Should you rent skis or buy? There are three things to consider as you decide: how fast kids grow, getting the most for your money, and how you want your skis to perform.
Kids, Teens, and How Fast They Grow
When kids are young and growing fast, renting is hands down the best option. You can get a child season rental for around $100-130, depending on their size. Kids will outgrow boots and skis nearly every single year until they are about 13 for girls and 16 for boys (recognizing every child is different). At that point, it may not be as much about growth as the cool factor of having your own skis. When your kids reach those teenage years, you could consider buying them a ski that will work for multiple years, and then just rent the boots until their feet stop growing.
There is also a lot to be said for a good hand-me-down strategy. If you have three or more children, it can work well to buy a ski with an adjustable binding for the oldest and plan to hand that down. Boots can sometimes be hit or miss, but they can work well as hand-me-downs too. If you get decent quality clothing and maintain them well, jackets, gloves, and goggles can be great to pass along -- just keep the colors generic.
Helmets are another story. Manufacturers give helmets a 3-5 year shelf-life, which makes hand-me-downs a little more tricky. If you are going to ski consistently throughout a season, the cheapest option is to buy a 1-year-old rental helmet for $25-30 from the shop (they run out quickly). A brand new kid's helmet starts at about $60. You can find cheaper, but you get what you pay for.
What’s Most Cost Effective?
An average season ski rental is about $150 for an adult setup. When you rent, you don’t have to store the gear over the summer, but you do need to remember to come in early each fall to make sure you get a season package before they run out. By comparison, you can buy an entry-level adult ski setup (ski, binding, boot) for around $600. If you are going to rent for 4 years, it’s worth buying, and if you ski consistently for 4 years, you will start to outperform what a rental ski can offer.
Ski Swaps, KSL and Craig's List
Buying used through places like Craig’s List, KSL and ski swaps can be risky for a couple of reasons. You will almost certainly need to remount your skis to match the binding to your boot. Binding indemnification also becomes a problem, especially with skis that are more than seven years old. Binding manufacturers will not stand behind gear that old, and that means ski shops can’t work on them. Also keep in mind that the people selling are highly motivated to have you buy their stuff, and you don’t always get an honest opinion. Sellers won't be around the next day, and there is little consequence to them for selling you gear that is wrong for you. We have people stop in the shop every season who have been sold boots that are totally unsuitable and skis at the wrong length.
However, buying used from a reputable consignment shop can be a good solution. You will need to know what to look for in a good base and good edge - checking for gouges in the base or rusted out metal on the edges. The state of the top sheet can give you some insight into how the skis have been treated, but in the end it’s just cosmetic. Also, a shop worth its salt should have looked at the ski to see whether the binding is still indemnified. There may be some overhead cost wrapped up in buying on consignment, but you will benefit from a little extra knowledge and expertise.
Skis are like cars - they are designed and built with specific performance goals and price points in mind. Finding a used ski in the right length and shape, and in good condition can get tricky as you get more specific about how you want to ski. Buying new gives you the flexibility to find the right ski to fit you and your performance goals. Whether you buy from us or someone else, remember to shop local. The people who run local shops share their first-hand knowledge and expertise freely with the community. And you know where to find them if you have problems or more questions. When these local shops go away, that knowledge goes with them.
Rental Ski Performance
The typical rental ski is narrow under foot, which makes them a good fit for groomed runs. Rental skis in general do not perform well in soft conditions or off piste. The quality of rental ski can vary widely from shop to shop. A good adult rental ski will have a wood core rather than foam; a wood core will provide a stiffer flex, allowing you to carve better and carry more speed. For kids, foam core skis are easier for them to maneuver. We carry Nordica, Fischer, and Rossignol in our rental fleet.
Also, when people rent, they often don’t think to wax or tune the skis regularly, which limits their performance. Depending on how often you use them, you may want to have your rental skis waxed three times and have the edges done once or twice. Season rentals are not maintained by ski shops during the season, although daily rentals will receive regular waxing and tuning.
Demo skis are higher quality skis from the retail inventory that are available to rent. You can only rent demos skis for a day, but it is a great way to try out different skis before you buy. Most shops will apply the cost of one demo rental toward the cost of a ski that you purchase.
Whether you rent or buy remember, it's possible to get the family outside! Many of us got ourselves and our kids into skiing on rented and used gear, and traded up as we fell in love with getting above the inversion and spending more time in nature. Even teenagers will condescend to hang out with the family on the slopes, and they'll always come and find you on the hill when they get hungry. If you have questions about how to make skiing a reality for you and your family, stop in and let us give you a pep talk!