SKISBy Dave Potter

You’ve decided that you going to purchase new gear. Now what? How long should my ski be? What size boots should I buy? What length poles do I need? How much is this going to cost me?

Let’s start with the cheapest and easiest — ski poles. Poles don’t have to be extremely expensive. Aluminum is fine. Poles basically come in two flavors, rolled and extruded. Extruded will cost more, but to tell you the truth, I’ve never been able to tell the difference. However, if you’re like me and have gotten tired of bending and breaking every single pole I have owned, you can also buy composite ski poles made out fiberglass, resin and other materials. Carbon fiber poles are more expensive but are lightweight and strong.

Poles are also the easiest to size. Find a pole you like and turn it upside down. Grab it beneath the basket with the handgrip resting on the floor. Your arm should  be parallel to the floor and form a 90-degree angle. If it doesn’t,  grab another set of poles and repeat until you find a pair that fits.

Boots are next up the money scale. The most important thing to remember is that most boots are purchased too small. People tend to compare their current boot purchase with the first pair they ever used. For most, these are rental boots or comfy beginner’s boots. Boots for first-time skiers are designed with lots of padding to get people used to having a ski boot on their feet. In the case of rental boots, it makes it possible to fit a variety of foot sizes into one boot — thousands of times a year. Ewww!

Once you decide what kind of boot you want — beginner, intermediate or expert — you should remember one thing: Ski boots should initially feel like a firm handshake. As you ski, boots pack out and get bigger. I’m not saying they should be painful — those days are long gone —but they should be snug. I highly recommend buying boots from an experienced boot fitter and Ellicottville’s fine ski shops all have one.

Last, and certainly not least, are skis. They’re the most expensive and, I believe, the hardest to size. A lot depends of the model of ski, the style of ski, your ability, your height and your weight. When I first learned to ski, we held our hands up over our heads and chose the ski that came to our wrists. Those days are long gone, thankfully! These days, start with a pair of skis with a length that falls between your nose and the top of your head. Again, I advise enlisting the help of an expert!

Looking for new gear should not be a chore. Ask questions and by all means bring your friends. Aren’t your friends all experts on everything like mine? Above all, have fun!