When the European ski season comes around every year I do admit to a little quickening of the pulse rate. I don’t mind saying that, over the past few years, through both work and play, I’ve become somewhat of an aficionado of winter sports and I’ve picked up a few tips along the way.
Shop Early, Shop Smart
It’s an oldie but a goodie: when it comes to winter sports, preparation is key. Having the right equipment is paramount – not only for comfort and safety, but also in order to get the most out of your abilities.
The sooner you start shopping around for your gear the better – and my first (and top) tip is to enlist the help of a qualified (I’m going to italicise and bold that!) salesperson to help. While it may seem too early to start ticking off your winter sports gear list when the sun’s still shining in the UK, you’ll be able to pick up some fantastic deals in the spring clearance sales. Another thing I suggest is to shop online; if you’ve got the time (and you know what you want) you can get some amazing deals on ski gear after winter.
A Word on Layering
Do it. Ok that’s two words but, seriously, base layering (as we ‘experts’ call it) can make all the difference between making magic or being mired in misery out on the slopes. This is one area where you get what you pay for, and I suggest spending a little more to get a lot more. The first thing to invest in is a couple of good quality long sleeved undershirts – and while the word ‘polyester’ might scream 70s glam rock to you, in this case it’s the best. Look for something like Techwick, which is a breathable, synthetic fabric designed to wick the sweat away from your skin as quickly as you can produce it.
Your next layer should be to insulate you against the cold, but it also needs to continue to draw the moisture out. What you’re looking for here is a lightweight, breathable fleece. The big hitters in fleeces are Polartec and Techwick enhanced fabrics, but if you’re looking for something cosy and natural, merino wool will do the job.
For your top layer, a decent quality ski jacket is the most important piece of apparel you’ll invest in for winter sports. It’s a minefield of choice, but I can simplify your search with just two buzzwords: breathable and waterproof. You’re welcome.
Basically, the job of your jacket is keep the snow and wind out, while ensuring your body heat and moisture can still escape. Jackets using the latest hi-tech synthetic fabrics like Gore-Tex and Polartec are a good indicator of their quality, and a moisture-wicking lining is a major plus in keeping you dry and toasty warm.
While most beginners are happy with rented skis, poles, boots and boards, if you want to take your winter sports a little more seriously you may want to invest in your own gear.
Skis: Make sure you’re fitted by an expert for the right length skis, according to your height, weight and skills.
Boots and Bindings: A proper fit is vital. Try them on with thick socks and ensure they’re a good, snug fit with no movement of your heel. Your bindings need to be checked regularly to check the release mechanism is in working order.
Poles: Make sure an expert recommends your poles based on your height.
Snowshoes: The key is comfort, but the correct size may actually feel tighter than you expect. They need to be water repellent, well insulated and easy to click into bindings.
Snowboards: Just like skis, the correct snowboard is based on an individual’s height and abilities. Don’t choose one just because the colour is cool. (Although there are some pretty cool designs out there!)
Helmet and Goggles: After the jacket, the two most important pieces of apparel/equipment are a high-quality safety-rated and certified helmet and some protective goggles.
Skiing, cross-country, snowboarding, snowshoeing and even a little bit of good-natured slalom competition with friends – I’ve tried it all! While I won’t be heading to the Winter Olympics any time soon, I’ve learnt a thing or two about a thing or two when it comes to preparing for winter sports – and lucky for you, I’m a good sharer!
Patrick Chong is the Managing Director of InsureMore, an award-winning team of specialists in global single trip, family and annual travel insurance including winter sports policies. Besides offering great deals on travel insurance, Patrick also collects and shares the best free travel competitions to help his clients get the most out of their holidays.
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