Equipment – Competition Team
All athletes are responsible for their own equipment. Depending on the age of the racer, different lengths of skis and additional protection equipment are required.
Equipment depends on your age level. USSS has very strict guidelines for ski equipment based on age. Your coaches are extremely knowledgeable resources, but you should always check the USSS website. Alpine Equipment for each Age Category is identified by US Ski & Snowboard. Specific equipment regulations (skis and helmet) can be found in more detail HERE
Each discipline of ski racing has equipment with different characteristics. Equipment includes boots, skis, bindings, poles, and body protection. Most of the equipment used by youth racers is designated as “junior race”. This separates the equipment from youth recreational ski equipment in terms of design, performance, and durability. Junior race equipment is typically available from major name brand manufacturers and is usually available through specialty ski shops rather than large chains that offer recreational gear.
- Helmet – Probably the most important piece of body protection equipment is the helmet. Helmets are required for all Race Team participation, but there are several USSA requirements for helmets used by the race team. All racers are required to wear a helmet that bears a CE mark and conforms to appropriate standards that are listed in the USSS Alpine Competition GuideHard-sided helmet FIS approved, must have a FIS sticker on the back. Check US Ski & Snowboard for specifics
- Goggles –Should be a good fit with the helmet and have a good quality lens or lenses.
- Boots – your athlete should have the ability to flex the ski boot. It is important that racers have ski boots that are of the proper design and fit for racing. Ski boots should be 4 buckle boots. Ski boots should be sized so that the fit is snug. In addition to length, ski boots tend to be designed to be low, medium or high volume fit. This designation is aimed at accommodating the width and mass of the skier’s foot. Certain manufacturers have certain fit characteristics. Most junior skiers usually fit best in low to medium volume boots. Junior race boots also come in a variety of “flex indexes” which related to the stiffness of the boot. Most junior boots have flex indices between 60 and 100.
In general, U12-U14 racers will want to have boots in the 60- 80 range of flex index with the stronger, heavier U16s in stiffer boots of 90-100.
It is recommended that boots be purchased at a location that stocks junior race equipment has staff qualified as “boot fitters”. In addition to the size, proper boot fitting may also include checking the skier stance in the boot to see if “canting” is called for. This is to ensure that the boot and therefore the ski is absolutely flat when the skier is standing. If a racer is slightly “knock-kneed” or “bow-legged” this will need to be compensated for through canting to ensure the racer properly controls the ski. The boot fitter may also recommend custom footbeds for the boots which have the effect of greatly improving the fit in many cases.
- Skis –
- U10-U12 one pair of junior GS or SL race skis or combi skis.
- U14 and older one pair of GS and one pair of SL skis – Check US Ski & Snowboard equipment regulations for specifics
Typically racers have a pair of skis for Slalom and a pair for Giant Slalom. For entry-level racers ages 7-9, there are dual event skis that will perform well for both Slalom and Giant Slalom.
Racers should have skis that are specifically designated as Junior race skis. These skis are specifically designed to be of the correct flex, torsion & rigidity appropriate for alpine racing. These skis will perform much better than a youth recreational ski.
Slalom skis are relatively short skis with a fairly big “side cut”. The sidecut refers to how much difference there when comparing the width of the tip to the waist (section under the foot) and tail. Skis with a big sidecut tend to have a shorter turn radius meaning the ski can make sharper turns. In the SL discipline, gates are closer together necessitating tighter turns. The typical turn radius of a junior SL ski would be around 9-12 meters, with shorter skis having a smaller turn radius. The easiest way to determine the length of SL skis is to stand the skis on their tails. As a general, rule appropriately sized SL skis will be of a length that is between the chin and eyes of the racer.
Giant Slalom, or GS skis, are skied longer than SL skis. As a guideline, GS skis should be of a length that is from mid-forehead to 2-3 inches above the racer’s head. The better the skier, the longer ski he/she can handle. These skis typically have less sidecut than SL skis, but their shape is still fairly pronounced. The typical turn radius of a junior GS ski would be from 14-18 meters, again depending on the length of the ski.
Dual event skis fall between SL and GS in terms of sidecut. These skis should be skied at a length that is eye level.
At the higher levels, some racers have 2 pairs of identical skis, one for training and one for competition. This ensures that race skis are maintained in pristine condition. However, this is completely optional and not necessary for racers to be competitive.
- Socks – thin to medium thickness compression socks
- Body Protection – U10-U12 not necessary but recommended. U14 and older highly recommended. The technique used to run a slalom course quickly requires the racer’s skis to go around the gate, but his/her body to go “at” the gate which can be knocked out of the way due to its spring-loaded base. One of the ways the racer knocks the gate out of the way is by “shinning” by hitting the gate with the shin. It is for this reason, that shin guards are required for the slalom discipline. Shin guards are available in a variety of sizes and should cover the leg from the knee and extend down to cover the top part of the boot.
As with cross-blocking, often coaches will want young, entry level racers to refrain from “shinning” gates. Please consult with your child’s coach regarding the need for shin guards.
- Back protection – Highly recommended. Spine protectors are designed to protect the back against impact in the case of a high-speed fall. Spine protectors are recommended to be used by all racers.
- Poles – For most beginning racers, standard ski poles of the appropriate length are all that are required. For SL races, pole guards must be used to protect the hands if the skier “cross-blocks” the gates. Pole guards should be of the full guard type that clamp to the shaft of the pole and are anchored by a screw at the top of the grip. “Half” guards can catch a gate which could be a safety issue. These pole guards must be removed for GS and other events, again this is for safety.
Please note that Coaches will often have young, entry-level racers refrain from cross blocking gates. In fact, U10/U12 racers sometimes use short “stubby” gates for their competition, so please consult with your child’s coach regarding the need for pole guards.
Many racers use a separate set of poles for GS and other speed events. These poles are contoured to fit around the profile of the racer’s body when in a tuck position and are meant to reduce drag. Entry-level skier need not worry about this, but it is convenient not to have to remove pole guards from poles when switching disciplines. In addition, GS poles are generally used in a longer length to help with a better push out of the start gate.
- Mouthguard – Mouthguards are highly recommended for all racers engaging in gate training and competition activities. Not only have they been shown to minimize injury to teeth and mouth tissues during any kind of impact, but also relate to concussion issues from sudden acceleration of the lower jaw in the event of head trauma
- Race Suit – Optional for younger skiers. There are discussions underway within US Ski & Snowboard Eastern Regions attempting to establish guidelines prohibiting Race Suits before U14.