Should you buy or rent skis? If your thinking about learning to ski or skiing for a while you might be thinking of buying your own skis. There are a lot of things to consider when deciding whether to buy skis or keep renting. Cost, convenience, terrain, and ability level are all things to consider. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of buying skis vs renting.
Buying skis vs renting for the beginner skier
If you are new to skiing you should rent skis for your first few trips to the mountain. Beginners need shorter skis for the first few days until they can turn and stop successfully. Skiing is exciting and a lot of fun. Skiing is not for everyone. Most mountains have a package deal that includes lift ticket, ski school and ski rental at a discount price for new skiers. After your first couple days of skiing you will have an idea of whether you want to stick with it or not. Then it’s time to think about buying skis.
Advantages of buying
Cost – If you plan on skiing a lot, it can be cheaper to buy skis. The break even point for beginner equipment is 12 and 16 days of skiing. Advancing from a new skiier to an intermediate who can parallel turn on blue runs will take you 10 to 20 days on the hill.
Save time at the rental line – If you rent skis, you will have to wait at the rental line every time you go skiing. After waiting in line for a lift ticket it’s time to get in line again to get equipment. This can add an hour to your ski day every time you go that could have been spent skiing. You have to wait in line again to turn the equipment in at the end of the day.
Boots that fit – The worst part about renting ski equipment is the rental ski boot. They are the very cheapest, soft, uncomfortable boot made. If you look at rental ski boots and then look at ski boots you can buy you will notice a few things. The rental boots are plane looking with a few cheap looking plastic buckles. They look cheap because they are cheap.
Rental ski boots have been put on over by people of different shape and size feet. They will never fit your feet great no matter how you adjust the buckles. Rental boots are okay for your first few days skiing when you won’t notice the difference. After that, almost anyone will benefit from better fitting and performing boots.
Advantages of renting
You will outgrow your beginner equipment – As a beginner skier, you will progress from snowplowing or wedging up to parallel skiing. When you do you will want longer and stiffer skis. Beginner skis tend to be short and soft to be really easy to turn. If you buy pure beginner equipment, you will outgrow it after 10-20 days of skiing and need to upgrade. This means another new set of skis and maybe boots. You may want to consider renting skis and boots until you can parallel turn and you are ready to upgrade.
Renting vs buying for the advanced skier
Advantages of buying
You want to ski a lot – Most skiers I know like to ski a lot. No one dreams of skiing only 5 days a winter. Most skiing enthusiasts ski anywhere from 20 to 100 days a winter. It will take somewhere between 13 to 19 days of skiing to break even on the cost of set of high performance skis. Someone who only skis 10 days per winter will still breakeven in 2 years. A set of skis may last 5 to 10 winters depending on how hard they are used.
You don’t want to spend time in the rental line – No one wants to spend the first few hours of a powder day waiting in the rental line. Having your own skis means you can jump right in line for first chair without waiting in the rental queue. I like to ski and prefer to ski more and wait in lines less.
Skis that work with the terrain at your home mountain – At many mountains they may only have 1 ski available to rent and it’s most likely a beginner level ski. What terrain do you like to ski? Powder, bumps, groomers? You can do almost anything with an all mountain ski but you can do them better with specialized skis. If you own your skis, you can buy skis tailored to the terrain you like to ski the most.
You get to know your skis and how they perform – If you ski on one pair of skis all the time you get to know them really well. You can take full advantange of all the performance they have to offer. If you use a different set of skis every time you ski, you will spend some time getting used to them. You won’t be able to instantly push them to their limits right from the first run of the day.
Advantages of renting
Easier to travel – As an advanced skier you probably like to travel to better places to ski. I enjoy skiing in Michigan but I’ll take any chance I can get to hop on a plane out west. Travelling with skis is a pain and it’s expensive. It’s much more convenient to rent a pair of skis where you will be skiing than to travel with skis.
No need to spend on tune ups or waxing – If you own skis and ski on them a lot, they will lose their new ski feel after a few days on the mountain. You will need to wax and tune your skis regularly to keep them feeling good. Wax and tunes aren’t free. If you use rentals they will always be in tip top condition with fresh wax and tune.
Always skiing on the latest gear – High performance ski rentals are never more than 1 to 2 seasons old. Ski resorts sell their demo fleets off after 1 to 2 seaons. With high performance rentals you usually get new skis. These will have the latest design and technology advancements. You won’t ever feel like your skiing on 80’s long skinny skis from your friends garage.
Using demo skis can be a great answer to renting skis for advanced skiers. If the mountain has a good demo shop, you can try out the latest high performance skis and see what you like best. Many demo shops will let you trade skis as many times as you want during your rental. I did this at Whistler a few years ago and they offer several places on mountain to switch skis during the day. Even if you are thinking about buying skis, trying a demo ski for a few days can still be a good idea. Nothing you read about skis will tell you as much as spending time on the mountain trying them out.
Buying boots and renting skis
Anyone past beginner level will want to buy their own ski boots even if they want to continue renting skis. Rental boots are awful. Rental boot padding has been broken in by a ton of different foot sizes and shapes. They will never feel as good as boots you own. Boots are not nearly as awful to transport on a plane with you.
If you take a flight to a ski resort destination your odds are good of seeing someone carrying on a set of ski boots. A great option for renting skis is to bring your own boots and then get demo skis or high performance rentals. You can have the advantages of owning your own boots that fit well with the convenience of renting skis.
Buying vs renting skis for travel
Advantages of renting
Traveling with skis is not fun – Even if you own skis for use at the local mountain, traveling to a resort for a ski holiday presents a whole new set of challenges. Skis need special bags to carry them in and most airlines charge a baggage fee to check them. The fee will run anywhere from $50 to $100 each way. When you arrive at your destination plan on waiting an extra 30 minutes to an hour for ski bags to come out after the rest of the luggage arrives.
If you have flown into DIA (Denver International) with skis you will start wondering where exactly your skis go between the plane and baggage claim because it takes so long. You can’t carry on a ski bag.
Your home mountain skis may not be right for your trip – If you live in the midwest or east coast, most of your skiing is on groomed or hardpack snow with little powder. When you head out west your hoping for a powder day to turn your trip into your dream ski trip. Skis for groomers and hardpack aren’t the right ski for powder. Renting skis at your destination can let you have skis that are ideal for the conditions you will be skiing in.
Disadvantages of renting
You may need to rent different skis at each mountain – The downside to renting skis with travel is this. If you want to ski at more than one mountain on your ski vacation, you may need to rent skis and return them at each mountain. I don’t know of any resorts that will let you turn in and exchange your demo skis at another resort. This applies even if they are on the same pass system such as the Vail Epic Pass. Renting skis for travel is great if you are spending the whole trip at once mountain. Renting skis for a trip can be a hassle if you are skiing severeal different mountains on your trip.
If you plan on taking your skis with you on a plane you will need to get ski bags and you will have to pay for a checked bag. You will have to hope your skis show up at your destination when you do. I’ve had skis not arrive with me but they have always been at the mountain by the next day. It hasn’t been a problem for me yet but some people have had to rent skis and gear after luggage got lost for several days.
If you are driving for your skiing you need to think about how you will get your skis there. If it is just you and your partner or friend you can throw them in the back. If you are filling the car with a few friends for a ski weekend you will need a ski rack or cargo box. See our article on transporting skis by car, truck or SUV to learn more.
Another option for renting equipment is seasonal rentals. Some ski shops and mountains offer this. You can rent a pair of skis for the entire winter. You can ski on them as much as you want wherever you want. You will be responsible for the cost if you damage or lose them. If you are the type who likes to buy a new pair of skis every year anyways this can be a good option to save a few bucks.
Online ski rentals
You can rent skis online and have them delivered to your destination. You can avoid the rental shop altogether. This works best if you know what size gear you need and know what you want. You won’t be able to swap gear like you can with a demo shop. At the end of your trip, you ship it back to the online rental shop. Ski Butlers is a popular and well known online ski hire. You can learn more about them here. Their current cost for entry level rentals is $49/day and $69/day for high performance rentals.
Buying vs renting skis for children
Kids grow fast and outgrow skis and boots fairly quickly. Many ski shops offer kids programs with seasonal rentals. You will exchange your childrens gear each year for larger sized gear the next year. This can be a great way for parents to save money over buying new gear every 1 to 2 years as your kids grow. Consider waiting until they can get 3 to 4 years on one set of gear before buying new skis and boots for them.
Speciality skis (Racing, Heli skiing, Moguls, etc…)
Most rental and demo skis will be fairly generic all mountain freeride skis or front side skis for on piste skiing. They will be groomer skis or all mountain skis without many other choices. Resorts out west will have some rockered powder skis as well. If your main interest is ski racing or moguls you won’t be able to find a rental race ski or freestyle ski.
If you do something like heli skiing, almost every service offers rentals for the day. They will have a 120mm or wider powder ski. By all means, use them and don’t use your own skis. If you are going heli skiing or cat skiing, use the rentals unless you have a dedicated set of powder skis.
Costs of buying skis
I looked up the cost for renting and buying ski gear at several ski resorts and ski shops to give you a good comparison. Below are some charts showing the average cost for gear in the United States in US Dollars.
Beginner ski gear
I looked up the cost for buying beginner gear as packages and individual items. Most ski shops will give you a package deal if you buy all your items at once. It won’t be as cheap as a package from Level 9 Sports or EVO but you get to try the boots on first.
I looked up the cost for buying beginner gear as packages and individual items. Most ski shops will give you a package deal if you buy skis, ski poles and boots all at once. It won’t be as cheap as a package from Level 9 Sports or EVO but you get to try the boots on first.
Beginner ski gear is softer ski boots with soft parabolic skis with lots of side cut. Beginner skis are usually sold with integrated bindings to make setup easier.
Intermediate to advanced ski gear
For high performance ski gear I looked up mid stiffness boots combined with an all mountain performance ski. These are roughly the same cost as higher end front side groomer skis or park skis. This will give you some idea what you can expect to spend.
You can buy skis and boots as a package online. I really don’t recommend this as you can’t try the boots on first. Boot fit is extremely important and you need to find a shop that knows what they are doing to get this right.
High performance skis are sold with or without bindings. All mountain skis tend to be sold as flat skis without bindings. You will need to add the cost of mounting ($50-$100) at a ski shop as well. See our article on the best type of ski for intermediate skiers to learn more about all mountain skis.
Another option to save money purchasing ski gear is to go to a ski swap and find used skis. If you aren’t sure what to look for, find an experienced skier to go with you to help sort through the gear.
Ski maintenance costs
Skis need some TLC. The 2 things you will need to do are wax skis and tune the skis (shape the base and sharpen the edges). If you gouge the base or damage the edge more advanced repairs might be needed. You should have your bindings checked by a technician every few years as well. Costs for a ski wax can be anywhere from $15 to $50. Cost for a full tune can run from $25 to $100. I get my tune and waxes as part of my season pass deal every year.
Waxing and tuning are not difficult to do at home either if you are a DIY kind of person. Some skiers like to wax between every ski day. Others do it once a season or less. Waxing and tuning may equal the cost for 1-2 ski rental days a season.
Costs of renting skis
Beginner ski gear
Most standard ski rental equipment and boots are oriented towards beginner skiers. The skis and boots are soft. The skis will have deep side cuts for easy turning. There are 2 groups who are the biggest customers for rentals at your local ski hill. Beginners who are skiing for the first time and occasional skiers who only ski a few times a winter. This gear is not high performance.
Intermediate to advanced ski gear
Some ski resorts offer a second level of ski equipment rentals for more advanced skiers. These will be high performance rentals or ski demos. A small local ski hill may not offer these. Most large resorts anywhere in the US and Canada with advanced terrain will offer this.
Renting vs buying ski equipment cost comparison
The breakeven point for whether you rent or buy is 12 to 15 days for beginner ski gear and 13 to 18 days for intermediate to advanced ski gear. Most skiers can make up the cost for buying gear in 1 to 2 seasons of skiing even at a really casual number of ski days.
Costs of renting a helmet
Many ski resorts include a helmet in the cost of their rental packages but there are still some that do not. Most rental shops at least rent helmets seperately. The average cost to rent a ski helmet in the United States is $12/day.
Rental ski clothing
Ski clothing can be another big expense. You can go down to the local Dicks and buy a cheap ski jacket and ski pants. They won’t be made out of good materials and may not perform that well. They won’t be breathable or insulated that well. Good ski clothing that performs well and lasts is expensive. Many ski resorts and online ski shops offer clothing rentals as well as ski and boot rental. They can set you up with a ski suit, ski goggles, helmet and everything else you need to stay warm on the slopes. Kitlender.com is a good source for online ski clothing rental.
Should I buy or rent skis?
To sum things up. If your a beginner you should rent gear for your first few ski days. After that you can think about buying skis depending on how much you will ski. If your an intermediate or advanced skier who skis regularly you will want at least one pair of skis. For ski travel, renting or buying skis can make sense depending on where your going and what you are doing.
You might also like:
- First Time Guide To Skiing Out West
- Solo ski travel (Have Fun Going Alone)
- The Best Ski Goggles Under $100 Helpful Guide
About the author
My name is Doug Ryan. I am an adventure sports fan and an avid skier, sailor, mountain biker who also enjoys paddle boarding, kayaking, wakeboarding, waterskiing, and travel. I take any chance I can get to get out in the snow or water. I actively run an adventure sports meetup where I get asked many questions. I decided to start Endless Rush Outdoors as a way to share my knowledge and enthusiasm for adventure sports their gear.