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Downhill Skiing: What to Take

Are you a novice or never-before skier who's eager to hit the slopes this winter? Before you run out and spend hundreds of dollars on high-end gear, make sure you enjoy skiing enough to do it more than one weekend a year. A smart approach is to rent your equipment the first few times you carve up the mountain. This allows you not only to make sure the sport is right for you but to try out several different brands, styles, and sizes of gear, so you find the right fit.

Also, if this will be your first time, you should take a lesson. Skiing can be frustrating, painful, and dangerous -- if you don't know what you're doing. Most resorts offer a special beginner's package that includes rental of skis, bindings, boots, and poles; a one-day lift ticket; and a group lesson.

Since even the outerwear can be pricey, you may want to borrow a couple of warm, waterproof items from a generous skier friend who's approximately your height and build. One you've determined that you love skiing and want to go often, you can start building a ski wardrobe.

Below is a complete checklist of what you'll need to enjoy a safe day on the mountain. Just print it out, and check each item off as you pack it. If you want to customize the list, you can copy and paste this article into a Word document on your computer, then add your individual essentials.

Equipment

  • Skis with bindings (beginners may want to try shorter skis for more control)
  • Poles
  • Boots (with insulating liners)

Clothing

Layering -- with items that zip or snap down the front -- is the way to go. You can open your jacket and shirts one at a time to release heat during a strenuous run, then zip back up during a cold lift ride.

Also, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recommends wearing close-fitting clothing because loose outerwear (as well as long items like scarves and stocking caps) can tangle in lifts, rope tows, and even your own ski poles. (For more information on skiing safety, visit the CPSC's Web site at http://www.cpsc.gov.)

  • Thin long-sleeved undershirt (preferably made of a moisture-wicking fabric; avoid cotton, which stays wet when you sweat so that you may become badly chilled)
  • Synthetic fleece insulating layer
  • Waterproof, wind-resistant shell or jacket
  • Thin long underwear for legs (preferably made of a moisture-wicking fabric)
  • Waterproof pants
  • Lightweight, moisture-wicking socks (a wool blend is good for keeping toes warm)
  • Winter hat or warm hood
  • Insulated, waterproof gloves

Protective Gear and Accessories

  • Helmet (the CPSC says the use of helmets by skiers and snowboarders could prevent or reduce the severity of 44 percent of head injuries incurred by adults and 53 percent of head injuries incurred by children.)
  • Tinted goggles or sunglasses with complete protection from ultraviolet rays (UV rays are amplified when they reflect off the snow, making them especially harmful to eyes and skin)
  • Sunscreen (choose one with a high sun protection factor, and reapply it frequently)
  • Lip balm with SPF 15 (reapply on every lift ride)
  • Cell phone
  • Money

Extras

  • Fanny pack
  • Lift pass holder (attaches to sleeve or goes around neck)
  • Kryptonite lock for skis (all that expensive equipment on the slopes attracts thieves)
  • Neck gaiter (to protect your face and neck on the coldest days)
  • Boot heaters (for those with perpetually cold feet)
  • Map of ski runs
  • Energy bar or candy bar
  • Small bottle of drinking water or portable hydration "bladder"
  • Disposable camera

References

U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. "CPSC Staff Recommends Use of Helmets for Skiers, Snowboarders to Prevent Head Injuries."

SafeUSA (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). "Winter Sports Injury Prevention: Safety on the Slopes." http://www.cdc.gov/safeusa/slopes.htm

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