A Guide to Renting Skis vs. Buying Your Own

To rent or to buy? Here are some things to keep in mind when making this big decision.

A person wearing black turns while on skis

Photo by Valentin B. Kremer

Should I rent skis or buy my own?

A quick Google search will turn up dozens of articles, chat forums, and risk/reward ratio costs regarding rental skis and associated gear. There is a multitude of factors to consider: How much are rental fees? Does my skill level matter? Will I be able to rent equipment in good condition? Will I be able to get boots that truly fit? Will the rental shop let me pick out my own type of ski? How long will the rental lines at the shop be? Is it worth buying my own skis despite the cost? How do I decide between the different types of skis? Do l want to lug all my own gear to my ski destination?

In short, it can get overwhelming to try to decide whether to get rental gear or invest in buying skis, and you can find yourself looking for an easy answer.

But, spoiler: there’s no right answer here. Everyone’s circumstances are different.

Four skiiers make a wide turn

Photo by Elien Decommer

Things to Consider

Renting gear very well might make the most sense for some skiers, like those heading out on their first ski vacation or those with kids who are constantly growing into new sizes of boots, skis, and poles. And if budget is a top concern or you only see yourself skiing a few days a year, renting is a great cost-effective option. You’ll save some money on baggage fees at the airport, and save yourself a bit of hassle if you’re traveling by airline a lot to ski resorts.

But when progress, performance, and getting as many epic days on the mountain as possible begin to matter to you, it becomes well worth it to invest in your own gear. If you’re planning to spend the bulk of an entire season up on the mountain or you're moving to a picturesque mountain town like Vail, you’ll want your own equipment.

And then there’s a third route. Maybe a combination of renting and owning is the best option for you. You might want to have your own pair of ski boots (which are easier to fly with than skis!), but feel perfectly comfortable renting a pair of skis.

So when deciding what works best for you, there’s one main factor to consider when choosing whether to rent or buy ski equipment in order to get the best out of your time on the slopes: Enjoyment.

The Importance of Enjoyment

Ask yourself if the enjoyment you get when skiing is unbeatable. We ski for adventure, exercise, social connection, and overall emotional wellness. But more than anything, we ski because it’s fun. Ascending mountains during the winter season and sliding down the snowy terrain with toboggans strapped to our feet—it’s all exhilarating. We plan, research, and spend our hard-earned money for a weekend exploring both on-piste and off. We track storms a good snow conditions and hunt for slopeside lodging with good hot tubs because when it all comes together, skiing is about as much fun a human can have on this planet.

A skiier in green pants executes a turn next to a large rock

Photo by Willem De Meyer

Enjoyment will make or break your decision to dive into the ski and snowboard world with more enthusiasm and with your own gear. If you’re a casual skier or even a beginner skier only getting a week or two on the slopes, you might be having a great time with your rental equipment. You might not feel the need to spend the money on a pair of brand-new skis or deal with the worry of trying to find the right fit in a pair of boots.

But if your relationship with skiing is getting serious and you find yourself dying to spend more time on the mountain, it’s time to ask yourself a few questions: Are you ready to take that plunge? Are you ready to join the ski community and take it to the next level? Are you ready to treat yourself to a full set of equipment?

Of all the leisure activities we invest our precious time and money in, few have as many critical moving parts that stand to make or break our experience. For example, it’s not the end of the world if we break a string at our tennis hit-around. But making our way down a steep blue with 9” of fresh snow, ill-fitting rental boots, and our rental bindings set to a 6.5 DIN just to end up back in the rental shop for an hour sorting it out destroys the fun. When you’ve come this far, you don't want to be sitting inside the ski shop fiddling with gear on a powder day during your first-ever week-long ski trip to Utah with the whole family.

Most importantly, there’s a certain high-grade sense of satisfaction that comes from having your own pair of skis dialed in to your personal preferences. Skis that don’t just get you from A to B, but are something that you’re actually proud of, make skiing more fun, and can actually make you a better skier in the long run.

While recent rental setups have improved, and a demo shop today can carry a range of top brands and latest models, such as Nordica, Rossignol, Salomon, Völkl, and K2, it’s still a crapshoot when it comes to a shop’s inventory, sizing, and gear condition—especially at smaller resorts. If you plan in advance, advanced skiers can rent demo skis as a great way to test a variety of higher-end ski gear, but it can get pricey really quickly when you include your lift ticket, a lesson, and other on-mountain costs. It doesn’t take that many days of demoing new gear at a big resort, like Park City or Big Sky, to rack up rental rates that aren't too different from the purchase price of buying a solid pair of last year’s model of skis and bindings, or a pair of great boots at a mid-season sale.

Two feet wearing skis propped up vertically with a chairlift in the distance

Photo by Jack Finnigan

Making Your Choice

So what's the right answer?

Renting is often best for those who are still testing the waters, who are on the fence about investing in the sport, or who don't want to deal with the wear and tear or repairs and tune-ups and wax that are necessary when own your own equipment. But like an avid cyclist’s bike, a dedicated fly fisherman’s rod & reel, or a musician’s instrument, there’s a connection and comfort to the equipment we use to do the things we love. Skiing, and winter sports in general, are no different, and if you want to become a part of the ski community or already share that passion for the sport, it’s time to make the investment in your own gear.

If you’re ready to take that plunge, please feel free to reach out to me or one of my fellow Ski Experts here on Curated for free advice and recommendations on finding the right gear. Whether you are looking for powder skis, park skis, all-mountain skis, or buying your first pair, we can help find the right pair for you.

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Written By
Russ Lowe
Russ Lowe
Ski Expert
I have been involved in the snow sports industry for over 30 years. I grew up in Utah, with $12 lift tickets and after-school carpools to Solitude and Alta. I've always felt a close connection to the mountains in wintertime, and that love took me to work for a number of resorts and industry mainstay...
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