Buying the Right Skis & Snowboards
If you decide that buying your own kit is the way forward then buying in resort is probably your best bet; you will find a wider choice of models and most shops give you the opportunity to test before you buy. Darren Kennedy, who has been involved in ski & snowboard shops in Meribel for many years, has the following recommendations:
Skis / Snowboard
Buy in resort rather than back at home; this provides a wider choice and allows you to test different models. Do some research and try to establish which models interest you. Most snow sport magazines run regular articles on purchasing skis / snowboards and provide an unbiased, professional opinion.
Once in resort set aside a whole day to test kit, preferably at the beginning of your holiday. 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 they have knowledgeable staff that speak English; talk to them about your potential purchase and provide information about your style, ability, fitness and budget. Be prepared to test other models that may not have been on your original list, however, try to narrow your choice to three models for testing as more than this will become confusing. To test skis and boards, choose a day with good visibility, and always try out models back-to-back, one hour at a time, and on the same slopes. Bindings are now generally sold as packages with skis: make sure that they provide sideways and rear release and are similar to the model that you tested.
Again, 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. If a ski boot feels good in the shop, there is a good chance that it will be too big for you! A professional boot fitter should single out the correct shape and style of boot to suit your skiing level and foot shape. Good advice about the socks you wear is extremely important for both the fit and warmth of your feet. 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. The result is comfortable feet and an improved skiing technique.
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 (well worth the investment). Boots used for hire can also lack a bit of padding and therefore warmth. Remember you should wear thin socks in your well-fitting boots (contrary to popular belief!) as it is blood flow round your body which keeps you warm - tight boots and socks reduce the flow. (World-cup skiers even wear stockings or nothing but mainly to have maximum contact with their boots!). Most shops offer an insurance against theft and breakage of equipment and this is worth taking even if you have other cover. There are often good deals available for purchasing new skis and snowboards in the resort. Additionally, for a nominal fee some hire shops will offer a ‘testing day’ for the particular ski/snowboard that you are interested in. The price of your test day will normally be taken off the final price of your ski/snowboard purchase. Towards the end of March, 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 boards. There are definitely some good all encompassing bargains to be had at this time. To read more about the different types of equipment that are available please read our articles on Skis, Snowboards and Transceivers & Avalanche Equipment. You can find details of all shops offering equipment to hire or buy on our Ski Rental/Sports Shops listings page.