I’ve never been skiiing or snowboarding before and just booked my first trip to Andorra in March and just near the end of buying all my clothes and accessories for snowboarding. I wasn’t quite sure what i needed or where the hell to buy everything to start with but luckily a few of my friends who are going have been a few times previously so gave me a few tips.
I’ll list the essentials for clothing and equipment below and as I love a good bargain where i’ve found to be the best value for money.
This is essential and will protect you from the elements, whether it’s rain, snow and the freezing cold wind. I didn’t book the snowboarding trip till last minute and had already bought a thick winter coat in the January sales from Asos. It turned out it was an Alpha Industries Polar Explorer Jacket, which i thought would be ideal for the snow as that’s what it was designed and built for with the fur collar and blizzard tested and these people make jackets for the US Army and Navy so they should be able to cope with a 4 day trip to a Andorra, which doesn’t tend to have extreme weather and snow.
A friend of mine though pointed out that as i’ve never been snowboarding before i’m probably going to spend the best part of 4 days on my ass so I’d end up ruining the jacket on a single trip and it was really thick and might restrict my movement so I opted to hunt the perfect coat for my snowboarding trip even though i was a bit pissed about shelling out more money as the Alpha Industries set me back £150 and that was with a £70 discount.
I decided I best off opting for a shell and layering up instead of having a blizzard tested, thick coat weighing me down and potentially causing me to pass out from sweating so much due to my inability to board, which means i’ll be using up every muscle possible trying to stay upright as I won’t know what the hell i’m doing. I scanned every website possible, took a trip to Cardiff in all the ski and snowboarding shops looking at the usual suspects when it comes to skiing such as Burton, Oakley, Quicksilver and Bonfire but nothing was jumping out at me until I stumbled on Nike SB at City Surf in Cardiff. I didn’t realise Nike did snowboarding gear and did a bit of searching after coming back from Cardiff and by chance managed to find a pretty decent Nike SB jacket for nearly half price on Asos of places. The Nike SB Hemlock Jacket was waterproof, wind proof, nice and long so the snow wouldn’t get down my ass and up my back when i end up falling every 10 seconds and lastly it looked pretty cool too if i do say so myself. Unlike most of the other snowboarding jackets I could probably pull this off without being on the snow too whereas the others just looked like snowboarding jackets and not really my cup of tea and wouldn’t be seen dead with it on going to work or shopping.
I was toying with the idea of buying a cheap pair of snowboard boots on eBay as there are a few good bargains on there and I haven’t got a clue what to expect from rentals and the thought of how many hundred people had their mangey feet in there before me. As opposed to skiing boots which clip into the ski’s and are very hard to walk on when they are detached from the ski’s, snowboard boots are just that. They are just like big trainers with big ankle protectors on them to keep you upright and steady but are just fastened onto the snowboard and can are just like having a pair of hiking boots or trainers on to walk in. As it was my first trip i thought it was a bit stupid to buy a pair of boots as knowing me i usually get bored of doing something after a few hours and will probably spend the other 3 days in the pub somewhere keeping warm.
I did decide to buy some waterproof boots though as my Puma McQueen’s have seen better days and wouldn’t cope with the snow or water for long. I’d had my eyes on a pair of waterproof boots before Christmas but not because they were waterproof I just thought they looked a bit different to what I’ve been buying the last few years, which has pretty much been Alexander McQueen by Puma but alternating between low, mid and high tops in every colour imaginable.
The Patagonia boots were brown suede leather with sherling wool inner, which protruded over the ankle, black leather toe section and red soles. I opted for a pair of Vivienne Westwood high tops Christmas time in the end as I’d be able to wear them out instead of having to ruin the only other pair of shoes suitable for a night out in Cardiff but came straight back to the Patagonia when I ended up booking the snowboarding trip. They were discounted slightly in the sale but not as much as i’d hoped as they were down from £120 to £92 but every penny counts and all that plus with the cold weather we’ve had here in Wales recently it’s actually the coldest start to the year I can remember so I’ve got a bit of wear out of them already. Even though most of the roads and stuff will be clear of snow i thought a decent pair of waterproof shoes would’t go a miss just in case we do manage to do any other activities apart from snowboarding plus i’ll pack my Viv’s just in case I fancy something a bit more fancy on a night out in Andorra.
Arguably the most important piece of kit there is as they are going to protect your eyes and face from the sun’s glare all day so you don’t want to be tight here and buy a cheap pair that will mist up in no time. Boy did I browse some websites looking for a decent pair but they seemed to be ridiculously priced for my liking for a decent pair and had my eyes set on Oakley’s as they were the only brand I had heard of and you kind of know what you’re getting with them and they do tend to do the best eyewear for sports.
I tried all the well known websites such as Surf Dome, Route One, Snow and Rock but couldn’t find anything that either i liked or within my price bracket. I even took a trip down to TK Max in Cardiff, which i’d heard stocks some good skiing stuff but I went on a Sunday and all the decent equipment and clothes had probably gone on the Saturday.
I then happened to find a site selling last season’s stock of skiing goggles after specifically searching for cheap Oakly Ski Goggles instead of just skiing goggles called Eyewear Outlet. They do hundreds of Oakley Goggles and a few other brands such as Arnette but the Nike ones were over £150 so they were out straight away. I’d seen a really nice pair of Oakley Crobar that were greenish in colour but had a blueish lense on them but for reasons unbeknown to me I left it too late to buy them and someone snapped up the last pair. Back to the drawing board but had my eyes set on a pair of Oakley’s by now so scoured the Eyewear Outlet website once again for another pair and had to up my budget slightly but found a pair of Oakley Splice with yellow frame and Fire Iridium sense, which looked the bollox and seemed to be one of the most expensive lenses they do for the goggles and set me back £65 with an extra £10 for the case but they were still retailing between £100 to £130 elsewhere online so i think I had a good deal.
I couldn’t decide on a pair of trousers for ages and was toying with the idea of getting a pair of Nike SB to match the jacket as it has an inner section with clips to attach to the bottoms so the snow does’t get under your back and down your trousers but they were a bit pricey at £120 and couldn’t seem to find a discount on them for love nor money. As the jacket is a greenish brown colour i didn’t want to look like i was in full army camo either all in the same colour so wanted either a red pair or tobacco coloured trousers but couldn’t find any that took my fancy online even other brands i checked as they all had stupid looking pockets on the sides and looked more like army trousers, which i wasn’t feeling. A friend of mine had just come back from snowboarding and was buying a new pair of trousers and was going to sell his Bonfire ones that he had only worn on one trip and they were brown but i think the size was going to be a struggle so before I tried them i decide to take a trip to McArthur Glen Designer Village in Bridgend as I’d heard from a few people in work that they did some snowboarding clothing and I know from previous trips that they did Vans and a few other surfing brands so would probably have a decent collection of kit for the snowboarding trip.
I tried a couple of plain looking pairs on down there I wasn’t fussed on the Helly Hanson ones and i thought they looked a bit shit to be honest. I called into Billabong and took a look in the sale section and they had a brown pair for just £22! I’ve spent more than that on a pair of boxer shorts in the past and were a cool £100 cheaper that the Nike SB ones. They fitted although were a bit snug on the waist but I’ve been a bit of a lazy bastard of late with my training and Crossfit plus the Crossfit Open Games was between now and the trip so i took a punt on them and got them.
I’ve not been one for sports since I hung my tog’s up at 16 for rugby and haven’t played anything competitive since then so don’t own any sportswear apart from a few tee’s and shorts for Crossfit so i needed some base layers to go under my jacket. There was loads of selection of base layers down McArthur Glen as I’d been a silly boy once again and left things too late when they were selling of Skins base layer compression tops from £45 down to just £10 on Sports Direct so had to make do down there and were roughly on par with the pricing although you won’t beat Skins for quality as they are the best brand on the market for compression wear and under layers and even do thermal ones. I bough a base layer with zip front in Berghaus down from £25, another base layer long sleeve black top from Tog 22 and a mid layer fleece from there for £20 as I don’t own a single fleece an thought a normal grey cotton hoody I take to Crossfit might get wet and leave me cold.
Now these things were giving me a nightmare as I have quite small hands and if one thing i’ve learned from buying things online is I must be the most out of proportion person know to man as nothing seems to fit me and I can be anywhere from a small to a large in the same brand for some clothes. I had tried a few pairs on in Cardiff on my first trip down there after booking the snowboarding trip but was’t really sure what to look out for and they were all around the £40 mark.
Again on my trip to McArthur Glen and in the Berghaus shop they only had one pair of gloves but I don’t know many outdoors brand but Berghaus was one of them so though the quality should be pretty good. I noticed that the gloves for both the men and women were exactly the same design and on speaking to the cashier they said they were identical apart from the sizing and the price. The guys were obviously bigger and with a £10 premium compared to the women’s Berghaus gloves but as I was only a small to medium anyway the extra large women’s ones fitted a treat and saved me 10 English gold coins. They also had an offer on in the store with buy one get one half price so i ended up paying just £27 for the waterproof gloves and a base layer long sleeve top, which is just £2 more than the RRP of the base layer alone.
I haven’t decided what i’m doing about a hat yet as I have a couple in the house but not sure whether I will be wearing a helmet or not yet. I’ll probably have a helmet for the first day or 2 then when or if i’m feeling a bit more confident on the slopes or just fancy keeping my balding scalp warm whilst enjoying a pint or schnapps outside in the cold i’ll try a hat on.
Base Layers / thermals
As mentioned previously I had bought my base layer tops from Tog 22 and Bergaus but there was one thing I hadn’t quite decided on and that was thermal trousers. I had a bit of bad luck just before booking the trip as I go to Crossfit and the weather is baltic at the moment so decided to buy some Skins compression tights to protect my bambi legs from the cold air. I’ve never worn tights previously so wasn’t sure how I would take to them and wasn’t too keen on other people seeing me in tights either so opted for 3/4 length ones to leave a bit of bare flesh on my pins. I managed to get a pair of A200 3/4 compression tights for half price at jut £37.50 on the Skins website but when they arrived I didn’t realise they were thermal and therefore had a thick furry lining! It’s cold to start off in on the Crossfit WOD but by the end of it i’m usually panting like a dog having heart attack and sweating profusely too so they were a big no no! I decided to send them back a few days later and low and behold my mate rings to ask if i fancied giving snowboarding a try the same night so i could of kept them.
Anyway I put the tights at the back of my mind for a while and thought I would make do with just the snowboarding trousers as they looked quite warm but the cold weather hasn’t seemed to have gone anywhere and I’d heard the compression tights were not only good for keeping warm but can aid your performance whilst exercising and with the Crossfit Open Games on the horizon i needed every little help to beat Mr Fronning this year (yeah in my dreams!) but still they were an investment and should last me a little while as the skins ones tend to look better quality that other compression wear i’ve seen. I want the same colour as I’d originally ordered, which were the black and fierce red instead of the standard black with yellow stitching everyone else seemed to be sporting at my local Crossfit Box. I’ve just bought the new Nike Metcon 1’s in grey and volt though and the red might look ok with my Inov8 fast lift lifting shoes I thought the grey A200’s might match better (yes I know i’m actually trying to match my Crossfit outfit in my head WTF is going on!!)
I opted to order a pair of both the grey and the black and fierce red A200 Skin’s compression tights on SportsShoes.com as they were the cheapest I could find after hours or searching and would decide from there. I opened the grey and as it was freezing on my way to Crossfit and I had forgotten my hoody I just pulled the tag off the grey ones and wore them that night so I was keeping the grey. A couple of days later and on my way to Crossfit again but my grey A200’s in the wash it was baltic again out so bit the bullet and instead of sending the red and black Skins back I’m now the new owner of two colour tights and going from owning none to 2 pairs of tights in less than a few days. I decided 4 days was too long to wear the same pair of compression tights so I would need two pairs to stop my legs catching some funky disease and they can be used again in Crossfit too so I’ve got a double usage out of them plus if i do take to the snowboarding i can always wear them again.
A few people mentioned to me about having wrist protectors as either they had hurt themselves when falling and trying to protect themselves when hitting the ground or they knew people who had actually broken their wrists. I can’t be bothered buying anymore equipment so what I was thinking was to take my wrist wraps I wear to crossfit to give my wrists some support. I bought a pair of Man of Steel Superman Strength Wraps for just £20 at Cardiff Sports Nutrition website, who also do some of the cheapest quest protein bars that you could smuggle in your jacket pocket when you’ve exhausted every last bit of energy on the slopes and need a bit of some back in your body.
I didn’t even think about this till my mate mentioned about taking a drink with you on the slopes as you will be exerting a lot of energy especially me not having a clue what i’m doing and using muscles i don’t really need to so i’ll need to keep my fluids topped up throughout the day and i’m guessing it’s not going to be cheap buying them next to the slopes all day. He mentioned just taking small back or backpack and taking a bottle of water in there but i haven’t really got one so i’m considering buying a small camel back, filling that with liquids but also put some nibbles like chocolate in the bag too for an energy kick throughout the day.
Protection against the elements
When you’re up on the slopes the views might be spectacular but you’re getting battered from whatever nature throws at you whether it’s rain, snow, sleet, sun, wind or blizzards. Most of you is going to be protected from the elements but not all of it. Your face is going to be exposed and you might not feel like it or think you’re doing ok at first but spending hours on the mountains will take it’s toll on your delicate skin and trust me I’ve just got back and learnt the hard way! I protected my face with suntan lotion whilst i was snowboarding using a small Piz Buin Mountain 15SPF suncream lotion designed especially for the snow and skiing but the last day waiting around for the bus in the pub next to the ski lift in Andorra I burnt my forehead and nose to a crisp! I’ve never had sunburn like it on my head before and is still sore and peeling 5 days later.
Make sure you use suncream and the Piz Buin Mountain was great as it came in a small tube that was easy to carry and it was designed especially for the conditions as according to the box it is enriched with a Cold Shield Complex, it provides long lasting moisturisation, protecting the skin from extreme cold and wind. It’s also sweat and waterproof because trust me you will sweat!! I also made sure I had protection for my lips with a tube of Cherry Carmex lip protection as I’d heard it was good plus it tasted nice but my pocket opened from falling so much and it fell out so I was left with my original lipsil, which did the job of protecting from the wind but tasted horrible.