How Do Ski Rentals Work? (Top Tips From Ex-Rental Shop Employee)
Renting your ski equipment from a shop, as opposed to traveling with it or buying new gear, is a great way to try out new equipment and save money and hassle while traveling or skiing in a new state. This service is offered at most resorts and independent shops throughout the country, but how do ski rentals work?
Each resort or shop will have its specific way of renting gear. Still, they all revolve around getting you the perfect gear for your skill level, getting you on the mountain sooner, and allowing you to test out the new equipment if you are unfamiliar with the sport.
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Renting Your Gear Vs Traveling With It
Even expert skiers with their own skis will find themselves in the rental shop at a resort because sometimes it is easier than traveling across the country with all of your gear. Whether flying or driving, ski gear takes up a large amount of room and can make traveling costly.
Flying & Driving
Most airlines are equipped to handle large items like skis and snowboards, especially in states with a substantial ski industry, but that doesn’t mean they won’t jump at the chance to nickel and dime you along the way.
Pro Tip: To find cheap flights to ski resorts, we use Skyscanner, which searches all airlines in one go.
Most airlines will charge a minimum of $25 for the first checked bag, but there is a very good chance that between boots, clothing, and skis, you will need to check at least two or three, which can cost upwards of $50 for the second bag and $100 for the third.
That’s around $200 just to check your equipment to fly with it one-way, not to mention that there is always a risk of your gear getting damaged in transit.
If you choose to drive, an entire set of ski gear won’t cost any more money to bring, but it can take up the majority of the room in a vehicle (consider a cargo box or ski rack). This is a precious room that could be used to pack your buddies into the vehicle, cutting gas costs.
When renting gear from the resort or independent rental shop, the gear is already there waiting for you, you only have to worry about getting it from the shop to the lift. This is especially convenient when traveling with a large group or with small children. Many skiers opt to utilize this easy method of outfitting the entire family, and it's not hard to see why.
Different Ways To Rent Ski Gear
When renting ski gear, there are a few different ways of reserving and obtaining the equipment, and each has its own pros and cons. Skiers can:
- Reserve the gear online or in-person
- Pick the gear up at the resort’s rental shop or use an independent shop located elsewhere
Key Takeaway: Usually, your best bet is to reserve the gear in person from a shop that is located at the resort you will be skiing at - saving time queuing and guaranteeing your size is in stock.
This allows the skier to remedy any unforeseen roadblocks that may occur, however, some resorts require that you reserve gear in advance so be sure to check with the mountain beforehand.
Reserving Gear Online Vs In Person
Reserving gear prior to your arrival is becoming a more popular way to do business, especially since COVID-19. For most people, this method is preferred because it saves time and the headache of waiting in long lines, but it opens the possibility of receiving the wrong equipment.
If you have ever ordered a pizza, only to have it delivered with the wrong toppings, then you know how disappointing it can be to get the wrong gear.
Important: Selecting the correct equipment is important for a successful day of skiing, and it can be unsafe to use boots or skis that don’t fit.
Showing up to get your gear in person eliminates the possibility of receiving the wrong size equipment and ensures that everything feels comfortable and isn’t damaged. Rental shop employees are trained to ensure the comfort and safety of the skier, so it is ideal to use their expertise when possible.
Renting Gear On The Mountain Vs Off The Mountain
Independent rental shops are abundant in ski towns, and often have competitive pricing compared to rental shops that are owned by the resort, but they have a major flaw that can end up ruining a day of skiing. This is the fact that they aren’t located on the mountain so if something is malfunctioning or is the wrong size, you will be out of luck when you get to the resort.
Generally speaking, rental shop employees are only certified to work on the skis that are rented from their shop. This isn’t to say that they don’t know how to adjust things like bindings and Din settings, but that they aren’t allowed to work on another shop’s gear because of liability issues.
For instance, if a resort worker agrees to adjust a skier’s bindings because the off-mountain rental shop set them to the wrong size and the skier was to hurt themselves using those bindings, the resort employee could then be liable for litigation should the skier choose to sue for their injuries.
Most employees would be more than happy to help you out but they have been instructed by their bosses to not do so in order to avoid a potential lawsuit.
This was a common problem that we saw on a daily basis working in a rental shop at a resort, but unfortunately, we couldn’t help the customer out. Skiers either had to drive all the way back to the shop they rented the gear from or had to pay to rent another set of gear from us so that we were legally allowed to adjust the equipment.
How Rental Shop Employees Select The Right Gear
Whether you choose to rent your gear on or off-mountain, the employees will be thoroughly trained in how to select the correct gear for you based on your size and experience.
Ski gear can be hot and uncomfortable for new riders, but you should trust that the employee helping you out knows what they are doing because they have been doing it for much longer than you have.
Different Types Of Equipment
Most rental shops will provide multiple types of gear, some of which are intended for beginner skiers and others for expert skiers. These are generally referred to as basic/sports packages for inexperienced skiers and performance/demo packages for those who are familiar with the sport.
Rental shop employees will measure your foot to select the correct size boot, sometimes they will err on the side of comfort for beginners because ski boots can be quite uncomfortable for first-timers and they don’t require a boot that is overly snug because they will be skiing at lower speeds.
More experienced skiers will receive a boot that is truer to size because they will be skiing faster, which requires more support on the foot to safely maneuver down the mountain.
Some shops will have a variation in how stiff their boots are as well, saving the stiffer boots for more advanced skiers that need more support at higher speeds, and the softer ones for beginners who are usually more focused on being comfortable.
The correct size ski depends on the height, weight, and experience level of the skier, and there are many more variables like width, stiffness, and shape that will also depend on the skier's abilities. Beginner skiers can expect to use a ski that is around shoulder or chin height, while more advanced skiers will use a ski that is as tall as them, if not taller.
Every rental shop employee knows the secret trick to measuring how long a pole should be based on the skier's height. Turning the pole upside down and grabbing the pole underneath the basket should produce a 90-degree angle in the skier’s arm.
Beginner skiers tend to want poles that are too long for them because they are used to pushing themselves around on the flat ground with them, however, this isn't advantageous because they just end up getting in the way and throwing the skier’s balance off.
Like ski boots, helmets can be hot and feel cumbersome on someone’s head who isn’t used to having the extra weight, but it is imperative that a helmet is as snug as possible (without cutting off circulation) to ensure proper protection.
Those who are new to the sport always tend to lean towards using gear that is too big because it is more comfortable, but helmets are the most important piece of protective gear and they need to be fitted by someone who is trained to do so.
Unforeseen Potential Costs (And How To Avoid Them)
Skiing is already one of the most expensive sports in existence, so it is always nice to save money wherever you can. There are some common mistakes that new skiers make that end up costing them more money in the long run.
Rental shops usually don’t care if their cheaper (basic/sport) gear gets damaged because it only takes a piece of equipment a few times after being rented to pay for itself, so there is a good chance the skis you rent have already paid for themselves 100 times over.
That said, performance/demo gear is much more costly and shops generally carry much less stock, meaning that they can’t replace a broken piece of equipment as easily.
Damaging performance gear will most likely leave you shouldering the cost of repairing or replacing it, but this isn’t always the case.
Employees understand that unforeseen things can happen on the mountain, and as long as you weren’t skiing on bare ground and you have been cordial with the employees they will usually work with you to find a solution.
There have been multiple occasions during my time working in a rental shop where I decided to waive the repair fee for a pair of skis because the skier was honest about how the damage happened and they weren’t combative about the situation.
On the other hand, I have also decided to have a customer replace a pair of skis because they were dishonest about how the skis were damaged or decided to make a scene.
There is nothing that annoys a rental shop worker more than customers who stumble in 30 minutes after the shop has closed without so much as an apology. Believe it or not, they have lives outside of the shop and many of them rely on employee shuttles that leave at a strict time every day.
Skiing is fun and these employees want you to have fun, so just try and be mindful of what time the mountain closes so that you can avoid possible fees for returning gear late.
Renting Gear is Easy
Renting ski equipment can be a confusing thought for those who haven’t yet done it, but it is actually much easier than one would think and it has its advantages over traveling long distances with a ton of equipment.
Beginner skiers should start off by renting gear instead of buying it, this gives the skier a chance to try different types of equipment before sinking a large amount of money into something brand new.
For those who have never tried renting ski gear before:
- Try to rent your gear on the mountain and in person to avoid any malfunctions in the equipment
- Trust the rental shop employees to outfit you in the correct gear, even if it feels slightly uncomfortable
- Mind the shops return policies and avoid skiing terrain that is above your skill level to avoid any extra unwanted charges at the end of the day