Some ski shops are bigger and more professional than others; some are smaller but offer excellent service and key brands. One might be family-oriented in its model selection, another strictly hardcore.
Most skiers face a choice between buying at a shop near home or one near the mountain. Prices can be a little higher at mountain shops, but they’re invariably staffed by skiers who live the life and know their stuff. City and suburban shops have the advantage of being convenient. Visiting one can be a welcome fix when you can’t get to the slopes, and it won’t cut into your ski time.
Look for shops that offer full tuning and bootfitting services. Even if you don’t need a race-ready hand tune or a sophisticated stance analysis, it’s nice to know a shop can handle it. Look for experienced sales people (all too rare lately) who sound like they’ve actually skied the equipment they’re selling. And avoid shopping during busy times, so they’ll be able to give you plenty of help in a low-pressure environment.