If you decide that buying your own kit is the way forward, then purchasing it in resort is probably your best bet. You will find a wider choice of models and most shops give you the opportunity to test different models before you buy.
It is wise to do some research and try to establish which models interest you before you buy. Most snow sports magazines and online guides run regular articles on the latest ski and snowboarding gear providing an unbiased, professional opinion. There are also trade shows like the London Ski Show and demo centres at events like The Rock on Snowboard Tour where you can ask professional advice and test equipment for yourself.
Boots are the first thing to buy as technically they have the most influence on your ability and can be very painful if badly fitting. If you have unusual sized or shaped feet then it may be worth buying them early on in your 'career' as well as customised insoles. Try and buy new boots as second-hand boots used for hire can lack a bit of padding and therefore warmth and comfort.
Again, it is better to buy in the resort. A ski boot needs to be skied before any problems arise, leading to difficulties for those who purchase boots at home. In resort, any problems can be ironed out during your stay at no extra cost. A professional boot fitter should single out the correct shape and style of boot to suit your skiing level and foot shape. Do invest in a professionally made foot bed, which stabilises the foot within the boot and enhances transmission of your energy onto the ski’s edge for optimum carving. Remember that you should wear thin socks in your well-fitting boots as it is blood flow around your body which keeps you warm, not thick socks. World-cup skiers even wear stockings or nothing to give them closer contact to the boot.
Towards the end of March and the beginning of April, a number of local resort ski and snowboard shops will have good end of season sales offering up to 20-30% off the price of the season’s skis and snowboards.
Testing your gear
Some hire shops offer a ‘testing day’ for the particular ski or snowboard that you are interested in, the price of your test day will normally be taken off the final price of your ski or snowboard purchase so, once in resort, set aside a whole day to test kit, preferably at the beginning of your holiday. Choose a day with good visibility and always try out models back-to-back, one hour at a time, and on the same slopes.
Find a shop that is reputable and has a dedicated Test Centre rather than just the usual rental models that may be old and worn. Make sure to be honest about your skiing level, fitness and budget and be prepared to test other models that may not have been on your original list, trying to narrow your choice to three models for testing as more than this will become confusing.
Buying skis & snowboards
Sports shops usually offer a wide range of gear. There are different skis and snowboards to choose from depending on your ability on the slopes, whether you're a man or a woman (although most equipment tends to be unisex) and your age. Other things to take into account are your height and weight.
In the past few years, ski and snowboard gear has diversified catering to an assortment of mountain terrains and personal preferences. Most sports shops will stock a selection of slope, all-mountain, freeride or freestyle skis and snowboards as well as race skis, mini skis, touring skis, splitboards, powder boards and cross-country skis.
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