First time skiing or snowboarding? No clue what to prepare or buy? Let our two in-house noobies shed some light with their virgin experience in mesmerizing Niseko, Japan!
Noobie #1 – Madeline
Packing and preparing for your skiing trip is not the easiest task, especially when it’s your first-time skiing! I didn’t want to spend too much money buying expensive ski gear and at the same time, it will be a waste of money to buy gear that do not last. Hence, before my trip to Grand Hirafu, Niseko, I did my research looking for affordable yet good value ski gear. I found Decathlon’s ski brand, Wed’ze, to be within my budget, in comparison to other specialized ski brands, which are pricier and may not be suitable for beginners like me.
There are a few items that I found to be essentials for my trip:
Inner Base Layer
A base layer is crucial for skiing hence, I wore an inner thin layer and a base layer top and bottom. As I am rather petite, I managed to squeeze into this base layer from Wed’ze’s kids range, FRESHWATER CHILD’S SKI BASE LAYER and KIDS SKI BASE LAYER TROUSERS FRESHWARM.The fleece material is comfortable, warm and yet breathable. The back of this base layer is constructed with a breathable component that wicks away sweat and keeping our body dry from cold moisture. I came to realize that this is especially important when you are perspiring after a few slopes and can’t afford to catch a cold when you unzip your ski jacket. It was comfortable and I didn’t have any problems wearing them even when I’m not skiing.
As I am on the shorter side, I tried on these KIDS SKI TROUSERS SLIDE 100 and it fits me well. Since it comes with a suspender, I feel more secure and do not have to worry about my pants slipping when I move or fall. At ‘Grand Hirafu Niseko’ mountain, heavy snowfall lasted 9 to 10 hours. The mountain slope was powdery making my descent a very pleasant one. Throughout my 7 to 8 hours of skiing in powder snow, I had expected that the snow might seep through. However, I was completely dry when I took my ski pants out. It was thanks to the ‘Pull N’ Fit’ system that allowed me to adjust to the length of my pants while ensuring that it could cover my ski boots preventing snow from entering. It was well secured despite falling a few times. I would highly recommend anyone to invest in a good waterproof pants to keep you warm and comfortable even in the coldest weather, or in unforeseen circumstances.
In my entire list of ‘Ski Essentials’, jacket is the most important item for a good ski experience. A good quality jacket should be able to protect you from the cold weather, durable and lightweight. I chose this jacket, WED’ZE FIRSTHEAT SKI JACKET (exact colour and design currently unavailable) not only because it fits me well but also because it comes with many pockets! I could fit my phone, money, hotel key, ski pass and also my Go Pro! Since this jacket is waterproof, I didn’t have to worry about getting them wet. I found it really useful that the jacket comes with a side sleeve pocket to put my ‘Ski pass’. Whenever I needed to use the chair lift up the mountain, I could just flash my sleeve without any hassle. The jacket is made from thermal insulated material which helps maintain my body temperature comfortably.
Throughout my whole skiing trip, the only discomfort that I experienced was in my hands. The temperature in Niseko ranged from -8 to -10 Celsius, and the temperature persisted throughout the day. My hands were so cold that at one point, I had to stop skiing to warm my hands. I had one inner layer ski glove and the ADULT CHILL HEAT SKI GLOVES on the outer layer. Even so, I felt that it wasn’t sufficient. Despite having cold hands, the Wed’ze outer layer gloves kept my hands dry and it was fairly easy to put on. The gloves come with an elastic strap that helps prevent losing your gloves when take you them off, especially important and useful in cold weather when you have too many layers on you and tend to lose things. Moreover, there is also a hook on the gloves that you can hook both gloves together, to avoid losing either one. On my next ski trip, I will invest a little more time to find a suitable inner base gloves and a good outer layer gloves so that I can ski with full confidence.
Rental ski boots aren’t the most comfortable thing to wear, with its rock-solid material, my socks were the only source of comfort that I had. The WARM 100 CHILDREN’S SKI SOCKS, is made out of 50% wool which gave me sufficient thermal comfort. It was rather hard to move your feet in those ski boots, however the Wed’ze socks were constructed to support my midfoot arch by an elastic support. I only needed to wear one pair of socks, while my friends wore two layers.
I would have to admit that I didn’t spend much time looking for a good pair of ski goggles as I didn’t think it was necessary to have a good one. When you are on a snowy mountain, there is only so much that you can see, but even with my basic goggles, WED’ZE FINE WEATHER SNOW 100 GOGGLES, I had a clear panoramic view. I would not have been able to enjoy the view if it was not for this pair of goggles. At just $12.90, the goggle is 100% ANTI UV and ANTI-FOGGING. How much more can I ask from such a good value product? I’ve done my calculation and I am proud to say it is even more affordable to own one than to rent an old and dirty goggle from the ski school.
In summary, it was a great first experience skiing in Niseko. As I was well-equipped before my trip, I didn’t have a day where I was worrying about my gears. The only worry I had was how to get down the slope! Hence, I would strongly recommend everyone to invest some time to look for a suitable ski gears to fully prepare yourself for a potentially very fun trip!
Noobie #2 – Clarence
Last month I decided to learn how to snowboard. With some research, I quickly discovered that Niseko, Hokkaido in Japan is home to some of the best powder snow in the world. Plus, it’s only a few hours from Singapore!
After booking my tickets, I started really looking forward to seeing such amazing snow for the first time in my life. Being a first-timer, I had absolutely no idea what gear I required. It didn’t help that there were few resources to tell me what I needed and most people actually purchase from the USA through ecommerce sites, but that was an expensive option and not optimal for someone who has no idea what he’s buying.
Thankfully, I work for Decathlon! With such a large range of products, it’s impossible that Decathlon doesn’t have ski and cold weather gear, right?
Right! With some expert advice from a fellow colleague, I proceeded to put together a simple list for all beginners new to snow-sports.
- Base Layer
- Mid Layer
- Outer Layer
- Thick socks
- Snow shoes
- Inner lining
- Warm gloves
- Head & Neck
- Neck warmer
- Protection (goggles, wrist, elbow, knees, butt)
Truthfully, I had always been using Uniqlo’s HEATTECH, that is, until I discovered Decathlon’s REVERSIBLE “FRESH WARM” base layer that has a lining of wool, so you can choose the warmer side or less warm side, depending on the temperature! I always had a problem indoors because of the base layer making me too warm, but this issue was solved with this product. It also features perspiration wicking technology which is essential because you wouldn’t want your perspiration to freeze up in the sub zero climate.
This is where the fashionable get to express themselves! On the slopes I had seen all kinds of jackets – army style, Hello Kitty, Captain America, or even more luxurious ones such as Prada or Moncler.
The truth is, the outer layer needs to primarily be functional – waterproof yet breathable, warm enough but not too warm. I found this in Decathlon as well – a nice ski jacket and a pair of ski pants.
I was impressed at its functionality – pockets in all the right places, secret compartments to stash your cash, and even a small pocket on your wrist to store your ski pass for easy access to the elevators.
More importantly, it kept me warm sufficiently such that even though I was perspiring like it were Singapore, I was not too warm, and not too cold.
I got some warm socks from Decathlon. They are made from wool so they are extremely warm and comfortable.
One mistake I made, and I hope you won’t, is forgetting to buy warm snow shoes or boots before heading there. I was wearing standard sport shoes and needless to say, upon stepping into powder snow, it proceeds to become ice when it comes in contact with your warm feet, and your feet will start to freeze. Normal shoes also have no traction on snow and ice, and you will fall hard. I bought my shoes in Japan and ended up having to spend a lot more than otherwise.
If you are daring enough, just get a pair of warm gloves. Otherwise, be sure to get an inner lining or your hands will freeze every time you take your gloves off to use your phone, or take some cash, or adjust your gear. I found some inner linings at Decathlon that even have the technology allowing you to use your phone with it.
HEAD & NECK
I highly recommend a beanie and a neck warmer. When you ski, the wind is going feel like it’s slicing your ears off. It’s important to keep your neck warm as most of the heat from your body is apparently lost via your neck.
I did the entire ski trip with only a pair of goggles, also from Decathlon, useful for protecting your eyes from snowfall and wind. After falling more than 20 times, sometimes incredibly hard, I highly recommend beginners to get some protection for your head, butt, elbows and knees. Don’t feel like you’re weak – you’ll really appreciate it when you don’t encounter bruises and aches the day after! These can be found in Decathlon’s cycling section.
If you find yourself forgetting anything or not being able to find it at Decathlon, there are always tons of ski equipment stores around the place that you’re skiing at – just be aware that you’ll be paying a lot more unnecessarily as they cater mostly to tourists.
Have fun and enjoy the powder!