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Buying skis and boots?

Words from the big man – Will Nicholls

Speaking from my own personal experience – don’t get sucked into buying boots or skis because;
A, they look cool

B, they’re cheap

C, they look cool, and they’re cheap!

I’ve been guilty of each of the above, and squandered a load of cash in the process. I also wasted a whole winter, as my feet were frozen and in agony every day. I skied horrendously as a result, and didn’t enjoy it anywhere near as much as I should have done. Had I forked out an extra £200, and picked the boots that actually fitted my feet, I’d have had an amazing time.
Ski kit is really expensive unfortunately. But, it does last a long time. Most people will gradually improve, and as they progress, have different kit requirements, as they’ll end up out-skiing their equipment, and won’t be able to break through into their next performance level. Equally though, if you’re new to skiing and buy kit for advanced skiers, you’re on a hiding to nothing. It’s akin to a novice driver buying a high end sports car – it’s too much car, and they’ll never even get near to the car’s abilities. To say nothing of struggling to control it…

So. A few top tips;

For new skiers;

Rent ski boots and skis from a shop – decide if you like skiing enough to invest in the kit.
Try some different boots – which feel best?
You’ll need softer skis and boots, they’ll be more comfortable, and they’re more forgiving if you make any mistakes.


It’s tricky! How much skiing do you think you’ll do in the future? Are you going to dedicate time to becoming really good (skiing quickly down blacks and double blacks), or do you think you’d like more time on blues/reds, with the occasional dabble on black runs? This should inform your decision as to whether you buy intermediate kit, or look towards getting advanced equipment.
Do you prefer skiing on piste, or off piste? This will help with the type of ski you should at. If ski touring is on your radar, then it’s a different set of kit again, and it’d be worth investing in ski touring stuff, as opposed to normal skis and boots.
Advanced / Expert;

There are loads of skis and boots available to you.
At this level, you need stiffer skis and boots to cope with higher speeds, much like suspension on a car. Stiff means stable, but it’s important that you’re hitting those speeds to begin with, otherwise the gear’s capabilities won’t be reached, and it’ll feel like hard work to use.
Try lots of different types from rental shops – you need to get the ones you like the most. You wouldn’t buy a car without a test drive, this is the same!
If you’re into ski touring and mountaineering there are even more options. Do you want a light set-up that’s geared towards going uphill easily? Or do you want to make the most of the descent? In this case, you’ll be looking at slightly heavier bindings, skis, and boots.

In essence, it’s really easy to buy the wrong kit! Think long and hard about your current ability, and what type of skiing you’ll do in the future.
I think the best thing to buy is a pair of boots. Get the right pair, and you’re laughing. Get the wrong pair, and even on the most perfect skis, you’ll never ski as well as you could. I’d strongly suggest visiting a specialist boot fitter to choose the correct boot, they’re amazing. A common myth that you can buy a pair of boots, and ‘blow them out’ to fit your feet is rubbish. You can’t! Ask the advice of a specialist, try lots on, and buy those that best fit your feet, and best fit your requirements.
THE most important thing in my mind is to go to a specialist independent ski shop. The staff in these are excellent. You’ll get much better advice and service than from a large chain retailer. Check out Lockwoods for example!
I hope that’s been handy! If you’d like to learn how to access the backcountry and ski offpiste, it’d be great to see you on our mountaineering for skiers course.
Happy skiing! Thanks for reading, Sam and Will.

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