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Renting lets skiers try new gear, avoid bag fees

The Ski & Ride Center at Schweitzer Mountain Resort offers skis for rent. (Associated Press)
The Ski & Ride Center at Schweitzer Mountain Resort offers skis for rent. (Associated Press)

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. – Just like skiing in jeans or falling while waiting in the lift line, renting gear for a visit to the slopes used to be a sure sign of a novice.

Not anymore. Increasingly, experienced skiers see renting as an opportunity to use the latest skis – chosen for that day’s snow conditions – and avoid airline baggage fees.

Sue Killoran is one such convert. Last year, her husband and their two teenage kids joined her in Utah. All expert skiers, they brought the skis that they enjoyed so much at home in Vermont.

“It was a waste of money and effort,” Killoran said.

Her son’s skis were too narrow to float on the Rocky Mountain powder, so they ended up renting him wider, high-performance skis.

“It was really convenient,” she said. As conditions changed, “he could switch them out. He was much, much happier.”

Just as geography and snowfall can challenge skiers, so too can staying on top of the latest innovations.

As a result, some destination skiers – those who ski primarily when they’re away from home – think it’s more convenient and even economical to rent than it is to drop $500 to $1,000 buying a pair of skis, said Sean Mirus, marketing director for Schweitzer Mountain Resort in Sandpoint.

“Instead of buying a ski and using it for their one vacation a year, now people travel to a resort, pay $40 or $50 a day and get the best, top-of-the-line new gear,” he said. “You go the next year and again you have brand new gear, and you don’t have to worry about taking it on the airplane.”

To stay current, many stores upgrade their rental gear on a regular basis. Schweitzer, for instance, has an agreement with the ski manufacturer Rossignol to rotate skis every three years.

At the Yampa Valley Regional Airport that services Steamboat Springs, bids are being taken to allow rental companies to work with visitors while they wait for their bags, said airport manager Dave Ruppel.

“It goes into the system before the person even leaves the airport,” he said. “It shortens up the process later on.”

Ruppel said most people vacationing in Steamboat arrive with at least two bags, and sometimes three, which can cost hundreds in airline baggage fees.

“For not much more, maybe even less, than it would cost to bring your skis on the airplane, you can get a top-of-the-line demo package,” he said. “It’s a good deal.”