If you’re here on the Mountain Reservations site, you’ve already figured out how to help make a ski vacation more affordable, but what about all the gear and clothes? Until you try to outfit an entire family for ski season, you may not realize how expensive it can be! Getting the right gear for kids can feel daunting, but don’t worry: it can be done affordably. Start your quest for ski and snowboard gear early to find the best deals. As a skiing mom with three kids, I’ve learned a few tricks for finding used and new gear at low prices.
1. Attend a ski swap. The very best way to snag a deal on kids’ ski gear is to ‘think snow’ all year long, and look for discounted deals on skis and snowboards during summer yard sales. If you didn’t think that far ahead, the next best thing is a fall ski swap. Held in most areas with a ski resort nearby, ski swaps are ski-themed yard or tag sales where families can almost always find that next size up in ski or snowboard gear. If you go, be sure to arrive right when the swap opens (usually early on a weekend morning) for the best selection. Bring the kids to size gear, and put a pair of ski socks in your purse to try on boots!
2. Get to know your local ski shop. Many families overlook ski shops under the impression that they’re too expensive. Yes, they stock new ski gear and the sticker shock can be significant, but your local shop will also offer a few things no one else can: steep discounts on last year’s models, and often, ski gear exchange programs that allow you ‘buy in’ once for 3-4 years’ worth of skis or snowboards. How do they work? Parents pay once for a set of skis, boots, and bindings. Every year after that, they return the gear for the next size up…no further payment needed. This is a great way to keep up with growing kids without breaking the bank.
3. Join a ski race club. You won’t save a nickel by joining a racing program for your kids (trust me!). However, every race program has a network of ski parents with lots of equipment on their hands. Check out race program websites for their ski buy/sell/trade pages…almost all have them. Usually, families can contact one another independent of the club to arrange sales of used ski gear.
4. Patronize thrift stores in resort areas. This is a secret I am almost loathe to share. When you arrive in a ski resort town such as Vail or Tahoe, look up their local Goodwill or thrift store. Inevitably, their ski and snowboard gear and clothing is abundant…and high quality. Look for brands that feature ‘grow with them’ sleeve cuffs that can be let out as kids grow and quality manufacturers like L.L. Bean who offer lifetime guarantees on their outerwear. This tip is especially useful if you’ve arrived at your ski resort to realize you forgot something at home. Skip the extensive ski shop at the resort and head to Goodwill!
5. Waterproof outerwear and tune skis yourself. You can spend a lot of money buying specially treated outerwear, but wash-in products such at Nikwax work just as well, if not better. Ski tuning every year can add up as well. Don’t be afraid to teach yourself how to do it yourself! We use an old iron and a few boards in our garage to get it done, saving us a bundle. If you don’t want to buy costly tuning gear, hold a ‘ski tuning party’ with friends. Invite others to bring tools in exchange for providing the snacks. Alternatively, buying a season pass at a local resort often earns you discounts on ski tuning at the mountain.