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Have a “Fit” – When Choosing Ski Gear

By Kerry Phillips
Utah Ski Corner

There are several factors to weigh when choosing the right ski or snowboarding gear for your season or vacation. Location, conditions, and skill level all play a role, but most important is likely fit and comfort.

Ski Boots: Most skiers will tell you there is nothing more important than a well-fitted pair of boots for a good ski day. If you’ve ever haphazardly chosen boots without thoroughly trying them on, you might know the pain of making such a quick decision. This is also the reason it is not a good idea to buy or rent ski or snowboard boots for someone who isn’t there to try them on.

Your boots should fit snuggly at the heel, ankle and down the shaft of the foot for stability and control, but should also allow for wiggle room in the toe box. Men’s calves are often higher than women, so men’s boots tend to rise higher in the back. The unisex boots used for rentals compensate to fit most men and women. When you put your foot in the boot, with light-weight ski socks (of course), the tips of your toes should just touch the end. Once you buckle them completely, the shape of the boot and a slightly-bended knee used when skiing should push the heel back and pull the toes away from the end – and from the pain they might feel if they don’t pull back.

Heat-moldable liners can help you avoid any “hot spots” by forming the liner to the natural curves of your foot. It takes a couple of days of skiing for the liners to fully pack out and conform to the shape of your foot.

Choose the flex of the boot based on skill level. Beginning and intermediate skiers perform best with a more flexible boot and more room in the toe box. More advanced skiers take on tougher terrain and require a sturdier boot with a snugger fit and less room in the toe box.

As with adults, kids should try on boots with the same lightweight microfiber or wool ski socks they will be using on the mountain. Always measure their feet with a sizing device recommended by the manufacturer of the boot they’re trying on. If you can slip a finger or two behind their heel in the boot, you know there is at least that much room in the toe box. A removable soft liner helps you determine how far their toes are from the front end of the boot as you can push down in front of the toe, like when trying on regular shoes. A little toe room helps keep their piggies warm.

It is recommended to buy kids boots a half-size larger to allow for growth while maintaining comfort and control.

Skis: Gone are the days of skis stretching two feet above your head as length has been replace by width. Technology has made it so the shape of the ski requires less length. The average ski length for men is 160-177cm, while most women fit best on skis between 140-160cm. Of course the length depends on height, weight, ability, terrain, and shape of the ski.

Most beginning to intermediate skiers find it easiest to maneuver on shorter skis, reaching the bottom of the chin to the mouth when standing them on-end. A longer ski helps maintain control at higher speeds and more advanced skiers prefer skis that stand at the nose to above their head.

Choosing the right length of ski for kids has just as many variables as adults. For the little beginners it’s best to choose skis that reach just above their shoulders from the floor. Kids under 5 often need to be set up to play in the snow on skis, rather than truly skiing. As kids gain experience, however, they tend to follow the same guidelines for length – chin to nose, nose to forehead, etc.

Poles: While most instructors prefer to teach the young ones without poles, until they get away from the wedge and into making turns, poles can help with a skier’s stance. However, the wrong length of a pole can mess with the stance and creates a danger of injury.

Sizing poles is likely the easiest of ski gear. Standing up straight, hold the pole upside down and place your hand under the basket (circle stopper at the bottom of the pole). With the pole on the ground to the side and front of you and your elbow to your side, your elbow should be bent at a 90-degree angle.

It is best to choose a pole that bends your arm a little more – or stands a little taller – to take the height of ski boots into account. Short poles will make you reach too far to plant your pole when you’re skiing. Poles that are too long will feel like they are simply in the way.

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