Seasonaire – Off To Work In The Mountains

Thinking of doing a ski/snowboard season this winter? Or have already signed up and getting super excited? This article will give you everything you need to know to help make the most of your time on the slopes. 

Firstly ski seasons are for everyone, not just for experienced skiers. Whether you ski, snowboard or are completely new to snowy mountain sports, there is truly something for everyone. In resort there are endless ways to fill your free time, as well as skiing and snowboarding. Activities range from husky rides to paragliding; or wining and dining in town to simply catching some rays in a deck chair. Being surrounded by like minded people and stunning mountain views, you will be hooked to seasonaire life in no time. 

Wondering what to take? Here is a winter season checklist with all the essentials you’ll need…

Technical Clothing

When planning a trip to the mountains for a whole winter it is essential to have the right gear. Getting cold or wet on the slopes can easily turn a super fun day into a shivering nightmare. So if you are going to spend money on only one thing I would definitely suggest treating yourself to some good technical outerwear. To keep yourself dry, it’s a good idea to buy snow jacket and pants which are minimum 10k waterproof and breathability. 20k is preferable to guarantee yourself a dry day even in really wet conditions, but this higher tech gear will no doubt have a higher price point. Keeping warm is also a necessity for mountain life. For this you can buy a highly insulated jacket and be super toasty year round. Although, the potential down side to only having a thick jacket is you could be too hot and sweaty riding in spring. For many seasonaires with limited funds, buying multiple jackets for different temperatures is not often an option. Therefore if you buy a thinner jacket you have the option to layer up in the depths of winter (mid layers and down jackets are great for this) or simply wear a t-shirt/baselayer underneath for warm spring days. This type of jacket will also be more suitable for when you are back in the UK, giving you more use out of it, therefore better value for money.

There are many snow brands which do great outerwear. A standout brand is Picture Organic Clothing. They have something for everyone, whether you ski or snowboard. Their bold asymmetrical designs perfectly match mountain life, their most technical wear ‘Expedition Line’ is mostly 20k waterproof and breathability, and more importantly they are eco-friendly. Incredibly their entire range is made from a minimum of 50% recycled plastic bottles, they have a mid layer which is completely biodegrable and all of their products are PFC free. They also have an ‘Adventure Line’ which has a lower price point and is perfectly suited for seasonaire life, with a more streetwear design. What more could you ask for?

Ski and Snowboard Boots 

After buying good technical wear, boots are definitely the next thing to consider. Comfort whilst riding is vital to get maximum enjoyment out of your day. There is nothing worse than having to cut your day short due to being in pain from poorly fitting boots. Snowboarders tend to have less problems with this, but it is a known issue with skiers. When buying boots, comfort and a good fit should definitely be priority over colour and style. But with many brands making different sizes and styles you should easily be able to find the perfect boots for you; however we suggest going to a proper boot fitter. Also the bonus of buying your own is most shops will do custom refits if the boots become uncomfortable. Plus you won’t have to wear some old stinky rentals. 

Skis and Snowboard

When you have the potential to ski or snowboard most days of the week for five whole months, having your own equipment is a huge bonus. By working with knowledgable shop staff before you leave for the mountains you can find a ski or snowboard to suit your own personal needs. Whether that’s park riding, backcountry skiing, shredding powder or if you want something that’s perfect for carving on the pistes. Having good equipment can really help improve your skills, style and even take you to new places. If you are unsure what exactly you want, a good all-mountain variant will take you comfortably off-piste, in the park and glide nicely on groomed pistes.

If you do buy your own skis/board my advice would be to get a ski lock, especially in bigger more well-known resorts, theft unfortunately isn’t unheard of. 

Helmet Goggles and Gloves

Helmets are not just for kids. Helmets are obviously for safety and designed for everyone of all ages and abilities. Further benefits include keeping your head dry and warm. Also for cruising at speed, helmets are a more secure option rather than losing your bobble hat in the wind. The good news, as well, is helmets have become more fashionable with new google-helmet style combinations. 

Goggles are essential if you want to ski or snowboard in all conditions. Most come with changeable lens to adapt for low-light snowy days and bright sunny days. It’s worth spending a bit more on a good pair to avoid misting up. A good tip is to try on your goggles and helmet together in the shop before purchase, as with all the different shapes and sizes around, its good to see if they fit or look good together. 

A good quality pair of gloves or mitts again is a must. To keep going until the chairlift closes you will need warm and dry fingers. Mitts tend to be warmer if you are a cold person and gloves tend to have more dexterity. For snowboarders who tend to touch the snow a lot, highly waterproof gloves will be your friend. 

Other Essentials

Specifically designed ski snowboard socks are where it’s at. They may seem pricey at times but a cotton sock will be round your ankles in no time and blisters are no fun at all. For something you will wear everyday you will definitely get your money’s worth.

Baselayers are great for wicking moisture away from the skin, to the outer clothing, to help keep you warm and dry. Its the foundation of the essential layering system that will keep you warm, comfortable and dry on the mountain.

Durable Water Repellent (DWR) hoody. Great for park riding on sunny Spring days, the coating make them water-resistant (or hydrophobic). And you’ll look cool!

A sensible pair of footwear will be your everyday friend for town life i.e waterproof with good grip.

A beanie or bobble hat again will be an everyday item for walking between pubs or for lunch stops on the slopes.

When you are not wearing goggles you should be wearing sunglasses to protect your eyes (snowblindness is a real thing!).

Lastly you will want decent bags for all your gear. Ski snowboard bags with wheels are great for convenience but remember they add a lot of weight if you are ever thinking of taking them on a plane. They are also more bulky so will take up more space in your staff accommodation (which are not always the most spacious rooms). Dakine bags are perfect.

There are specialist items to think about. If you’re thinking lots of park time, some additional protection such as pads or back protectors; and if yo’re thinking back country avalanche kit – but know how to use it because its useless otherwise. We recommend attending practice courses!

Now is the time to get excited with winter on our doorstep!

So head to a professional ski snowboard shop, make sure to try on all the gear and get a feel for comfort and size. Remember to think practical as well as style. Then you will be well on your way to an incredible winter season.

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Alpine Skiing – Sort Your Kit Out!

As a ski instructor, I recommend that ski lessons should be factored into your ski holiday. Ski lessons aren’t just for beginners and can help everyone to get the most from their holiday, whatever their goals.

However, some things are even more fundamental than the technique or tactics that instructors can pass on – equipment.

Along with your physical capabilities, the equipment you use will determine what you can achieve on the slopes, and how much fun you will have whilst trying. Equipment includes clothing and protection, but in this piece we’ll just look at ski hardwear.

The Most Important Bits- Boots

Keen skiers need their own boots. Once you are cruising the blues, you should be looking to buy your own ski boots. Good deals can be found online, but great boot fitters cannot work remotely. Uncomfortable boots can ruin your day – trust me.

A good boot fitter will match your foot shape to a particular boot (not all boots are the same shape on the inside). If there are any further modifications needed to accommodate your feet, then the boot fitter will be able to re-shape the inside of the boot to make them comfortable, they may also recommend a footbed which can help to keep the foot comfortable. If you suffer from very cold feet, then heated insoles are possible.

A good boot fitter will also match your skiing ability and power to the flex of the boot. An off piste boot will have different forward flex, lateral flex, delta angle, forward lean and insulation levels to piste boots. Balancing all of this can be tricky, that’s why we use boot fitters.

The Flash Bits – Skis

Pick a pair of skis for what you do, rather than what you dream of doing. If you’re doing something exceptional, you can hire something different.

Piste skis need to be stable on their edges. Fat skis don’t do this, and can create some awkward leverage on the boot and the lower leg.

Pure piste skis will be 70 mm wide underfoot, and off piste skis over about 100mm. Anything in between is a compromise. If you want skis to perform well in powder and grip hard on the piste, you need two pairs of skis.

The Forgotten Bits – Poles

Poles aren’t as important as boots or skis, but they’re still important. Without covering all the possibilities, here are my top tips:

Fat baskets for deep snow
Longer poles for skiing steep and deep
Grippy handles, not shiny ones
Shorter poles for freestyle
Stiff, not bendy

Photographs Giles Lewis

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Vans Encore Snowboard Boots – Review

Want to know what’s great about the Vans Encore snowboard boots and what’s not so good about these boots. Well take a ride with Ollie, our snowboard ambassador, as he explains how they felt, smelt and dealt after he wore them for the first time to ride ‘park’ for a three-day session.

Buying Snowboard Boots 

Buying snowboard boots for riders of my age (12) is pretty difficult. You’re in that ‘in between’ size where youth boots are too small and men’s boots are too big…. aarrhh! This means that the range of snowboard boot options is pretty limited; and considering women’s boots becomes a necessity. I’m measured as a 4.5 (UK size) and I’ll explain what that meant for the Vans Encore later on.

Purpose made kids snowboard boots are not an option for me anymore and if you’re in this situation, relax and read on because there are boots out there that will fit your feet and your style.

Vans Encore Snowboard Boots

Riding Level: Beginner to Expert
Flex: Soft to Medium
Inner Liner: Flex Liner with no ‘break-in’ delay and go straight to comfort
Lacing Type: BOA Coiler a spring loaded BOA to ‘crank’ them tight without pinch
Footbed: V2 – UltraCush Lite a foam designed for comfort with less weight
Price: £199

These are super comfy boots straight out of the box (see above) with an easy to use inner web harness and outer BOA system. They are lightweight and responsive and, because they’re Vans, look totally sick. They are at the upper end in terms of price but they’re packed full of tech that makes them a good buy. They do fit a little small so although I am measured as a UK size 4.5, had to buy the UK size 7 (US 9.5) even the UK 6 was too small! So would always suggest visiting a store and boot fitting specialist.

vans women's encore snowboard boot
The classic Vans styling makes these boots look super sick. Kind of what you’d expect from such a great street style brand.

Boot Comfort

These boots are very snug and comfortably tight. Compared to other boots I’ve had in the past, these ones definitely feel better when I’m on my snowboard and when I’m walking about off the slope. They felt great straight out of the box (see above) as they were really comfy and weren’t stiff at all. I rode with them for three days straight away with no pinching or cramping and they are pretty lightweight too. I did feel the seam from the inner digging into my toe a bit, but this wasn’t that bad and didn’t make it uncomfortable. These boots never come loose at all and provide a lot of structure for your feet. Based on all the factors of comfort, I’d rate them as a 5 out of 5!

Boot Performance

One of the problem areas for snowboard boots is how they transfer the movement of your feet through your bindings and into the board. The soft to medium flex of the Vans Encore make that feeling just right. I felt that my feet were connected very well with my snowboard and this made turn initiation and putting the power down feel just right. They have just the right amount of flex to allow you to jib and ride freestyle with good movement and feel. The BOA fastening system is by far the easiest and tightest system out there. Once I’ve done them up, there is absolutely no heel movement and they hold feet really well. The inner is a standard draw-string system that makes it simple to fasten comfortably tight. Based on all the performance factors, I’d rate them as a 4 out of 5.

Boot Style

The classic Vans styling makes these boots look super sick. Kind of what you’d expect from such a great street style brand. The simple black and white colours of my boots go together really but I didn’t like blue and yellow on the inner draw-string. I think these straps would be better off being white or black to match the rest of the boot. Based on all the style factors, I’d rate them as a 4 out of 5.

Conclusion

Overall, I’d rate the Vans Women’s Encore snowboard boots as a 4.5 out of 5 and I’d definitely recommend these boots for young riders. They are pretty rad! I’ve rated the boots in different aspects so I’ll take the best and worst factors from each area.

Boot Comfort:
Best – Really fluffy and soft on the inside
Worst – Inner seam sometime digs into toes

Boot Performance:
Best – Really tight and keeps your foot in place
Worst – None

Boot Style:
Best – Typical VANS Styling and colour scheme
Worst – Colour choice on the inner draw-string

Thanks Ollie

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