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Ski gear has never been better than it is today, with an almost endless range of options for high-performance racers, freeriders, park rats, beginners, and everyone in between. Living in such a golden age of ski technology is a privilege, especially for those who know first-hand how far it’s come, but the price we sometimes pay for such a broad array of options is colossal indecision.
Although buyer’s remorse is rare when it comes to skis, pulling the trigger can be hard, especially when outfitting a family of humans whose dimensions, needs, and interests waver and wane by the week. But what if there was another option that made this financial commitment less permanent?
Enter seasonal rentals. They’ve been around for a while, but for a long time any mention of the word “rental” could ignite flashbacks of jabbing pressure points and fetid smells of clunky, packed-out boots that could moonlight in a greasy bowling alley. Lifeless skis with dull edges were often mounted with bindings so loose they would release if you sneezed too hard.
But our sport’s progressive advancements and demand for high-quality ski gear has trickled down to rental fleets. Atomic, Rossignol, Head, and Nordica have all pushed hard to improve the quality of their rental products, with Head committing five years of testing and development to their Ambition and Ambition Pro lines. “We have rental-specific rocker and progressive radius, which helps skiers initiate their turns, eliminate edge catches, and connect their transitions from edge to edge and provide a smoother carve,” says Marshall Mayhew, Wintersports Operations Specialist for Head. “For durability, our rental products have concave top sheets and protective frame and chamfer designs to provide increased durability. For more advanced skiers, we’ve added three additional performance rental skis to the 2021-’22 season rental fleet on top of the four performance models that we already had in our line.”
Beyond the rental shops at resorts and most local ski shops, private companies often buy the previous year’s rental fleets in good condition, tune them up, and have great deals on seasonal, long-term rentals.
“The case for seasonal rentals (for kids especially) is strong,” says Chris Benelli, owner of Portlandskirentals.com in Portland, Oregon, where adults can rent an entire ski, boot, and binding setup at $250 for the whole season, $150 for kids. “Seasonal rentals are cheaper than buying new gear but less hassle than the used market without the risk of getting incorrect or incompatible equipment.”
If your kids outgrow their gear mid-season, as they tend to do, seasonal rental companies will typically let you swap gear out for new sizes and offer season-long support for any gear that breaks or malfunctions. Many services include free waxing and tuning, local pickup and delivery, and, from an environmental perspective, you can feel good about creating less waste by not buying new stuff that you don’t really need. Plus, on those sneaker powder days, the last thing you want to do is spend the first hour of your day waiting in line at a goggle-fogging rental shop when you could be getting freshies on the slopes.
Perhaps the greatest perk of seasonal rentals is that rather than having to get used to different equipment every time you ski—not all boots and bindings fit together the same—skiing on consistent gear for the entire season allows you to become more familiar with your setup. And once summer comes around, you can save some serious garage space by not having to store an entire family’s worth of skis until next year.
To get your little ones stoked on their rentals, Benelli offers a few tips. “Make the skis into an art project with your kids!” he says. “Let them personalize their skis with stickers so they can feel connected to the equipment. Let kids get dressed in their ski gear and pretend to ski at home. Lay down some cardboard on the carpet, click them in and let them jump around to get used to wearing all of the gear.”