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Ski Equipment Basics for Experts and Beginners

Updated on July 16, 2011

If you enjoy spending time in the outdoors during the winter, skiing can be one of the best ways to get some exercise; especially if you enjoy speed, snow and beautiful mountain scenery. Before you head off for a ski resort or some local trails though, it would definitely be wise to learn about the different types of skis and equipment on the market.

Skis Equipment Innovations

Just a few decades ago, skis were usually straight-sided wooden planks that were strapped securely to the user's feet. Today, however, several innovations have been made to make skis safer, stronger, and easier to use. For example, rather than making skis out of wood, most manufacturers now use composite materials like fiber glass, Kevlar, and titanium to manufacture their products. This makes the skis both lighter and stronger than traditional wooden skis. And, instead of being strapped directly to the ski, most skiers now use releasable bindings now which make the sport less dangerous in the event of a crash or a fall.

Types of Skis

As skiing has transformed from a simple mode of transportation to an athletic and recreational event, several new designs have evolved as well. A few of these include parabolic, twin tip, and cross-country skis.

Alpine Skis

Alpine skis, which are also known as downhill skis, are one of the most popular kinds of skis. Although they used to be wooden and straight-sided like traditional skis, most downhill skis are now made of composite materials and have a parabolic shape. Parabolic skis are designed to be wider at the tip and the tail than at the waist of the ski. This "side-cut" design has become the most popular form of down-hill or Alpine ski because it facilitates easier turning. In fact, the shorter and more curved the ski, the easier your turns will be. Alpine skis also use bindings that secure the boot at both the toe and the heel.

Twin Tip Skis

If you are really into fancy tricks like aerials, backwards skiing, and spins, twin tip skis would probably be a wise investment. Unlike most skis, which only have upturned points on the front end of the ski, twin tip skis are turned up at both ends to decrease your chances of digging into the snow regardless of which direction you face.

Cross-Country Skis

Since you don't usually need to make a lot of turns during cross-country ski trips, cross country ski are one type of ski that still uses the parallel, straight edges. They are also usually lighter than downhill skis since the skier, rather than gravity, is doing most of the work to propel the skier forward. And, since the user needs the ability to skate or stride forward, cross-country the boots only attach to the front of the bindings rather than at both the toe and the heel.

If you have the money and interest to invest in other specialty skis, there are also models that have been designed specifically for mogul skiing, thick powder conditions, jumping, and slope climbing.

Renting vs. Owning

If you only go skiing on a rare occasion, it may be wiser just to rent equipment. After all, renting eliminates the need to buy, transport and store ski equipment. On the other hand, if you plan to spend a lot of time on the slopes year after year, it would probably be wiser to buy your own skis because successive ski rentals will definitely add up over time.

In addition to saving money, buying your own skis and equipment is a great way to ensure that you are comfortable with your gear. And, if you want to get as many runs into the day as possible, having your own skis will eliminate the need to try on and rent which will consequently save you a little time getting to the chair lifts.

If you do buy your own equipment, it is important to remember that you will probably need more than just the skis though. For example, poles, bindings and boots are also pretty essential and extras like helmets and goggles will not only make your day safer, but more comfortable as well.

Shopping Tips

From the lift tickets to the equipment, skiing is definitely one of the most expensive sports that outdoor enthusiasts can get into. As a result, it is always nice to save a little money when you shop for the equipment. That is why you always want to plan your ski equipment purchases wisely.

For example, rather than buying your equipment at the beginning or the middle of the season when equipment, lift tickets and other ski accessories are in high demand, wait until the tail end of winter or even spring to make your ski equipment purchases. That way, you can save money during the sales that ski shops hold at the end of the season to get rid of last year's inventory. This is an especially wise move if you have several members of the family to outfit with ski equipment. Just make sure that you plan ahead when you pick our sizes to ensure that your kids haven't outgrown their skis by the time they get to use them.

Where to Find Ski Equipment

With hundreds of thousands of skiing enthusiasts scattered across the country, finding a good selection of skis and other equipment shouldn't pose a problem for most people. After all, ski resorts, large sporting outfitters, and independent ski shops are usually quite common in popular ski areas like Utah, Colorado, and Vermont. And, even if you live in a very warm and flat area like Florida, Louisiana, and Texas, there is always a huge selection on online suppliers to choose from.

If you do decide to purchase ski equipment online instead of in person though, make sure that you have done your research on the brands, the price, and the size that you need before you make a purchase. That way you can be sure that you are going to be happy with the performance and fit of your ski equipment while simultaneously finding a competitive price.


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