One of the saddest things to see on the ski hill is a would-be-skier on a bad rental set-up. Skiing is a gear intensive sport and having the right equipment can make or break a successful ski vacation. To bring renters the best advice on ensuring a good equipment experience, I interviewed the best ski-technician I know: Bransford Briggs, shop maven at Jan’s in Park City, UT.
What is the biggest mistake ski renters tend to make?
BB: The biggest mistake renters can make is asking for a boot that is too big for them. Ski boots are supposed to fit snug. You drastically compromise performance when you don’t ensure good comfort and fit.
I had a very nice lady come in the other day and insist that she was a 27.5. I smiled and suggested double-checking her size. Sure enough, we measured her at an easy 25.5. A 27.5 would have had a full inch of volume in front of her toes. That extra volume leads to bruised toenails (often resulting in the loss of one or more) and shin bang. A good snug-fitting boot prevents your feet from sliding around and the resulting discomfort.
So, how can a renter make sure their boots will be comfortable all day long on the hills?
BB: The best thing for a recreational skier to do, assuming they ski somewhere between 5 to 10 days a year, is to purchase a pair of boots. You earn your money back in just a few years.
Boots are the foundation of a successful skiing set-up, and a good boot fit goes a long way in enabling you to ski to your fullest potential. It doesn’t matter if you are on the sickest skis in the world–if your boots hurt, you will undoubtedly ski like a chump! If the renter isn’t interested in purchasing a pair of boots, I recommend that they at least purchase an off-the-counter foot bed. Think of foot beds as being a foot “neutralizer.” Meaning, it keeps your foot in its natural position. Without a foot bed the majority of feet tend to pronate. Pronation is the number one cause of painful boots; it causes pressure points, blisters and bruises.
Happy feet will allow you to stay on the slopes longer each day and over the length of your trip. Think of this as an insurance policy for your trip. If you are paying upwards of $100/day for skiing, making the most of your day is the best way to make certain you get your money’s worth.
How can a renter tell if they’re on the right set-up for them?
BB: A renter should always trust the folks fitting their gear. Let the ski rental staff know about your skiing ability and what you prefer to ski (assuming you have a preference. If not, ask for our advice!).
Be honest. Dishonesty about weight, age and skier ability can greatly increase your chance of injury. The information renters provide determines how we set bindings, boots and skis. There is nothing wrong with being a type I or type II skier! You do not need to be a type III skier to HAVE FUN…but being on a bad set-up can make the experience miserable!
Also, chances are any technician will be able to tell if you are exaggerating your abilities or experience, which puts them in an awkward position.
What’s your go to recommendation for an all-mountain ski for an intermediate skier?
BB: If a renter has boots (again, get boots first) and wants to invest in a pair of skis, they should demo at least 3 pairs. Generally, the best skis for intermediate skiers are going to be something that isn’t too stiff, has a waist in the 80mm range, a turn radius in the 13meter-18meter range, and some tip rocker. The majority of skis these days have some sort of tip “rocker,” a misnomer as the correct term should be “early rise.”
I have personally skied every ski on the wall at Jan’s and can honestly say there isn’t a bad apple in the bunch, but my three favorite intermediate skis are Head’s Rev85, K2’s Amp 80, and Volkl’s RTM 84. For the ladies, I was super impressed by the Volkl Yumi, Atomic Supreme, and the K2 Super Burnin.
Last words of advice for renters?
BB: I see so many folks come through the doors of ski shops, stressed to the max. If you rush anything during the rental or boot fitting process, you will jeopardize on-hill comfort. If your feet hurt, you are going to have a bad time! Slow down. Take the time to get properly set-up and listen to the suggestions of your ski rental technician. This isn’t our first rodeo—we know what we’re doing. The last thing a tech wants is to send you out on gear that is not going to work for you, but if you’re all city-slick and rude, their incentive to provide you with excellent service will be diminish rapidly.