So you’re off to the Alps this winter to enjoy a snow holiday, and you’re wondering how to choose your snow equipment. Whether you prefer snowboarding, snowshoeing or sledging, this guide will tell you everything you need to know!
You’ll need to take various factors into account depending on the equipment you wish to use, such as your use, your level, your weight… Follow this guide to prepare for your snow holiday in the Alps!
(Please note, if you want to know how to choose skis, then head over to our in-depth guide).
As the name suggests, the snowboard is a board that lies on the snow. As with downhill skiing, you jump forward and make turns in a constant game of balance.
There are three levels of snowboarding: beginner, intermediate and advanced. The boards are classified according to these criteria and each one has its own features, allowing riders to make progress.
The boards are flexible, to limit falls and allow the rider to slide into turns, and go backwards.
Please note: the twin-tip snowboard offers a perfectly symmetrical snowboard shape, both in form and in rigidity. It allows a better balance in the jumps, and the backwards descent is easier.
The board is a little more rigid, but still allows for some room to manoeuvre to avoid falls. If you have already tried snowboarding and mastered your speed, cut and back turns, on piste and a little in powder, then this board is ideal for you.
If you are totally comfortable on all types of snow and your technique is impeccable, you can opt for this rigid board. It’s ideal for speed and control, even on hard or icy snow.
Please note: There is another form of snowboard, a directional board with a tail and a nose. Rigidity can vary along the length of the board. It’s popular with lovers of speed.
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This type of board allows you to test all types of snow, while having fun and, on occasion, you can even try some jumps. It’s a great board for beginners.
If you plan on spending most of your time in the snowpark, you’ll want a freestyle board with perfect balance and manoeuvrable front and back steering. This will allow you to do as many rotations as you want. The freestyle models are generally shorter and more flexible, to make jumps easier.
Freeride means going off-piste in powder or other types of snow. For this, you should choose a board with good buoyancy, ie a long, stiffer board, to stay in control of its trajectory when the snow is frozen.
You should also choose a directional board (i.e. with a nose and a tail) for its flexibility and precision which will allow you to progress in powder.
Finally, if you plan to only ride off-piste, you might prefer a swallow tail board, which is even more adapted for free-ride and excellent in deep snow.
You choose your board according to your height and weight. For example, a man between 1.70 and 1.80 metres tall and weighing between 60 and 75 kilograms will be offered an all-snow board between 1.53 and 1.60 metres. In general, a board will be about 10 centimetres shorter than you.
The smaller the board, the easier it will be to do tricks. And the bigger your board, the more stability and speed you will gain. For an all-snow board, for example, a board can be up to 20 centimetres smaller than you.
You’ll need to get a board that is wide enough to prevent your toes, heels or bindings from touching the snow during a turn, which could lead to a fall.
If your foot size is greater than or equal to EU 44, you will need a “wide” board, ie wider than the standard models, which will allow you to glide more comfortably, even if you are wearing a little less than a size 44.
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The snowboard camber
The camber of your board should be appropriate for your use and also for your level. There are three main types of camber:
- Classic: the middle of the board is raised, for better stability when going fast.
- Inverted: the centre of the board is in contact with the snow, but the ends are raised.
- Flat: the board is in contact with the snow along its entire length, which makes it very stable and perfect for beginners.
How much should you spend on your snowboard?
Prices vary from one resort to another and from one shop to another. However, to give you an example, Skiset offers two ranges:
- An adult range (snowboard and boots) at beginner/intermediate level at 115€ per week.
- A children’s range (snowboard and boots) at beginner/intermediate level at 90€ per week.
Buying your own equipment
Expect to pay between 300 and 800 euros for a snowboard.
Snowshoes are the ideal equipment for off-piste hiking in powder snow. Their main purpose is to increase the surface area underfoot, in order to distribute your weight more widely over the snow. This will prevent you from sinking into the soft snow with each step.
Leisure and occasional use
Comfort is the main consideration when you are snowshoeing on groomed trails or on paths.
For this, you should choose flexible and supple snowshoes which can replicate the natural movement of the foot as closely as possible.
This type of snowshoe is often padded at the ankles to ensure practicality and comfort. You can choose a snowshoe with a standard-size sieve (sole of the snowshoe) for a light and efficient step.
Lightweight and resistant
For steep terrain, trails or off-piste: you will need all-terrain snowshoes with excellent stability and good grip. You might also consider snowshoes with crampons under the forefoot.
For ascents on steep trails with hard snow: you can choose snowshoes in the traditional format, with a narrow profile for great freedom of movement and good propulsion.
For flat snow: a wider sieve surface is essential to stay on the surface of the snow.
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If you want to get the right snowshoes for you, you must take your weight into account. The more you weigh, the longer and wider your snowshoes will need to be. And the lighter you are, the shorter, narrower and lighter your snowshoes will be.
Don’t forget to take into account the weight of your rucksack when choosing your snowshoes!
What should you pay for your snowshoes?
Prices will vary from one resort to another, and from one shop to another. However, to give you an idea, Skiset offers snowshoes for hire from 34€ per week
If you want to buy your own snowshoes, you can pay anything from 50€ to 400€.
There are several factors to take into account when choosing your sledge, including your age and/or that of your children, comfort, weight, etc.
Your age and weight
Depending on the age of the people in your group, you need different types of sledging equipment. Some sledges are suitable for children as soon as they are able to sit up.
You will also need to consider the weight of the people using it: a maximum load is indicated for each type of sledge and it is important to respect it for your safety and so you do not break the sledge.
For example, the maximum load for a sledge for toddlers is less than 30kg, while a sledge for children will have a maximum load of 50kg and for adult sledges, it will be around 100kg. However, there are also family or two-seater sledges, designed to carry both children and adults.
Also, you need to consider the weight of the sledge itself, especially if your child is young. You or another adult will probably have to pull the child on the sledge, or just carry the sledge if they no longer wish to use it.
Comfort and steering
Some sledges are equipped with brakes, a steering wheel or other features to make it easier for little ones to handle. Teens and adults can steer and brake with their body weight and feet.
Finally, many sledges are very simple, with no backrest, while others are more sophisticated. Depending on you and the comfort you require, it’s a matter of personal choice.
Different types of sledge
Safety and adaptability are the main criteria here. This type of baby equipment has evolved a lot in recent years, to the point of offering harnesses to secure the little ones and avoid falls. Others give you the possibility to attach a baby seat.
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Tray sledge: these are for children up to 10 years and are adjustable for babies. There are models for adults too, and this simple yet effective sledge can be steered with your feet or brakes. At the bottom of the slope, you can easily pull it back up, using its strap and handle.
Inflatable sledge: the best thing about this sledge is it is lightweight, whether you’re transporting it, storing it or going downhill. With its shock-absorbing inflatable material, backrest and footrest, this sledge provides a certain level of comfort for you to enjoy your sledging session!
Shovel sledges, wooden sledges and steerable sledges
Shovel sledge: the simplest, most practical, smallest and lightest… and just as much fun! Suitable for children and adults under 80kg. For a group sledging session, you can even attach them together and create a mega sledge for a good laugh with family or friends – a must-try!
Steerable sledge: this sledge is equipped with a steering wheel, which is rather effective for young children who want to control their trajectory. As a safety bonus, it is also equipped with a metal brake to slow down the sledge if necessary.
Wooden sledge: for nostalgic adults who want to rediscover their childhood, this sledge is ideal. You’ll use your whole body to steer and stop the sledge. Nowadays, some wooden sledges can be folded to save space, and on others, you can also add a child seat.
Spinning sledges and magic carpets!
Spinning sledges: want to spin in circles AND slide? The spinning sledge is just what you need! With its round shape and two handles, it allows you to spin around on the slopes. This sliding technique is as much fun for the spectators as it is for the person going down the slopes. It is intended for teenagers and adults, as you have to brake with your feet.
Carpet sledging: leave the flying carpet to Aladdin, and try the sliding carpet! Usable on snow, sand or grass, this sledge is very adaptable, as well as being light and easy to carry. It comes with handles for steering and can be used by children as young as four, as well as older children!
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Bonus: other snow equipment
Snow scooter: does your child want to use their scooter on the snow? It is possible to replace the wheels with snowpad skates and you can slide everywhere, even on gentle slopes!
Sliding machines: want to get out on the snow straightaway? The paret sledge is probably what you need: with a comfortable ergonomic seat, its single ski allows you to build up speed and make sharp turns. It is only allowed in some ski resorts, so be sure to check beforehand.
The snooc! What is a snooc? It’s a snowshoe ski that turns into a sledge on the way down, with a comfortable seat and precise steering. Give it a go, have fun and go fast!
How much should you pay for your equipment?
You can buy a simple sledge for about 30€, but you could pay up to 200€ for the most complex models, such as the paret!
Half day (sledging and tobogganing): between 4-9€
Full day (toboggan and paret sledge): between 10 and 15€
Week (single sledge): about 13€
Choosing the right equipment for your snowshoeing, sledging or snowboarding means considering several factors: your age and weight, ability, usage, comfort and the type of snow on which you are going to have fun…
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