Whether you’re hitting the slopes for just a day or two of cruising, or are charging hard for a couple of weeks of pow hunting, there’s a bunch of skiing essentials that you’ll most certainly need. But the items on your skiing checklist aren’t there to just ensure you have a great time. They also help to keep you as safe as possible in extreme conditions when doing, let’s be frank, an extreme sport!
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Firstly, the clothes needed for skiing need to be appropriate. I’ve seen people wearing jeans on the mountain before. A BIG no-no! You need warm layers that don’t hold sweat and that dry quickly, with outer protection from waterproof or water resistant pants and jacket. And don’t forget the extremities! Cold fingers and toes can make a fun day turn sour very quickly.
Then there’s all the equipment for skiing. It’s important that you get the right ski equipment for your ability and for the conditions. A pair of race skis would be a disaster for a beginner skier, for example!
And of course, don’t forget the all important safety skiing essentials. In this article I’ve just included the items you’ll need if you are skiing on piste in resorts. For information about backcountry skiing safety equipment read our guide to splitboarding.
Used skiing essentials
Before we delve into all the skiing essentials you’ll need for a day on the slopes, let’s have a look at the alternatives to buying brand new ski equipment and clothing. There are a few options:
If it’s your first time skiing then a good way to save money and to not buy unnecessary items that you might not use again, is to borrow stuff. This is especially useful when it comes to clothes for skiing. If you have friends that are a similar size to you then ask them first. Otherwise, put a shoutout on your local social media page. You’ll be surprised how willing people are to share things that they only use a couple of times a year and the more this becomes normal, the better.
Most people rent ski equipment, especially when they’re starting out in the skiing world. However, some ski resorts also offer clothing for rental. This is mostly for outer layers such as ski jackets, pants and sometimes gloves. Check with your ski resort rental to see what they offer.
Keep quality gear stay where it belongs: in use
Buy used gear
For those ready to buy their own ski equipment and clothing, buying used gear is one of the best things you can do. Firstly, you’ll save a load of money. But more importantly, the environmental impact of buying second hand gear is hugely reduced compared to buying brand new.
REI offer a superb range of used gear and clothing for skiing and snowboarding which I’ve highlighted in the items below, where applicable. Check out REI’s Used range to help keep quality gear stay where it belongs: in use.
Trade in gear
Another excellent service that REI offers is their Trade-in scheme. This is ideal for seasoned skiers who are needing and wanting to upgrade their ski equipment and clothing every season or so. Simply send your used REI bought items back to REI and they’ll give you a gift voucher in return. There are a few guidelines on what you can and can’t send back. So head to the REI website for more information on how it works.
Skiing equipment list
As mentioned, most equipment for skiing can be easily rented at resorts. This is a cost effective and sustainable option if you are just starting out on the slopes. Firstly, you don’t know whether you’re going to love or hate skiing! Chances are, you’ll love it. But if you don’t then you won’t have invested a load of money on gear that will probably never get used again.
Plus, if you do love it, a week renting gear will give you a much better idea of what sort of skiing equipment is best for you as and when the time is right to buy your own.
Assuming you’re at the stage where you’re ready to invest in your own equipment for skiing, here’s a summary of what you’ll need.
Skis and bindings
You can buy skis and bindings together as a package. However, they are also sold separately. So ensure that you know what you’re getting and if you do buy them separately, make sure they’re compatible. The length and width of the skis you choose depends on your size, ability and the type of skiing you prefer.
You can read more about how to choose skis in this guide.
Taking your time to choose the right ski boots for you will most certainly pay off. Try loads on and, if possible, get an expert to fit them for you. Size and fit are absolutely key as ill-fitting boots can ruin a day on the slopes.
This size guide will help with ensuring you get the right fit.
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The most important thing when choosing ski poles for beginners is the length of the poles. Stand in your ski boots and flip the poles upside down so that the tips are in the air and the handles on the floor. Hold the poles just underneath the baskets and then check out the angle at your elbow – it should be around 90º. Other things to consider are the weight, strength, handle type and basket types of ski poles, but get the size right first.
Gone are the days when cruising the slopes with a helmet on was looked upon as uncool, thankfully! Now, it’s frowned upon if you don’t wear one, and rightfully so. Head injuries from skiing and snowboarding are a very real and constant risk when skiing, regardless of how confident you are in your own skills. You can never account for other people or a sudden change in conditions. Opt for something comfortable that fits well and ensure that it meets safety standards with a certificate: ASTM F2040 (US), CE EN1077 (Europe).
Ski goggles or sunglasses
Most beginner skiers will be perfectly fine wearing a good pair of sunglasses. Ensure that they are polarised which helps protect your eyes from the glare of the snow.
However, if you are progressing onto harder terrain or off-piste, where tumbles and spills are more likely, then you’ll want to invest in some good goggles. Snow goggles with interchangeable lenses are the best option if the conditions are changeable. These allow you to have optimal vision in bright sunshine as well as on flat, cloudy days, simply by switching lenses.
Ski clothing essentials
Clothes for skiing can make the difference between a good and a very bad day on the mountain. Too many layers and you can end up over-heating then getting very cold once your sweat cools. But not enough layers and you can run the risk of becoming hypothermic.
For more detailed information read our guide on what to wear skiing and snowboarding.
Base layer (top and bottoms)
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Base layers are worn directly on the skin, so they should be super comfortable with no irritating areas or tags. Skiing during most of the winter will require a warm, sweat-wicking base layer top that is comfortable and snug fitting, as well as long-johns of a similar fabric to wear beneath your ski pants. However, many people tend to opt out of wearing long-johns during the spring or when the temperatures are higher, especially if their ski pants are well insulated.
Though it may not seem so, a good pair of ski socks are a hugely important skiing essential. They should fit well and ideally have some padded and reinforced areas to help support your feet in high stress areas. Plus, they need to be warm yet moisture wicking, as well as long enough to be higher on your calf than your ski boots. Choose a decent pair of your own and your feet will thank you for it later!
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Mid layers are long sleeved tops like fleece jumpers or lightweight insulated jackets that are worn beneath your outer layer but on top of your base layer. Not everyone wears mid layers when skiing. Whether you choose to or not depends on a few things including: how well insulated your ski jacket is, how cold you are as a person, how hard you ski or whether you are likely to be standing around lots etc. If you get too hot then a thin mid layer can always be taken off and stuffed into your jacket pocket.
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There are lots of different types of ski jackets. Some are little more than a shell worn with an insulated mid layer beneath. And some are fully insulated down jackets worn only with a base layer beneath. The most common type of ski jacket, however, is lightly insulated with a durable outer shell. All ski jackets are either waterproof or water resistant with a degree of windproofing too. Most have hoods and lots of pockets, and they should fit loosely and comfortably to allow you to move freely.
Like jackets, ski pants are windproof and waterproof or water resistant. Most have light insulation but you can also get shell ski pants that are more like waterproof pants. It’s useful to have vents in the sides or inner leg to let some air in when you get too hot, and they should be loosely fitted for comfort and movement.
Gloves or mittens
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Getting the right gloves for skiing is harder than you might think! And the type you choose depends on whether you are a hot-handed person or not. I like to wear thin liner gloves underneath super warm and insulated mittens, which are usually better than gloves at retaining heat. Ideally, ski gloves should be waterproof, but they also need to be breathable for when your hands start to sweat on those tough runs.
Hat and / or buff
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Thin hats or buffs are probably the best type of wooly hat to wear underneath a helmet. If you go too thick then your helmet will be ill-fitting and you’ll probably get a very hot head! Opt for a moisture-wicking fabric that is soft and comfortable next to your skin. And the fewer the seams the better to avoid pressure build up from your helmet. Buffs are also great to wear around your neck or over you face on the really cold days.
Skiing essentials checklist
Having a skiing essentials list may seem overly organised, especially for experienced skiers who learn over the years exactly what they do and don’t need for a day on the slopes. Beginner skiers, however, can benefit from a little guidance to ensure they are as safe, comfortable and prepared as possible.
Ski equipment list
Ski clothing list
Whether you’re buying brand new gear or hopefully choosing the more sustainable option of used ski equipment and clothing, ensuring you have the right gear will make your next trip a dream. So get your skiing essentials together and hit the slopes!