Gearing Up

With every new ski season (and with Christmas coming sooner than we think), skiers’ thoughts turn to buying new equipment.

This is the time of year when every skier starts browsing through the racks of shiny new gear in local sports stores.

It’s actually a great time of year to buy. There is the widest selection of gear and sizes available, since stores typically only get a single shipment of new ski equipment each year.

But what to buy? Here is a good process to follow – assuming you are looking for skiing gear to use on groomed trails using classic technique.

First and most important: find the right boot. The right boot is the brand and model that fits you the best.

Buy a boot that doesn’t fit well and you’ll be miserable on the trails. Too tight and your feet will cramp and/or freeze. Too loose and you’ll be fighting blisters.

Buy a boot for the type of skiing you are doing: classic or skate, recreational or racing.

Don’t stress too much about price – the boots will last many years (unlike running shoes, they don’t wear out quickly). And remember that we typically get six months of skiing under our belts each season in Whitehorse, so you’re bound to get your money’s worth.

The boot you select will dictate the type of binding you need to have installed on the ski.

The major two types (Salomon, known as SNS, and New Nordic Norm, or NNN) are both good, so don’t worry about choosing one or the other. Both are seen regularly on the World Cup podiums, and both are good for the recreational skier as well as the expert.

If you have been skiing with the old three-pin binding system, do yourself a favour and switch. The difference in control the newer systems give you is huge, especially on those tricky downhill corners.

Next, ski selection is the heart of the matter.

First, decide between waxless or waxable skis.

Waxless skis are convenient and provide grip in just about any condition. Waxable skis take a little more work, but will outperform their waxless cousins, especially when temperatures are consistent (which is mostly what we get in Whitehorse).

If you aren’t comfortable with waxing, come to one of the ski club’s clinics, or get a lesson from a knowledgeable friend. It’s pretty straightforward.

The critical consideration for ski selection is camber, or the curvature of the base of the ski. Camber relates to how stiff a ski is, or how easy (or hard) it is to flatten out when the skier gets his or her weight on it.

A ski that is too stiff will frustrate you – the wax pocket (that area under the foot that gives you grip) won’t contact the snow properly and climbing hills will be a nightmare.

A ski that is too soft will drag the wax on the snow, slowing you down. If it’s really soft, you won’t be able to edge it correctly and cornering will be problematic (unless you want to spend time in snow banks).

A good ski shop will fit the ski to the skier, helping you select the right equipment for your weight, ability and pocketbook.

A longer ski tends to be faster (with more glide), where shorter skis tend to be more nimble and easier to handle for a novice.

However, getting the correct camber should always be the overriding concern. Don’t buy a ski with the wrong camber just because it’s a good deal!

The least critical of your purchases is ski poles. Choose a pole that comes roughly to your armpit. Since you are skiing on groomed trails, a large basket is not required. Make sure you get poles with straps that can be adjusted easily to accommodate both gloves and mitts.

There is quite a variety of poles to choose from. This is an area you can economize on if you are worried about budget; the average skier won’t see dramatic improvements in skiing with more expensive poles (although they do feel good!).

Finally, after you buy that new gear make sure you get out and use it!

See you on the trails.

Claude Chabot is executive director of the Whitehorse Cross Country Ski Club. If you have questions about the club or its extensive network of trails, you can reach Claude at [email protected]

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