Ski Vacation Budgeting

When it Matters What’s Underfoot All Day

Airfare, lodging, transportation, restaurants, lift tickets… oh, and ski gear. It can be surprising to know how often ski gear becomes an afterthought to planning a ski vacation. It doesn’t seem to make much sense to focus on the best lodging, luxury transportation, and amazing restaurants and ignore the most important part of a ski vacation – comfortable and safe ski or snowboarding equipment.

Borrowing Gear

Before you consider using Uncle John’s skis from 2002, you may also want to consider some factors when borrowing ski gear such as age of the gear, sizing, damage, and destination ski conditions.

Older gear can be dangerous, especially if it has been stored in an area that has fluctuating temperatures, among other things. As equipment ages, the core can dry out and become less flexible. Older gear that you aren’t familiar with may have also suffered damage you might not be able to see. Check the base and edges for deep scratches or gouges. Cracks near the tips or tail can be evidence of abuse by a radical skier who favors park riding, jumps, etc. These cracks can make the skis dangerous. Taking the gear for a tune-up is the best way to know if it is safe to ride on, but many shops will not be able to work on older bindings due to liability issues.

Beyond the safety factor, if skis are older the boots are likely older as well. Padding in older boots can become packed in, dried out, and just downright uncomfortable. Anyone who has spent a day on the mountain wearing ill-fitting or uncomfortable boots will know that can be an incredibly regretful mistake.

This takes us to sizing. Gear is sized for skiers and boarders based on height, weight, shoe size, and ability. Ignoring any of these factors to save money by borrowing skis can be dangerous. A person too heavy for his equipment can run into trouble with the wrong bindings or a ski or board that cannot support the weight.

If Uncle John lives in the northeast and his older, longer, straight-edged skis kept him happy in the heavy, wet, icy conditions of his hometown, that doesn’t mean the gear is right for a western U.S. ski vacation. Utah’s “Greatest Snow on Earth” is known for its dry, light powder and today’s shaped, wider, and shorter gear is made to float on that powder – making for a better ski day overall.


Renting gear can be the best way to go for a destination ski vacation. The gear will be right for the conditions of the area – regardless of where you are traveling. You won’t have to lug the gear through the airport or pay baggage fees. And, a new pair of skis comparable to what you can find on a rental rack at a good, reputable ski shop would not be cheap to buy. Rental gear is also tuned, waxed, and ready to go.

However, there are some safety factors to watch for even when you are renting gear. You want to make sure to choose a reputable shop that has been around for a while and has solid relationships with top equipment vendors. Know if your shop is buying new gear straight from the manufacturer or if it purchased “throw-away” gear that other shops decided were no longer worthy of renting in their shops. It happens. And, just because a shop is new does not mean the gear is new as well. In fact, newer shops have a hard time getting gear from manufacturers because vendors such as K2, Rossignol, and Volkl will only allow their gear to be sold in shops they feel are worthy of representing their products and it takes time to build that kind of reputation.

This is also important to know if you are a fan of trying out the latest demos for the current season. Shops without those vendor relationships cannot get the demo brands people are looking for. The way they get around that is by shopping other shops’ demo sales at the end of the ski season. So, they may have “demos”, but they may not be new season demos from the manufacturer – which is really the point in renting demos in the first place.

Example of potential 4-day ski vacation spending for one person using new ski gear comparable to Ski ‘N See’s Preferred rental package:

Carrying Gear
Flight roundtrip: $400
Hotel 4 nights: $500
Rental Car 4 days: $250
Restaurants 4 days: $500 (including a few après ski drinks)
Lift Tickets 4 days: $260 (Ski ‘N See discounted rates)
Buy skis, boots, bindings, poles: $1500 (from a good sale)
Ski and boot bags: $150
Baggage Fees: $100
Total: $3,660

Prorated owned gear based on 25 ski days in a year:
4 days: $240
New total: $2,400

Renting Gear
Flight roundtrip: $400
Hotel 4 nights: $500
Rental Car 4 days: $250
Restaurants 4 days: $500
Lift Tickets 4 days: $260
Preferred Rental Ski Pkg 4 days: $118
Baggage Fees: $0
Total: $2,028

Not only can it be less expensive and easier to rent gear at your destination, this shows what a small percentage of the total cost it can be for where the most time is spent during a ski vacation. And, having well-fitting, new gear without the hassle of carrying gear… Priceless.

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