Buying Alpine Gear

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Even though the market for alpine is less than 1% of all snowboard gear, there is plenty of gear available from retailers, plus you can find a lot of gear used. Because the selection of new carving gear can be limited, carvers often look to buy used gear, or gear from outside the US, in which case:

In addition, it's not a bad idea to pre-order gear. Dealers sometimes sell out their entire stock of harder-to-find boots and bindings before the season starts. On the other hand, if you are looking to buy gear at the start of the season, it is sometimes a good idea to wait until the major players (Bomber, Catek, Donek, Prior) have unveiled their new and possibly improved products in November, before buying something that's already obsolete.

Gear for Beginners

Boots: When learning to carve, boots are the most important link in the board/boot/binding chain. It's better to put more money into the boots, even if it means having to go with a cheaper board. That's because the fit and performance of your boots will impose an upper limit on how well you can carve, independent of whether you have the best board and binding. You may go through several boards over the course of many seasons, but you will likely stick with the same pair of boots. A stiffer boot will actually make it easier to get the board on edge. It will also force you to use somewhat better technique early on, which can prevent bad habits. Go for either the Raichle AF600, Head Stratos Pro / S-LTD, or the UPZ RSV Mach Superlight. Definitely go with a boot that has at least 4 buckles - it offers better adjustability and better response. And as a beginner, avoid the most common boot-buying pitfall: make sure you do not get boots that are too big. See the size guidelines on the bootfitting page.

Board: Get an all-mountain board: it will provide the easiest learning curve. You can learn to carve on it, and you can also go off-piste with your soft boot friends. It is highly recommended to get one of the better all-mountain boards like a Donek Incline, Coiler All-mountain, or Prior 4WD, because they all carve very well on groomers. They go for ~$500 new, but your best bet is to put a want-ad in the Bomber classifieds. You could also go with a cheaper production board like a used Burton Coil (~$175). You can select a long all-mountain board (for a production board, a 168-172 cm length is about right for a 170-190 lbs person): it will be easy enough for a beginner, yet you won't grow out of it as you become more advanced. In addition to the all-mountain board, you can also go with some other options:

Riding a combination of these boards will speed the learning curve. When you learn to control your speed and make tighter turns, you can add a long GS race board to your quiver. For a production GS race board, a 173+ cm length is about right for a 170-180 lbs person. When selecting a longer race board, you should demo at least one damp board and at least one lively board to find out which type you prefer. Whatever you do, don't get an asym board.

Bindings: If you are < 180 lbs, you can begin with cheap plastic bindings like the Burton race plates (~$120 used). But if you weigh > 180 lbs, you should consider higher performance bindings depending on what you plan to be doing:

Think about the linkage

The stiffness of your carving setup is determined by the stiffness of your boots, the stiffness of your bindings, and the stiffness of your board. When you select gear, you need to decide how stiff to make each linkage. In addition, your skill level will determine how well your legs can perform as part of the suspension system. You generally need softness in some element of the linkage, otherwise you will tend to get knocked around by anything other than perfectly groomed slopes. Chris Klug has chosen a somewhat softer binding, along with a very stiff boot and board. A stiffer overall linkage will provide a more "locked-in" carve, but requires more skill and has a narrower margin for error.

Carving is a science that requires experimentation, tweaking, and fine-tuning, both with your gear and your technique. As a result, there are a lot of subtleties to learn, and you generally cannot determine the best gear theoretically - you have to find out what works for you by taking some guesses and experimenting.


= Readily available in the US/Canada or through Blue-Tomato
= Not readily available in the US/Canada
= Sells direct

Radical Sport
Custom Craft
Black Hole
Company - Japan
BC Stream
Company - Korea

Note that some direct manufacturers have sales at the beginning or end of the season:

Online Retailers for North America

In addition to the manufacturers listed above who sell direct (), there are additional online resources:

Hard boot retailers Worldwide

Of the few retailers that were previously selling alpine gear, most of them pulled out entirely in '04, when Burton discontinued the alpine line. Many retailers in the US consider the market for alpine gear too small to constitute a viable niche - more like a sub-niche of a cottage industry. You are most likely to find gear at shops where the owner carves. The few snowboard shops that still sell carving gear often do not mention it on their website, so you have to call them up and talk to someone who has a clue. At retail shops that have boards in stock, you may need to find the one person who can lead you into the back stockroom to show you the selection of boards gathering dust in the corner. If you win enough races to clinch a sponsorship from a board company, you get access to the pro-form price list, which is at least 30% off list. For the best selection of carving gear that you can try on in the store, consider taking a trip to Austria. Failing that, there are a few purveyors in the US and Canada.


East Coast:

Out West


Northern California:

Southern California:

Canada (See the Canadian Yellow pages for numbers)

British Columbia


Québec: Check Derf's webpage for an inventory of carving shops in the Montreal area.

Europe (strong Euro means higher dollar prices)


Austria. For carving shops in Austria, a good resource is the list of dealers/ test centers on the Virus web site.



Czech Republic

Europe - other

Rest of the World

Japan. These stores only stock smaller sized gear: you won't find anything over mondo point 28. Surprisingly, it is often cheaper to order gear directly from sellers in the US or Europe.



New Zealand



Knee Braces

Body Armor

Carvers sometimes get slammed from behind by skiers bombing down the hill. If you race, there is the potential for wipe-outs. If you race with tall skier poles, then you will need pads for your arm and shoulders. You might want to consider three types of armor:

A lot of people give good reviews of the body armor made by Dainese, especially the back protectors and padded race gear. Azonic is another option.




Kevlar adds incredible durability to gloves, even if it only covers the palm and fingertips. The Snow Raider Snowboard Glove is popular with carvers: it's an inexpensive glove that uses high-end Schoeller Keprotec Kevlar. It also has a lot of built-in "rigidness" that feels very solid. The glove is designed by Steve Thornell and he sells them direct to keep the cost down. They are lightweight and designed for warmer temperatures, so it is best to order a larger size so that you can use a liner with them. If you need extended durability, you might want to reinforce the seams with nylon thread, however they are inexpensive enough that people buy multiple pairs each year. For a carving glove, they are probably the best value around.

Wrist Guards

Other accessories

Board Bags / luggage:

On a long drive up to the mountains, if you use a roof rack, put your boards in board bags, then put them on the roof rack. That way your bases won't get pelted by crud. Use Scotchguard on the board bags. The cheap board bag sold on Bomber is great for this purpose. It has no zippers: it's a tube, and you slide the board in from the top. The Bomber board bags don't accommodate some wider all-mountain boards. Wipe down your boards before you put them in the board bag, and dry out the board bag after use, since water tends to stay in board bags for a long time.

One option is to use an old double ski bag.

Back Packs for carrying boots and gear are available from MEC and Transpack

The SporTube is a hard shell case with wheels. For '06, SporTube sells only one large size, for both skis and snowboards: The SporTube snowboard / series 3. It adjusts from 107 cm to 183cm in length, and is 14 1/2" wide by 7 7/8" deep. The SporTube can hold multiple snowboards and/or possibly several pairs of snowboard boots. They are sold cheap here. Older versions of the SporTube for skis came in the two versions: series 1 or series 2. Series 2 was twice as deep, and even though it was designed for skis, it was the better choice for snowboards. However, the older versions of the SporTube were not always wide enough for powder boards.

See the SnowShack and the BackcountryStore for a good selection of board bags

Used Gear

Alpine gear is not expensive. You can pick up perfectly fine gear on the cheap from eBay. If you are willing to buy from eBay Germany, you have 5x the selection.

Make sure you ask the right questions when buying used gear:


What is the size of the boots in mondo point? Regular US size is useless. Measure your foot and compare to the mondo point size. The size is stamped on the outside of the inner liner. If the seller gives a range, like 25-27.5, that is only the range of sizes allowed by the plastic shell - the liner is what determines the side of the boots. Does it have a Velcro strap at the top that goes around the front and back of the shell? Straps that only go around the liner don't count. If not, does it require a booster strap for better response?
How many buckles does the boot have? You generally want at least 4 buckles for good adjustability. If it has a heat moldable liner, how many times has the liner been heat molded? Thermoflex liners can be molded up to 6 times. Raichle boots can come with four types of liners: regular, Thermofit, CPD Thermoflex, and HPD Thermoflex.
Can they accept step-in (Intec or F.A.S.T.) heels? Is drilling required for the Intec cable? If a boot has a smooth transition from the shell to the heel with no seam, it's not Intec/F.A.S.T. compatible. What type of lean/flex mechanism do they have? Are extra springs included?
How well do they mate with the intended bindings? How chewed up are the soles (heel and toe pieces)?
Has the liner been heavily modified? Does it need new heel/toe pieces?
Does it need a new liner? Do the boots come with race heels or tongues, or extra tongues of different stiffnesses?
How many riding days are on the boots? > 6 days means the liners are packed out. Does it have a generally wide or generally narrow volume?
How warm is the liner? Does the cant adjuster still work?
Does the liner have a Velcro strap? Have any part of the boots been dremelled?
Has the shell been punched out? Do the buckles have micro-adjust capability?


For OS2 bindings: The first model year ('06) include discs that accommodate both the 3D and 4x4 patterns. Starting with the second model year, the discs only support one or the other. You want the 2006 model year. Is the cant/lift adjusted by adding shims under the toe/heel blocks, and if so, are there enough of them?
Do they include disks that work with the 3D and 4x4 pattern? Do they need modifications to work with certain brands of boots?
Do the bails have springs to keep them up? Do they come with lift/cant wedges, and what are the angles? For Burton bindings, make sure you get the wedge for the rear foot, and make sure the wedge has both 3D and 4x4 metal center pieces.
How well do they mate with the intended boots? Is a gasket/bumper set included? Are extra bumpers included? Burton race plates included pads of various stiffnesses (red, gray, and blue)
Has any part of the bindings been dremelled? If they are plastic, how soft are they, and have they warped?
Can they be upgraded to step-in? Do they have an integrator lift/cant adjustment?
If they are step-in, do they come with the replacement heels? How much built-in lift do they have?
Some bindings, like F2, come in two sizes - small and large. Also, Cateks come in either short plate or long plate. How is the cant/lift adjusted?
Were the wire bails previously bent to accommodate a certain brand of boots, and do the wire bails need to be replaced? Do they come with all the necessary hardware (bolts, etc)? Do the bolts need to be replaced?


Whereas boots and bindings are usually a great deal when bought used, you have to be a little careful when buying a board. That is because an older used board may have lost all its camber and snap, and there is really no way to know until you test it out. If possible, see if you can arrange to demo a used board, and compare it head-to-head with one of your existing boards that has a decent amount of camber. You may want to avoid boards that tend to lose their camber quickly, like Nidecker and Rossi boards.

If it's a really old board: Does it have older 5 or 6 hole insert patterns, or no inserts at all? Is it an asym? Is the base perfectly true as measured with a true bar? Is it base-high or edge-high?
Have bindings ever been mounted on the board? What edge bevels (side and base) are on the board?
Is the base dry, or does it look oxidized? Is the board still in shrink-warp?
How many days has it been used? How much of the original camber does it still have?
What does it need as far as tuning / base repair / edge repair? Does any part of the edge need a delam repair? Does the topsheet have gouges/dimples from the binding hardware?
What is the sidecut radius? eBay auctions almost never have it, but it's just as important as the length. Does the board need a base grind? When was it last ground? How many times has it been ground? What is the current grind pattern?
What are the conditions of the inserts? Can screws be easily screwed into all the inserts, or do some inserts need "cleaning up" with a tap? Do any of them need to be replaced? What does the largest base gouge, edge gouge, and topsheet gouge look like?
Does the base have major base suck? Is a base grind or tune included in the price?

Some additional guidelines for buying/selling used stuff:

UPS Free for the first $100, $.35 per $100 of additional coverage.

FedEx Ground
Free for the first $100, $.40 per $100 of additional coverage.
USPS $2.20 for the first $100, $1 per $100 of additional coverage.

Cheap new gear

There are several places where you may luck out and find carving gear cheap:


In the US, The least expensive way to ship a board is via the US Post Office (USPS):

International Shipping

Use the International Tools feature of the FedEx website (registration required) to determine the Tariff duties and taxes that apply to goods shipped from one country to another. This tool uses the international harmonized tariff codes to look up the duties on imported items. In order to find the codes for snowboards, you generally have to search through the sub-categories under the skis category, since snowboarding is technically considered a form of skiing. For snowboards imported into Canada, the code is 9506.11.9020.

See the USA-trade publication, which provides pointers to the import rules for various countries. Note that sometimes the value-added-tax (VAT) applies to the shipping cost.

Importing gear into Canada from abroad

If you buy goods from abroad to be shipped into Canada, you have to pay tax, duty, and fees in addition to the shipping & handling. You can avoid the fees by having the goods delivered to a private mail box just across the border. Don't insure the item, since duties may get slapped on the insured amount. You can send an item as a gift, as long as the declared value is less than $60CD (around $40US), but in this case you should include a birthday card with the shipment to convince the customs people.

Tax: You pay tax ranging from 7% to 17.7%, depending on where you live in Canada. Some provinces will automatically charge you both GST and PST, but some provinces only charge you GST, in which case you are expected to submit the PST to your local government.

Duty: For products originally manufactured in the US, there is no tariff. In this case, make sure the shipper includes a NAFTA Certificate or Origin form (OMB No. 1651-0098) so you don't pay duty. For products originally manufactured in Europe, the duties are as follows:

Item Canada Tariff classification Tariff
Snowboards 9506.11.90.20 7.5%
Men's snowboard boots 6403.12.30.10 18.5%
Men's downhill ski-boots 6402.12.10.10 0%
Ski-fastenings (ski-bindings) 9506.12.00.00 7%

Note that hard-shell boots labeled "snowboard boots" have an 18.5% tariff, whereas hard-shell boots labeled as "ski-boots" have no tariff.

Fees when importing from the US:

Personal Baggage: If you are a Canadian citizen traveling abroad for at least 7 days and you meet certain restrictions, you can bring back up to C$750 of imported items without paying duty. Value of up to C$300 beyond the C$750 exemption is assessed a flat duty of 7%. For value more than C$300 beyond the C$750 exemption, the regular tariff classification duties apply. Family members cannot pool their C$750 exemptions or C$300 flat duty allotments. The C$750 exemption also applies to items that you mail back to Canada, but the C$300 flat duty allotment does not.

Importing gear into the US from abroad

If you buy goods from abroad to be shipped into the US, you have to pay duty and fees in addition to shipping & handling. Some Canadian retailers ship the goods from "satellite offices" just across the border to avoid the extra charges. Don't insure the item, since duties may get slapped on the insured amount.

Duty: For products originally manufactured in the US, there is no tariff. In this case, make sure the shipper includes a NAFTA Certificate or Origin form (OMB No. 1651-0098) so you don't pay duty. For goods shipped into the US, no tariff applies if the value is less than $200. For products originally manufactured in Europe, the duties are as follows:

Item US Tariff classification Tariff
Snowboards 9506.11.40.10 2.6%
Ski-boots or hard-shell snowboard boots 6402.12.00.00 0%
Other ski bindings 9506.12.80.00 2.8%

Fees: The US Post Office charges $5 for processing. Other carriers charge various brokerage fees up to $30.

Personal Baggage from abroad: If you are a US citizen traveling abroad and meet certain restrictions, you can bring back up to $800 of imported items that are part of your accompanied baggage without paying duty. Value of up to $1000 beyond the $800 exemption is assessed a flat duty of 3%. For value more than $1000 beyond the $800 exemption, the regular tariff classification duties apply. Family members can pool their $800 exemptions and $1000 flat duty allotments. The exemptions do not apply for items that you mail back to the US.

When shipping gear from Canada to the US, see the Canada Post regulations.

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