Section 2: Alpine Equipment

2.01) "I'm brand new to skiing. Should I rent or buy equipment?"

Rent. Don't consider buying your own gear until you've had a chance to try out a few different types of equipment. Most rental shops will allow you to rent either "basic" gear or "demo" gear. The basic rental gear is fine for the first few times on skis but try to rent some demo gear before purchasing equipment.

You may be tempted to borrow gear from your friends. Unless your friends happen to be exactly your size and ability then this is probably a bad idea. At the very least you should consider having the bindings inspected and adjusted by a qualified technician.

2.02) "I really like this sport and it's time to buy some of my own gear. What should I buy first?"

Boots. The best skis in the world will be no fun at all if your feet are killing you. Spend a *lot* of time choosing your boots. Try on as many different types as possible and walk around the shop for 20 - 30 minutes while wearing them in order to discover any hidden pressure points. It's important that the boot fit snugly. If your foot flops around in the boot you'll have that much less control of your skis.

2.03) "Which kind of boot is best: overlapping shell or rear entry?"

The most sage words of advice on this topic were: "The most important factor in selecting a boot is insuring that the president of the company has a foot just like yours". In other words, try 'em both on. Buy the ones that fit best. In general (and there are many exceptions to this) the rear entry boots tend to be more convenient (i.e. easier to get on/ off) but suffer somewhat in performance. The racing community still tends to favor an overlapping shell. If you are new to skiing you won't know the difference.

2.04) "What is bootfitting and should I bother to have it done?"

In general there is no such thing as a boot that fits perfectly when it comes off the shelf. It is important that the boot be neither too tight nor too loose. A boot that is too tight (typically this will be across the arch or on the sides) will cut off circulation resulting in numb, cold feet (miserable). A boot that is too loose will allow your foot to flop around resulting in abrasions and, more importantly, poor control of your skis.

Bootfitting is the process of customizing a boot to your foot. Most reputable ski shops offer this service although the expertise of the staff may vary. While bootfitting may involve adding shims, shaving undersoles, or even hacking out padding in the liner the most common act is to add a custom footbed or orthotic. People who have orthotics swear by them. People who don't have orthotics are either lucky enough to not need them or have sore feet. In any event you're probably best off to ski in your new boots for a couple of days before making any modifications. When you buy a boot make sure you ask if bootfitting services are included in the price of the boot (they often are).

The ultimate in bootfitting is having a boot custom designed to your foot. Yes this can be done and yes it is very expensive. The folks to contact are the Dale Boot company.

Dale Boot, 2150 South 300 West, Salt Lake City, UT, phone: 801-487-3649

2.05) "What kind of skis should I buy?"

The absolute best answer to this question is that you should go rent several different types of skis and buy the ones you like best. Many ski areas will allow you to rent demo gear and to swap gear during the day. This gives you the chance to realistically compare one type of ski against another. If you can't find the time/money to do this kind of comparison then here are some very broad comments about certain types of skis:

Definition of terms:


Alpine skis come in essentially 2 styles depending on the size of turn they most naturally make: Slalom ( shorter turns ) and Giant Slalom ( longer turns ). Within each of these categories, you will find skis made specifically for your ability level whether it be recreational or expert. There is also a host of specialty skis that are available.


See the FAQ section on XC.

The various ski magazines generally publish a brief review of equipment in their first issue of the season, September. Use the reviews only get obtain a list of equipment which *might* be suitable. There''s still no substitute for demos and real time spent trying the equipment out.

2.06) "What length ski should I buy?"

There are standard formulas relating your skill level, weight and height to a nominal ski length. For alpine beginners length's center around 160 CM, intermediates around 180 CM and experts around 195 CM. Weight modifies these by about 10 CM in either direction and some people argue about whether height matters at all. Note that it is not a good idea to use skis longer than you are comfortable with (don't let ego decide), but once you reach a certain level of proficiency most people can work up to an "expert" lengths with little difficulty. This is a good reason for renting, rather than buying skis during the learning stages.

For classical nordic skiing some people reccommend a XC ski length that comes up to your upraised wrist, but this can end up specifying a ski that's way too long, especially if you're long-limbed or light for your height. In any event, the ski should be no longer than this, and no shorter than about 6" taller than your height. A ski that's too long will be difficult to control and may be too stiff. For skating the skiis will be somewhat shorter, although skating on classical skiis is possible (slightly better technique required...) In general get fitted by a professional, not by someone who sells toasters and TV's.

2.07) "What's the difference between "ladies" gear and "men's" gear?"

Ski equipment is generally unisex. Gear that is labelled "ladies" is usually a little lighter weight and softer...both boots and skis. Ladies boots are designed to fit the "average" female foot a little better.

2.08) "My friend told me that foam cores suck. I say they're great. Which is better?"

They both have their strong and weak points. The use of a foam core allows the manufacturers to design a ski that is lighter and therfore more responsive. Foam, however, is much less durable than wood which means that if you ski real hard you're probably more likely to blow up your foam core skis than your wood core skis. Wood cores tend to be somewhat better damped than foam which results in a ski that rides a little smoother.

2.09) "I'm tired of paying other people to fix/tune my skis. How can I learn to tune my own skis?"

There are several good books available on the subject of ski tuning. One book that is always mentioned when this question arises is Seth Masia's Alpine Ski Maintenance & Repair Handbook. A good resource for finding books on tuning as well as the necessary equipment is The Third Hand. They can be reached at 916-926-2600.

      Alpine Ski Maintenance and Repair
      Seth Masia
      Contemporary Books
      ISBN 0-8092-4718-6
      "World Class Ski Tuning"
      Michael Howden
      WCST Publishing
      PO Box 1045
      Portland, OR 97207
      ISBN 0-9615712-0-9

2.10) "Hey...has anybody heard about the Tyrolia binding recall?"

Sigh. Yes we have. Many many times. It's pretty much old news at this point (it happened around 1988). At one point Tyrolia did indeed recall several bindings for a defect in some of the plastic parts. This recall and upgrade program is now over. According to Tyrolia, every owner's manual states that your bindings should be serviced/ inspected at least once a season. Since the recall began circa 1988 there has been ample time for 'annual' binding servicing. If your binding was under recall, the shop would/should have notified you when you brought your equipment in for service and offered the appropriate options. However, since this vintage (pre 1988) of bindings were sold with the lifetime warranty, Tyrolia will cover broken bindings under this warranty. You'll need to take your bindings to an authorized Tyrolia dealer along with a proof of purchase and the owner's manual. The bindings will either be sent back to Tyrolia or they'll be replaced by the shop.

Here is the "Tyrolia Safety Notification", reprinted without permission.

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