Welcome, new skiers and snowboarders, to the world of skiing and snowboarding! We know learning any new sport can be intimidating, but it can be especially so with skiing. That's why we're so hoppy to be sharing our Frog Family expertise! Once you've decided to make a family ski trip, one of the big decisions involves equipment. It can be a bit overwhelming to think of everything you need, let alone decide whether you should rent or buy. If you have snowboarders, there are slightly different equipment and considerations. Today we're leaping into the discussion of whether to rent of buy ski equipment. We'll also offer trusted tips, plus a list of other gear and clothing you'll want to get for your getaway!
Should You Rent or Buy Ski Equipment?
If it is one of your first few times on the mountain, then you should definitely rent equipment, and here’s why. You can get familiar with the equipment and learn what you like or don’t like. If you find a ski boot that is really comfortable or a ski that makes it all seem easier, then you can go out and purchase that brand or style because you have had a chance to demo it and compare it to other rentals you might have used. Many ski resorts and rental shops have demo shops for just that reason.
If you are a more experienced skier, it can make financial sense to buy, but you still might like the option of renting the right equipment for the conditions. You might want to try powder skis on a fresh snow day or try out some new technology to see if you like it by renting a demo. Renting can offer flexibility or simply help you make a purchasing decision to see if you like the equipment before making an investment in it. Even as an experienced skier, I once bought the worst pair of boots ever because I never had a chance to try them before purchasing. They gave me hot spots no matter what I did. My older skis needed to go at that point too, so I rented different equipment for two seasons until I found a boot and ski that I was really hoppy with. Then I went out and purchased them. The boot was one they heated up and had custom molded to my foot, which was a big plus! As that equipment ages, I may rent again for a while since ski technology has changed a lot since my last purchase. Renting will give me a sense of what I like before purchasing again.
Look at All of the Costs to Rent or Buy Ski Equipment
Depending on how often you ski and where you ski, it might make more sense financially to rent or buy ski equipment. Many learn-to-ski lessons include rentals. Another factor to consider in making the rent or buy ski equipment decision is the cost of checking skis when flying. When you check skis and boots, you have to pay a fee for checking the oversize equipment both ways. Depending on the airline, the fee can be as much as $100 per person per trip. You need to borrow or purchase a ski bag and boot bag (but the airline should count them as one item). Snowboard bags usually can fit boots too. But when you rent, you do not have to pay to check equipment or haul it through the airport. Renting is a smart choice if you are skiing internationally because you may have to collect it at customs before making a connection. We almost missed a connection due to a slow-arriving ski bag once when flying back from Canada. Lugging equipment through the airport and trying to fit it into a rental car is physically challenging. Renting removes all that headache. Plus, rental equipment is likely to be newer and offer the latest models. You can buy the latest model, but in 10 years technology will have moved on.
On the other hand, if you will be making several ski trips each year and can drive to a ski resort, bringing your own equipment has its advantages. It is nice to be familiar and comfortable with how it performs. You do not have to wait in any lines to rent, you know how your equipment works for you and fits, and you don’t have the rental expense associated with skiing. With your own skis and an Epic Pass or other multi-day lift ticket in hand, you are ready to hit the slopes without any stops. Plus, if you want to try out a new ski or adjust to changing conditions, the option to demo something different is there.
If you are going to rent, one way to save money with rentals is to reserve in advance. Sometimes you can get preseason pricing for a midseason trip if you book early enough. When you book your trip, consider any rentals or lessons you need.
Here Is What You Need Whether You Rent or Buy Ski Equipment
Equipment for Adults
When you go to the rental shop, you will want to pick up skis, poles, and boots. Be sure to get a helmet! The shop employees will help you find the right sizes and fit. They will set the bindings for your weight and skiing ability. That way your beginner settings will help skis pop off more easily if you fall so you don’t get hurt. The advantage to renting is that everything is set up and customized for you and your level that day. If you discover that you love skiing and want to ski more often, then you can look into purchasing. But in the beginning it just doesn’t make sense to buy until you get a feel for what you like and know that you will use it.
Equipment for Kids
The best plan for new skiers is to rent equipment. Kids are growing by leaps and bounds, so you may not want to invest in purchasing any equipment for them until you know they like the sport, you can get a sense of their skiing style and you know they aren’t going to jump over to snowboarding the week after you get them skis. If you have several children who want to ski, consider buying equipment that you know can be handed down to younger siblings.
You want to keep your tadpoles hoppy. That means using good equipment that fits properly. Rentals always fit. If you choose a ski school that includes rentals or even has rentals on-site, it can make the process of going to and from ski school even easier. One thing to consider when choosing a ski school is how they do rentals and if they will let you leave your skis there overnight if you have multi-day lessons.
Whether you rent or bring your own equipment, kids need boots, skis, a helmet and maybe poles. Young and new skiers may not need poles. Check with the ski school. If you do decide to purchase new skis, you will also need to purchase bindings and have them attached, so be sure to get those if you are purchasing.
Equipment for Snowboarders
Snowboarders need a snowboard, snowboard boots (which are completely different from ski boots) and a helmet. It is a smart investment to purchase some other safety equipment. Wrist guards (there are gloves with built-in wrist guards) and some body armor to protect tailbones, hips, and other parts can mean the difference from popping back up virtually pain free after a fall or causing some real damage like a wrist fracture or very bruised bottoms.
If you are buying, know that a brand-new snowboard will need bindings. Some bindings are easier to get in and out of than others. Make it easy on yourself or your tadpoles by buying easy-entry bindings that are easier to click in and out of. The right bindings can save a lot of time and frustration when strapping back in after getting off the lift or gondola. No sitting in the cold snow getting reconnected. It’s go time, adrenaline is pumping, and nobody likes to wait another five minutes for the boarder who can’t get strapped in efficiently.
Tips for Whether You Rent or Buy Ski Equipment
If You Rent Ski Gear ...
There are advantages and disadvantages to renting at a ski resort or off-site. You can often save a lot of money by renting off-site. But if there is a problem with the equipment or you got the wrong size, then you are out of luck. Pro Tip: Always try on both boots — I learned that the hard way. Find out in advance if there are discounts for rentals with lessons. Some offsite locations will even meet you at the ski resorts or your hotel for easy pick up and drop off, so do your research on the rental prices and services offered.
If You Buy or Own Ski Gear ...
Once you are ready to take the plunge and buy your own equipment, we have tips! Boot fit is one of the most important aspects of skiing. So it is important to find a good boot fitter. Generally, you will find them at specialty or smaller ski shops. My current pair of boots was heat molded to my flipper, so it fits like a glove. These boots have kept my feet happy for 13 years. I do not recommend getting used adult boots or even letting people borrow your boots. I’m a good sharer, but I put my frog foot down — literally — on not sharing ski boots. Take care of your boots. Dry them out and strap them up properly for storage. Some people buy a boot they love (keeping that familiarity of equipment) but rent skis at the resort, especially if they are flying to their destination. You may be able to carry on your boots and save checking fees.
When buying skis, the best way to know what you like is to demo them first. Talk to the store employees and other avid skiers to get their feedback. Wipe down and dry your skis after use, store them in a bag, and get them waxed and the edges sharpened regularly. If you take care of your equipment you can enjoy it for years to come.
Beyond Skis, What Do You Need?
- Thermals (tops and bottoms)
- A face shield or neck gator
- A hat or ear cover (some helmets act as both a hat and noggin protector)
- A mid layer
- An outer waterproof shell or jacket with vents (they make different ones for skiing vs. snowboarding)
- Waterproof outer pants
- Good quality ski socks that wick away moisture
- Gloves or mittens (may vary based on snowboarding or skiing)
I prefer the gloves with an attached internal layer, so that if I pull off my glove to get a tissue or lip balm, my hands are still covered. But I won’t risk losing or dropping the outer part of my glove because it is attached to me. On a warm day, you can ski with the thin layer. I prefer to have two pairs of gloves in case the first one gets wet. I also recommend having a few packs of hand warmers or toe warmers for very cold days.
If you are new to skiing or snowboarding, I have a few more secrets for new skiers so that you are outfitted for success on the mountain. Hopefully you have a better idea about where to rent or buy ski equipment for an epic family ski vacation. We frogs are always excited to save some “green” and pass the savings onto you, so if you need to book lodging at ski resort hotels or purchase lift tickets that don’t have block out dates, be sure to check out our hoppin’ deals.