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How to save on winter sports gear

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Shopping for winter sports gear can be tricky, especially when you're no longer an amateur but just not quite ready to shell out for professional-grade equipment. To help you make the best decision, we've got some tips from the experts. So, before you hit the slopes, follow these guidelines so that you can make an informed choice when picking up your first snowboard or pair of skis.

Don't skimp on the boots
When it comes to skiing, the right boot fit can make or break your time on the slopes. At Taos Ski Valley, a popular ski resort in New Mexico, experts recommend buying your ski boots before spending money on anything else. "You want to go boot shopping in the afternoon when your feet are swollen," says Jeff Mugleston, Taos Ski Valley's adult ski school manager. One of the biggest mistakes is buying an oversize ski boot, he says. For boots, Kevin Chanler, boot fitter and ski salesman for Taos Ski Valley, recommends the brands Soloman and Tecnica.

Save on the poles
Poles are the least expensive piece of skiing equipment you can buy, says Chanler. You can save some money by buying thinner poles for cross-country use, he suggests.

Match the snowboard's toughness to the snow's surface
Snowboarders take note, the outer surface of your board impacts your performance. For softer snow out west, Mugleston says you'll want a board that's "more forgiving and flexible." When hitting the "hard pack," or tougher snow out east, try a firmer board that can handle hard snow. Chanler recommends snowboards by Burton.

Aim a level higher
According to Chanler, you want to buy skiing equipment that's up one level from where you're at. "As the beginner, you always want to buy skiing equipment for the skier you'd like to be," he says.

Look at ski lengths
According to Chanler, average skis should be 70mm to 80mm wide at the waist. He recommends the average ski length to be at nose height. "As I get better and go faster, I'll appreciate a longer ski," he says.

Take some skis out for a test run
They say you won't know until you try, so take a pair of skis for a test run to see which are a good fit for you. The best way to do that is by trying out rental skis and boots at a resort, so you know what works for you, says Chanler.

Go for modern
"You definitely want a modern shape ski as opposed to the old straight skis," says Mugleston. Modern, hour-glass skis, or "parabolic" skis, make turning easier and lessen skidding, according to the California Ski Company. For downhill skis, try a brand such as Nordica or K2. Beginners will like the offerings from Soloman, Chanler says.

—Brian T. Horowitz

Please note that, although prices sometimes fluctuate or expire unexpectedly, all products and deals mentioned in this feature were available at the lowest total price we could find at the time of publication (unless otherwise specified).
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