Many winter sports enthusiasts head for the slopes the second the first snowflakes start to fall. As skiing attracts increasing numbers of fans, the choice of equipment is growing to an enormous scale. To ensure no compromises are made on the way to fun and safety, skis, ski boots and other equipment must fit correctly and offer adequate protection for the type of expedition involved. The type of equipment should be aligned to the skier’s preferences and abilities. TÜV SÜD’s expert, Thomas Maier, reveals what needs to be considered before making a purchase.
Tyro or pro? Member of a group excursion or downhill loner? Whichever category of skier you fall into, the right equipment and outfit are essentials. “It’s vital to clarify in advance whether you aim to spend most of your time on groomed slopes or in deep snow, as the route a skier chooses will impose its own individual requirements”, warns Thomas Maier. “Needs and abilities vary widely and must be discussed with a knowledgeable sales representative in a specialist retailer. Only skiers that have the right equipment can tackle downhill runs with confidence and safety.”
Long, short, wide, narrow – what type of skis are the right ones?
Skiers should ensure the skis they use are commensurate with their skills on the slopes. “A useful rule of thumb for calculating the length of downhill skis is the formula ‘skier’s height minus 5 to 20 cm’. ‘Rocker’ skis or deep-powder skis are often longer, but this all depends on personal preference, the type of skiing area and the type of ski”, explains Thomas Maier. “The less experienced a skier, the shorter the skis should be, while the more time the skier plans to spend in deep powder, the bigger the width of ski that will be needed.” The skier’s personal style is also critical. Do the skis need to handle wide, sweeping curves or short, tight turns? Should the downhill run be sporty and speedy, or taken at a leisurely pace? Again, a rule of thumb can help: the sportier the preferred skiing style, the longer the skis should be.
Ski boots and bindings – the priorities
Ski boots need to fit closely yet still be comfortable. The correct fit allows the toes to still wiggle freely when flexed as is typical while skiing; the boot should support movement of the upper ankle, not hinder it. Ski socks are recommended for trying on ski boots and later wearing them. Some models have an integrated heating system or heated insoles – a boon for skiers that suffer from cold feet. Bindings are the link between boot and ski. They should be adjusted by a specialist and checked at least once a year, as the correct setting is highly individual and depends on weight, height and ability as well as on the boot design.
Which ski poles are the best?
The length of ski poles is another factor that plays a major role in safety and comfort during a downhill run. Multiply your height by 0.7 to calculate the right length. Or, if you don’t have a calculator to hand, use this simple, rapid test: stand the poles upside-down, grips to the bottom, and rest your forearms on them. If your forearms are parallel to the ground, the poles are the perfect length. “Bargain-price poles may not always be the better buy”, warns Thomas Maier. “Higher-quality poles are manufactured from special aluminium or carbon materials and are more resilient. They may also have special features like safety loops to release the poles if the skier falls, or special pole/glove combinations.”
Clothing and protection
Basic elements in any skier’s wardrobe should include a waterproof ski jacket and pants as well as functional underwear, gloves and a helmet. It is more effective to wear several thin layers than fewer thick ones. Woollen caps have had their day as headgear; protective helmets are now standard on most slopes. Ensure they fit closely and are well padded to provide the optimum protection in case of falls. Ski or sun goggles are generally available to match; they deliver an extra dose of safety during skiing as well as protecting against UV rays and shielding the eyes from the sun. Watering eyes without goggles may seriously impair a skier’s vision, preventing bumps in the ground from being spotted at an early stage. Back protectors are also useful protection gear, especially for skiers that seek speed or love to experiment at fun parks; these protective items can help to mitigate the danger of injury if the skier takes a tumble.