Renting vs. Buying Ski Equipment: Which is Better?

By Paul Norman Feb. 14, 2020
(Credit: IM_photo/Shutterstock)

For most wannabe powderhounds, gear comes down to one big question. Do you pay a lot of money right now, or pay even more over a longer time? Most people assume that, if you’re planning on skiing a lot, it’s more economical in the long term to buy than rent. While that’s technically true, it’s not the whole story.

The Case for Renting

If it’s your first day on the slopes – and you’re not sure about this whole skiing thing – you should rent your gear. But many more experienced skiers find renting to be a more practical approach.

Rental equipment is replaced every few seasons, so you will likely be tackling the slopes on new gear, whereas personal equipment will, inevitably, wear down over time. Better yet, most shops can rent out barely used competition-tier skis for an additional fee. What’s more, rental shops have an in-house team charged with maintaining equipment. With your own skis you’re responsible for upkeep – and the associated costs.

A lot of skiers feel like they can ski harder on rentals because if you scuff up some rental skis, who cares? Short of snapping the skis in half, it takes a lot for a rental shop to charge a replacement fee. And while you should always insure rental equipment, there’s a lot less sting to losing some rental skis on the racks than there is to saying goodbye to the beloved skis you’ve had for 12 seasons.

Renting also helps you avoid pesky oversize luggage fees when you’re flying. Transporting gear can add hundreds to flight costs, not to mention the headaches caused if the airline loses your equipment.

A close-up of a woman wearing light blue snow pants and downhill skis on a freshly groomed ski slope
(Caption: IM_photo/Shutterstock)

The Case for Buying

Let’s say you’ve skied before and you know you want to ski again. In principle, buying a pair of skis will, over the course of several seasons, be much cheaper than renting. The price for pre-owned skis can be less than the cost of renting equipment for a single week!

Other than savings, one of the main draws of purchasing your own equipment is the comfort factor. It takes a long time to get used to new skis, and spending a few hours working out the limits of a new pair can be a drag. Owning gear means that you will always have some familiarity no matter where you’re skiing.

Another underrated positive is that you avoid trying on multiple pairs of ski boots every trip. Boot fitting is an art form and can take an hour or more – and sometimes they still don’t fit! Doing the waddle of shame back into the rental shop for new boots three times a day can ruin a ski trip. Buying your own pair of boots is going to save you a lot of pain and misery. They also fit in your luggage, circumventing extortionate airline fees.

And yes,you’re responsible for your own ski maintenance. But, on the flip side, you can do whatever you want with them. Experimenting with bindings? Go for it. Getting aggressive on some rails? Heck yeah! Getting towed by a plane? Well, maybe don’t do that. But you could!

So which is better?

Like every gear question: it depends. People who want comfort or are going up to the local hill every weekend might prefer to buy. Renting might be more viable to someone who plans long-distance ski vacations once a year. Ultimately, whether to buy or rent ski equipment depends on how frequently you ski and how far you travel to do so.

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