just got my first boots+binding, and hand me down board (size was right).. I'm a beginner too, so I think we're in a similar situation. After a bunch of back and forth the the store, I think I finally got my final setup.
Here's what happened:
Went in, asked for mid ranged boots.. I knew my overall budget was to keep the set under $400. Anyway, I was recommended Salomon Dialogues, and one other one, which I don't remember the name of. But most likely, it's the only 2 they had in my size (6 - 6.5). I tried them on each foot, Dialogues felt very snug. The sales associate kept saying it had to be tight, so I went with Dialogues. I'm in NY city, which has 1 shop, as far as I know, and here, the story of "try on 20 pair, spend 2 hours choosing" seems like a fairy tale. I also got the Ride EX binding, since it fit the budget. It was all such a rush, didn't check if the boots fit the bindings, etc..
Got home, to only find out that my other foot (that I tried the other boots with) was a tiny bit bigger than my right foot. I tried on the boots with my thermal socks (I forgot them when I went to the shop, it makes a big difference).. the boots were way too tight. My toes were not only touching the tip, they were pushed back, and curled. I read all the Google results about boots packing in after a couple of days.. but decided that it was just too small, and I wouldn't even be able to use it for the several days it'll take for it to pack in to see if it packs in to the right size. So, I went back to exchange it.
This time, a different associate told me that if my toes were touching, that's good. If they're curled, it probably means it's to tight. That's pretty straight forward info that could have come in handy before I bought the darn thing... anyway, exchanged it for half a size up, and the boots felts a lot more natural.
First weekend trip, I got all the stuff set up, and strapped in on the hills.. Toe strap on the binding immediately breaks. I take the toe strap off, thinking I'd just get down with one. Half way down the hill, the other toe strap falls off.. Got down the hill, tossed the board back in the car, and went rental. At this point, I wanted to die because I just spent all this money, and rental gear actually worked better than my broken piece of crap gear.
Just yesterday, I took the broken binding back, and exchanged for a Flow M9. Paid the $50 difference, at this point I didn't care how much it cost, I wanted something that worked, and didn't break. Got home, set it up.. the boots are a little tight. You can read the details in my gear review. The dialogues are pretty tight on the M9 (both 09 model), and so it wasn't really "easy on off" like I thought it would be. I messed with the straps a bunch, and it got better.. but still not really slip on / off. More like squeeze a little bit to get on / off. So, I'm debating if I should return it and go with something else. At this point, I'm sort of fed up with the process, so I really don't want to carry all my crap to the store again. (carry boots + bindings to work, and then to the store after work, remember we're on subway)
I think you see a pattern here? Each time, I get home and think, why didn't I just do this at the store? I think it's just NY... the store seems to want you out very fast. They want to help other customers, and there's a million of them in a line. So, if an associate has an attitude like that, I suggest you find another one.
The other thing is, snowboard gear is sort of rough.. It's not rocket science.. stuff breaks, designs might be incompatible, it has a lot of ambiguity, and lots of points of failure. It doesn't have the quality assurance of say, an iPod, or a car. So, you need to get everything right, no compromise, else it'll screw you on the hill, and you end up in rental gear, and $800 worth of useless crap. To me, the board seems like the most dependable part of the equation. Binding next, and then boots. Boot fit seems to be the most questionable, since it changes as the boots pack in. At the end of the day, unless rental gear really kills you, I think it's debatable if it's worth it at all. Especially since you say it's very expensive in Denmark. But that's just coming from me. I'm a beginner weekend snowboarder so.
Like, if this was scuba gear (I'm instructor), I'd tell you you have to buy your gear if you want to dive often because I know it makes a BIG difference, and unless you buy something very strange, things usually work out well.
Last edited by magronbass; 01-14-2009 at 10:00 AM.