“When you’re on top of the hill, you can go in any direction. You’re relying on minimal equipment; everything else is just about following gravity,” says Patrick Deneen, 20, the top-ranked freestyle skier in the United States. “It’s the feeling of just being free to do whatever you want and skiing on the edge.”
The feeling of freedom is what attracts lots of guys to skiing and snowboarding in the first place. Once they try it, they’re hooked.
Having the right equipment can make the difference between spending your days shredding the slopes or scraping yourself up off the snow. There are a few things you should know before you go ski and snowboard shopping, and Deneen and 17-year-old pro snowboarder Johnny Lazzareschi will fill you in.
THE LOW DOWN
Whether you’re a skier or snowboarder, the first thing you need to do is decide which type of riding you think you’ll be doing the most. There are two main types of skis: freestyle and all-mountain. Same goes for snowboards.
“Freestyle boards are best for sliding rails and doing jumps,” Lazzareschi says. Slightly longer, all-mountain boards (also called freeride) are designed to be ridden all over the mountain and in all sort os snow conditions.
Next, be smart about where you shop. Snow-specific specialty shops will give you the best service in selecting your gear, though better deals can be had online or in big sporting goods stores.
“But don’t just go to one shop and buy all your stuff there without shopping around first,” Lazzareschi warns. Also, if you can wait until the off-season you can usually find really good deals, especially at the big stores with lots of inventory.
“The best time to buy skis is in the off-season, like March. That’s when stuff starts going on sale,” Deneen says.
Finally, if you’re not sure what sort of skis or board you want, renting can be a good way to go. Some shops have a fleet of demos so you can try the latest and greatest models, while some even offer full-season lease options that rent you an entire kit (boots, bindings, and skis or snowboard) for around $150.
Length: Skis should be your height or barely taller.
Width: Pick a ski with a waist of 70 to 80 mm for all-mountain skiing.
Flex: Soft to medium flex is best for beginner/intermediates. Stiff for more aggressive skiers.
Bindings: Will cost $150 to $300.
Boots: Fits from a half-size to a full-size smaller than street shoes. Try injected foam liners for a better fit. $300 to $600.
Length: Board should come up to between your chin and forehead.
Width: Your feet should be just about flush with the edge of the board, not hanging over the side.
Flex: Choose more flex if you’ll be doing freestyle moves in the park/pipe; more stiffness for all-mountain riding.
Bindings: Pick strap bindings (not step-ins); should cost $125 to $200.
Boots: Fits half-size smaller than street shoes. $150 to $250.
WEAR A HELMET
“It’s kind of the coolest thing on the mountain now — everybody wears a helmet,” freestyle skier Patrick Deneen says. “Even if you’re just going to go slow, you’re definitely going to get hit. I’ve seen them save lives.