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. Le...

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