When I started working at Liftopia in October 2011, I was excited to realize I would be in prime position to begin skiing again after 20 some odd years. When snow finally began to appear with some earnest in February, I started planning my first (ski) trip to Tahoe since the late 80s/early 90s. The travel planning was easy: an unnamed daily deals site for lodging + Liftopia for purchasing discounted lift tickets + 7 minutes = plenty of savings and travel plans complete. Now the hard part, what the heck do I wear? Where do I get it? And how much is it gonna cost me?
After talking with a number of lifelong skiers and riders here in the office, I came up with the “BRB” strategy – things I will need to Buy, have to Rent and probably want to Borrow:
- Base Layer – last time I went skiing in the early 90’s I used long johns/thermal underwear, probably bought from Copeland’s (are they still around?). These days you’ll want to have a breathable fabric with high wickability (keeping moisture away from your skin). You can get a basic and perfectly sufficient long sleeve base layer top and bottom for $60-$80.
- Socks – they’re thinner now than I recall them being. Some would say there isn’t even a need to buy a special “ski” sock. That said, you’ll want your foot to be as close to the boot as possible and you want as little movement within the boot as possible. Expect to spend $10-$20 for a basic pair.
- Hat – for a first timer, your hat is gonna be one of the few places you can absolutely be yourself in terms of the gear. So, while you probably can find a suitable hat to borrow, spend $20 and find something that’s you.
- Ski Pants – I’m a short guy with a waist size that doesn’t exactly match my height. I quickly figured out that borrowing pants would not be an option. So, I hit up the Northface Outlet in Berkeley, CA and found a solid pair of pants, in my exact size for $99. (same pair of pants was “clearance” priced for $150 at the REI 2 blocks away).
- Sunblock/LipBalm – duh.
- Skis – expect to spend $35-$50 for a ski/boot/pole package.
- Boots – be sure of the fit. I made the dumb mistake of going out with a boot that was a half size too small. I was miserable until I was able to make it down the mountain to get the right size.
- Helmet – this is a relatively new development. It’s optional, but do it anyway. $10.
- Jacket – a decent jacket will run you anywhere from $150-$400 and up. Do yourself a favor and find a friend who can let you borrow theirs for your first trip or 2. At least until you find a great 50% + off sale.
- Gloves – this might seem like a buy, but with all the different type of gloves out there, it makes sense to be sure about the type of glove you want to purchase. The best way to do this is to try wearing 2 or 3 different gloves (mittens?) for a day on the slopes. You’d hate to buy a leather mitten, only to find out you prefer a Gore-Tex 5 finger set.
- Goggles – until you know you are going to be a *skier*, having a pair of goggles in your drawer kinda doesn’t make sense. Besides, your ski-bum co-worker has got like 6 pairs with interchangeable lenses for all kinds of weather conditions.
- Facemask/Neck Warmer – only because it feels like overkill buying these things.
A bit of advice: Now through Labor Day is the perfect time to buy. It’ll be last year’s stuff, and the sizes may be limited, but you’ll find outstanding deals.