There is one question I hear a lot. It is a question asked mostly by ski beginners or people who have kids starting with winter sports. Is it better to buy or rent the skis and ski boots (or snowboard and snowboard boots)?
I do not have a one-sentence definite answer. It really depends on many factors. To make things easier, I wrote down all the pros and cons of renting and also buying skis. I wrote about alpine skis most of the time, but almost all can also be applied to snowboards and cross country skis. In the end, I added a few notes about specifics for kids skis, snowboards, and cross-country skis.
Ski Rent Advantages and Disadvantages
Probably the most crucial parameter is the price. Currently, the costs per day for ski set rent varies from $40 to $70 in different resorts. The exact price depends on the type of skis (if they are standard, for advanced skiers or professional skiers) and what your ski set includes. You can rent just skis with ski poles, or you can add also ski boots and ski helmet with ski goggles.
Some rental shops also offer season rental. For a higher price, you can borrow one ski set for a full season.
Quality of Rented Skis
Ski rents have a wide selection of skis. They offer different brands, sizes, and models. The ski rent personnel will help you with picking the right ski pair for you.
Ski rents also keep the skis in good shape. The edges should always be sharp, and skids should be almost without scratches. At least at the start of the season. You need to keep in mind that skis from the ski rent are used skis. And even with the highest possible care, you will find some scratches on them.
Testing different ski models
Renting skis allows you to test various models. You can pick different brands, models, and lengths of skis every day. However, renting skis is different from testing the new releases. Rentals usually offer previous seasons models. If you want to test new models, then look for testing days organized by ski manufacturers or ski shops.
Transport and Storage
You do not need to reserve space at home for skis when you are using ski rent (do not apply for season ski rental we mentioned above). Transport is also not a problem if you are using ski rent in the ski resort.
Ski boots, ski helmets, and ski goggles are usually sanitized after use by ski rents personnel. Still, it can be a problem for many to use ski boots, helmet, and ski goggles that were used by other people (many other people) before.
Buy Skis Advantages and Disadvantages
New skis (or ski sets with poles and bindings) are priced in the range of approximately $300 to $800. The exact price depends on the brand, model, and technologies used. Ski boots are available from $80 to $300, and ski helmets and ski goggles cost another few bucks.
Quality of Skis
Buying skis means you will pick the model you like the most, the model that fulfills your expectations and levels and improves your skiing capabilities. The new skis are in top shape, but using them also requires some service. You should repair the skids and sharpen the edges after every season in ski service.
Top Alpine Ski models for the upcoming season can be found here.
Testing different ski models
Buying skis means you are skiing on the same skis every day. Testing days of manufacturers will be an only exemption. However, you will always ski on skis that are the most suitable for you. The ones you picked after you made a reasonable decision. Skis that were adjusted and are the best for you.
Transport and Storage
You need to find a place for storing the skis during the season, and off-season (Ski storage racks can be the right solution). You have to care about transport and invest in car racks or rooftop cargo carriers.
Ski boots, ski helmet, and goggles are just yours. Nobody else is using that, and even the most prudent people will be satisfied.
Rent or Buy Kids Skis?
It is a little specific when you are looking for skis for your kids. Kids are still growing, and you need to change the skis (because of height and weight) every two or three seasons. That can be really costly. The ski rent looks like a more acceptable alternative.
It can be different with ski boots, ski helmets, and ski goggles for kids. You would not probably take any hygiene chances and should prefer buying this ski equipment.
How to choose snowboard for kids?
Snowboard and Cross Country Skis Rent Specifics
All parameters described above are relevant for snowboard and cross country skis too. The only thing specific for them is the availability of snowboard rents and cross country skis rents.
In my experience, snowboards are usually available in ski rents, but the selection of models is lower than for alpine skis. It is good to check in advance and reserve your size.
Cross country skis renting can be a problem as just the most prominent resorts with a lot of cross country trails have cross country ski rents. Again, I strongly recommend checking in advance if there is a possibility to rent cross country skis in your ski destination.
Buying Cross Country skis gives you freedom to ski wherever and whenever you want. Cross Country skis are usually available also out of regular ski resorts, in parks, golf courses, on meadovs. Without your own skis, you will always be dependent on regular (mostly paid) resorts.
Top Cross Country Models for an upcoming season can be found here.
Summary: Rent or Buy Skis?
Now you expect the answer. Rent or Buy Skis?
It seems that everything I wrote above points to ski rentals, but it is not that easy after all. The decision about rent or purchase depends mostly on your skiing habits.
If you are skiing just a few days in a season (a week or two) and in different ski resorts, then the ski rent should be your choice. Rent will relieve you from the need to find storage place, solving the transport issues, and probably also saves you some money.
If you are skiing regularly (a few days every month of the season), then buying skis can be financially advantageous. You are probably keen on skiing, so finding storage place and transporting skis will be a joy for you.
I also recommend ski rent to beginners, people who would like to try skiing. Buying skis are for intermediate and advanced skiers who found out what type of skis (models, length, carve) suits them most.
I recommend buying your own set of cross country skis, as advantages (freedom of choice of ski trails) prevail on disadvantages (transport and storage).