You ski two weeks a season, if that; you hear about the latest rocker, fat, fill-in-the-blank technology, see the gear guide picks in Skiing Magazine and, whammo, you’re begging Santa for a new set of sticks. The pair you bought last year hasn’t even rusted yet. But you have to have the 2012 model. Whooo boy would the car industry turn around if they could figure out what skiers are drinking and bottle it for themselves. Maybe it’s time to sit tight, get creative and save yourself a grand. Who really needs new skis every year?
New to you is almost the same as “new” if you do your research. Buy skis in the fall at annual ski swaps or in the spring. Resort retail shops have to blow out their inventory to make room forthe latest stock. Last season;s models are going to be just as good as this year’s and half the price. You can often find discounts of more than 70 percent off brand new 2011 skis. Demo skis are usually the best score. Demo bindings are clunkier than regular bindings but you can walk away with a decent pair of skis for about $200. Look closely at the bases to make sure you’re not buying beaters; but getting skis and bindings for that price is epic. Bring your smartphone so you can Google to make sure you’ve got the best price. If you hit local events like the Black Diamond Swap in Salt Lake City, Utah, you could be buying skis that belonged to your favorite freeskiing idols like Julian Carr or Rachel Burkes. Skilebrities in spots like Whistler, Squaw Valley, Alta, Jackson Hole, make their living hocking their schwag.
Getting skis on Craigslist is cheaper than eBay and you can taste, touch, stroke before buying. If you don’t mind buying them unseen look at listings for cities nearest to ski destinations and ask the seller if he’ll ship. Just take a look at what’s on Craigslist SLC right now. eBay tends to be more expensive but you’ve got built-in fraud protection. If you’re a gambler, wait until your next ski trip and buy skis when you get there. Depending on how well you plan, not only will you save on baggage fees, hassles, and rentals but you could potentially MAKE MONEY in the deal if you sell them after your trip.
If your skis are older than five seasons and you only ski one week a year, your choice is a no-brainer. Throw them out or nail them to your wall as art and rent skis when you hit your destination. They’re going to perform better than what you own and you’ll save a bundle. Buying a new pair of skis before a trip based on something you read is a dumb move. Maybe those Rossi 7s are perfect for your ability, height, weight, etc. Maybe. Or maybe you finally get them on the hill and can’t buy a turn. Oh, and, while we’re on it, let’s add up the cost of bringing your own skis on vacation after you buy them. Here’s the math: On Delta, skis and boots count as one bag and they charge $25 for the first bag. The second bag which would carry everything else is $35 and anything over 50 pounds is $90-175. Consider whether you can pack the ski bag to the hilt and stay under 50 pounds. If not, checking skis separately from your luggage would cost at least $60. EACH WAY. There’s also the $175 “oversize bag fee” for going over 200cm.
If the airline loses your gear not only would you have to pay the checked baggage fees but you would have to rent while you waited for them to (hopefully) arrive. Still want to bring your own gear? You could ship everything to your vacation destination. By U.S. Post (seven days) it’s about $34 without insurance, or by FedEx Ground (5 days) you’re at $39. Companies like Sportsexpress.com will even pick up and package your skis for you before they ship them but you’ll pay about $120+ for roundtrip service. Problem here is that you have to plan ahead. Procrastinators will be SOL. Not to mention, what if you wanted to ski at home the day before you left? Forget it.
So here’s a novel idea- Pack (and check) one clothes bag ($25) and rent your gear. The total would run you about $185pp and save you the hassle of lugging heavy, awkward-shaped bags around the airport. Plus, you escape the whines of small children unwilling to carry their own stuff. Sites like SkiButlers.com and BlackTieRentals.com will come to your hotel with a four-day sport package of skis, poles and boots for about $169 with the damage waiver; just $49 more than checking two bags round trip… and you can thrash on rocks if you want.
Use What You’ve Got
Unless you live in a ski town and arc 40 plus days a season, new skis on your feet won’t make a difference. Get a sweet tune from a local shop and call it good. One note: test your bindings. Even one summer in a garage can warp the springs and send you to the ER.
Work Where Skis Are A Benefit
Backcountry.com employees have a “gear closet”. Retail store “shoprats” have unlimited access to the demo fleet. Most ski mountain host programs give you the hottest skis to use and many resorts in states like California are required by law to provide gear as part of their uniform if you have to ski for work. Not only will you avoid buying new skis but you’ll actually make money skiing. Bonus.
Okay, I lied, kind of.
I’d be a liar and a hypocrite if I didn’t disclose that my single most guilty pleasure in life is the day my new skis arrive. This year, I came home to a pair of 2012 Dynastar Paradises on my doorstep. Last year, the Head Jimis. My car is six years old; some of my street clothes are 10. But not my skis. If they’re older than two or three years, I feel self-conscious. I’m a ski instructor, ski model and ski writer. You gotta walk the walk. Or better ski the ski. Skis are a free part of my uniform the way they are for mountain employees so technically I’m staying true to my advice. In the end, no one’s going to hell for buying expensive toys so indulge if you must. However, in this economy isn’t it nice to know you have options?