With many Americans embracing the great outdoors this year, taking up roller-skating, biking and more, you may be wondering how you’re going to keep active — and keep your mental health on track — this winter. Good news: Ski season is just around the corner, and getting started isn’t that difficult.
First, says Dave Beckwith, director of snow sports at Killington Resort in Vermont, sign up for at least one day of instruction for beginners on the slopes. “It’s never been a better time to learn how to ski or ride because when we consider the technology advancements in snowmaking, grooming and equipment, it’s just an awesome time to learn,” he explains.
That, and it’s an outdoor activity you can do while safely socially distant from others. Ahead, we break down everything you’ll need to hit the slopes, with top-rated picks and expert favorites.
Safety is key, not just for beginners but for everyone hitting the slopes. “Helmets are commonplace now,” says Beckwith. “In the industry, over 90% of participants are wearing them.”
Wildhorn Drift Snowboard & Ski Helmet ($79.99; amazon.com)
It’s tough to go wrong with equipment favored by the US Ski Team, and these well-ventilated, comfortable helmets are available in 10 colorways.
TurboSke Ski Helmet (starting at $34.99; amazon.com)
Available in five colorways, and ASTM safety-certified, this top-rated helmet is affordable and offers superior padding and protection around the head and ears.
Giro Adult Bevel Snow Helmet (starting at $65; dickssportinggoods.com)
“After a few rides down the slope, it was amazing to me that it was not too hot and did not ruin the experience,” writes a 5-star reviewer about this well-fitting piece.
Smith Vantage MIPS Snow Helmet (starting at $129.95; amazon.com)
The Vantage offers a great blend of technology and style, including an engineered core designed for impact resistance. One 5-star reviewer explains the importance of protection, writing, “I am certain that if I was not wearing a helmet of this caliber, I could have been much more seriously injured.”
Smith Adult Holt Multiseason Helmet ($75; dickssportinggoods.com)
If you’re not completely committed to ski life yet, this multiseason helmet, which is also great for skateboarding and roller-skating, is the perfect investment.
Good eye protection is extremely important, says Beckwith: “Typically, you’ll want a good pair of goggles that have a universal lens that’ll work well on flat light or on a bright day.”
Akaso OTG Ski Goggles ($42.99, originally $45.99; amazon.com)
Offering a double-layer lens design and high-performance hydrophilic coating, these goggles minimize any chance of vision-obscuring fogging.
Alkai Ski Goggles (starting at $14.55; amazon.com)
Promising 100% UV protection and distortion-free vision, these goggles have reviewers raving about their quality (despite the price tag) and ultra-comfortable fit.
Wildhorn Roca Snowboard & Ski Goggles ($59.99; amazon.com)
These highly rated goggles have rare earth magnets, allowing for easy lens changes, not to mention they look exceedingly sleek.
Smith Riot ChromaPop Snow Goggles ($74.73, originally $100; rei.com)
With durable hydrophobic lens coating that repels moisture, grease and grime, you’ll be able to see the slopes as you ski down them in these goggles that reviewers say are particularly great for small faces.
For first-timers, it’s always good to bundle up and wear layers. As Beckwith explains, “We’ve seen our fair share of blue jeans and starter jackets out there and things, but I always may have been fond of the saying that ‘it’s not bad weather, it’s bad gear.’” Here’s how to bundle up.
Special Blend Women’s Olivia Snowboard/Ski Jacket (starting at $69.99; amazon.com)
Get tons of utility on the slopes with this top-rated Special Blend jacket with an insulated hood, water- and windproof fabric and easy-access pockets.
Equick Men’s Waterproof Fleece Ski Jacket (starting at $49.99; amazon.com)
As stylish as it is practical, this jacket is warm, lightweight and water-repellent. It’s one of the more affordable, quality ski jackets you can find, and we dig the relaxed style and that cozy hood with fuzzy lining.
Andorra Women’s Performance Insulated Ski Jacket With Zip-Off Hood (starting at $99.99; amazon.com)
The moisture-wicking material inside this women’s jacket will keep you dry. Also, just check out all those gorgeous prints.
Men’s Carrabassett Ski Jacket ($169, originally $229; llbean.com)
The men’s jacket features handwarmer pockets and an interior ski pass clip, with a longer length for full coverage and a jacket-to-pant connecting system.
ZShow Men’s Waterproof Ski Jacket ($55.98; amazon.com)
This windbreaker jacket will keep you warm all day with a stand collar, insulated storm hood and elastic cuffs, all designed to keep the weather out and heat in.
Patagonia Snowshot 3-in-1 Jacket ($198.83, originally $399.99; rei.com)
This editor’s favorite jacket is very light and warm, zips up to cover the neck and is waterproof, keeping you toasty and dry.
Women’s Swix Universal Bekke Tech Pants ($129.95; llbean.com)
These women’s cross-country ski pants resist wind and water so you stay comfortable. They stretch for ease of movement, making them great for snowshoeing, cold-weather cycling and, of course, skiing.
Men’s Carrabassett Ski Pants ($159, originally $219; llbean.com)
These pants complement the Carrabasset ski jacket and are designed with extra padding and insulation in the seat and knees so that your wipeouts aren’t that cold. The women’s version is priced the same and offers the same features.
Women’s Craft Warm Train Tights ($59.99, originally $69.99; llbean.com)
If you don’t want to fully invest in ski pants, try these Warm Train Tights you can use to keep you warm during winter runs as well.
Salomon Chill Out Bib Pants ($206.73, originally $275; rei.com)
Highly rated by REI shoppers, these suspender pants have a special stretch fabric with sealed seams that use AdvancedSkin Dry waterproofing to keep you dry, even in a snowstorm.
Beckwith recommends renting for your first few trips to the slopes. However, he says, “Once you get to that lower intermediate phase in life, and you realize, ‘OK, I want to make this a life sport,’ one of the best first investments you can make is into a properly fitting boot.”
Rossignol Evo 70 Ski Boots ($199.95; rei.com)
One of the best new model boots for true beginners, according to Beckwith, Rossingnol offers a wider boot and toe bed to keep new skiers comfortable all day.
Rossignol Kelia 50 Ski Boots (starting at $181.95; amazon.com)
What’s great about this Rossingol boot is the relaxed fit, which is perfect for recreational skiers whose priority is comfort on the slopes.
Lange RX 120 Ski Boots ($359.93, originally $599.95; rei.com)
An editor favorite, this is a high-quality boot that’s responsive to minimal input from the skier and comes with swappable soles for hiking.
While it’s recommended you try a few rental packages to learn which skis are the best fit for you, we’ve rounded up a few favorites to get you started.
Dynastar Legend X96 Skis ($699.95; rei.com)
One of REI’s top-selling men’s ski sets, these 5-star downhill skis are great on all terrains and have a lightweight wood core to keep you soaring.
Rossignol Experience 76 Ci/Xpress 10 Ski Package (starting at $299.95; amazon.com)
This 5-star-rated ski set from trusted brand Rossignol earns raves from skiers, with one writing, “These are wonderful skis — I feel in control on the mountain.”
Coalition Snow La Nieve Skis ($638.93, originally $799; rei.com)
Skis made by women for women, Coalition Snow’s goal is making skis for women that aren’t just smaller versions of men’s skis, and with this pair, they’ve nailed it, according to reviewers who have given it a solid 5-star rating.
Writes one reviewer, “The La Nieve fulfills all my needs of a ski being light, responsive, stiff and most of all fun! On top of that, they’ve withstood being tossed around in helicopter baskets, on the back or the cat, on European trains and handled quite recklessly. They still look almost new.”
Pick up a pair of poles to help with slowing down on the slopes and guiding your path downhill.
Zipline Ski Poles Graphite Carbon Composite ($79.99; amazon.com)
For a step up, these highly rated US Ski Team Official poles deliver lightweight graphite-carbon technology and no-slip hand grips.
Rossignol FT 500 XC Ski Poles (starting at $24.99; amazon.com)
For a spin around the park cross-country on cross-country skis, you’ll want these simple but effective poles from Rossignol to propel you forward.