Headed for the slopes this Christmas? Get this gear
Comfort can do more for your skiing than a $500 private lesson: here are five accessories that can make the world of difference
New York — Sometimes a simple $25 accessory can change your skiing or snowboarding experience as much as a $500 private lesson.
At least, that’s what I learned a few years ago in Vail. After a few trips up and down the slopes for an hour with one of the area’s top instructors, the most useful thing she taught me wasn’t to shift my weight or lean forward or commit to my turns earlier — though each of those skills would stay with me for years to come.
More important was another lesson I learned that day: I was wearing the wrong socks. I know, it sounds ridiculous, but my thick winter socks made my boots unbearably uncomfortable, even on the loosest buckle settings. I was trading support for warmth — at an excruciating cost that I didn’t even realise I was paying.
With the problem unearthed, we pulled over into a ski shop at the top of a lift, chucked my old socks in a trash can, and swapped them for a fresh, slimmer pair. And then all those other lessons finally clicked into place.
Let my mistake be your opportunity. Top-of-the-line accessories can be just as important as top-of-the-line gear — and these are the ones that count the most.
The boot warmer
Some high-end resorts will take your boots and keep them on a heater until they’re dry at night; then they’ll warm them up again before you show up in the morning. It’s a heavenly service touch.
One-up it with the Hotronic FootWarmer S4: you can apply its main heating element to any custom sole and control your boots’ temperature all day with a battery pack that attaches either to the boot itself or to the waistband on your pants. It’ll keep your toes toasty — anywhere between 28°C and 36°C — for up to 21 hours a charge. You can always pull the heating element out of your ski boots and into any other footwear, whether a pair of hard-worn snow boots or rugged hiking shoes. $249
The custom insole
Surefoot’s custom foot-beds take about an hour to customise in a store — technicians take an anatomical scan your foot, talk to you about your ski ability, and use the information to create a custom foot-bed and liner for your ski boots.
The result makes skiing more comfortable and more efficient: it’s easier to lean into your outer edges on the mountain, making for smoother, easier turns. If you’re not ready to upgrade your boots entirely for a custom-fit option like these, high-end insoles are a great first step — and you can insert them into any boots you ultimately buy down the line. From $235
The right socks
My go-to for ski socks has always been Smartwool, whose products use moisture-wicking, temperature-regulating merino and add under-foot cushioning that’s great for performance. But after years of skiing with the company’s thicker models, which are padded in the shin for protection against stiffer boots, I’ve become partial to the more slim-fitting PhD Ultra Light collection.
They’re built to never get in the way: The heel has minimal padding to preserve the fit of your boot, and they’re virtually seamless, so they’ll never rub awkwardly. Plus, they’re built to stay perfectly in place. Mesh panels for ventilation — and fun patterns — are icing on the cake. $23
A good-looking helmet
It used to be hard to find a stylish helmet. Not anymore. The Skull Orbic X by POC — which comes in shiny silver or striking chartreuse — is a top-of-the-line option when both style and safety are concerned.
Its ear pads are designed to eliminate the usual muffled sound quality that most helmets have, and its high-performance materials meet all the international racing standards. (That means you’ll feel safer and more confident skiing to international racing standards, too.) Plus, the soft foam lining is easy to detach, if you want to hand-wash it. $200.
A wearable water supply
Some of the most epic runs can take all day — especially if you’re at a resort such as Park City, Utah, or Lech, Austria, where it’s possible to take on multiple peaks in a single, epic run. If that’s on your bucket list, you’ll need to carry two things — some protein or granola bars, and a CamelBak that you can wear on and off the lift. This insulated one is just the right size, with a 2l capacity, a leak-proof straw design, and a moulded shape that’s barely noticeable under your layers. $70.
An easier way to carry your boots
At the end of a long day on the slopes, carrying your skis, poles, and boots back to your car or hotel can feel like the ultimate conquest. Maybe that’s why I’ve gotten so many comments and questions about my FastStrap boot strap. It’s a bouncy, spring-loaded band that loops around the buckles of either boot and can be slung around your neck. The company also makes a version for skis, which fastens around either end of your bindings and can be carried like a messenger bag. Problems solved. From $15.