Image Credit: @wlsgrace
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I’m a professional product reviewer. Naturally, whenever I make a purchase—particularly one that will undoubtedly drain my bank account—I scour the Internet for help.
I’ve skied before, but this year, I was heading out West for most of the season. I’d move to Park City, Utah in January and would be there until April. First, I’d looked at seasonal rentals, but those were only open to Utah residents. I’d be staying in a rented guest room I’d found and didn’t plan on establishing a permanent presence. Next, I looked at the cheapest possible day rates—but at that point, I’d pay for gear twice over and not have my own at the end of it.
Since I was a newbie, I preferred new gear for my first go-round. I didn’t want to purchase used and get stuck with faulty equipment if I didn’t know what to look for. Still, I dreaded the hit to my bank account. I’d most likely be spending over $1,000. (Spoiler alert: I did.)
I agonized so that you wouldn’t have to. I already owned gloves and goggles, and for the purpose of this edit, will exclude those since you’d bring your own to the mountain everyday even if your ski setup was taken care of by a rental company. After months of research, teary nights of second-guessing, and my first “so worth it!” foray into the pow, here’s my (ideal) first-time buyer gear setup.
Shop your first ever ski gear setup with these editor-approved favorites:
- Skis: Elan Ripstick 94 W 170 2022 — now $600 — Amazon.
- Bindings: Armada N Stage 11 GW Ski Bindings 2023 — $160 — Curated.
- Helmet: Smith Mirage MIPS Helmet — now $140 — Curated.
- Poles: Atomic AMT Ski Poles — $32 — Amazon.
- Ski Boots: Atomic Hawx Prime 85 W Ski Boots — $400 — Amazon.
Some background on ya girl: I’m roughly 5’10. My go-to phrase to the ski shops that helped me pick out my gear was “I’m roughly beginner/intermediate, but hoping for room to grow” so that I could find entry-level gear that I wouldn’t have to replace as soon as I got better. I recently heard a friend describe herself as a teal skier (greens and light blues), and I’m one hundred percent stealing that characterization for myself.
SKIS: Elan Ripstick 94 W 170
Why I love them: I bought my skis on the weekend of Black Friday, knowing I wanted to squeeze out whichever discounts possible. I’d been recommended these and the Black Crows Captis Birdies, but opted for these because I heard the Black Crows weren’t amazing in powder. As a beginner—a firmly teal skier—I didn’t have to care too much about the nitty gritty technical comparisons but still endured tremendous overthinking when I heard any sort of flaw about any ski I was considering. All in all, the Black Crows probably would have been great but I wanted the tried-and-true (and truthfully am not a big fan of chevron patterns.) I paid $480 for the on-sale skis plus tax and shipping, which came out to roughly $528 total.
I’d been hunting for the last season specifically because I’d been told the 2022 skis were the same technically as the 2023 edition, just with a different design. So why not save $100? When I found them at Seattle-based retailer Ascent Outdoors and one other, I chose the former specifically for its generous return policy. On the mountain, I see plenty of others rockin’ the Elans, and my Airbnb host loves her own pair because they’re easier for skinning up the mountain. (She is a braver soul than I.)
Buy them: now $600; ascentoutdoors.com.
BINDINGS: Armada N Stage 11 GW Ski Bindings 2023
Why I love them: I’ll be honest: I can’t tell the difference between bindings. I asked for something cheap and sturdy. Ultimately, I opted not to buy the bindings online and instead purchased them in-person at a local ski shop (Jackson’s Base Camp) so that I could receive a discount on mounting.
Buy them: $160; curated.com.
HELMET: Smith Mirage MIPS Helmet
Why I love it: Ski accidents scare me to death and I plan to ski gently for a long time before I feel capable of attempting tougher terrain. Needless to say, I wanted a top-tier helmet, one that would protect my noggin against the worst case scenarios. Plus, in a crowded ski resort, I don’t trust others not to knock me over. I was influenced to buy a Smith helmet by our lovely founder Madeleine when she posted a TikTok about in-helmet headphones that fit inside. While I’m rocking my own pair for now, I loved the idea of buying those eventually. While I bought the black colorway, the helmet’s also available in white and chalk rose. I paid $114 while it was on sale.
Buy it: $140; curated.com.
POLES: Atomic AMT Ski Poles
Why I love it: Honestly, it was just such a relief to see an item on this list below $40? Like ooooh mama, some financial relief. Lightweight, sturdy, and from a trusted brand—sign me up.
Buy them: $32; curated.com.
SKI BOOTS: Atomic Hawx Prime 85 W Ski Boots
Why I love them: Back when I was deciding whether or not to rent gear for the season, I still wanted to buy proper ski boots. If you make one splurge from this list, that’s the way to go. I’d previously only worn rental boots, and the difference between those generic fits and these fitted-to-me beauties was immense. Already, I’m so much more flexible and more comfortable than I was. These boots were actually my Christmas and birthday presents from my family, which helped a lot. I’d gotten fitted for a pair in-person at Paragon Sports in New York City, but opted to buy online because they didn’t offer shipping to Utah. According to my fitter, these boots were perfect for my narrow feet.
To buy: $400; curated.com.
How Much It All Cost
My goal was to stay under $1,200 with my gear and I missed that slightly. The subtotal was $1,232, which didn’t include factors like shipping or tax. Still, buying it was worth it for me because I’d be using it everyday or close to for the next three months, and I’d bring it back in hopeful (future) trips.
I also still need to buy a boot bag and ski bag for transporting to other locales, because I’m determined to get the most from my EPIC Local and IKON passes this season. Oh, and this gear roundup doesn’t even get close to how much I spent on the passes themselves…
How I Saved Up
In frank terms, skiing is traditionally considered a rich-person-sport for this reason—and that’s not including the astronomical costs of traveling to and staying in a ski town, if you’re not based around there! I’m ballin’ on a budget myself, so I used an automated savings app called Albert to save up for my skis. (I swear by Albert; I’ve been using it for years.)
It works by taking small amounts from your bank account that you “won’t notice,” calculated by its AI’s evaluation of your spending habits and patterns. So it’ll pull out $8 you might have spent on a latte and croissant, or $25 for dinner if you’ve just gotten a windfall paycheck.
Then, it’ll deposit the money into a sinking fund you can name, reference, set a goal for, and pull from when you’d like to use. The app is how I save for big purchases. When my tech account reaches my goal number for example, I’ll upgrade a camera lens. It was easier not to wince when I checked out with my skis when I could pull from an existing ski fund I’d started in June.
But now I’m looking forward to not having to buy them next season—unless I’m suddenly shredding black diamonds.
Do you own your own gear? Are you looking to take the plunge? Let us know at @INTOPLEINAIR.