Children’s skis: rental or retail?
Some parents choose to purchase expensive new ski packages for their growing tykes. Others are haunted by images of once- or twice-used, outgrown skis and snowboards selling for a mere fraction of the price at yard sales, or having to donate them to thrift stores when they can’t sell them at all.
For families that take a ski vacation once a year at most, renting may be the obvious way to provide skis for your kids. Or for families that hit the slopes every weekend and holiday – fresh powder or not – owning the latest and greatest equipment may be a realistic choice.
But as kids’ excitement about a new sport turns to disinterest, purchasing brand new equipment that includes skis or snowboard, bindings, boots and poles, in addition to all the winter clothing, might not end up being used enough to pay for itself.
The way to figure this out is simple enough. Parents should compare the price of new equipment to the price of rentals times the number of times they rent. But there are some additional issues to include this equation. For some people, that number of times they will have to rent is unknown. And whether or not there are younger siblings to use of the equipment once its outgrown can make it more worthwhile to purchase.
When it comes to buying equipment, parents may try money-saving techniques to get the most use out of their equipment, but kids will be more comfortable when they have the right equipment.
"Boots that fit them properly is the most important thing. People have a tendency to purchase the equipment too large so their child can grow into it," said Jenna Prescott, American Ski Company’s VP of retail, who has run retail for 42 shops around the country.
American Ski Company, which runs The Canyons Resort, offers deep discounts for multi-day rentals and ski-school, to help offset the costs of rentals to vacationers.
But Park City’s ski and snowboard equipment shops offer deals that can lessen the burden of the rent or buy question, especially for local parents.
Living in a ski town, locals are always looking for a place to buy or sell old equipment. With some patience and time, finding used equipment is a little like playing the lottery. It all just depends on how many garage sales, yard sales and craigslist.com postings you have the time to dig through and how urgently you need equipment.
These options may offer you a lot in savings compared to buying new equipment or renting – if you can find what you’re looking for. Unfortunately there’s not as much variety at thrift stores or online and if there’s a problem with the equipment you can’t always take it back.
Tim Dahlin is the Director of the Christian Center which runs the Christian Center Thrift Store in Park City. He said they normally have three or four sets of kids’ ski equipment at any given time, getting the most in during April, as the season draws to a close.
"To be honest, because there is no snow, a lot of it is over in storage units. Because the snow hasn’t come, we haven’t moved it over to the thrift store. It will come shortly," Dahlin said.
If parents can’t find what they’re looking for at the Christian Center Thrift Store, Dahlin says he sends customers over to Replay Consignment, a used sporting goods store.
Replay Manager Nikos Sawyer said they generally carry a wide selection of used children’s skis, most of which range from 90 to 150 cm, and ski boots. Their selection even includes some unused equipment.
Sawyer says an average setup can range from around $100 to $150, a cost that is comparable to seven to 10 days of rentals. And purchasing allows parents to avoid the hassle of returning and re-renting skis throughout the season. Owning equipment also prevents inconsistencies, which comes with renting different skis each time, and allow kids to become more comfortable on their skis.
Season-long Lease Programs
Various ski shops in Park City, including Destination Sports and Cole Sport, offer season-long lease programs for growing children. Programs are generally based on ski size rather than age and provide kids with skis, bindings and boots for a flat rate. While you pay a fee that ranges from $119 to $250 to use the gear for the season, benefits over renting include that you don’t have to go back to the shop each time to get new equipment. Kids can hang onto the skis for the entire season, or come back and change the equipment out if they outgrow it or have any problems with it. Destination Sports also tunes the equipment if it is brought back into the store.
This is the first season that Cole Sport will offer season-long leases on for children’s skis. The Junior Ski Lease Program offers the opportunity for children to rent skis, up to 140 cm and boots size 6-7, for an entire season. Parents can save money and not be forced to sell or donate outgrown equipment at the end of one or two seasons.
The seasonal costs are $119 for gently used (in its second season), regular equipment, $169 for new regular equipment, $175 for gently used premium race twin tip used equipment and $249 for new premium equipment. When compared to $14 per day for a basic package, families that ski often can use this as an opportunity to save money on rentals. Because some children do not need poles, they are not included in the package. However, Cole Sport offers a 30 percent discount on poles for kids who need them and lease skis for the season.
Destination Sports lease program prices are based on ski length rather than new versus used equipment and are $125 for skis 80 cm to 110 cm, $150 for skis 120 to 140 cm, and $175 for skis over 140 cm. Varying qualities are available only for skis over 140 cm. Most season-long lease equipment at Destination Sports is three seasons old.
Unlike Cole Sport, Destination Sports also has season snowboard rentals available for $200. This program is not yet available at Cole Sport, but Cole Sport Manager Scott Dudevoir says if the ski lease program is successful this season, he expects they will expand it to snowboards in the future.
Aside from the opportunity to save money, the program also saves renters time waiting to have kids fitted for skis before hitting the slopes.
"The big convenience is that you don’t have to keep coming back to the store," Dudevoir said. "You take the stuff with you, and you bring it back at the end of the season. If you need to switch sizes you can do that at any point throughout the season."
The lease program at Cole Sport requires a deposit, equal to the cost of the package. For $25 parents can also purchase insurance which covers all damage to the equipment, aside from loss or theft.
This is only the first season Cole Sport has offered this program. There are currently around 200 pairs of skis available for lease, 125 of which are basic, recreational skis and the remainder are high performance. Cole Sport’s lease program was originally scheduled to end Dec. 2, but might be pushed back, as skis are still available.
Destination Sport views their lease program as intended to benefit local Park City residents, although there is no residency requirement, and their program will end Dec. 10. Equipment is expected to be returned in mid-April, when the resorts close, and Destination Sport also offers an opportunity to purchase leased equipment at this time.
"We make it possible for people to buy the equipment at the end of the season. Usually liquidate it out for $50 to $100," Destination Sports co-owner Tim Mertens said.
Destination Sports, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, has been offering a seasonal-rental program for approximately 25 years.
"I was a manufacturers rep in the ski industry for long before I ever had a ski shop. I brought a lot of ideas to our ski shop from Colorado, Wyoming, New Mexico, and California and I had seen it done in other places," Mertens said.
For parents who prefer to purchase equipment, Jans Mountain Outfitters offers a unique buyback program. According to Manager Bambi Wilson, the program was started over a decade ago by another manager who had young kids and understood well the predicament parents faced with rapidly growing skiers.
The first time parents buy skis for their kids through this program, they receive a 30 percent discount on skis, boots and bindings. If and when they choose to sell the equipment, Jans will pay them 40 percent of the purchase price in the form of store credit. Parents can they use that credit to purchase new equipment for their children, and receive another 30 percent discount. Jans does not buy back equipment that is damaged or more than three years old.
The buyback program offers a wider range of variety in skis and includes most children’s skis, save for some twin tips that are the exact model as the adults’. Parents can also receive a 50 percent discount on the previous season’s equipment, which can still be returned for a 40 percent credit, although it is eligible for one less year.
Parents can also opt to keep the skis in case their children can use them for more than two seasons.
"It’s your equipment, so if you don’t want to return it, you don’t have it," Wilson said.
Jans engraves all their equipment and keeps records of that they sell. They do not buy used equipment from elsewhere.
Like season-long lease programs, eligible skis are based on the size of the skis required rather than the age of the child.
What makes this program beneficial for everyone is that, not only does it provide parents with an opportunity to save money on new equipment, but also provides Jans with a wide selection of one-to-two-year-old used equipment for parents who want to buy used.
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