The advancement in snow sports technology over the past two decades is nothing short of amazing. Compared to many sports, where the equipment looks very similar to 1990, the snow sports industry has seen huge technological advances that have even increased popularity in certain sectors of the sport, such as the prominence of freeride skiing, born out of powder boards.
For most people, fine differences between two similar sets of skis are difficult to notice, especially when they’re focused on their body’s movements. This makes it even harder to choose which is the best ski for your ability, body composition and goals, when you might not even know what you should be feeling! Interestingly, a few skiers on the SIGB ski test last year struggled to differentiate between two similar sets of skis. This can lead to all reviews reading “this is a great ski” regardless of its intended user and conditions.
Personally, I have always told my young athletes that the most important thing is the skier and that the ski shouldn’t matter, especially if they can’t tell the difference between skis. On a surprise powder day, I used to scoff at the athletes who would ask, “Could we please go back to get powder skis?” I saw it as a learning opportunity in balance and coordination (and didn’t want to miss the powder!).
This summer I was lucky enough to try wake surfing for the first time. This experience caused me to reappreciate the importance of choosing the correct equipment, particularly for anyone still learning the sport.
I was quietly confident and managed to get up to ride the wave on the first try. Buoyed by confidence on the second trip, I chose to ride their carving board instead of the beginner-friendly one. Each attempt ended similarly, after a few seconds, with a dive, a crash or a slam into the lake. More than my ego took a bruising, leaving me frustrated, disheartened and wanting to call it a day. I sheepishly took the white board next and was comfortably riding the wave in a matter of seconds, proving that my inability was entirely due to the equipment choice.
Slopeside, it is difficult to rectify equipment choices within the limited time of a lesson. Having suggested adjustments, many clients are reluctant to change their bought equipment, and sometimes rental shops can be hit or miss having never seen the client ride.
The key is to get the right equipment from the beginning. If you are renting, research where has good reviews; often ski schools have affiliated partners they trust. Ski schools like ours may offer to meet at the shop to ensure that the equipment is really the best option.
If you are unsure what you should be buying, head to a British shop. They may not offer the exact deal that you see online, but this is more than compensated for by their expertise and advice, which could save you money later. Above all else, be sure to honour that guidance by buying from the store, rather than taking the counsel and buying online. That isn’t fair to the independent shops, whose passion and knowledge is not to be undervalued.
Underestimating to what extent equipment can hold someone back – even making them want to quit – has given me a renewed appreciation of the importance of seeking the correct advice when it comes to equipment.
It reminded me of the importance of the SIGB ski test and particularly that our team has the experience to be able to describe exactly how a ski rides and to know who to recommended them to. This will ensure that not only our clients but also many readers continue to enjoy being on the slopes using the right equipment!