Dino Haak
Dino Haak: Ski Expert

Featured On:

  • SkiMag
Dino Haak grew up in Oberstdorf, one of the biggest ski resort towns in the German Alps, and began skiing when only 2 1/2 years old. He raced until the age of 18 and began his career as an instructor at the age of 15. He is a German Level III and ISIA (International Ski Instructor Association) instructor. He was voted one of the Top 100 Instructors in North America by Ski Magazine in 2005, and Instructor of the Year at the Summit at Snoqualmie Snowsports School in 2001/2002. He has taught in Germany, Austria, Canada, and the United States and is the inventor of the HOOPA method, a new technique that safely teaches children two and up to ski with confidence and quickly advance to making turns on their own. He is one of the leading instructors at BeyondSki.com Snowsports Academy.
REVIEWS
  • Best Junior Racing Skis
    Race skis are awesome! They are fast and stable at higher speeds, generally have an amazing edge grip, even on ice, and they are very responsive. But keep in mind that race skis are for expert skiers only. Race skis are stiffer than your regular ski and need a skier with good technique because they are not as forgiving as other skis on the market. While giant slalom skis are intended for long, high-speed turns, slalom race skis are best suited for quick, short turns. Slalom race skis are generally lighter than their giant slalom counterparts and have a more pronounced side-cut. They are also shorter in length and are relatively narrow underfoot, which generally ensures reactive performance and tight, snappy turns. Good, competitive slalom skis, like the ones listed in this review require a high level of skill to use effectively and safely.

    There are many people who think that buying the most expensive, fastest ski will get them or their kids to become better skiers. I have seen it over and over again: Beginner and intermediate students come to my classes sporting a top-of-the-line race ski. If the ski is better than they are, they usually have a tough time progressing, as the ski isn’t forgiving of their initially sloppy technique.

    The main reason for buying a race ski for your youngster should be that he or she is racing and/or training in the gates. For any other purposes (styles and types of terrain) there are more specialized skis out there that will do a better job (e.g. all around, powder, bump, or terrain park skis). However, if junior is ready for the gates, any of the skis reviewed below will do a great job in helping him or her get to the top! The five skis in the Best of the Best section are favorites among the youth racers’ coaches I talked to throughout the making of this review.
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  • Best Kids Ski and Snowboard Mittens
    In my years as a kids ski instructor, I have learned that kids very rarely get cold on the slopes, and when they do feel a little bit less than toasty, a few warm-up exercises usually do the trick. On an average January day, when I have added a third layer of clothing and am still freezing, my little students often refuse to even zip up their jackets. When their hands get cold, however, there is usually very little we can do beside head inside to warm up their fingers. To avoid wasting time indoors due to frosty fingers, I always advise my students’ parents to buy mittens instead of finger gloves. Mittens keep hands warmer because all fingers are bundled together and radiate heat toward one another. And interestingly, when their hands get too warm, my little students also seem to find gloves a bigger nuisance than mittens. Therefore, for this review I decided to bypass regular gloves and focus on the Best of the Best mittens you can buy to keep our little skiers’ paws warm. The mittens reviewed here can be purchased for different hand sizes and should easily fit the six to twelve year age group.

    There are mittens with sewn-in pockets for heating pads, which is a fantastic feature for those extremely cold days. The heating pads can be carried separately, and all you have to do (or all I do as an instructor), is to take the pad out of its wrapper, knead it a few times, put it in the pocket and soon the entire mitten warms up. Mittens that have an inner liner that can be taken out for washing (or when there is no need for extra warmth) are also a great choice. Drawstrings on the cuffs are an effective way of keeping the snow out.

    Keep in mind that children generally have a hard time keeping their hands out of the snow, with snow-eating and snow-ball throwing being some of their preferred activities. Gloves and mittens can quickly become drenched with moisture, and a moist mitten turns quickly into a soggy, cold one. Most water-resistant mittens can hold up to a day of heavy snowfall, but you will need a waterproof mitten if you directly handle the snow. The mittens reviewed here are all at least water-resistant, and some of them are waterproof, and will keep your little ones’ hands warm in most conditions.
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  • Best Boy’s All Around Skis
    Buying skis for (and with) your kids should be a fun experience; however, every one of the well-known ski companies has a high-quality junior line, which can sometimes make it hard to choose. In this review, I focus on all-around ski models, meaning that these skis work well for most conditions and can be used by advanced beginners and beginning advanced skiers alike. Unless your kid is a junior racer or wants to exclusively hit the terrain park, these skis will do just great from the slopes to easy powder.

    When buying skis, first make sure you know your kid’s level of ability. There is really no gain in buying the most expensive race ski (the ones that usually cost the most) when for now your child only feels comfortable skiing at medium speeds down easy blue runs. Advanced skis are usually stiffer, much less forgiving, and even an intermediate skier can easily become frustrated on them. The rule of thumb is that beginner’s skis are soft and forgiving, while more advanced skis are stiffer and thus more responsive. Don’t try to be skimpy though by buying the lowest model you can find. When your boy tries to ski fast on a true beginner’s ski, he’ll soon notice that the edges aren’t gripping as firmly and will give out, especially in fast, tight turns. This is not a good thing, and can be dangerous. The skis reviewed here are all stiff enough to hold up safely at moderate speeds (nobody should go too fast on crowded slopes anyway), but are also forgiving enough to ensure a pleasurable day on the slopes.

    These days, skiing the terrain park is the coolest thing to do, so when I recommend the best all-around ski for kids, I definitely have to take the terrain park into consideration. A number of the skis reviewed here feature “twin tips” (on both ends of the skis the tips curve upwards) and this feature is helpful, if not essential if your youngster wants to do tricks like skiing backwards or doing the rails. Snoqualmie Pass has a small terrain park (next to a major one) that has been designed mainly with kids in mind. I use it often with my students, as the terrain park has become a part of today’s skiing.

    Since the introduction of shaped skis, I have always been an advocate for shorter skis. Yes, longer skis will offer more stability at higher speeds, but I just don’t believe anyone should go too fast these days because the slopes are crowded and accidents can happen so easily. In my opinion, a good middle-of-the-road length is what you need to look for. Standing up on their ends, the skis tips should reach somewhere between nose and chin, give or take an inch or so.

    Generally, most kids’ skis are built to support skiers with a weight of up to about 140 lbs. If your child weighs a little more than that, or is especially tall, I suggest trying a shorter adult ski. Generally, adult skis are made from stronger materials and will much better support the extra weight.
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  • Best Girl’s All Around Skis
    Buying skis for (and with) your kids should be a fun experience; however, every one of the well-known ski companies has a high-quality junior line, which can sometimes make it hard to choose. In this review, I focus on all-around ski models, meaning that these skis work well for most conditions and can be used by advanced beginners and beginning advanced skiers alike. Unless your kid is a junior racer or wants to exclusively hit the terrain park, these skis will do just great from the slopes to easy powder.

    When buying skis, first make sure you know your kid’s level of ability. There is really no gain in buying the most expensive race ski (the ones that usually cost the most) when for now your child only feels comfortable skiing at medium speeds down easy blue runs. Advanced skis are usually stiffer, much less forgiving, and even an intermediate skier can easily become frustrated on them. The rule of thumb is that beginner’s skis are soft and forgiving, while more advanced skis are stiffer and thus more responsive. Don’t try to be skimpy though by buying the lowest model you can find. When your girl tries to ski fast on a true beginner’s ski, she’ll soon notice that the edges aren’t gripping as firmly and will give out, especially in fast, tight turns. This is not a good thing, and can be dangerous. The skis reviewed here are all stiff enough to hold up safely at moderate speeds (nobody should go too fast on crowded slopes anyway), but are also forgiving enough to ensure a pleasurable day on the slopes.

    These days, skiing the terrain park is the coolest thing to do, so when I recommend the best all-around ski for kids, I definitely have to take the terrain park into consideration. A number of the skis reviewed here feature “twin tips” (on both ends of the skis the tips curve upwards) and this feature is helpful, if not essential if your youngster wants to do tricks like skiing backwards or doing the rails. Snoqualmie Pass has a small terrain park (next to a major one) that has been designed mainly with kids in mind. I use it often with my students, as the terrain park has become a part of today’s skiing.

    Since the introduction of shaped skis I have always been an advocate for shorter skis. Yes, longer skis will offer more stability at higher speeds, but I just don’t believe anyone should go too fast these days because the slopes are crowded and accidents can happen so easily. In my opinion, a good middle-of-the-road length is what you need to look for. Standing up on their ends, the skis tips should reach somewhere between nose and chin, give or take an inch or so.

    Generally, most kids’ skis are built to support skiers with a weight of up to about 140 lbs. If your child weighs a little more than that, or is especially tall, I suggest trying a shorter adult ski. Generally, adult skis are made from stronger materials and will much better support the extra weight.
    Read More »
  • Best Kids' Ski Books
    The type of kids’ ski and snowboarding books I focus on in this review are those that will prepare kids for their first season on the slopes. The books I have chosen are not so much “learn how to ski” books (even though there may be a little bit of that in the books), their purpose is to get children excited about the sport, dispel some of their fears, and instill in them the idea that everything is OK. Most of these books tell a story about a main character, or “hero” who has his or her adventures (and sometimes funny misadventures) in the snow. Believe me; acquainting kids with the idea of maneuvering a pair of slippery boards before they come to their first ski lesson is priceless. I have seen the difference! Kids who have read (or looked at) some light-hearted books on skiing or who have watched videos about the sport are usually much less intimidated than kids who have never been exposed to the idea of sliding around on the snow. It is quite important to show them what there is to expect, especially for the three to eight year olds. Think about it, their first impression could be of a cold and scary world — adults and other children wearing puffy clothes, strange hats, and “dive masks,” carrying long sticks, and stomping around with two-by-fours on their feet!

    There are books out there for a range of ages. The earliest age children start out on the slopes is three to three-and-a-half years old (although I did have a two-and-a-half year old student a couple of years ago). I would say the average starting age is between four and six years. There are some nice books for this younger age group with lots of pictures along with some text that can be read to them by their parents. There are other good books that target kids eight years and up. In these you’ll usually find fewer pictures, more text, and a more complex story line. For teenagers, you’ll find some fun adventure stories (often evolving around some sort of mystery to be solved by the main character).

    In this review, I present books for kids of all different ages. The books reviewed are all easy going introductions to skiing that will ease the young child’s mind and hopefully instill enough enthusiasm so that the first day on the slopes as well as the first ski lesson can be perceived as a fun, adventurous, and non-scary event. Most of the books are easy-going simple introductions to the sport with lots of photographs or illustrations. A couple of the books reviewed here are beautiful stories of fiction that I believe will instill kids with the magic of the natural winter setting and tell a story of adventure and fun associated with skiing.
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  • Best Boys’ Ski Pants (Junior Sizes)
    There are a few things one needs to keep in mind when buying a new pair of ski pants for kids. First of all, the pants should fit. I recommend getting pants that are slightly on the larger side so you don’t have to buy new ones again the coming year. The style these days leans toward the baggier side anyways, especially for our little snowboarders and jibbers (a new term for terrain park skiers). But make sure that the pant legs are not too long or the cuffs will likely become shredded when the wearer steps in and out of the bindings.

    There is a multitude of great kids ski pants on the market these days. Your youngster should definitely be the one to pick the style — they’re the ones that’ll have to feel comfortable and “cool” wearing it — but you should make sure that the pants fulfill the basic quality requirements. Your kid’s ski pants should be warm but not too heavy. They should always be at least water-repellant, or better yet, water-resistant and, even better, waterproof. The best combination is always waterproof and breathable. You may find some very cheap pants that are labeled “waterproof “but there may be little to no breathability. What will happen is that the fabric may keep the water out, but it will also keep the sweat in. That moisture, especially on a pair of pants with cheap insulation, will soon feel uncomfortable and your child will likely become chilled.

    “Waterproof” means that water droplets are prevented from entering the fabric, whereas “breathable” means that water vapor will be able to move back out through the fabric. There are actually US standards for what can be determined as waterproof or breathable. Breathability is measured in grams (grams of water vapor per square meter of fabric per 24 hour period) and waterproofness is measured in millimeters (amount of water, in mm, that can be suspended above the fabric before water seeps through). Without getting too technical here, the rule for both is, the higher the numbers the better.

    Water-resistant and water-repellent fabrics generally breathe better than the full-on waterproof versions. However, some of the water-resistant jackets listed here will do a great job keeping the moisture out, while some of the waterproof pants offer exceptionally high breathability. If your child only does a two-hour ski lesson once a week, water-resistant ski pants will do the job, even in heavy snow or rain. Also make sure that the pants are seam sealed for maximum protection.

    All pants reviewed here are weatherproof and use first-class materials that keep the bulk down, yet provide warmth to protect against the elements.
    Read More »
  • Best Girls’ Ski Pants (Junior Sizes)
    There are a few things one needs to keep in mind when buying a new pair of ski pants for kids. First of all, the pants should fit. I recommend getting pants that are slightly on the larger side so you don’t have to buy new ones again the coming year. The style these days leans toward the baggier side anyways, especially for our little snowboarders and jibbers (a new term for terrain park skiers). But make sure that the pant legs are not too long or the cuffs will likely become shredded when the wearer steps in and out of the bindings.

    There is a multitude of great kids ski pants on the market these days. Your youngster should definitely be the one to pick the style—they’re the ones that’ll have to feel comfortable and “cool” wearing it — but you should make sure that the pants fulfill the basic quality requirements. Your kid’s ski pants should be warm but not too heavy. They should always be at least water-repellant, or better yet, water-resistant and, even better, waterproof. The best combination is always waterproof and breathable. You may find some very cheap pants that are labeled “waterproof,” but there may be little to no breathability. What will happen is that the fabric may keep the water out, but it will also keep the sweat in. That moisture, especially on a pair of pants with cheap insulation, will soon feel uncomfortable and your child will likely become chilled.

    “Waterproof” means that water droplets are prevented from entering the fabric, whereas “breathable” means that water vapor will be able to move back out through the fabric. There are actually US standards for what can be determined as waterproof or breathable. Breathability is measured in grams (grams of water vapor per square meter of fabric per 24 hour period) and water-proofness is measured in millimeters (amount of water, in mm, that can be suspended above the fabric before water seeps through). Without getting too technical here, the rule for both is, the higher the numbers the better.

    Water-resistant and water-repellent fabrics generally breathe better than the full-on waterproof versions. However, some of the water-resistant jackets listed here will do a great job keeping the moisture out, while some of the waterproof pants offer exceptionally high breathability. If your child only does a two-hour ski lesson once a week, water-resistant ski pants will do the job, even in heavy snow or rain. Also make sure that the pants are seam sealed for maximum protection.

    All pants reviewed here are weatherproof and use first-class materials that keep the bulk down, yet provide warmth to protect against the elements.
    Read More »
  • Best Boys’ All-mountain Ski Boots
    Buying boots for yourself can be challenging, and when buying for someone else, particularly kids, even more so. The most important thing is to find a boot that fits your child’s foot well. No matter how good a ski boot is said to be, if it doesn’t fit the foot, it won’t work well on the slopes.

    Given children’s growth rate, you can typically expect about two seasons max out of a kid’s boot. With that in mind, I believe it is okay to buy a boot that is a little bit bigger to begin with, so that there is some room to grow into it. However, make sure that it is not too big. Most important, whichever boot you pick for your boy, make sure that he does not slip around in it. If the boot is too big it will be an uncomfortable experience on the slopes. It is hard to ski in a lose boot, and it will be even harder to progress to the next level of skiing when there is constant slipping and sliding. As there are several different approaches to determine the best fit (at least theoretically), I strongly recommend going to a renowned ski store and have the knowledgeable staff assist you in picking the right size. Rule of thumb for a two season-fit is about an index finger’s width between the toes and the front of the liner. I have seen people shoot for more room, but I would recommend against it. Yes, more room will keep toes warmer on cold days, but too much room will make for a poor fit, and difficulty in maintaining control. Try to find the best compromise. See that the boot fits comfortably, without the foot being crunched in at any place, and that the heel is snugly held down in the back. Let him walk around the store a few rounds and let him communicate how things feel inside the boot.

    Note that there are different boots for different skill levels. Generally, more advanced boots are stiffer so more energy can be transferred directly from boot to skis. Race boots are the stiffest boots you can buy, so unless your child wants to race, there is no reason to buy a race boot. A stiff boot can be very uncomfortable and restrictive in her flexing and extending abilities. Beginner boots are usually the softest, but I never recommend buying absolute beginner boots since junior kids usually progress quickly, and once they get to a higher skill level, a boot that is too soft can be problematic. This is especially true when they learn to do quick, reactive short turns, or want to get comfortable skiing on steeper slopes or at higher speeds.

    The boots reviewed cover the middle ground, they have enough flex and are soft enough so even beginners can comfortably learn the sport but they offer enough stiffness to give advanced skiers the power transfer and control they need for their higher level skills.
    Read More »
  • Best Girls’ All-mountain Ski Boots
    Buying boots for yourself can be challenging, and when buying for someone else, particularly kids, even more so. The most important thing is to find a boot that fits your child’s foot well. No matter how good a ski boot is said to be, if it doesn’t fit the foot, it won’t work well on the slopes.

    Given children’s growth rate, you can typically expect about two seasons max out of a kid’s boot. With that in mind, I believe it is okay to buy a boot that is a little bit bigger to begin with, so that there is some room to grow into it. However, make sure that it is not too big. Most important, whichever boot you pick for your girl, make sure that she does not slip around in it. If the boot is too big, it will be an uncomfortable experience on the slopes. It is hard to ski in a lose boot, and it will be even harder to progress to the next level of skiing when there is constant slipping and sliding. As there are several different approaches to determine the best fit (at least theoretically), I strongly recommend going to a renowned ski store and have the knowledgeable staff assist you in picking the right size. Rule of thumb for a two season-fit is about an index finger’s width between the toes and the front of the liner. I have seen people shoot for more room, but I would recommend against it. Yes, more room will keep toes warmer on cold days, but too much room will make for a poor fit, and difficulty in maintaining control. Try to find the best compromise. See that the boot fits comfortably, without the foot being crunched in at any place, and that the heel is snugly held down in the back. Let her walk around the store a few rounds and let her communicate how things feel inside the boot.

    Note that there are different boots for different skill levels. Generally, more advanced boots are stiffer, so more energy can be transferred directly from boot to skis. Race boots are the stiffest boots you can buy, so unless your child wants to race, there is no reason to buy a race boot. A stiff boot can be very uncomfortable and restrictive in her flexing and extending abilities. Beginner boots are usually the softest, but I never recommend buying absolute beginner boots since junior kids usually progress quickly, and once they get to a higher skill level, a boot that is too soft can be problematic. This is especially true when they learn to do quick, reactive short turns, or want to get comfortable skiing on steeper slopes or at higher speeds.

    The boots reviewed cover the middle ground, they have enough flex and are soft enough so even beginners can comfortably learn the sport but they offer enough stiffness to give advanced skiers the power transfer and control they need for their higher level skills.
    Read More »
  • Best Kids Ski Goggles
    There are plenty of ways to protect our young ones on the slopes. Quality gear (good skis, reliable bindings), safe helmets and protective clothing are all important items needed for a day of safety on the slopes. However, so many times I have experienced parents sending their kids out with all the above but minus sensible eye protection. No kid will go out on the snow with me without either a good pair of sunglasses on a nice day, or a pair of goggles for the cold snowy days (or any day). If they come without eye protection, we’ll always try to find a spare pair for them to use. I always have a talk with the parents after the lesson to explain the dangers of the high altitude UV radiation. You don’t need a sunny day to burn your eyes! In fact, foggy conditions can even be worse since you don’t tend to squint as much as you might on a clear, sunny day.

    I have learned that kids often don’t like to wear goggles because they either feel restricted, the goggles fog up, or they just don’t fit. Fit is one of the most important things! Since kids are supposed to wear helmets, the goggles not only need to be the right size to fit the face, they must also fit the size of the helmet’s face opening. If the goggles are bigger than the face-opening, they will never feel comfortable, will never sit right on the face, and are highly likely to fog up big time.

    So again, make sure the goggles fit the face and the helmet’s face opening. Make sure that they are of high quality (you won’t go wrong with any of the goggles listed here) and have the adequate lenses attached to them.

    Lenses. There are a number of different lenses, to accommodate different weather conditions. It is helpful to be able to choose between lenses for foggy conditions, sunny skis, or night-skiing, so some goggle (and sunglass models) come with exchangeable lenses. A note of caution: I have seen quite a few goggles, especially sale items, with only one set of lenses, usually the fog lenses (typically an orange tint). Those will help see in murky conditions, but won’t shield the eyes adequately on a bright, sunny day. So be sure to purchase the appropriate lens. For kids especially, I tend to favor darker lenses to protect their sensitive eyes.

    Here are the models that I believe deserve to be rated Best of the Best.
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  • Best Boys’ Ski Jackets (Junior Size)
    There is a multitude of great kids’ ski jackets on the market these days. Your youngster should definitely be the one to pick the style — they’re the ones that’ll have to feel comfortable and “cool” wearing it — but you should make sure that the jacket fulfills the basic quality requirements. Jackets should always be at least water-repellant, or better yet, water-resistant, and even better waterproof.

    The best combination is waterproof and breathable. You may find some very cheap jackets that are labeled "waterproof" but there may be little to no breathability. What will happen is that the fabric may keep the water out, but it will also keep the sweat in. That moisture, especially on a jacket with cheap insulation, will soon feel uncomfortable and your child will likely become chilled.

    “Waterproof” means that water droplets are prevented from entering the fabric, whereas “breathable” means that water vapor will be able to move back out through the fabric. There are actually US standards for what can be determined as waterproof or breathable. Breathability is measured in grams (grams of water vapor per square meter of fabric per 24 hour period) and waterproofness is measured in millimeters (amount of water, in mm, that can be suspended above the fabric before water seeps through). Without getting too technical here, the rule for both is the higher the numbers the better.

    Water-resistant and water-repellent fabrics generally breathe better than the full-on waterproof versions. However, some of the water-resistant jackets listed here will do a great job keeping the moisture out, while some of the waterproof jackets offer exceptionally high breathability. If your kid only does a two-hour ski lesson once a week, a water-resistant jacket will do the job, even in heavy snow or rain (but who wants to ski in the rain anyways…)

    Zippers can be the weak spots on any jacket and therefore the best jackets offer fully sealed seams. However, zippers can also make a big difference in how breathable the jacket will be as they can be opened to let more fresh air inside. Also, make sure the jacket has good cuffs at wrists and waistline because they will seal the jacket and prevent cold air and snow from coming in.

    Hoods are great and ideally you should be able to roll them up or just have the ability to take them off when they’re not needed. Hoods that can’t be detached or stuffed inside the collar can become filled with snow or rain.

    Last but not least, fit is very important. Your child should be able to move freely when wearing the jacket and not be restricted. Don’t buy the jackets too baggy though, because they’ll get in the way of good form.
    Read More »
  • Best Girls’ Ski Jackets (Junior Size)
    There is a multitude of great kids’ ski jackets on the market these days. Your youngster should definitely be the one to pick the style — they’re the ones that’ll have to feel comfortable and “cool” wearing it — but you should make sure that the jacket fulfills the basic quality requirements. Jackets should always be at least water-repellant, or better yet, water-resistant and even better waterproof.

    The best combination is waterproof and breathable. You may find some very cheap jackets that are labeled “waterproof” but there may be little to no breathability. What will happen is that the fabric may keep the water out, but it will also keep the sweat in. That moisture, especially on a jacket with cheap insulation, will soon feel uncomfortable and your child will likely become chilled.

    “Waterproof” means that water droplets are prevented from entering the fabric, whereas “breathable” means that water vapor will be able to move back out through the fabric. There are actually US standards for what can be determined as waterproof or breathable. Breathability is measured in grams (grams of water vapor per square meter of fabric per 24 hour period) and waterproofness is measured in millimeters (amount of water, in mm, that can be suspended above the fabric before water seeps through). Without getting too technical here, the rule for both is, the higher the numbers the better.

    Water-resistant and water-repellent fabrics generally breathe better than the full-on waterproof versions. However, some of the water-resistant jackets listed here will do a great job keeping the moisture out, while some of the waterproof jackets offer exceptionally high breathability. If your kid only does a two-hour ski lesson once a week, a water-resistant jacket will do the job, even in heavy snow or rain (but who wants to ski in the rain anyways…)

    Zippers can be the weak spots on any jacket and therefore the best jackets offer fully sealed seams. However, zippers can also make a big difference in how breathable the jacket will be as they can be opened to let more fresh air inside. Also, make sure the jacket has good cuffs at wrists and waistline because they will seal the jacket and prevent cold air and snow from coming in.

    Hoods are great and ideally you should be able to roll them up or just have the ability to take them off when they’re not needed. Hoods that can’t be detached or stuffed inside the collar can become filled with snow or rain.

    Last but not least, fit is very important. Your girl should be able to move freely when wearing her jacket and not be restricted. Don’t buy the jackets too baggy though, because they’ll get in the way of good form.
    Read More »
  • Best Kids Ski Poles
    Poles are such an integral part of skiing that the sooner you get used to having them in your hands the better, even if you are not immediately ready to do pole plants. Poles can help you balance when resting and standing, they’ll make getting out of your skis easier and you can use them to push yourself forward in the flats.

    Opinions on this differ, but in my opinion, kids need ski poles sooner than later. Once the first controlled wedge turns have been mastered, poles should be introduced. Kids poles are generally more basic than their adult equivalents. For example, in some poles you’ll find the adult version’s handgrip to be made of a more complex two material construction, while the kids version only uses one kind of polymer. And kids poles are a lot cheaper. The reason is that kids will outgrow their poles quickly, and why spend a load of money if you need to get a longer pair the next season anyway. Some poles reviewed here are length adjustable, which means that your kid will be able to use his or her pole for several seasons.

    When buying poles for your junior you should keep a few things in mind. Poles should be the right length. Skiing with wrongly-sized poles can negatively affect skiing technique. Poles should be lightweight. Heavy poles are exhausting to carry around and make it difficult to move fast on a pole plant. Additionally, the pole shaft should be at least somewhat flexible so using it won’t put strain on shoulders, arms, and elbows. The handgrip should be comfortable to hold and provide a good, non-slippery grip. Bring their gloves along when trying out new poles in order to get the best idea of how the pole will feel in their hands when skiing.

    Generally, fiberglass, graphite, and composite ski poles are the best choice because they are lighter and more flexible. Aluminum poles are cheaper, but often thicker in shaft diameter, and can bend and break more easily. The thicker the pole, the more wind-drag it will produce. You will find aluminum to be the most common choice for children because it is cheaper; however, as you will see in this review, there are companies that make composite poles even for their Junior line. The aluminum poles reviewed here are all made by great companies and are built to the highest safety and durability standards.

    Most poles come with average-sized baskets to be used on regular, groomed slopes, but some models allow the ability to swap baskets for a day in the powder (for which you would choose a larger size basket).
    Read More »
  • Best Ski Training Gear
    The ski season may be over, but the next season is coming soon and you don’t want to lose those hard-earned muscles you’ve developed over the past few months on the slopes. Haven’t skied in a few years? You definitely have some work to do! Cardiovascular workout such as jogging outdoors or bike riding (either outdoors or in the gym) is not only recommended, but a must for building up stamina for the next ski season. Any workout will help, but in order to target the right muscle groups, I recommend working with a certified personal trainer who has ski fitness experience. Alternatively, you can find some very good books on ski exercises that will guide you through the drills to target the right muscles. For those of you who don’t have the time to drive to the gym or perhaps not have one available nearby, don’t worry, there is some awesome home training equipment designed specifically with the skier in mind to help you out.

    In order to get ready for the upcoming season, I typically start my training regiment in early to mid September. By that time I have usually done lots of hiking, have well-trained leg muscles, and am in very good shape when it comes to the cardiovascular side of things. However, I still have lots of work to do strengthening the specific muscles I will need for skiing so that I won’t have to wimp out on my first six to eight hour teaching days at the beginning of the season.

    Over the years I have used equipment similar to what is reviewed in this article and the results have been amazing. The equipment reviewed here not only specifically targets the main muscles groups used in skiing, they will also help to improve balance and develop our cardiovascular fitness.
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  • Best Kids' Ski Helmets
    Kids need to wear helmets! As an instructor, I insist that all the children ages three to about fifteen wear a helmet or I just won’t teach them. A properly-fitted helmet is the best insurance against head injuries, particularly at the slower speeds children tend to ski. Helmets are lightweight, pretty comfortable, keep the ears warm, and a good helmet usually has a ventilation system to keep things cool, even on warmer days. So far, I have not had one child in my lessons complaining about having to wear a helmet.

    Fit is extremely important, and choosing the right helmet size is imperative to ensuring the helmet’s effectiveness. It is also very important that your child’s helmet be easily and effectively adjusted because a loose-fitting helmet may not provide the same protection as a well-fitted one. If your child already has a pair of goggles, be sure to bring them along when choosing a helmet so you can test how they’ll fit into helmet’s face opening. I would suggest buying the helmet only at a specialized ski or sports store where there are knowledgeable sales persons who can help you measure head size and determine which model will provide the optimal fit.

    The helmet you chose should have been tested according to the safety standards of American Society of Testing Materials (ASTM), Common European Norm (CEN), or Snell, the three main standard organizations.

    The helmets reviewed here have all been tested according to at least one of these three agency’s standards. They are all safe, lightweight, and generally comfortable (which, of course, depends a lot on the individual) and the best thing about them is, that they are all pretty cool!

    Note: There really does not appear to be any difference between snowboard and ski helmets, except that you may find that each target market may prefer different colors and decorative designs.
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  • Best Avalanche Snow Shovels
    Backcountry skiing is definitely big in the Pacific Northwest, and here in Seattle, we have great access to some fantastic backcountry property right at our doorstep. Snoqualmie’s Alpental, a 50-minute drive from the city, offers spectacular backcountry runs (and you can always make it back to the lifts, no need to be picked up on the side of the road). Many backcountry skiers choose to carry an avalanche shovel for the event of an avalanche. As one never should enter the backcountry by oneself, the shovel is primarily intended to dig out your partner if he or she gets into an avalanche, but it is also used to build shelter platforms if you choose to do an overnight excursion, or to dig into the layers of snow for a snowpack study to determine avalanche danger.

    When buying an avalanche shovel, make sure that it is not made of plastic. Plastic shovels are just not sturdy enough, especially if you have to dig through icy debris. Make sure to get a quality shovel that does not weigh too much because a shovel that is too heavy can become burdensome. Most quality shovels are either made of aluminum or polycarbonate; however, most backcountry folks will tell you that aluminum is the only way to go as it is the only available material that can slice through crud and ice. Therefore all shovels reviewed are made of aluminum.

    You should be able to easily transport a shovel in (or on the outside of) your backpack without restricting your movements, which is usually easily accomplished by choosing a telescoping or segmented handle design. There are shovels with T-grips, D-grips and L-grips, the shape of the letters describing the shape of the actual handle grips. I had a chance to dig with all three handle shapes and prefer the D-shape, but that is just a matter of taste.

    At Alpental, you see lots of backcountry skiers standing in line with their backpacks including the obligatory avalanche snow shovel. To help complete this review I had the chance to talk to numerous backcountry enthusiasts, finding out which shovels are most preferred. The shovels listed below were all recommended by avid backcountry skiers, professional stores, or members of ski patrol. In addition, I did a little shoveling myself for a more comprehensive review.
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  • Best Men’s All-mountain Ski Boots
    Ski boots are an essential component to skiing, playing an important role in a skier’s ability and performance. In addition to their function as a means to connect feet to skis, ski boots help transmit the skier’s movements to the skis and transfer applied pressure to the edges. Fit is critical! Ski boots should fit snuggly (so no energy is lost by the foot slipping around inside the boot) yet comfortably, so it is extremely important to pick the right size. A good guideline for choosing the correct size is feeling your toes touch the front of your boot when you’re standing up straight. When you’re leaning forward into the boot, your toes should lose contact with the front of the boot. Your heel should move as little as possible.

    Ski boot selection should not only be based on how the boot fits, however. Consider also the kind of skiing you are planning to do, your level of ability, and your goals. Boots for beginners (and some intermediate skiers) are often very soft and can make for a more comfortable and forgiving ride, however they won’t provide adequate pressure transfer to your edges in steeper terrain or at higher speeds. Stiffer boots will give you more direct energy transfer to your edges, but may at the same time be more taxing on your legs. Racing boots, for example, are extremely stiff and often have thinner padding in order to optimally transfer pressure to your edges. A full on race boot may therefore not be a good choice for an eight-hour day of joy on the slopes. Choosing a boot that is neither too soft nor too stiff and that is well padded to prevent bruising will allow for both increasing your ability and provide the most comfort.

    Finally, I recommend buying boots at an actual store, as opposed to ordering online without having tried them on. There are great ski boots with some awesome features out there, but it took me several trips to several stores to find the boot that adequately matched my foot, and I still had to have them custom fitted (the store staff widened some the ankle area for me)… So I also suggest buying at a store that offers free boot fitting with purchase.

    The models reviewed here are all geared toward the advanced and expert skier. Stiffness in general is higher than in your intermediate or beginner’s boot, but is a few notches down from the racing models. All the models I have tried are very comfortable yet stiff enough to optimally transfer energy to your skis.
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  • Best Ski Sunglasses
    A good pair of goggles would undoubtedly offer the very best protection against the sun (as it covers a large area of your face), it is just getting way too hot on the slopes sometime to wear them, especially during the spring ski season. Sunglasses are the next best option of course, but you have to make sure that the shades you choose qualify for use on the snow especially when the sun is moving higher and higher in the sky. Never go out without eye protection as it is not uncommon for people to burn their corneas when they don’t wear sunglasses (or ineffective sunglasses for this matter) on a full day out on the slopes. The snow is reflecting light back so you are getting hit from above and below.

    In order to choose good sunglasses for use in the snow there are several aspects to take into consideration. First of all, of course, you need the best lenses you can get. For spring conditions, I highly recommend going as dark as possible, and I personally would always choose polarized lenses that guarantee at least 95 percent protection against both UVA and UVB rays. The best choice, in my opinion are sunglasses that have interchangeable lenses, so you can quickly swap them out in case things get foggy or the cloud cover calls for lighter tinted lenses. If possible try and get impact-resistant lenses so they won’t shatter if you accidentally run into a branch during tree runs or when making one of those graceful face plants.

    For skiing purposes, choose shades that cover a large portion of your eye area. Ideal are glasses that feature side-shields to keep the sun from coming in peripherally. Sunglasses with wider cut temples are more effective in that way also. Wrap-around lenses work better than flat ones as they block more of the light coming in from the side.

    Then, of course, there is the looks and coolness factor. I happened to like all the sunglasses reviewed below. Looks-wise, some are more geared towards functionality while others are designed to impress, but all the shades listed below are great choices and will protect your eyes. My recommendation is to go to the store and try them on. If you wear a helmet skiing, bring it along to make sure the glasses fit with it.
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  • Best All-mountain Skis
    All-mountain skis are generally very versatile skis, performing well in many conditions and types of terrain whether off-piste or on-piste. Of course, there are more specialized skis such as powder skis or slender racing skis with unbelievable edge grip. The former, however, probably won’t work for tightly carved turns. The latter likely won’t provide enough lift in the powder. All-mountain skis can do a little bit of everything and that’s why I love skiing on them.

    Most all-mountain skis have a mid-fat build, which means that overall they have a wider cut than your regular ski (especially underfoot). They are wide enough to give you some float in the powder yet still turn easily and won’t get you stuck between moguls. Of course having a specialized ski for a particular terrain or style has its benefits, but having an all-round model at your disposal that you can enjoy all day long without having to change gear speaks for itself.
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  • Best Ski Masks
    No, not the Greek pastry, balaclava is another term for ski mask. I have to admit that I had never worn a balaclava before this season, because as a ski instructor I want my students to see my facial expressions. I want them to see the honesty in my face as I coax them down their first black diamond slope, convincing them that it will all be okay. Last year one of my new students, an eleven year old on vacation from Texas with his mom, wore a balaclava on all four of his lessons with me. To this day I have no idea what the young man really looked like, but I do know that he never complained about being cold. When the temperature here in Washington State drops, it can be bitter, particularly for someone used to Texas sunshine.

    Due to the proximity of Puget Sound, there is always some moisture in the air, which can literally freeze your skin, and it's on those icy days that I have always wished for something other than goggles to shield my face. Wearing any sort of face-mask always seemed restrictive to me, and I was under the impression that covering my nose and mouth would inhibit my air intake. Well, I was wrong. This season, I decided to try out balaclavas and was pleasantly surprised by their cozy warmth and good ventilation. For the most part the look was quite acceptable, although I have to admit that I did find a few atrocious looking styles with protruding nose pieces that made me look like a bank-robber. I’ve decided that when buying a balaclava you should generally think function, not looks. Most importantly, make certain your balaclava features breathing holes as well as moisture-wicking materials.

    The masks reviewed here not only have a decent look, all of them keep your face, neck and forehead warm and dry and won’t interfere at all with your ability to breathe. Some are primarily meant to be worn under a hat or helmet, whereas others are the kind of balaclavas you can wear solo instead of a hat or helmet.
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  • Best Men's Ski Pants
    There are a few things one needs to keep in mind when buying a new pair of ski pants. First of all, of course, there is the form factor. Your ski pants should fit you! Watch out that the pant legs are not too long or the cuffs will likely become shredded when you step in and out of the bindings. Too short and it will look funny and restrict your ability to move. Definitely make sure you get a pair that keeps its form. Just this season I bought a pair that seemed to fit perfectly, however, after I had the pants for three days, they were baggy, almost to double the initial size (and they went back to the store).

    Then there is functionality… pants should be durable, weatherproof, and breathable. If they don’t breathe, you sweat. You sweat, you freeze, especially when the temperature suddenly drops a few notches, or you have to stand in line on a cold day. There are different coatings and laminates manufacturers use to make their materials weatherproof and breathable. Water resistant and water repellant pants may be a bit more breathable, but the materials can become saturated when exposed to moisture for a long time. All pants should keep moisture out yet be able to release humidity caused by sweating. Make sure that the pants are seam sealed for maximum protection. Ski pants should be warm but not too heavy. All pants reviewed are weatherproof and use first-class materials that keep the bulk down yet provide warmth and ensure protection against the elements.

    Most of us (maybe excluding the hardcore back-country utilitarian) want their pants to look nice too. The models reviewed all have a nice, stylish look to them, at least in my humble opinion.
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  • Best Snowboard Books
    Choosing the right book on snowboarding is not a simple task. There are a multitude of books on the market ranging from the purely instructional to the encyclopedic. In this review, I focus only on those books that incorporate enough instructional material to help improve the riding of both the beginner and advanced snowboarder. While some of the books below focus mainly on teaching technique, others venture into various additional subjects associated with the sport of snowboarding. Here is a list of the Best of the Best I could get my hands on. All of the books listed here are excellent guides and are sure to improve your riding skills while teaching you more about the sport you love.
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  • Best Ski Books
    Choosing the right book on skiing is not a simple task. There are a multitude of books on the market ranging from the purely instructional to the encyclopedic. In this review, I focus only on those books that incorporate enough instructional material to help improve the skiing of both the beginner and advanced skier. While some of the books below focus mainly on teaching technique, others venture into various subjects associated with the sport of skiing.

    Since the arrival of shaped skis in 1993, skiing has changed not only when it comes to gear but also in the way that it is taught. While some older books still offer helpful advice and useable progressions, I made sure that the books reviewed reference the new shaped skis as well as the technique of “carving” that they are associated with.
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  • Best Ski and Snowboard Gloves
    I think we all believe that a good glove should primarily protect against the cold and wet, while at the same time allowing the hands to breathe... At least that’s my thinking, and the basis for how I have chosen my gloves in the past. Now, after spending time testing some of the best gloves out there, I’ve learned that the new generation of gloves does so much more!

    With the trend moving towards the terrain parks and back-country, and with more and more skiers discovering the art of fun-carving (where you actually end up with your gloves in the snow if you just lean into your turn far enough), the chances of incurring hand or wrist injures have increased for skiers, jibbers, and riders alike. Some of the new gloves are keeping up with the times by providing extra padding to protect your fingers or reinforcing the palms avoid tearing of the materials. Protection against the cold has also significantly improved. You can maintain cozy hands even in the coldest of conditions with a new generation of glove that offers pockets for inserting heating pads or, even better, can be hooked up to a battery that heats the entire glove.

    Another trend these days is listening to tunes while you ski or ride, or at all times for that matter, which can be seen by the increased sightings of Mp3 players plugged in to people’s ears. But what a hassle to have to take your gloves off in order to skip to the next track on your latest Black-Eyed Peas album… No worries! Some of the new gloves even offer special pads on the index finger or thumb to facilitate easy use of your sound source without having to expose your fingers to the weather.

    Some of the defining features of Best of the Best for gloves - and should be a must - include true breathable and waterproof materials, seamless fingertips, and rubberized or leather materials around the palm to ensure a good grip and more.
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  • Best Ski and Snowboard Goggles
    An important consideration when you’re out on the slopes is your eye protection, for safety purposes, clarity of vision, and comfort (not to mention looking good). The main things to consider when choosing a pair of goggles are fit, that you can see properly, including peripherally, and that you have the right lens for the weather conditions, terrain, and activity. You’ll often see different goggles described as either ski or snowboard specific, but in reality they are pretty much interchangeable. As with other ski or snowboard gear, each target market often has its particular “in” color and/or design preference.

    A good pair of goggles should provide eye protection against UV rays and other impact, should allow for good peripheral vision, should have a decent ventilation system, and should not fog up on you. The best pair of goggles, however, will not work if they do not fit your face! For example, my business partner, Charles Biggers, (co-founder of Beyondski.com, and one hell of a skier) and I have very differently shaped noses. Mine is narrower, his is wider. His goggles fit me, but my goggles don’t fit him at all, to the point where it’s an unpleasant experience for him to wear them out on the slopes. So remember, when you’re buying goggles, don’t make a purchase unless you have tried them on for yourself! Also, if you already own a helmet or wear corrective eyeglasses, be sure to bring them with you on your search for a new pair of goggles. The goggles may be too wide for your helmet’s face opening or may not fit over your eyeglasses.

    The goggles I tested for this review all have additional lens for different weather, terrain, and activity that can be purchased separately. I couldn’t test every lens associated with each model of goggle in every condition, but if a particular lens stood out to me regarding clarity of view and lack of distortion I mention it.

    Note: I did not test the goggles in combination with a helmet, just my beloved old lucky ski hat.
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  • Best Ski Poles
    Remember your first beginner ski lesson? You most likely did not use poles, maybe not even for the second lesson either. When you finally started using poles you probably immediately wondered why. Poles seem to be in the way when you fall, making for a not-so-soft landing, and they seem to distract you from your effort of focusing on your skis. But ski with poles for a few times and you cannot imagine being without them. Poles are important because they provide extra support and stability as you transfer weight from one ski to the other, and help you keep a steady groove when you use them to initiate turns.

    When buying a pole you should keep a few things in mind. Poles should be the right length for your height because skiing with wrongly sized poles can negatively affect your skiing technique. Poles should be lightweight. Heavy poles are exhausting to carry around and make it difficult to move fast on your pole plant. Additionally, the pole shaft should be flexible so using it won’t put strain on your shoulders, arms and elbows. Once you’ve used a light pole, you will never want to go back to a heavier one.

    The handgrip should be comfortable to hold and provide a good, non-slippery grip. Bring your gloves along when trying out new poles since to get the best idea of how good a match the grip is for you. Another thing to consider is the strap, which should be easily adjustable. Some company’s poles have a breakaway strap safety mechanism that opens or detaches the strap to avoid hand injury when there is a strong pull on your pole during a wipe-out or catch on a tree. I believe this to be a great feature, and it has put a couple of poles on this Best of the Best list.

    Generally, fiberglass, graphite and composite ski poles are the best choice because they are lighter and more flexible. Aluminum poles are cheaper, but often thicker in shaft diameter, and can bend and break more easily (there are, however, some very good and sturdy aluminum poles out there). The thicker the pole, the more wind-drag it will produce.

    Most poles come with average-sized baskets to be used on regular, groomed slopes, but most models give you the ability to swap baskets for a day in the powder (for which you would choose a larger size basket).
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  • Best Ski Helmets
    Selecting the right ski helmet is all about fit. Fit, of course, is critical and based upon your individual head shape. Also important is personal comfort. Some individuals like the warmer earflaps on their lids, while others prefer the “shortie” style helmet, which does not completely cover the ears.

    Given the importance of fit and comfort, one of the main aspects I focused on for this review is adjustability, because any helmet that fits too loosely and cannot easily be adjusted can be highly unsafe.

    Even though all helmets are (or should be) certified for safety (e.g. toughness of material), different helmets are tested by different organizations based on differing testing standards. I therefore decided to test only helmets that are made by either a well-known company with a history in safety spanning all their products, or a company that specializes manufacturing helmets.

    Note: There really does not appear to be any difference between snowboard and ski helmets, except that you may find that each target market may prefer different colors and decorative designs. If you already have goggles that you like, make sure to take them with you to the store as the may or may not fit the helmet's shape.
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