If you're reading this article, it probably means that either you or someone in your family has finally been bitten by the ski bug and is ready to step up to buying his or her own ski boots. But what should you buy? The choices can seem overwhelming with over 100 independent ski manufacturers and an almost equal number of boot companies.

Before you begin shopping for ski boots, ask yourself this one critical question: "Do I really need to buy my own or should I continue to rent?" Ski equipment technology changes almost as fast as home computers. No matter what you buy this season, it will be obsolete by next winter. Another thing to consider is toting it around.

Since many airlines are now charging extra for skis and boots considered as extra baggage, you might be able to save money just by renting your equipment when you arrive at your resort destination. On the flip side, there's nothing like owning your own equipment. No more rental shops to deal with and you'll always be skiing on equipment that is perfect for you and it will help your skiing.

Regardless of what anyone tells you, boots are the most important piece of ski equipment you'll ever buy. If your feet slosh around inside, your heels move up and down, and your feet hurt, you're in for a miserable experience and your skiing will suffer. A good fitting pair of ski boots literally can transform your skiing overnight. If they don't fit quite right or you notice your left turns are stronger than your right, you can have your ski boots adjusted to correct the problem. But, keep one thing in mind: you get what you pay for.

Alpine ski boots can be expensive. They can range from under $75 to nearly $1,000. However, there is good news. If you're just learning how to ski, you can find good quality, new ski boots for under $100. That represents quite a bargain if you consider how many days you'll actually be using them. What type you actually buy is like buying a car. Does it have all the features I want, is it affordable, and will it do what I want it to do?

One of the best places to look for good deals on ski boots is at your local resorts. Most ski retailers are looking for new ski boots to replace their current inventory nine months in advance. That means you might be able to buy that pair of $300 ski boots you saw in January for $150 in April. Stay away from rental and demo equipment at the low end. Most of it has more mileage on it than your Grandmother's Hudson.

Look for values on new equipment. Wait until the end of the ski season to earnestly shop for deals either at resorts or retailers near home. But, make sure they still come with all of the standard guarantees and will take them back if you experience problems.

The Internet offers a plethora of deals at all times of the year. Start by trying on a few pairs of boots at your local ski shop, then check them out at EvoGear. Click on the "Ski Boots" link on the left side of the page and you can sort the results by manufacturer name, price, and the highest rated models by consumer. Above all, make sure you have a chance to try them on before you buy and that they'll exchange them or refund your money if they don't work out.