To Rent vs. Buy Skis: Weighing the Options for Your Ski Equipment

Published on 12/18/2023 · 8 min readTrying to decide whether to invest in ski gear or continue renting? Here are some things to keep in mind when making this big decision.
Russ Lowe, Ski Expert
By Ski Expert Russ Lowe

Photo by Sergey Novikov

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.

Who Should Consider Renting?

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Renting gear 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, tune-ups, and waxing that is necessary when owning your own equipment.

Types of Rental Packages

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Some people associate rental equipment with low-quality gear only meant for beginners, however, this is really not the case. There are many different rental programs for varying ability levels and can be a great option for beginners, intermediates, and even expert skiers.

Basic Rental Packages

If you are a beginner skier and are not too particular about the gear you are renting, a basic rental package would probably be great for you. This will be relatively low cost and you will receive basic beginner equipment to get you down the slopes. These packages will often include boots, skis, and ski poles. However, you may also find full package that include goggles and a helmet as well.

Seasonal Rental Packages

Many ski shops are now offering seasonal rentals. With this type of deal you can get gear for the entire season. This is great if you are unsure about buying your own gear, but plan to ski at least 10 days a year. The downside to this is that you will have to travel with your gear.

High-Performance Rentals

If you are an advanced or intermediate skier, you may want to consider a high-performance rental package. This type of package will give you more high quality gear and frequently the shops will give you a wide variety of skis and boots to choose from. This is a great option if you are traveling by air and do not want to bring your skis but still want high-performance, top-quality gear.

Demo Packages

Demo packages are another great rental option as they typically allow you to try a variety of skis throughout your ski day. This works well for skiers who are hoping to buy a pair of skis but want to test different options beforehand. In some instances, if you get a demo-package and decide to buy skis afterwards, the shop will not charge for the demo.

While demo rentals can be a great way to test a variety of higher-end ski gear, 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.

Another point to note is that while recent rental setups have improved, and a demo shop today can carry a range of the latest models by top brands 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.

Tips for Renting

  1. If you plan of renting gear it is always a good idea to pre-book before your trip to ensure availability of gear in your size. This is particularly important if you are traveling over a busy time of year. Many shops will offer rental discounts if you have a ski pass, so it is always a good idea to ask.
  2. There are also many options for multi-day rentals if you plan on renting for an entire vacation. Multi-day discounts are often available, making it cheaper to get a multi-day package.

When deciding what works best for you, there’s another 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 good snow conditions and hunt for slope-side lodging with good hot tubs because when it all comes together, skiing is about as much fun a human can have on this planet.

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 hankering 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?

If the answer to all of these is "yes", then it might be time to consider buying your own ski gear.

Why You Should Consider Buying

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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 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.

So 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.

Making Your Choice

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So what's the right answer?

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 own skiing 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.

If you’re ready to take that plunge, please feel free to reach out to 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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