Equipment Recommendations for Alpine Racing for New Racers and Parents
By Jodd Bowles AMS Alpine Coach & Director of Racing at Lost Valley.

“Alpine” means we race down the ski hill not cross country. The two Alpine events in the Maine Junior Ski League (MJSL) are Slalom and Giant Slalom. We do not race Super Giant Slalom or Downhill.

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Bump Heldman former MJSL racer in a FIS Slalom race

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Ted Ligety World champion
GS Racer

New to ski racing? It can be daunting getting into racing. This article is meant as a primer to give you a general idea of what you will need to start and progress in the sport. Skiing is expensive, but with the advice of your coach and your local shop, you can avoided buying equipment you do not need or buying the wrong equipment. Local shops and clubs often have used equipment, and other team members and clubs sometimes have equipment you can use or purchase. Check out the ski swap info on this site—one of the best way to get outfitted at the best prices while supporting your local team or club.

Your coach is the best person to recommend what equipment you need, and your local shop is the best place to help outfit you for skiing. I do believe it is essential you have a good relationship with a local ski shop. I can’t tell you how many times a racer breaks equipment the night before an event and the local ski shop goes above and beyond to help the racer have equipment suitable to compete on. Try getting that service by mail order.

Opinions vary, but this is a short list of what I recommend to my middle-school team. In order to race Alpine you need this equipment minimum:

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  • Proper-fitting ski boots that the racer can flex Nothing else matters if this is not right.
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Bindings that will fit the boots and meet the release setting (or “DIN”), a number dictated by the size, weight and ability of the racer
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In middle school, one pair of skis soft enough to be bent by the skier when turning. Yes, some racers ski on twin tips—not optimum but better than nothing.

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Poles of proper size Must have baskets and intact wrist straps.

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A ski helmet, preferably one that accepts a slalom bar, which protects the face and mouth from the impact of plastic poles or gates when racing Slalom (removed when not skiing slalom to decrease the risk of neck injury in a fall)

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Ski pants, preferably inspection pants (ski pants with full-length zippers on the sides so they may be easily removed at the start of the race over all equipment)

Gloves or mittens, warm, and a second pair of leather or suede work gloves for rope tows. Ski racing gloves are Expensive you can find cost effective alternative's or use the a good fitting pair of work gloves all the time.
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Ski Racing Gloves
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Kinko's good for rope tows
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Ski Racing Mittens

Goggles. I consider proper-fitting and clean goggles safety equipment. You can’t ski safely if you cannot see where you are going because of the wrong color lens, fogged lenses, snow or rain hitting you in the eyes, watery eyes, or just plain bad fit. Be sure that the goggles you get fit inside your helmet on your face cleanly, and pick a lens for when you will be racing—lots of middle-school events are at night, so if you have only one pair of goggles, they should be clear or a light color that helps to bring up flat light.
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Clear Lens for Night Racing under the lights
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polarized + photochromic Lenses' are very good in all light but very expensive.


Additional equipment is not required but becomes more necessary as you improve

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A racing suit is not required, but most racers seem to prefer racing in one. It is one of the most cost-effective things you can do to get faster times. The faster you go and the better you ski, the more it helps. Suits come with different levels of padding. The fastest downhill suits have no padding, and most middle-school and high-school racers prefer lots of pads.
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Specific slalom equipment will become necessary as the racer progresses. The clearing of gates makes specific equipment necessary.

Slalom skis are shorter and often have a bumper of some sort on the tip to protect the ski from hitting the hinges on gates and to deflect the ski to help avoid a straddle. They have the proper radius and length for the level of the racer. The side cut of the ski will more closely match the radius of the turn the racer will be making in the course. The ski should have a plate installed or built in, and the binding should have plates under it to get the boots up off the snow to a proper level. This gives the racer more leverage so they can make bigger angles. Also, the boot will not lift the edge off the snow until higher angles are achieved. Also, the plate helps to keep the flex of the ski consistent and dampens the ski, making it ski better, and it will be more stable at higher speeds.


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I personally believe that a slalom bar on the helmet is necessary for racing Slalom, although it is not required by the MJSL. Please make sure the bar fits your helmet. It is notoriously difficult to find bars for some helmets in season. Do not assume you will find the right bar later if you find a good deal on a helmet today. I recommend getting them both at the same time with the hardware to install the bar. Keep an extra set of hardware in your equipment bag in a container with a tool to install and remove the hardware. Used helmets are a great risk, as almost all helmets are designed to absorb only a single impact and then are no good, and there is no way of knowing if a helmet has had an impact. Also, proper fit is essential for the helmet to do its job, and if not fitted and worn properly may cause a crash or injury.

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Pole guards are hand protection that attaches to your ski poles to protect your hands and facilitate clearing the gates in Slalom. Once the racer is considering clearing, they become necessary. They come in different styles. Some only cover the bottom of the hand, and some, the whole hand, like the guard on a saber. It is personal preference as to what type you use. Most poles, but not all, will accept a guard, so make sure your pole guards will fit your poles.

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Shin guards are for more advanced skiers to aid in clearing gates. As the racer progresses, the racer will begin to clear the gate with their shins as well as their hands or pole guards. Without protection this can be quite painful. They are made from plastic or carbon fiber. Proper size and attachment so they do not come loose while racing is most important.


Giant Slalom: Specific Equipment

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Giant Slalom skis have the proper radius and length for the level of the racer. The side cut of the ski will more closely match the radius of the turn the racer will be making in the course. The ski should have a plate installed or built in, and the binding should have plates under it to get the boots up off the snow to a proper level. This gives the racer more leverage so they can make bigger angles, and the boot will not lift the edge off the snow until higher angles are achieved. Also, the plate helps to keep the flex of the ski consistent and dampens the ski, making it ski better and more stably at higher speeds.
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Giant Slalom poles are often a bit longer to help with a quicker start and usually have a slight bend to facilitate holding a tuck in flat and straight sections of the racecourse, which minimizes wind resistance

Yes, there is more, for racers at the next level

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Pk Designs Makes some of the best quality guards hand made in the USA by a racer for racers.
Forearm guards are not recommended for almost all middle-school racers. They offer protection for forearms from bruising as the racer slips by the gate, but the developing racer tends to use them to punch the gates out of the way, causing technique problems and tactical issues.

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Training pants are shorts worn over your speed suit. They are great for slalom training, as they do not interfere with the shin guards and you still have protection for your butt on the chair lift.

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Back protection is used mostly in speed events not run in MJSL. It protects the back from damage in a fall. I do know some racers who use it to protect their back from gates slapping them on the back as they pass in Slalom. And for protection for their back in Giant Slalom.
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Race top can be worn under the suit to give added protection against bruising in Slalom. Also used in Giant Slalom, as well.
A mouth guard protects the teeth from damage in a collision. Not the norm, but personal choice or special dental consideration may make them advisable. I recommend a custom guard from a dentist.


Other gear you should consider:

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Boot or gear bag. The backpack style seems to be preferred by racers these days. Make sure you can fit your boots, gloves, helmet, bar, and other equipment in the bag. Makes getting to and from the lodge possible. Some sort of equipment bag is a necessity. A large athletic duffel bag can be used in a pinch.

Ski socks come in many different kinds and styles. You should wear the socks you ski in when you get your boots fitted. Properly fitted and dry socks are the most important factor in keeping your feet warm. DO NOT SKI IN THE SAME SOCKS YOU WEAR TO THE HILL—CHANGE TO YOUR DRY SKI SOCKS. Dry out your boots each night. Soccer socks make a good substitute for ski socks when starting out. DO NOT WEAR COTTON SOCKS!!

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A boot dryer is a nice investment if you ski a lot. I recommend the style that circulates room- temperature air through the boots. You only need to remove the liner a few time a season with a dryer.
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Duct tape. This one should be self explanatory.

Basic waxing equipment includes an iron, a plastic scraper, a white nylon brush, and a few bars of hydrocarbon wax, along with some sort of box or bag to keep it all in. (reference other article on this site for more info in ski Tuning)

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Ski straps are almost as necessary as the skis themselves, at least two for each pair of skis. They keep the skis together for transport and protect the bottoms from scratching and the edges from damage.
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A ski bag for transporting skis on buses and planes may make it easer to carry your skis. Though a bag offers some protection to skis above and beyond straps, you must still use the straps.