The French Alps are world-renowned as a picturesque playground for skiers and snowboarders of all stripes. Blessed by bountiful fresh powder, awesome apres-ski and lashings of Gallic charm, lift-linked ski areas like Paradiski, Espace Killy and The Three Valleys and resorts like Val Thorens, Val d’Isère, Courchevel, Les Arcs and more are honeytraps for pleasure-seeking powderhounds, active couples, mixed ability families and adventurous groups. But unless you already own your own skis or snowboard, you’ll have to hire some at your resort of choice, which can be a bit of a pain in the posterior even if you’re an experienced skier or rider. You’re in luck though, because with generations in the business and a vast network of ski hire partners across the Alps and beyond, no-one’s better placed than Erna Low to find the ideal skis, snowboards, boots and helmets for every member of your group. What’s more, we’ll grab you a low-cost deal on high-quality gear, ensure it’s ready for pickup from an outlet near your accommodation, and conveniently roll it into your ski package. When you want hassle-free French Alps ski and snowboard hire, Erna Low are always your best bet!
Why book your ski equipment in advance with Erna Low?
Value - If you’re a value focused customer, you’ll be glad to know that finding low prices are a priority for us too. Our considerable experience, expertise and wide network of connections means we’re confident we’re rarely beaten when it comes to finding high quality ski gear at great rates.
Convenience - Who wants to spend time traipsing around looking for a ski hire location in an obscure place on the resort outskirts when there are plenty a snowball’s throw from your accommodation? We’ll find the closest operator offering quality gear at great prices so that you can pick up your equipment fast and start having fun right away.
Choice - With so many well-established connections with great ski hire firms in each resort, we can offer a choice of ski equipment hire options for adults and children alike that’s often peerless. Whatever your style and standard, you’ll find a fantastic selection of ski equipment options with Erna Low.
Knowledge - Erna Low has been in the ski package holiday business since our founder introduced the world to the ski chalet break way back in 1932. And even today, most of our staff have each spent at least one season working in resorts across Europe and elsewhere. Snowsports are in our blood and while we don’t get complacent and are constantly topping up our skiing smarts, when you’ve been in the business as long as we have, you must be doing something right!
You can sort out your ski hire personally ̶ and in each resort there are plenty of outlets to choose from. But unless you’re both an experienced skier/snowboarder and have dealt with a particular firm there for your ski gear, you can’t be assured that you’ll get a good price and quality equipment that suits your style and aptitude level. With Erna Low you’re about ten steps ahead because we have well established connections with the best ski hire companies close to your resort accommodation, work hard to find cost-effective deals, and prioritise kit from the best brands and manufacturers. Our main ski hire partner is Skiset, which has over 700 rental locations across Europe and offers 20-40% reductions on walk-in rates. However, if it transpires that a different ski rental location is preferable for your resort and accommodation, we’ll recommend that instead ̶ your satisfaction always comes first!
Choosing the right skis and snowboard to hire
Choosing the right skis to hire
With accelerating advances in ski technology in recent years, it’s easier than ever to rent your perfect set of skis and finding what’s right for you will depend on a few crucial criteria, not the least of which are your preferred style of skiing and ability level. Naturally we’re more than happy to listen to your requirements and make a professional recommendation, but here are a few factors worth considering:
It’s easier to make turns and feel comfortable at low speed when you use short skis.
Long skis improve your confidence and stability at high speeds.
A rigid ski improves traction on hard packed snow and keeps you on track on the slopes but is physically demanding to use. However, a more flexible ski is easier to turn and comfier, which makes beginners and intermediates feel more confident. The info above is very useful as a general introduction for choosing the right skis, but to really nail down your choice, read on for more specific advice.
Types of skis for different ability levels
The ideal type of ski you choose also depends on whether you’re a beginner, intermediate or experienced skier. Here are a few factors to think about:
Beginner skiers usually prefer skis that are lightweight, flexible, easy to launch and release into turns and stable enough to ensure good balance. Novice skis usually have a much larger ‘sweet spot’ so that you’re not thrown too far off course whilst perfecting your stance ̶ considering this and the fact that since you’ll be sticking to the groomed pistes and attempting to perfect basic defensive moves like the skidded parallel turn, long and narrow models are best.
Intermediate skiers might venture of-piste as well as having fun on blue and red runs, but you still don’t want to choose skis that are too wide, an even flex pattern will help make your turns smoother than a rigid ski, and the flex pattern should be bang on for your weight and strength.
Advanced skiers need skis that are both reliable and versatile, with a big sweet spot that’s suitable for a vast range of terrains and conditions. At this level, you’ll be skiing faster, in soft snow and around technical obstacles like trees. A slightly wider ski will feel good on fresh powder but won’t be the best for precision on firm snow, while a firmer flex pattern and tail improves your edge grip on ice and makes you feel more stable when whizzing through turns. We’re always delighted to chat through your options in order that you end up with the right skis for your style and ability ̶ a large part of the success of your ski holiday depends on selecting the right gear, so we’ll ensure we find a pair that’s made for you!
Evolution of ski design
Modern skis are crafted from fibreglass, kevlar, carbon, wood, blended with a mix of various synthetic materials, but skis have been around for a very long time and they’re constantly evolving. The first civilisation thought to have skied at the Sami, who are the indigenous people of Scandinavia, but the oldest set of skis were discovered near Lake SIndor in Russia and have been dated back to 6000BC! Meanwhile, a rock carving of a figure on skis dating from 2500BC was discovered in Rodoy, Norway, and by 1300BC Norse mythology began mentioning the god and goddess of skiing, Ullr and Skade. Fast forward to 1689 and Austrian literature mentions skiers preferring short skis for turning on steep slopes. Then, sometime in the 1700s in Telemark, Norway, skiing began its journey as a sport rather than for military and hunting applications and to improve speed, lighter and narrower skis were introduced. The cambered ski was introduced in the 1800s and its concave bend towards the centre more effectively spread the skier’s weight down the length of the ski, improving manoeuvrability and flexibility. In the 1890s, the first double-layered laminated skis were produced using woods like hickory and spruce, the steel edge (which dramatically improved grip) was invented by Rudolph Lettner in 1928 and countless other tweaks and improvements have been made up to this day.
Choosing the right snowboard to hire
An exciting mash-up of skiing and surfing, snowboarding is a relative newcomer to the snowsports scene (the earliest snowboards date from the 1960s whereas skis date from prehistorical times). You’ll find some sort of provision for snowboarding in almost every French Alps ski resort, but locations like Tignes, Les Arcs, Courchevel, Avoriaz, Alpe d’Huez and Val d’Isère stand out for their snowparks full of gnarly obstacles, freeriding opportunities, fresh powder ready to carve up, and buzzing apres-ski scenes. Choosing the right snowboard is crucial for making the most of the slopes and off-piste areas in your favourite ski resort and we can easily advise you on the best model for your size, style and ability, but here are a few pointers to consider:
The right length of snowboard depends on the type of riding you’re planning to do and your bodyweight. For instance, if you’re planning to freeride, a longer board is good for speed and stability, whereas if you plan to explore the terrain parks or take on the half-pipe, smaller boards are easier for pulling off tricks and manoeuvres. Furthermore, if your weight is a little above average you should consider a longer board, while novices should aim for a shorter board.
The correct width of snowboard at the waist of the board depends on the size of your snowboard boots. When the size is right, your snowboard boot toes and heels will peak just slightly over the edge of the board because this allows you to lever the board and shift your weight with your ankles to control it. Different brands and types of snowboard boots also suit specific types of board ̶ for instance low profile boots have shorter outsoles, which means they’re ideal for narrower snowboards.
Types of snowboard for different ability levels
The type of snowboard you choose also depends on a range of different variables, including your aptitude level and the type of terrain you’ll be mostly riding. Some boards are specifically designed for certain disciplines like freestyle, whereas others can be used across varied terrains and might be preferable if you’re a beginner who wants to try out all forms of riding before focusing on a favourite. Here are a few ideas about the snowboard types that will help you carve up the slopes:
- Splitboards are designed for experienced backcountry riders who love to go off-piste in search of fresh powder and thrilling natural obstacles to tackle. They separate into two halves for ease of transport during the climb uphill, then are reconnected at the mountain top for the ride back down.
- All mountain snowboards are designed to perform in many different snow conditions and terrains, so they can be a good choice for beginner and intermediate riders. Whether you want to ride on groomed pistes, in terrain parks or off-piste, these versatile boards are built for you if you want to embrace all types of boarding.
- Park snowboards (or freestyle snowboards) are usually shorter in length and this allows you to navigate the boxes, rails, jibs and every other type of obstacle in novice, intermediate or advanced lines. They’re sometimes asymmetrically shaped and a popular variation is an all-mountain freestyle board, which combines the best design features of the park and all-mountain styles in order to provide even more versatility.
- Freeride snowboards are ideal if you’re a more experienced rider and spend most of your ski holiday off-piste and away from groomed runs. They’re usually longer than freestyle snowboards and have a more rigid flex, as well as having a shape designed for optimal performance in one direction.
- Powder snowboards are perfect for anyone who loves nothing better than launching themselves into fresh dumps of pow and they usually have tapered tails and wider noses. The binding inserts which set your stance are usually positioned further back so you can steer with your back foot, and a larger rocker means the tail and tip rise starts towards the back of the board, allowing you to float over that pristine powder and pivot with ease. As you can see, there are several styles to choose from and we’re always happy to chat to you in order to make the best recommendation and get your snowboard gear booked ahead of time.
Evolution of snowboard design
Snowboarding is one of the world’s coolest sports (in more ways than one!) and its history is a wild ride in itself.
In the mid-1960s, an American named Sherman Poppen designed a surfboard for use on snow which he dubbed the ‘Snurfer’ and from then until the mid-70s, these nascent snowboards sold millions of units.
Meanwhile, in 1970, a surfer named Dimitrije Milovich based on the US east coast started developing snowboards based on the shortboard surfboard design and they more closely resembled modern boards than the snurfer, with features like nylon straps, laminated fibreglass and steel edges. His firm was named ‘Winterstick’ and it’s believed to be the first snowboard company. In the late 70s, Jake Burton Carpenter, a name which is now synonymous with global snowboard culture, added fins and footstraps to the original snurfer design and eventually developed a flexible wood board that was a step closer to the designs we know and love today.
In the 1980s, Burton boards and those developed by another early pioneer, former skateboarder Tom Sims, evolved even further, but snowboarding wasn’t permitted on the groomed runs of most ski resorts. This meant early enthusiasts had to stick to the backcountry or use resort runs illicitly at night, all of which provided the new sport with a rebellious allure but hampered mainstream popularity.
By the mid-90’s things had changed, and snowboarding had become the fastest growing winter sport, with millions of enthusiasts worldwide, huge popularity amongst younger fans and near equal billing with skiing in many resorts (now that they recognised its commercial potential).
The splitboard from Voile was another design innovation in the 90’s/early 2000s which further popularised the sport by replacing the snowshoe, making gear more portable for boarders who wanted to travel freely around the world’s best resorts.
How to book ski & snowboard equipment
The best way to book your ski and snowboard equipment is simply by giving us a bell on 020 7584 2841.
You’ll have a friendly chat with one of our highly experienced advisers and we’ll soon have your optimal gear selected, a supplier near your accommodation sourced, a great deal in the bag and everything added to your Erna Low ski package holiday. By pre-booking your ski equipment, you can focus all of your energy on having a marvellous time on the mountain!
For Ski & Snowboard Hire Made Simple Trust Erna Low Every Time!