When should you buy your own gear?

Whether you've been skiing for years or this is your first season, there comes a time when you transition from renting your snowboard, ski's, or boots to becoming a proud owner of your own gear.

But when should you make that transition? 

With Westchester Skiers & Riders, we get inquiries from lots of beginners and those who have yet to slip on some ski boots or strap on a board for the first time. Gear is always at the top of everyone's mind.

Newcomers to skiing or riding will typically experience rental equipment that come in a package deal with their first lesson or two. For the next few ski trips throughout the season, renting usually continues. 

But there are many skiers and riders out there who wonder whether they should buy their own gear for the first time they go. (And do.) Throwing caution—and money—to the wind, some make the investment early on. Sometimes before their first run down a mountain…ever.

Is this the right way to go?

In case you're expecting an ambiguous answer on this one, the WSR opinion is… (drum roll) “No.”

Ski and snowboard gear, especially boots, are both a physiological and financial investment. A new pair of boots can easily cost $600, with a decent set of modern skis and bindings costing $800. That's a lot to shell out for a sport that some people don't continue after the first few days because they didn't find their boots (or the skiing experience) comfortable. (Rest assured. Skiing only gets more fun and more comfortable the more you learn about your preferred style of skiing, and pay some simple attention to the fit of your gear.)

If you're just starting out in skiing or riding, or “between boots,” the best tact is indeed renting. While your first day on the slopes ever may be subject to the generic rental gear at the mountain, some great options exist in all those smaller ski shops you see on the way to the resort. This is where renting becomes a more viable option than rushing out to buy your own equipment— and potentially getting stuck with an expense that isn't just quite right.

"But rental gear is lame!" you might say.

A word of solace: The rental gear in a ski shop—especially very good ski shops—tends to be better than what you may find on the mountain. The local shop typically has a very good stable of boots and skis, often “demos,” or more expensive, higher-quality equipment that was provided by the manufacturer in hopes that they buy. Some winter sports brands also specific product lines that combine quality and value with a focus on distribution to rental shops. This gear can also have some lower mileage on it as opposed to the assembly-line rental dynamic at the mountain's rental shops.

So when should you cross the line from renter to owner?

  1. When it's a smart investment. When your interest level is such that you're positive you'll be skiing again and again, throughout several seasons to come. Once you're "hooked," as millions of other people have been ever since there were mountains, it's an easy calculation to know that a season of rentals could outweigh spending money on your own equipment. Factor in that, depending on whether they're boots or skis, you'll use them for at least three seasons. (Emphasis on "at least.")
  2. When you know what's out there. After you've gotten a familiarity with the different brands of gear, and what type of skier / rider they cater to.  For example, some brands cater moreso to racers. Some, to those with narrower feet. And some brands may be popular on your local shop's shelf-- but maybe not the best for you. See a professional boot fitter or ski shop pro for the best advice.

  3. When "this is the one."  A rare feeling, but a telltale sign: You've skied or boarded once or twice on equipment that is so comfortable, and so fit to your talents you can't imagine hitting the mountain on anything else. Advice: Rent them again and ski / ride them under different conditions. Got the same great feeling? Good. Write that brand and model on your wish list and hit the stores. 

  4. After you've had a chance to demo. Talk to your ski shop about different boots, skis, boards and gear. See if there rare opportunities to demo (borrow) a new-ish model for a day or weekend. Almost all shops offer this. You might find the skis you were going to buy aren't that great… but the pair you ignored are out of this world.

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