The groomers have been working hard getting the corduroy smooth for opening weekend tomorrow. Now all you have to do is get down there. Perhaps you've been thinking it's time to invest in your love of skiing and this is the season you'll do it. But where to start?
I often have clients and friends ask, "What should I buy first, skis or boots?" The answer is simple my friends. Boots first. Always. Boots are the most pivotal piece of equipment you can have in your skiing arsenal. They connect your body to those long planks that we like like to speed down the hill on (and who doesn't like to throw in a race tuck on a cat track when given the opportunity?). So the fit between your body and your equipment - and the control, comfort and performance that relies on this fit - all rests on a well-fitting boot.
Just like your fingerprints, no two feet are the same, so trying to rent a generic ski boot that someone else has already used will give you limited control and comfort. The best thing you can do is get your own, well-fitting ski boots that can travel the world with you. It will be the difference between driving a Ferrari and driving a Datsun.
But you want you own skis, I hear you say! Well of course you do. Who doesn't want to have their very own pair of Volkl World Cup race stock GS skis? If you want to invest in both boots and skis at the same time then go for it. But keep in mind you can rent excellent skis. Unlike ski boots, renting demo skis is actually a really good option, particularly if you're travelling by plane to your chosen ski resort. Just imagine lugging round a ski bag when trying to make those connecting flights at LAX. Or dragging said ski bag down the cobble roads of European towns you're adding on as a side trip on your Euro ski tour. As a young'un heading off for my first overseas snow season I stubbornly took two pairs of skis, which I thought was very restrained since I had five skis in my quiver to choose from by this stage (working in a ski shop gives you far too much pro-deal access to the newest and brightest hardware). But I learnt the hard way that travelling to the snow can be very painful, dragging a double wheelie ski bag did not make getting on and off Vancouver city buses easy.
All else aside, the way in which you select these two items dictates boots first. Boots are selected and customised to you personally by a knowledgeable boot fitter. Skis are a personal choice that you make by experiencing (testing) them.
And how do you decide what type of ski to buy to suit all the places you'll want to ski? Australia is infamous for firm and fast, or slushy snot. Japan is famous for epic, waist deep powder. What ski will give you an enjoyable day in both conditions? Take my heartfelt advice, fellow snow lovers, and rent some demo skis. Japan will be far more enjoyable if you can rent a fat waisted ski that allows you to float on top of the powder. Your Aussie slalom speed sticks are best kept for the early morning corduroy of the Supertrail in Thredbo, or Excelerator at Blue Cow. But those personalised boots, they are your ticket to Ullr's paradise.
Each ski resort will have a demo store for you to try different skis and see what you like before you buy. You can also demo skis without intending to buy, this way each season you can ski on the newest and best skis available for the conditions you're in. Some resorts have demo stores located so you can almost ski-in-ski-out and try multiple skis for easy comparison.
Most resorts will also have demo days where they will set up tents with a large presence of brands for you to demo skis. The Ski Mag has a demo day in Thredbo on 8-9th July at the base of Kosi Express. If you have purchased the Epic Australia pass with Perisher, they will email you details of their demo days, free for Epic pass holders. Individual ski brands often hold demo days throughout the season at different locations, so worth keeping an eye out for.
Thredbo has a fantastic demo ski store based just steps away from the bottom of Kosciuszko Express chairlift. Gravity skis boots bikes has a great selection of skis from Volkl, K2, Atomic, Salomon, Line and Nordica. With up to 3 days rental redeemable upon purchase, this is a great way to try before you buy. Pete and Sue have a lifetime of ski expertise up their sleeves and can provide you with ski equipment to make you fly. If you're wanting to hit the hill running, thenRhythm in Cooma will be able to get you ready, with a vast choice of skis to fulfill your hearts desire.
Perisher has a resort-run demo centre based on the lower level of the Perisher Centre.Slopestyle Demo Centre offers an extensive range of skis and often has "demo days" throughout the season for Volkl and Salomon. Worth keeping an eye out for. Larry Adler's in Jindabyne also offer a large array of demo skis from their Jindy shop. If you're staying down the mountain, they're definitely worth a look in. Larry's also do demo skis from their shop in Niseko, Japan. Renting some fat waisted puppy's on a magical powder day will take you to a new level of love for your skiing.
Falls Creek Central Snowsports (surely they could have come up with a slightly more interesting name?) is the place to go at Falls for some sweet hot-off-the-shelf skis to rip around on. With 2 locations and a good cross section of ski brands, they can outfit you with some planks to get you ripping. Ray's Ski Shop in Myrtleford is a well respected ski shop and their reputation for high level of expertise is worth stopping in for on your way to the mountain.
Hotham Hoy's have locations in Harrietville, Hotham and Dinner Plain and will allow you to swap as often as you like. Check them out, particularly if you like you Volkl's. OneTree Sports have a good array of brands to cover your daily ski whim. They're located at Hotham Central for easy access to demo skis.
QUICK RUN DOWN
Invest in boots first - they will have the greatest impact on your comfort and performance.
Boots are selected for you, skis are your personal preference. Try different skis out at a demo store on the snow.
Renting good skis is a great way to adapt to the snow conditions - especially if travelling far to the snow.