Yes! Learning to ski! Great fun. I remember when I was learning to ski. I had to take a rope tow from one place to another, and held onto it like it was a lifeline off the Titanic. Pulled myself right out of my ski bindings.
This should be a pretty good time of year to shop for skis. The industry IS having a good year—Crystal Mountain, here in Washington, was turning cars away last week—but it's still when shops are clearing out winter stuff to make room for bikes and hiking gear.
For starters, let's stick with all-mountain skis. They offer the best performance across the widest range of conditions. Maybe when you get your ski legs under you, you can think about a specialty ski such as one for powder.
So take a look at the Rossignol Avenger 74 Comps ($550), which like many skis today come equipped with bindings so you save some $$ and benefit from really good integration of the ski and binding. They're an all-purpose, intermediate-level ski, pretty forgiving, so easy to learn on, but with enough performance so that as you improve, they won't hold you back.
Another good ski for the slope novice with ambition is the Volkl Unlimited AC skis, which also include bindings for $500 (yeah, I know...skiing ain't cheap). These are a really easy-turning ski, with soft tips and tails that help you carve, but a firm center section for control.
Lastly, the Dynastar Booster 8s ($530, also with bindings) are third candidate for someone like you. Like the other two, they're an all-mountain ski designed with slightly soft fore and aft sections so they bend easily in the turn. Best as well for groomed slopes, although they won't totally let you down if you hit some crud or powder.
Lots of good choices in boots, too, although let fit be your guide. Nordica's Hot Rod 75 boots ($350) would be a good start. A comfortable, forgiving boot that has enough performance to go with you as you move to harder slopes.
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