Top 5 pieces of ski equipment to buy and not rent

Thanks to the advancement of well-stocked and user-friendly rental shops in ski resorts world wide, it is no longer necessary to lug heavy and cumbersome ski equipment with us on our travels. Some skiers may opt to travel with their own ski boots, but overall travelling lighter and not being weighed down by ski hardware is appealing, and makes the need to purchase equipment over renting it far less needed than it once was. That said, there are still several items that should remain on the `purchase` list; be it pre-trip or at the rental shops (which will have a retail section). So – here are the top 5 pieces of ski equipment that you should buy instead of rent.

1. Base layer

I am yet to find a rental shop that will rent out base layers. As you can imagine, the reason for this is one of personal hygiene, and one that you will hear me repeat during this list. For your own comfort, preference, peace of mind and even protection – make sure that you have your own base layers. Skiing can surely get the heart rate up and I cannot imagine anyone would want wear clothes against their skin that others have exercised in.

There are lots of options available for base layers; merino wool is hard to beat with its warmth and breathability, though some synthetics are great too. Generally you get what you pay for, and the higher end thermals tend to have a longer life and offer superior warmth and comfort. If you choose to go with second hand thermals, make sure that they are from a friend or family member so you know who has worn them previously and with how much frequency. Do resist layering your regular clothes in a bid to create your own thermal layers as too many items and using materials such as cotton will have a counterproductive and uncomfortable effect. A good base layer will serve you just as well off of the slopes as they will do a much better job than your regular clothes in keeping you warm whilst walking around the resort and doing other snow activities; even walking to a restaurant or shop can make you cold very quickly.

2. Ski socks

Much the same as with the base layers, rental shops do not rent ski socks for hygiene reasons (and I imagine lack of demand)! You will be able to purchase these in the rentals shops or pre-trip if you would prefer. The key with finding good ski socks is the use of good materials, and again, the price can be an indicator of quality. It would be good to have several pairs as wearing the same socks for multiple days is not only unpleasant in terms of associated odour, but the bacteria will `set up camp` and actually eat away at your boot liners and socks! The ideal would be a pair for every day, with the next best being every other day. So, make sure you have a few pairs!

3. Gloves/mittens

Some places will rent gloves and mittens, and others wont. Hygiene is a factor (think sweaty hands), but personal preference and comfort are additional reasons why you would want to buy your own gloves or mittens. Ice cold or wet hands will surely ruin a day on the snow, so do some research on what is out there and what would suit you before you buy. Mittens are warmer than gloves, so anyone prone to poor circulation should be looking at mittens.

For those that are susceptible to cold fingers but miss the dexterity of gloves, then the `Lobster Mitten` offers a convenient solution as it keeps 3 fingers together, while the index finger and thumb are separate. Price often speaks volumes with finding good hand-wear, and cheaper items often offer poor insulation and do not stand up as well against the elements. Leather or Gore-Tex exteriors with wool or synthetic on the inside work well, and brands such as Hestra & Black Diamond offer excellent products. A good, well looked after pair of gloves or mittens will last years and keep your fingers warm and cosy.

4. Goggles

It is so important to protect your eyes on the slopes, as the light reflections off of the bright snow combined with the increased UV exposure that is found at higher altitudes, our eyes can get damaged quickly and easily. Aside from eye health, the use of goggles will improve our vision on the slopes – acting as powerful sunglasses on sunny days and a windshield on wet ones. They stop bright rays, harmful rays, snow, rain and wind from affecting our vision, and provide warmth and coverage on very cold days. It is possible to find places that will rent them, but you may not want to wear goggles that others have used (think sweat, nose drippings, facial hair in contact with the absorbent rim etc…).

The best option is to buy your own, and for once, there is no need to break the bank with this purchase – though you won’t be going wrong if you choose to go high-end. While most of the high end ones are excellent, there are also some great options for mid and low range budgets. Do make sure that what you choose has good UV protection and has either two lenses (one for bright days and the other for low visibility days) or is a good all rounder with one lens that performs well in all conditions. Also, try the goggles on a few times and make sure that they are a good fit for your face; it is not a fashion show after-all, and as long as they have good protection, work well in all conditions and are a good fit, you should be able to find some good goggles at a reasonable price.

5. Neck warmers/balaclavas

Neck-warmers and balaclavas are not essential items – in contrast to the previous 4 – but still good to consider if you are heading somewhere particularly cold or are a person that chills easily. While balaclavas are less popular among adults (great for sheltering most of your your face, ears, head and neck in adverse conditions and in providing extra warmth), neck warmers also add extra weather protection to your neck, chin and mouth and can be easily pocketed if it warms up. As an added bonus, they provide a layer between the chin strap of a helmet and your skin – which to some – can be irritating without. They are inexpensive and for many, go a long way to keeping them dry and warm on the slopes.

Nadine Robb is Owner and Instructor at Hakuba Ski Concierge. Hakuba Ski Concierge is a boutique ski school in Hakuba, Japan.

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