For skiers of all levels, the question of renting vs buying skiing/snowboarding gear remains. The common thinking is that it depends on the number of days you ski per year. While that is a major factor, there are a number of other advantages and disadvantages to renting vs buying skis.
The business of ski rentals has been growing every year and for good reason. In the past, ski resorts used to only rent their older skis which were beat up and didn't perform well. Now, most ski resorts allow you to rent top of the line lightly used skis which would cost upwards of $700-$900 to buy outright. For the majority of skiers, the main benefit of renting skis is the convenience factor.
You can now rent online at major ski resorts so that when you arrive, your skis will be waiting for you and ready to go. When you rent skis, you don't have to worry about traveling with them whether by airplane or by car. Some ski resorts even offer ski valet service where your rental skis are brought straight to your door.
Additionally, rental skis give you the opportunity to try out different pairs every time you ski. You can truly match your skis to the conditions outside. If it's just snowed and you know it will be a powder day, choose a pair of skis designed specifically to shred powder. If you're on the East Coast and can tell it will be icy outside, choose a pair of skis with sharp edges to allow you to quickly turn and carve down the mountain.
Obviously, there are some disadvantages to renting skis as well. The number one concern for most people is the price. Depending on the ski resort, the price of rentals can vary from $40 to $80 per day. If you are trying to do a ski trip on a budget, this can be a large drain.
Also, while you won't have to travel with your skis, you will have to show up at the ski lodge, wait in line, and sign paperwork, before finally receiving your skis and boots. This process can take a long time depending on how busy the ski resort is and delay you getting onto the slopes quickly.
When you receive your skis and boots, they also likely won't fit as well or be as comfortable as a pair of skis you buy. When you buy your own skis, you can have them tuned specifically to your liking and have boots custom molded to your feet. This can be a big deal – especially for ski boots which are large, bulky, and, for the most part, uncomfortable. If your rental ski boots don't fit well, it can be a pain to swap out boots before finally finding one that suits you.
While traveling and taking care of your skis can be an annoyance, owning your own skis can help you get on the slopes quicker and help make you a better skier overall. Once you show up at the ski resort with your own skis, you only need to get a lift ticket (which can be bought online) before hitting the slopes. This means that you'll be able to start skiing first thing in the morning before 90% of people even have their rentals.
With your own skis, you can also find a pair of skis that matches your style of skiing. As you put more time in on your skis, you'll get to know them much better than a rental pair.
One great aspect of skis and an important factor when thinking about buying skis is that they can last for years after the initial purchase. Depending on use, most skis will last anywhere from 4 to 6 years.
While there are many pros and cons to both renting and buying, at its core you can be consider it a math problem. Expect to pay between $600 to $1300 for a new pair of skis and an extra $150 - $250 for ski boots. All together, ballpark the total amount at around $800. Renting skis at a ski resort can cost between $40 to $80 so for this example, we'll say $40.
In this case, if you go skiing 4x a year and rent skis every time, you will pay $160. If you buy skis ($800), you will reach a breakeven point after 5 seasons. So, if you expect to keep your skis for longer than 5 seasons, it will make sense to buy skis instead of renting.
To keep it easy, ask yourself how often do you plan on skiing? If more than 4 -5x per year, buy your own pair of skis. If not, rent skis.
Depending on where you ski and the conditions, you may want to rent vs buying a pair of skis. If you live and ski on the East Coast but also go out West to ski a couple of times a year, you may want to rent skis. Powder skis are much better suited to the conditions at the ski resorts out West than they are for East Coast skiing. If you are constantly switching where you ski, it makes more sense to rent because you'll be able to get the best skis for the different conditions.
This question is primarily for the children and teenagers. If you are still growing, it often makes much more sense to rent skis than it does to buy. If your foot size and height are continually changing, you may buy a pair of skis only to discover you need a completely new pair the next year. For kids, renting ski equipment is the best option.
Something to consider in the buying vs renting debate is that many ski resorts offer a season rental option. For many people who expect to go skiing a lot at or near the same resort, this is a great option. While the specific rules for season rentals vary by the resort, often all tune-ups, maintenance, and any repairs are included free of charge. Overall cost can vary but typically a season rental will cost around $200/season. If you're in that in-between point where you like to go skiing 3 – 5 times/year but don't think you need your own equipment yet, consider a season long rental.