Winter Sports: Learn About the Gear

Skis

Most skis are made of a wood or foam core wrapped in fiberglass and come in waxable or waxless varieties. Narrower skis are designed for speed and performance while wider skis provide more "flotation" and stability in deep snow. Our "short" skis are approximately 30% shorter and 30% wider than traditional skis, with the same degree of flotation. Many people choose this style because short skis are more stable and easier to turn.

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Bindings

Bindings attach the ski boot to the ski. Today's innovative bindings have an easy step-in clamp at the toe and a raised rail that fits into a groove along the boot's sole. This foot-length groove gives you better steering control. Traditional three-pin bindings attach the boot to the ski with a clamp in front and three pins on the toe plate that integrate with three holes in the boot.

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Boots

Your boots should be snug enough to provide you with good ski control, but not hamper your circulation when you wear heavy socks. You raise and lower your heel with each glide so you need a roomy "toe box" to accommodate that movement. Most ski boots require little break-in time.

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Poles

Longer poles propel you better because you can keep them at the most effective angle for proper technique. Properly sized poles should reach to the top of your shoulder when your arm is at your side.

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Climbing Skins

Climbing skins help you climb hills with less effort. They are slightly narrower than the width of a ski and attach to a ski by either straps or an adhesive backing. They are also sold in two lengths: full-length, meant to stay on the skis for all-purpose skiing in the backcountry (more control on icy, hard-packed snow) or kicker skins, meant primarily for climbing long hills, and easily removed when you don't need them. Climbing skins have hairs or scales that flow from front to back so they grip snow and help keep you from sliding backwards on hills.

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Gloves

When you ski hard, your hands sweat. For maximum comfort, choose a glove that is breathable and has a quick-drying, moisture-wicking lining. The glove should also have a durable covering over the palm to withstand the friction of using your poles.

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Gaiters

Gaiters keep snow from accumulating on your lower legs or in your boots, where melting snow can cause discomfort. Gaiters also protect your lower legs when you ski near prickly brush or protruding branches.

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Hat

Up to 50% of your body heat can be lost if you don't wear a hat. While you might remove your hat if you're skiing hard, you should bring a hat for skiing in moderate or cold weather and to prevent heat loss when you stop skiing. If your fingers and toes are cold, put on a hat. The first thing your body stops heating when your head or torso are chilled are your extremities.

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Underwear

The first layer of clothing, worn next to your skin, is your performance underwear. We recommend underwear made from polyester or polypropylene material – the most effective fabrics for moving moisture away from your skin.

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Outerwear

The second insulating layer should consist of lightweight polyester, such as a fleece pullover and ski tights. A windproof outer layer, such as an anorak and wind pants, adds extra protection for rest stops or a sudden drop in temperature. Your windproof top and wind pants can be stored compactly in a fanny pack or day touring pack for easy access on the trail.

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Socks

We recommend wearing medium-weight, smooth-textured socks made from wool or polyester with lightweight polyester sock liners underneath.

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Snowshoes

Snowshoes come in a range of shapes. Their frames are made with either wood or aluminum. The surface or decking of a snowshoe also varies. Neoprene or rawhide decking sinks into the snow about 20% more than decking with a "solid" surface. New snowshoes with solid decking require no maintenance.

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Poles

Poles provide stability and balance as you snowshoe on uneven terrain and in deep snow. You may use your cross-country or downhill ski poles for snowshoeing. Experienced, backcountry snowshoers often use adjustable poles that can be lengthened or shortened to suit the terrain.

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Bindings

Bindings secure your foot to the snowshoe by straps that cross over your toes and around your heels. Good bindings are critical in preventing your foot from sliding sideways off the snowshoe as you climb or traverse hills. Some bindings come with crampons (see below) already attached.

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Boots

Wear warm insulated winter boots and gaiters with your snowshoes. A sturdy backcountry ski boot is suitable if you are both snowshoeing and skiing. Make sure the boot you select works properly with your snowshoes and bindings before you head out.

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Crampons

Crampons are metal teeth that extend beneath your snowshoe bindings to give you better footing in icy or hard-packed snow conditions. Your snowshoe bindings may or may not come with crampons. They can be purchased separately for most snowshoes.

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Gaiters

Gaiters, usually constructed of nylon or a nylon/Gore-Tex® combination, form a seal around your boot tops to help keep snow from getting inside. Your feet stay drier and warmer as a result.

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If you would like any additional information about snowshoeing, or have questions about any of the procedures or terminology used here, please call 1-800-975-4552, any day between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m. EST.

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