Buying ski equipment:

$500 should get you a good set of equipment. Salomon and Rossignol are very good brands in my experience, so check out those. Personally, though, I've never bought any equipment at a ski shop aside from maybe some boots; I've gotten all my stuff from garage sales/family members. Great stuff and very affordable!

For ski size, the basic rule of thumb is that, when placed on the ground and stood up, the tip of the ski should be about in the middle of your forehead. Don't forget your safety equipment, too! Trust me, I've bashed my head many a time while skiing, and while it may never have been serious at all, I was always definitely be glad I was wearing a helmet.

Where are you skiing, by the way? Just curious.
I have been skiing most of my life, and I have yet to wish I had a helmet. I ski Pico and Killington in Vermont mostly, but I ski at Hunter Mountain in NY for free because my grandpa built it. :mrgreen: