and dips in the snow gets harder to see.

By putting on goggles with colored glass, the unevenness of the terrain gets much easier to see.

If there’s no wind and it’s sunny, you can wear sunglasses. Don’t use sunglasses, which are not designed for sports. They need to be able to take a beating.

Read my list of best goggles for skiing, where you’ll find some excellent options, which offers some great value for the money.

Spend the same amount or a bit less on sunglasses – or skip sunglasses altogether the first time, and ski with goggles.

11. Ski socks

When I first started skiing in the 1990s, the norm was, that ski socks should be thick and warm.

Luckily, that isn’t the case anymore. Modern ski boots have excellent insulation, and if you wear thick socks, you’ll ruin the ability of the ski boot liner to keep your feet and toes warm. This is because there needs to be room between your foot and the ski boot liner (the soft inner boot) so that a small cushion of warm air can develop and keep your feet warm.

Instead, you should wear some thin sports socks, which are over the calf height.

Don’t just buy one pair, as you don’t want dirty socks in your boots. Dirty socks and sweat is a great way for mildew to grow in your boot liner (another reason not to rent boots).

Buy at least two pairs of socks. That way you can wash one pair of socks and hang it to dry, while you hit the groomers in the other pair.

If you have some thin sports socks, which are over the calf in height, you can start in those. Otherwise get yourself some good ski socks, which have padding and ventilation in the right places.

12. Backpack

A backpack is a good thing to have for storing a lot of things, e.g., like a mid-layer, your sunglasses, a GoPro camera, a sunscreen, a sandwich, an energy bar, and something to drink.

While there usually are restaurants on the mountain, it’s often much more fun to find a spot with a nice view, and have a picnic in the snow with your friends.

If you already own a backpack, which is water-resistant or water repellent, you can use that. Do get suckered into buying a backpack, which is “designed for skiing” or something like that.

I do recommend though, that you get a backpack with straps for your chest and waist, as it needs to be able to sit firmly on your back, as you ski.

13. Sunscreen

If you’ve never skied before, it might surprise you, that the sun is harsh.

Even though you’re in the snow at high altitudes and you’re wearing a lot of clothes, the sun is not to be taken lightly. 

Get some good sunscreen with protection from ultraviolet UV-B radiation with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 30-50. And remember to use it a couple of times each day.

Buy it before you leave home. The shops at resorts usually overcharge a lot for sunscreen (as well as for toothpaste).

14. Insurance

Get a wintersports insurance!

Your insurance should provide medical coverage for any injuries you might acquire on the slopes, but also personal liability, loss of use, lost ski pass, and lost equipment.

The insurance should also cover general travel insurance elements such as lost baggage, cancellation, emergency assistance, etc.

Make sure you get adequate coverage ($15,000,000 in medical bills aren’t unheard-of!).

Insurance is often expensive if you buy them from tour operators. Make sure to talk to different insurance companies, your bank, and specialists brokers in order to get the best advice on insurance first, before you buy your insurance.

If you’re a bit nervous about your first ski trip, you don’t have to be. Skiing is pretty safe. You can read more here: Is skiing dangerous for beginners?

You should also consider ski school. You can read here why: First time on skis? Read why you should always take lessons

I hope this is helpful for your first ski trip. If you got any questions, please let me know in the comment section.

Happy skiing!

P.S: Here’s your pin for later

14 essentials for your first ski trip

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