How to Shop for Kids Skis
Keeping a growing family well equipped for ski equipment can be a daunting annual task. In this guide we will first take you through the basics of fitting classic ski equipment for your kids. We point out where buying used makes sense. At the end we will discuss some specific use cases such as racers, skate skis for kids, and what happens when your kid becomes a teen.
We feel that well-fitting boots are not negotiable, even for kids. Poorly fitting boots can lead to blisters or cramping. No one wants that. Your kids will complain and they will be right (for once lol).
To test the fit of your kid’s boots, undo all the laces, and have them shove their toes forward to the front of the boot. Then try to slide one of your fingers into the boot behind the heel. If you can get your finger in they should have enough room. If you can get two stacked fingers in, the boots are likely too big.
Another quick test you can do is to take the insoles out of the boots and have your child stand on them. It should be obvious if the boot is too small. The boot is likely too big if there is more than a centimetre of room at the toes.
We sell very few kids boots at Fresh Air. Instead we offer a junior classic boot rental program that allows kids to get the right size every year for about $30 a season. Click here for more details
Kids skis tend to be pretty forgiving in terms of sizing. Most kids can get out there and enjoy themselves on a pair of skis that is up to 20cm taller than they are. Once your child is taller than their skis, they are probably too small. It is possible to get 2-3 seasons out of a pair of skis.
If your child is having a hard time compressing their skis, especially climbing hills, it is a sign that the skis are too stiff for them. If your child is finding they need to use their poles downhill, when others in the group are gliding with ease, the skis are too small.
We usually recommend fishscale, or mechanical grip skis for kids. They are the easiest to use and the most durable if you have multiple kids in the family. This is most of what we sell for kids. It is increasingly difficult to find waxable classic skis for kids, but we do our best if your kid is in a race program that requires waxable skis. Skins are an increasingly popular option for kids in learn to ski programs.
We do not use skis as some kids can be hard on their equipment, still you can often find great deals out there on used kids skis at ski swaps or online. If you are shopping for used skis, examine the bases of the skis. Skis that are quite scratched up still work, but will not glide as well. Ask for a discount.
If there are cracks in the sidewall of the ski, or if the bases are delaminating (seperating) from the core of the ski, do not buy them. If a ski looks very old, it probably is. Old skis can sometimes go a little soft, making them feel too small even when they should be long enough.
Ideally classic poles will sit at the shoulder. You can get away with a little shorter, or a little longer to squeeze an extra season out of the poles you have.
With so much used equipment circulating in the Ottawa area, we still need to consider bindings. Traditionally there were two competing standards SNS and NNN. SNS is no longer supported by any major manufacturer, so be wary if a shop tries to sell you new SNS stuff. We still have some SNS boots in our boot exchange program but will have less and less in the coming years.
If you are shopping used you will need to be careful. Many skis will come with bindings attached, and many sellers will not know what they are talking about. If you are unsure, it is best to take your equipment with you when shopping to make sure everything fits together. The good news is that binding can usually be swapped if you end up with mismatched stuff.
Looking for these items will get most kids going. Some kids will need some more specific equipment, so read on if you’ve got a racer or a teen you are shopping for.
If this is all still feeling confusing, come see us at 1291 Wellington and we will get you pointed in the right direction!
Some learn to ski programs ask that kids own skate and classic skis.
For skate skis, aim for skis no more than 10cm taller than your child and no more than 5cm shorter than your child. Combi skis aren’t great, but can work in a pinch.
Combi boots are not always the right option for adults, but for growing kids who are not as strong as adults, they are a perfect option to keep costs down as kids learn. If they continue in racing they will need dedicated boots at some point.
Skate poles will ideally fit to the lips.
If your kid is in ski lessons and growing older, chances are they will find themselves with some more specific ski needs. In our experience, coaches and parents will work together to establish what kinds of equipment your child should be buying. If the goal is to get out there and have fun, you do not need the same quality of equipment you need if you are aiming to make the podium at nationals. We are always happy to work with racing families to evaluate their fleets and make recommendations.
Teens and Tweens
Often the height and weight of tweens and teens takes on some strange proportions as they grow. It can be really challenging to find the right ski for someone who is 5 foot 10 and 105 pounds. This can be a good time to work with a shop or coaches to make sure that kids are on the right size for them, as we have the experience to balance out the various factors that will improve their skiing.
If they aren’t racing and they aren’t frustrated, using the same advice we offer above should keep them on the right track. The one exception is that the skis will probably need to be a little longer - ideally 20-30cm longer than your child once they stop growing.
The good news is that your kid’s feet will stop growing around this time, and you should be able to get them into a pair of quality boots that will last them for years. Or, if your kid ends up with the same sized feet as you, get yourself something nice and give the kids a hand-me-down.