Are you brand new to alpine sports, having just purchased your skis and poles, boots, or a snowboard, and wondering what else you need? Or maybe you already know how to ski, but are finding your outings less than enjoyable, and feel like you are missing some small but crucial equipment? Ski equipment is not limited to just your snowsuit, your head wear, and what goes onto your feet. There are many other small pieces of gear that can greatly improve your comfort, warmth, and general happiness. With this in mind, listed below are five must-have items that every skier should have in their arsenal of equipment. All of these items are extremely affordable and readily-available, and despite all seeming small and frivolous, they work to bring your day from good to fantastic, all with little fuss.
#1 - A warm, high-quality balaclava:
Have you ever skied on a cold day and found yourself fidgeting with a skull cap, a neck warmer, and a face mask all at the same time? If your answer is yes, a warm and comfortable balaclava is the answer. These streamlined, all-in-one pieces cover everything from your neck upwards, eliminating the heft of many different pieces and those annoying little uncovered spaces between garments. The best balaclavas have fleece for your head and neck, and neoprene-type (think of scuba gear) material for your face, which doesn't absorb the moisture from your breath.
My recommendations: Seirus Ultra Clava, 35$ or Turtle Fur Tactical Beast Hood Balaclava, 49$
#2 - Hand and toe warmers:
Hand and toe warmers should be a staple for every skier, since they are small and easy to fit into any bag, or even your jacket. While they unfortunately don't make a cold snap disappear, these single-use warmers provide heat to your hands or toes all day, and can transform an unbearable outing into a pleasant one. Beware though: many inexpensive or store-brand warmers are not very effective, so paying an extra dollar or so for a high-quality set from a well-known brand is definitely worth it!
My recommendations: Hot Shots or Hot Hands/Toasti Toes; prices vary depending on if they are purchased individually or in a bulk pack. Estimate 2-3$ if purchased one-by-one, less if bought in a large pack.
#3 - Ski socks:
A good, high-quality pair of ski socks is a must for any skier. Different from regular athletic socks, they are usually made of wool or synthetic fibres, and help keep your feet warm and dry. Unlike cotton, which absorbs sweat, gets wet, and then freezes your feet, ski socks help keep away moisture and insulate your feet from the harsh elements. Surprisingly, the thickest socks are not always the best choice, since they tend to not be breathable, and allow your feet to sweat. Socks of different weights, however, are available, and can be interchanged depending on the temperature. The best socks are costly, but well worth the investment.
My recommendations: Smartwool PhD Ski Socks , 24$ or Icebreaker Skier+ Socks, 26$; both available for men and women.
#4 - Thermal base layer:
One of the most important items of clothing when skiing or snowboarding is the one that is right on your skin. A good base layer maintains correct body temperature, and helps keep away moisture, thereby preventing cold. Furthermore, base layers should have the ability to dry, and should not be too bulky or uncomfortable With this in mind, the best choice for a base layer is one made out of merino wool or synthetic material such as polyester (never cotton!). Wool and synthetics have different properties as materials, so consider these carefully before you make your choice. A base layer should always be tight-fitting, which helps insulate the body from the cold, and traps warm air next to the skin.
My recommendations: L. L. Bean Cresta Wool Ultralight 150 Base Layer (or similar), 59$ or Under Armour Base 4.0 Crew Long Underwear Top (or similar), 85$; both available for men and women.
#5 - A ski/snowboard lock:
There is no worse feeling than coming out of the chalet and realising that your costly equipment has be accidentally taken or stolen right out of the racks. With a ski lock, you can protect your investment from thieves as well as confused guests, who might mistake your stuff for theirs. Furthermore, it gives you peace of mind, as you do not have to worry about the safety of your equipment. Keep in mind, however, that almost all lockable ski racks in North America are manufactured by Ski Key, which only work with their own lock, so it is wise to buy a lock of this brand only.
My recommendation: Ski Key Ski & Snowboard Lock, 25$
Do you have any personal preferences for the items listed above? Or are there any other small things that you consider essential when it comes to skiing or snowboarding? Let us know in the comments section below, we would love to hear from you!