Money-Saving Strategies for Ski Trips

Gear and Rentals
family of skiers' boots
Have gear, will travel (Adie Bush/Cultura/Getty)

Without doubt, skiing and snowboarding is gear-intensive. But finding the right stuff doesn't have to be expensive. There's an abundance of second-hand gear available and loads of discount online retailers like backcountryoutlet.com and the close-out section of rei.com. In short, if you can't find a deal on new gear, you're either obsessed with having the latest and greatest, or you aren't looking hard enough.

For clothing, find stuff that'll do double duty. You can always find a Gore-Tex outer layer tricked out with loads of ski- or ride-specific add-ons like powder skirts or laminated season-ticket holders. But most people can get by on wind- and waterproof jackets that you could also wear around town, or when hiking and biking. We do recommend some sort of easy ventilation feature like pit zips, which let you cool down mid-run and seal in the heat when you're on the lift. And layering is key: a variety of different non-cotton base- and mid-layers are far superior to bulky single-layer apparel—and you'll get more uses out of them throughout the year, not just when the snow's falling. Also essential: gloves, merino-wool socks, and a helmet (yes... a helmet; they're warmer and much safer than hats, end of discussion).

For rentals, one-time or weeklong skiers should be able to score good lift ticket/rental deals (or deals associated with ski-school enrollment). Expect on-mountain rentals and deals to be more expensive—and more crowded—than you'll find in town or at shops you pass as you approach the mountain. And if you know you're going to get in a lot of turns this season, consider renting for the entire season. Rates run from below $100 for a youth setup to about $250 for adult packages. Many places will let you exchange items mid-season, which is great if you have growing children or if your boots pinch after a few days on the slope. And if you decide to buy, the rental fee is generally forgiven. Either way, if you rent, don't wait until the day you want to ski. Pick it up the night before—especially if you are heading to the slopes during the holidays.

If you must own your own skis, snowboard, boots, and the rest, then local ski swaps are a good resource for scoring good deals. If you missed your local ski swap, do a search on Craigslist.com or visit sites like skis.com, mountaintimesports.com, and snowlist.com. Or look to your local ski shop for close-out and on-sale models from the previous season; stores always have to make room for new inventory, and sometimes the "latest" is simply a different color scheme rather than some significant gear advance. You'll pay half (or less) of the original price. Plus you get the expertise a ski shop can offer in terms of fit, tuning, shape, and size.


Published: 11 Jan 2010 | Last Updated: 7 Nov 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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