One of the most prevalent questions faced by those who frequently travel to ski is whether it makes more sense to buy or rent skis.
For some of the following discussion points you might find yourself resoundingly on one side of the fence or the other. But probably not for all of them.
And while we have broken these determining factors into separate questions for your consideration, they are in no way intended to stand on their own. Common themes thread throughout, and the answer to each individual question will be influenced by your answers to all of the other questions. We certainly don’t mean to confuse you, but want to help you make an educated decision on whether buying or renting skis is the best way to go.
What is Your Ability Level?
If you’ve never skied before, perhaps purchasing a brand new pair of skis would be a bit ambitious. Are you a 3+ expert? Then you’re more than likely loading multiple skis into the padded travel bag you already own.
But for the vast majority of ski-vacationers who fall somewhere in the middle there are pros and cons to both buying and renting skis. It’s not just advanced skiers who benefit from the familiarity of owning their own skis, just as beginners are not the only ones who enjoy the commitment-free decision to rent. And so, while it may seem like a cop-out, the answer to how your ability level plays into your decision to rent or buy is ultimately always going to depend on your final verdicts for the remaining questions.
How Often Do You Ski?
While this question could be considered the framework for the entire debate of whether to buy or rent skis, let’s just look at it from a financial standpoint. For example, if it would take 10 years of rental fees to make up the cost of a brand new pair of skis, you definitely don’t need to buy. Ski technology develops so rapidly these days that five years into the life of your purchased skis the average rental fleet will outmatch them in terms of both technology and performance.
Or contrarily, if you do ski enough in a five-year span that the combined rental costs will exceed the cost of a new pair of skis, then you have your cost-effective answer. This is more of a mathematical solution to the question at hand, but certainly a major factor in determining whether or not to buy skis.
What is Your Destination?
Do you generally head to the same region every time you take a ski vacation? If so, the decision to buy a pair of skis can be made with a higher level of confidence. In the way that snow levels and conditions vary by region, so too do the waist widths and rocker profiles that make for a versatile all mountain ski.
If most of your ski vacations tend to be in the Rockies of Colorado or Utah, where the snow is softer and more prevalent, then a mid-fat all mountain ski will be a perfect fit and you can confidently make your purchase. If the hard-packed and often icy mountains of the Northeast are your stomping grounds, then a slightly narrower ski with an emphasis on carving will most likely be the ticket – pull the trigger.
Also important to consider when evaluating the destination factor is your reliance on airline travel. With baggage fees and the general wear-and-tear associated with cargo holds, this is an especially important instance for a cost-benefit analysis. Is the familiarity of your own skis worth the added cost of traveling by plane with them? It’s not an easy question to answer, but recent trends have seen more and more people settling on the rental ski option.
What Time of Year Is It?
Some months in the mountains are relatively predictable in terms of what you can expect from snow conditions. Others, far less so. In our own Utah mountains, for example, the month of March is incredibly bipolar. Some days you’ll find true spring skiing with temperatures in the 50’s and the snow rapidly disappearing. Other days, winter fights back with a vengeance and the powder falls by the foot. The point of this, of course, is that March in Utah is a classic example of a time of year when it is nice to have the versatility of a full rental fleet at your disposal. The ability to switch between groomer carving skis and full-blown powder skis is the best way to guarantee you make the most of the conditions you encounter.
What Rental Shops Are Available?
Not all ski rental shops are created equal. And not all ski destinations offer the same caliber of shops. Before making your decision on whether to buy or rent skis, assess the quality of the rental shops that you will typically have access to. Nothing will ruin a ski trip like a poorly maintained, antiquated pair of skis, so if you aren’t confident in your rental shop options, then owning a pair of skis is the easiest way to ensure peace of mind.
How Well Do You Deal With Change?
How important is it that you have a trusty pair of skis under your feet when you encounter challenging new terrain? While that sounds like a leading question, there’s far more personal preference to the answer than you might think. While some people only feel confident exploring a new mountain with their own, predictable skis, others aren’t quite as worried by the prospect of a little added time getting to know a foreign pair.
That being said, this Buy/Rent factor leans in the favor of buying. When purchased through a ski test program, your own pair of skis are guaranteed to be the best answer to your personal skiing style. Rental skis, while able to be matched to your general waist width preferences, are in no way guaranteed to properly match the style, speed, or aggression with which you ski.
Where Do You Value Convenience?
Obviously, when considering traveling to and from the mountain, doing so without the added burden of carrying ski equipment makes this an easier task. That being said, once you arrive at the mountain, rental shop lines can put a serious damper on the initial excitement. So, if the ability to clip in and go is an important factor to you, you’re a serious candidate for owning skis. If the hassle of transporting ski gear makes rental lines seem manageable, then renting is your answer to the question of convenience.
What Are Your Goals?
If your goal each time you go skiing is to improve your skills and push yourself as a skier, then the decision to buy skis is a no-brainer. Familiarity with your skis is the best way to ensure that you can focus on the finer points of skiing and truly progress.
However, if your typical ski vacation involves a fair amount of time spent with skiers of varied ability levels or young children, then perhaps renting is your best option for the time being. Sometimes a ski trip is simply about having a good time with good company, and in that case, the specifics of the skis on your feet are not a make-or-break influence.
As you can see, the decision to buy or rent skis is influenced by a wide range of determining factors. There is one constant, however, and that is that no ski should ever be purchased without being personally tested first. Watch our detailed explanation of how to pick your ski (below), and if you’re coming to Park City, consider resolving this whole debate with the Jans Ski Test Program. If Park City isn’t in the cards, make sure you find a ski shop that offers a similar program before making the decision to purchase.
Nate Tomlinson, Content Writer