What ski equipment do I need, and should I rent or buy?

With such a broad range of ski equipment out there to buy and rent, deciding what you really need for your ski holiday can be a difficult market to navigate. Here is what you need to know about ski equipment & clothing.

Clothing

A good thermal top and bottom base layer is essential; materials such as merino wool or synthetics provide the much needed insulation with the ability to breathe and allow sweat to evaporate quickly. A first time ski or snowboard lesson can really get your heart rate up, so having the right base layer is a must. A quality mid-layer will keep you toasty in cold snaps, especially on the lifts, so a light weight down or synthetic jacket are great for warmth as well as being compact if you need to shed it. To finish it off, a fully water & windproof outer shell jacket & pants will protect you from the elements without weighing you down or restricting your movements. You can’t go wrong with Goretex, and if you opted for the mid-layer then just a 1 or 2 layered outer jacket/shell will be plenty warm enough.

Buy or rent?

Your base and mid layers will be something you purchase or borrow from a friend. As more personal items of clothing it would be almost impossible to find them for rent. They generally have a very long life so you and can even be worn back home in cooler temperatures. The outer jacket & pants can be rented or purchased – depending on your preference. Generally speaking, if this is a one off or first time ski trip, renting will save you money and be less to travel with. On the other hand, if this is something that you plan to repeat or are here for a longer ski holiday, it may be worth making the investment.

Helmet

All newly purchased or rented helmets will meet the safety standards, so as long as it is a good fit (not too big or slopping backwards) then it is hard to go wrong. Most places will rent if you are not ready to buy, and this can be a good way to try a few different ones first. Comfort is the key – so prioritise that over aesthetics when choosing. You can borrow or buy second hand, though this way you won’t know if the helmet has had a significant impact or has been dropped previously. Generally once this has happened it looses its structural integrity and may not do it`s job as well as it should. Therefore renting from a reputable shop or buying new are preferable.

Goggles

This a purchase or borrow item as most places do not rent goggles for hygiene reasons. When selecting, either opt for a pair with two or more easily changeable lenses for different conditions, or ones that are for every day use; i.e not overly tinted or overly exposed. There is no need to spend big bucks on goggles as you can get some perfectly adequate ones for relatively cheap. As with many things though, you generally get what you pay for. The higher the price is typically higher the quality with better protection for your eyes and ease of vision.

Ski boots

There is nothing worse than skiing around with scrunched up feet or blistered ankles on your holiday when you have spent so much to be there. In a choice between owning your own skis or boots – it is boots all the way. Given that all feet are indeed different it is not surprising that from time to time we end up with sore feet from ill fitting ski boots. So – should you buy or rent? Simply put, if you ski with any frequency and plan to for the years to come, it is well worth the investment. If you do decide to do this, make sure you see a professional boot fitter who will advise & custom fit you. If it is your first ski trip then it is not necessary to run out and buy new boots and renting from a good company will do the job nicely. If your feet are very uncomfortable don’t hesitate to do something about it. There is no point to wait until more painful patches appear before trying some other ones. If you do purchase – be sure to get heat moulded custom foot beds.

Skis

While owning your own skis is great, if you are traveling far to your destination they can be heavy and cumbersome to transport. Plus, ski technology evolves so quickly that renting once you arrive at your destination has the huge advantage of being able to sample what is new on the market. The best rental shops will allow you to change skis daily if you wanted to, so you are on the best skis for deep powder one day and then equipped for fast groomers the next. Owning one pair and visiting destinations like Hakuba can be a gamble because the snow depth and conditions change so quickly. You would end up being restricted to one pair, suited for certain conditions. Times when you might decide to purchase would be if you spend extensive times in the mountains each winter and/or if you have a place to store them so you don’t need to fly them all over the world.

Poles

First time children under 7 do not need to rent or buy ski poles at all as they will learn much better without them. First time adults also will not need them for the first day or two, but feel free to rent them incase you decide to introduce their use once you’ve mastered the basics. At a recreational level there is no need for anything flashy, so as long as the height is correct most poles will do the job. Usually they come as a package with the skis and boots at no extra cost, so you may as well get them even if it is your first time. I would only suggest buying your own if you already have your own skis, otherwise they are awkward to travel with and can be very cheaply rented.

Gloves

Another good one to buy is gloves or mittens. Again quite personal items, they are not often rented out and having a good pair is really important in keeping you warm and comfortable. Simply put, if you feel the cold easily or are buying for children – mittens are the way to go. Keeping the fingers together maximises warmth as opposed to gloves, which isolate the digits. Gloves on children can be awkward and easily turn inside out when removing, so mittens are generally a better fit. Waterproof is essential, and as usual you get what you pay for – higher the price is usually higher the quality. If you want the dexterity of a glove but the warmth of a mitten then the `Lobster Mitt` is the perfect hybrid. Black Diamond & Hestra do excellent versions of these.

Neck warmer

This is personal choice, though recommend for children and adults in particularly harsh climates. It would be on the buy list as opposed to rentals, and will keep your neck, chin & mouth warm and snuggly.

Ski socks

As tempting as it might be to pull on pair after pair of socks in a bid to maximise warmth, this idea is seriously flawed. Wearing multiple socks creates layers that can rub together and create creases and friction inside your boot – usually resulting in blisters. It is so important to wear just one pair of quality ski socks, pulled up properly and taller than your ski boots. Merino wool socks are very warm and reasonably priced.

Hakuba tips

Whether you choose to buy or rent these items, they are essentially what you will need for your Hakuba Ski Trip. We highly recommend Rhythm Snowsports Hakuba – located in Wadano – for your one stop ski shop for rentals and purchases. They have a large selection, professional team and great customer service. Boot Solutions are also located in the same building and offer custom boot fitting services.

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