When alpine skiing first began to take hold in the United States after WWII, there was little to choose from when it came to buying ski equipment. Hickory skis towered over your head, segmented edges were screwed onto tar-covered bases, and there was only one type of binding - the cable binding. it would even release. Well, sometimes.

Skis, boots, and bindings have evolved since the 1970s into an array of hundreds of manufacturers, offering skiers lightweight, shaped skis of all lengths, plastic boots, and highly engineered bindings designed to release during every conceivable fall. By making choices more varied, they've also made them more confusing - at least until now.

The first step in choosing the best deal in ski equipment is to either take a lesson or participate in one of your local mountains' ski demonstration programs. If you're new to skiing, it will take a year or two to determine what type of snow conditions and runs that turn you on. If you're lucky enough to live near a prominent ski resort that demonstrates skis, do your research by taking a few out for a ride. Look for things like sidecut, length, weight, and specific performance in different types of snow.

Once you have them narrowed down to half a dozen models, take a look at the On the Snow Ski Buyer's guide to see what other people are saying about the models you've tried. At the site, you can find step by step tools like the General Ski Finder, Ski Categories, and Ski Top Picks. Popular skis don't get high ratings by accident. Word travels fast.

Most popular ski equipment has a short and fickle lifespan. Retail ski buyers begin almost a year in advance, identifying which models to stock for the following year. So, if there is a particular ski that you're interested in, keep checking back with your local ski shop to see when it will be on sale - usually sometime in the early spring. 

One decision that may be out of your hands is what bindings to buy with your new skis. About 50 percent of the current skis on the market are offered as "ski systems." That can be good news and bad. The good news is that the binding is sold as part of the ski. The bindings ride on rails that are impregnated into the construction of the ski. The theory is that skis with biding systems allow the ski to fully flex from tip to tail resulting in a smoother, more controlled turn.

Skis that use traditional bindings have a "dead spot" directly under the skier's boot where the boot prevents the ski from bending completely. The bad news is that skis with ski systems are generally more expensive than other skis and do not allow you to transfer your old bindings onto to your new skis nor make a decision what binding you'd like to have on a particular ski.

The Internet has also expanded your ability to search for the best deal in ski equipment.  Evogear.com offers a full array of ski equipment choices that you can make from the comfort of your home. One attractive way to own your first ski equipment is to consider buying a ski package, especially if you're outfitting the entire family. Skis.com offers a complete line of ski packages for everyone from women's intermediate and advanced to men's expert ski packages.