Can You Rent Ski Clothes and Should You?
Ski Expert Michael Cohen breaks down the how-to of renting ski clothes and the pros and cons of renting compared to purchasing the right gear to hit the slopes.
Skiing and snowboarding aren't easy sports. I don't mean the skills you must learn to get down the mountain safely. I’m talking about obtaining the gear that needs to be planned for a family with kids to get to the slopes and be ready to learn the actual sport. If you plan a local ski resort trip, you'll need correctly-sized gear, like skis (or boards), bindings, and boots. In the industry, we call this gear “hard goods.” And at most resorts, you can buy a package that includes your rental, lift ticket, and lessons for first-timers.
If you fly to Breckenridge, Colorado, and head to the ski resort from the airport with the clothes you wore in sunny Los Angeles, obviously, you'll be cold and freeze in the backcountry. So, in addition to your hard goods, you'll need soft goods, such as socks, thermal underwear, ski pants, base layers, jackets, gloves, helmets, and beanies or earmuffs. Whew. That's not as simple as basketball—shorts, T-shirt, shoes, socks, ball, done.
Can You Rent Clothing (Soft Goods) and Is It Worth It?
So the question is can you rent the clothing you need to spend a day skiing or snowboarding? Is the cost of renting this ski and snowboard gear worth it? And the answer to that is...it depends. Let's talk about the pros and cons.
Pros of Renting Gear
One pro is logistics. If you're going on vacation to Vail Resorts with the whole family by plane, each family member needs their stuff. That can be a lot when you consider getting it into taxis and on planes. Choosing a rental service that brings everything to where you are staying is potentially much easier. Or if you are going to one of the larger resorts like Park City, they offer snowboard clothing rental gear.
Less Expensive to Some
Another pro is upfront costs. Depending on the number of days you go per season, infrequent skiers will spend less money upfront. Good quality gear isn't cheap, especially from better-known brands like Burton, Solomon, Rossignol, and North Face. But what does renting everything cost? I will use a larger resort in this example.
Park City is the largest resort in the country. The actual resort does not rent clothing, but they do rent hard goods in a ski/snowboard rental package (skis or boards with bindings and boots for $70 and a $15 helmet rental). Park City isn't alone, most resorts do not rent clothing, If you do want to rent clothing, you will have to use a vendor specifically for this.
One of the popular ski and snowboard clothing rental sites is called Kitlender. On Kitlender, they rent different brands for different costs and ship the rental to you. Once you’re done, you ship it back. Most ski clothing and snowboard clothing rental packages on Kitlender average between $40 per day for lower-end kits and $70 for higher-end ones. I found a North Face kit for $50 per day. But here's the catch—it's $50 per day for a three-day minimum. So for $150, you get ski pants or bibs, a ski jacket, gloves, and goggles (a must because the snow reflects the sun and causes vision damage quickly).
That brings your per-person total for full ski equipment for a three-day trip to Park City, with lift tickets, hard good rentals, and soft goods from Kitlender to approximately $1,100. If you're only going once, it's possibly worth it.
But here's the secret that all of us who ski and board know. You're not going just once. You see, the mountain is just too much fun! It can be very safe and low impact, with the feeling of the cold crisp air, the sound of the skis carving the snow, and the smiles on the kids. It's one of those things that keeps most people who try it coming back again and again. In comparison, the same jacket, pants, goggles, and gloves retail all together at $480. If you wait until an end-of-season sale, you could easily knock 25% off that. And for that price, you would own it.
Cons of Renting Gear
Possibly More Expensive
As a cheapskate who loves to take my family to the slopes a few times a year, a big con of renting (con means two things here) is the cost. It will be a barrier for some. For the cost of renting your soft goods 2-3 times, you can buy gear you keep forever. If you have young kids, the gear you buy will only last a couple of seasons. After that, they grow out of it. But if you’re an adult, you can use your stuff for many seasons. I still use my 10-year-old 686 x Levi's snow pants.
Another con is the rental process. Even if you have some really friendly staff, the process can be a hassle, and they might not have your size, and it might not be the most sanitary thing. Let's say you rent for a family of four. That's a lot of items to keep track of. That's an extra thing to worry about on the mountain when you are already trying to keep track of your skis, your kids' skis, phones, hotel keys, wallet, the time of the lessons, where to pick up tickets, what to eat for lunch…etc. Then you need to make sure all that gear gets home. If you're missing something, you will have to buy it from the renter anyway.
Don't rent. Invest in good quality gear that you can use for many seasons. If cost is a barrier like it was for me, buy what you can. On your next trip buy the next thing. After three or four trips, you will have all you need. If you’re in a financial situation where you can buy your gear, there are websites like Curated where experts, like myself, with tons of experience, will advise you on size and walk you through everything you need.
Once you purchase all your gear, all you really have to pay is the lift ticket and gas to get there. At smaller resorts, that's less than $100 per person. It’s cheaper than any theme park but still has all the thrills.
My advice is to buy one or two pieces of gear at a time. First, get boots or, ideally, boots, board, and bindings. A pair of boots that fit right and are molded to your feet are much more comfortable. Then, borrow a jacket or pants or get a good deal from a Winter Sports Expert on Curated. And when you pay off your board, get the rest. For around $1,000, a savvy shopper can buy a whole set-up. Which if you recall from earlier estimates of renting everything, is about the same.