What Ski Gear Do I Need?
First up, let’s distinguish between clothing and equipment!
Equipment – Refers to your skis and ski boots, snowboard and boots, poles and helmet. Most South Africans rent this equipment as part of their pre-paid holiday package or on arrival in resort. Unless you are a regular skier (i.e. at least once a year) there is no need to buy this equipment – it is expensive! And besides, the rental stock at most resort hire shops is generally less than a year old and in really good condition.
Clothing – Unlike the equipment, it is difficult to find clothing to rent. Choosing and buying your ski clothing is probably your most important investment after the holiday itself! One has to be ready for temperature extremes – riding the first chair lift of the morning with temperatures below 0°C is pretty chilly in any language! However, after you’ve spent a few crazy hours charging down the slopes, you’re going to want to start stripping down a little. The secret is to dress in layers that you can take off and put on, as the conditions require.
Helmet: Although ski helmets are not compulsory by law in most countries and therefore a matter of personal preference, we (and most ski aficionados) can’t stress how important this piece of equipment is. You want to keep your ‘pip’ safe in the event of a fall or accident with another skier/boarder. Furthermore, most ski schools will insist on helmets, particularly for children.
Importantly, many (if not all) travel insurance policies will require the insured person to wear a helmet when participating in winter sports.
Helmets can be rented along with the rest of your equipment in the resort.
Hat: Pack a good Polartec® Beanie to keep your head and ears warm
Buffs and/or scarf: You can use a Buff to keep your neck and face warm on those chilly trips up the mountain on a ski lift.
Sun Glasses: A good pair of polarized shades, preferably ones that wrap around the face a little
Sunscreen: Faces and particularly noses should be well covered in sun cream before venturing onto the slopes, even if it’s overcast.
The Base Layer
Also known as the ‘sweat layer’ or ‘wicking layer’ – refers to the layer closest to your body. These tops (long or short sleeve) and leggings are made of fast drying, snug fitting, synthetic/wool mix wicking fabric that draws the sweat away from your body and allows it to evaporate thereby keeping you warm and comfortable. Base layers are available from most good sports and outdoor outlets including Cape Union Mart, Cape Storm and First Ascent.
The Mid Layer
Also known as the insulating or warm layer – refers to the layer between your base layer and jacket (usually only applicable to the top half). You can use a comfortable Polartec fleece or soft shell jacket for this job. The real advantage of this layer is that you can vary the thickness of garments to suit the conditions you’re likely to encounter.
The Outer Layer
Also referred to as the ‘protective layer’ – includes your ski jacket and ski pants. A good set will cost upwards of R3000 but they’re worth every cent. They will not only keep you dry and warm, but the extra little of padding can come in very handy!!
Under your Ski Pants?!
Common Question: Should I wear long johns under my ski pants? Answer: Check the label and if they’re made from a cotton blend fabric, then NO! Much better to buy a few pairs of good thermals!
Like the tops (discussed above), thermal leggings are made of fast drying, snug fitting, synthetic/merino wool mix wicking fabric that draws the sweat away from your body and allows it to evaporate thereby keeping you warm, dry and comfortable.
Note: Depending on daily temperatures and the thickness of your ski pants, you may find that you don’t need to wear thermal leggings every day. However, they can still be very useful for chilly evenings out on the town.
Socks and Footwear
Socks for skiing:
For starters, leave the old rugby socks at home! That coarse, ribbed fabric is going to be very uncomfortable after a few hours on the slopes. A few good pairs of proper ski socks will keep your feet dry, warm, cushioned and comfortable in those ski boots.
Ski socks are made from a combination of materials including +/- 50% merino wool (for its great wicking properties), +/- 40% nylon and a small amount of elastane or lycra, etc. You also get different weights (thickness) – light, medium and heavy. We’ve found that a light or medium weight sock is ideal for skiing in the alps. Heavyweight socks can get really hot, particularly for busy skiers/boarders.
Footwear: Make sure they have soles with a good tread (icy walkways can be treacherous after a few glüweins!) and are reasonably waterproof. Alternatively get yourself a pair of ‘moonboots’ when you arrive – they are inexpensive and perfect for tobogganing, walking around town and having fun in the snow!
Warm and dry hands are happy hands! A good pair of gloves or mittens are an essential element of clothing. Mittens keep hands and fingers warmer, but gloves give you more dexterity. If in doubt, I would choose a pair of good gloves. Make sure your gloves are waterproof and have a toughened or extra layer of fabric on the palm for carting your skis around
Swimming costume: We know this sounds crazy for a ski holiday but some resorts have indoor heated pools to relax in after a hard day on the slopes
Dinner attire: Some resorts will have smart casual dress code. Remember the hotel will be heated inside so you will need some ‘normal’ clothes too!