Skiing is by no means a budget sport. Even if you have all your own gear, a single day lift ticket can run upwards of $120. (At Vail and Beaver Creek, tickets cost as much as $169, which is currently the steepest rate for a day of turns in the country, and that doesn’t include the most expensive chicken fingers money can buy.) There’s also lodging, meals and the inevitable hot chocolate (or beer).
And then there’s the gear. There’s a lot of it, and like everything else that comes with skiing, it’s downright expensive. If you aren’t an avid skier with easy access to a mountain or only make a few trips per year, then owning all the hardgoods may not make sense (that can all be rented anyway).
When it comes to softgoods, there are a ton of options, and unlike other activities, the price usually does reflect quality, at least on the lower end of the spectrum. For the one-trip-per-year skier, buying an entire ski kit will seem like an unnecessary expense — it’s not. That down jacket you wear around town isn’t as waterproof as you think, and no, sunglasses are not a substitute for goggles.
Luckily, there are a handful of brands making solid gear that’ll stand up to mountain elements without putting too big a dent in your wallet. Below, you’ll find a selection of the best bang-for-your-buck ski gear — jackets, pants, helmets, goggles and gloves, or in other words, everything you can’t get at the rental shop.
A ski jacket should be two things: waterproof and warm. But a jacket should also have practical features like pockets and vents, and look good enough to take you straight to the bar when the lifts stop spinning.
Ski pants take a beating: the long cuffs are dragged through mud and gravel before you get to the mountain, and once there the seat and knees go through the ringer. Like jackets, ski pants need to be warm and waterproof, but a key feature to look out for are durable gaiters with elastic cuffs. Pockets and vents are a matter of preference (if you want full-stock utility, go for bibs).
Sure, many ski shops stock helmets in their rental fleets, but safety isn’t something to skimp on and if you can afford to pick up your own, do it. MIPS is the gold standard in helmet safety tech but is often only available in high-end models.
Lenses have to put up with incredibly variable light conditions ranging from blinding to flat, which often means paying more — it’s worth it; not being able to see can ruin any day (even if the rest of your gear is up to snuff).
With prices ranging to $200 and above, gloves may have the most inflated prices of any piece of ski gear. Even basic models can come with a suitable amount of warmth and waterproofing (there’s a reason why many mountain town residents wear $20 Kincos).