Also known as: downhill skier (recreational); racing skier (competitive); cross-country skier (low land); tour skier (high land); free-style skier(performs tricks); heli-skier (likes to be dropped by helicopter on to untracked slopes); "bump" skier (skis down mogul fields very fast); ski bum (blags ski passes, ponces drinks, becomes a guide and rents, along with 14 others, a chalet which sleeps four); "boarder" (aspires to look like one of Nirvana, wears opaque Terminator-style shades and favours a surf board over skis).

Numbers nationally: approx 1 million adult skiers; 700,000 of which ski abroad each year. Britain makes up less than 1 per cent of total global skiing population. Japan is the largest with 13 million skiers.

Favourite haunts: black runs; Corviglia Club in St Moritz; Chosterli in Gstaad; Tatou in Aspen; Farm Club in Verbier; landing a private plane on the runway at Courchevel; spotting Euro-Royals in Lech, heli-skiing in Kashmir; schussing the slopes of active volcanoes in Hawaii and Ecuador; in the Snow and Rock.

Hazards: moon boots; being crippled by medical bills if insufficiently insured; crippling someone else; ice; avalanches; frost bite; sunburn; a snowboarder yelling "nice suit" as he whizzes by - he is being sarcastic; wearing C&A gear in chic resorts; your mobile phone ringing as you approach the top of a fast quad chair.

The kit: "function is fashion" this year; so goodbye white fur headbands, fluffy trims and huge zig zags in eye-ball-aching colours, and hello Chris Bonington rugged-ranger chic; the Tokka Tribe just-a-shade-off- primary range; fake fur; silvery grey (the hottest colour) and multiple layering systems. When it comes to skiing; the big question is not how best to do a snowplough, but will your once red-hot fluorescent Christmas- wrap anorak now be laughed off the piste. Last year British skiers spent pounds 69.7m on ski wear. But if getting kitted out for yourweekend in Aviemore costs more than the accommodation and petrol put together.

The gear: Bogner one-piece ladies snow suit with exquisitely embroidered gaucho horse and rider, rollaway hood and zip ankle cuffs, pounds 1,429; Polisox technical ski sock, pounds 7.99; Raichle Flexon Comp boots with Thermoflex inner boot and Sidas orthotic footbeds, pounds 445; Lowe Alpine Aleutian fleece Kiska sweater, pounds 66; Duofold thermal underwear, pounds 40; Salomon Fronterra 6 GTX Apres Boots, pounds 65.

Accessories: Salomon Prolink skis, internally reinforced with titanium and externally supplemented by regulators and plastic struts to dampen vibrations, pounds 429; Market M1 Turbo SC bindings, pounds 200; Goode Inter-Loc integrated glove and ski pole system, pounds 160; Revo sunglasses, pounds 193; Snow and Rock Off Piste Safety Pack with avalanche probe, Ortovox shovel, survival bag; first aid kit and whistle, pounds 189 (an F1 avalanche transceiver is also recommended, pounds 220); Spenco blister kit, pounds 4.40.

Optional extras: Snow and Rock Ski Boot Clinic check-up; from pounds 10; On the Piste with Eddie "the Eagle" Edwards video (including, if required, individual message of up to 10 words), pounds 10.99; Aloe Ice Sunburn Jelly, pounds 5.99; Snow and Rock retractable ski pass holder, pounds 3.99.

Ultimate gadget: Avocet Vertech Ski watch, pounds 129.95. If you want to calculate how many vertical metres (or feet) you skied in that last run or even during last week; if you want to know your rate of decent, number of runs, be able to forecast the weather, navigate mountains; and even know what time it is, this is the watch for you. A thermo-meter, barometer, chronometer; altimeter; the only prerequisite for this easy-to- operate high-precision instrument is a thick wrist.

Bare essentials: gloves pounds 12.99; hat, pounds 6.99; goggles pounds 10; polo neck top, pounds 7.99; Polar fleece, pounds 29.99; one piece suit, pounds 79.99; ski and boot hire pounds 35-pounds 75.

Ultimate experience: carving perfect "eights" through the snow; skiing on virgin powder snow; cashmere shopping at Gstaad with Ivana Trump.