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Everyone knows there are cheaper sports to enjoy than many mountain sports. But, those who are passionate about powder know there is no greater thrill or feeling of freedom than you get from downhill skiing or snowboarding. The question remains, is it more cost-effective to buy or rent? There are a few factors to take into account that could help answer this question for you such as frequency, location and age:

How often do you ski?

Using simple math, you can determine the cost of buying versus renting. Snowboards are a little cheaper to rent and buy, but if you’re considering skis the price can range from $150 to $1,500, depending on whether you are buying last year’s skis or the newest models of the season. To buy skis at the equivalent quality level to “preferred” skis found in a good ski shop, you’ll likely spend around $500, including bindings. You’ll also need comparable boots at $250 and poles at $50 to complete what you’d get in a rental package. So, based on preferred skis at $28 per day, you would need to ski at least 28 times to pay for the cost of a ski package – not counting airline baggage fees or tunes, wax, and service, which are all taken care of with rentals.

If you ski 10 – 15 times per year, it will take a few years to cover the cost of owning, and you’ll want to consider how technology might change over that time.  If you’re squeamish about “used” items, you might want to consider investing in a good pair of boots that are tailored to your feet and much easier to carry around than a full ski package.

The upside of buying skis or a snowboard, is that you can choose from a much larger range of brands, colors, and designs to fit your personality. Demo rentals give you the same option and although they cost a little more, don’t make you look like a “renter”.

Where do you ski?

If you are big on travel and trying out different ski resorts, you’ll want to keep in mind that snow and terrain truly are different in different parts of the world. Even the difference between skiing in Utah and Vermont is like night and day. The skis that would give you the best experience in Utah are wider and shaped for powder, whereas skis best for Vermont are made with harder edges for cutting the icy snow.

Renting from shops within the region you are skiing will help ensure you are getting the best equipment for that area’s conditions. And, renting allows you to change gear as your abilities change as well.

If you tend to live in the area where you ski and don’t travel much, buying will save you a trip to the ski shop every time you want to head up for a day or half-day.

Still growing?

If you’re searching for the best option for your kids and don’t want to invest in new equipment every year as they grow, you may want to consider season rentals. Many shops offer season rentals or some sort of ski swap program in the fall that will allow you to pay one rate for your kids ski package for the entire season and get them a different package in a different size the next year.

Season rentals are often priced low enough that they are paid for in three or four days on the mountain. Beyond saving money, season rentals will save trips to the ski shop like you would have to make with daily rentals. Season rentals win over ski swaps when wax and tune-ups for the whole season are included in the cost. And, with the season rentals, most shops will also trade out the skis and/or boots if your kids grow mid-season, but most ski swaps are set up only one time per year.

Whether you’re buying or renting, check a few shops and look online to know pricing and whether you are getting a good deal.

By Kerry Phillips