Buying equipment for the younger age groups is fairly simple, as they will be using a junior multi-event ski and only require straight poles, and junior boots. For the younger athlete, shorter skis can influence ski acquisition and allow more versatility. As the athlete approaches the U12 and U14 levels, two disciplines are introduced GS (Giant Slalom) and SL (Slalom). SL skis are shorter with more side cut, while GS skis are longer with more of a progressive side cut. The athlete’s equipment list will grow (at U12/U14 level) and include shin guards, pole guards and a chin guard for slalom and the racers will wear downhill suits once they enter into zone competition and provincial competitions.
Boots are the most important part of the equipment equation, as they will influence the movement and energy generated through each turn. If a boot does not fit properly it can increase the risk of injury and directly affect performance. At the younger age groups (U6/U8/U10) a comfortable fitting boot with a reasonable ‘flex’ can be used. The athlete should be able to flex the boot forward, simultaneously, as they apply shin pressure to the tongue. It can be fairly subjective, as you want the boot to have a flex that allows the athlete to move the upper cuff forward, but does not ‘give out’ and provides some resistance. Boots will progress from a side buckle, to two/three front buckles and eventually to a full race boot with a power strap, two upper cuff buckles and two on the top of the foot, with varying ‘flex’.
- At the younger age there is an overlap design boot and a rear-entry boot.
An overlap design hinges at the ankle joint, and separates the lower cuff from the upper cuff. This allows for more of a natural movement forward/backwards and laterally, therefore enhancing performance.
A rear-entry boot is a single piece of plastic, and although it is said to be more comfortable, it is not the most appropriate boot for ski racing.
The boots stiffness (flex) should promote forward flexion.
The boot should flex forward simultaneously, as the athlete applies shin pressure to the front of the boot.
The boot should allow the athlete to align naturally throughout the lower joints. (Tip: a professionally made/constructed foot bed can aid with alignment)
It is recommended that a softer boot is more conducive to performance compared to a boot that is too stiff (i.e. if athlete’s lower leg moves forward, but upper cuff does not)
Young athletes are constantly growing, and this needs to be taken into consideration when sizing for the upcoming season.
However, a boot that is too big can be counter-productive to an athlete’s performance and on-snow experience (similar to skis being too big/small).
A poorly fit boot can cause unnecessary rubbing or bone spurs and possibly negative affects long term.
Rules require athletes to wear hard eared helmets. If an athlete is at the U14 level, or is cross blocking a chin guard is required for the helmet for SL and must be taken off for GS.
To measure the appropriate length of a pole, flip the pole upside down and place on the ground. Have the athlete stand behind and grip the pole underneath the basket (side closer to the ground). The arm should be at a 90 degree angle. Poles must have pole baskets
Protective slalom gear like pole guards and shin guards is be suggested. Back Protectors are also recommended for U12 / U14 / U16 / FIS.
Please note that these are merely recommendations for an athlete at each age group. These recommendations should be considered with the input of the past/current coach, as well as a ski industry professional.