Winter is upon us, and with it comes access to adventures only available when the ground is blanketed in powder. But unless you happen to live near a ski resort or in the mountains, traveling to these winter playgrounds can be expensive. Even if you have your own gear, dragging it across the country to your favorite destination can be a pain in the neck and in your wallet — $125 for a pair of skis on most flights these days. So why not rent? If you have images of shoddy skis, grungy gear, and crappy clothes, prepare to be impressed.
Today you can plan a ski vacation and have all of your clothing and ski gear delivered right to your hotel. Instead of a pile of luggage to schlep to the airport and to your lodging, you can hop a flight with just a carry-on bag. So save yourself some cash and follow these tips.
Skis and Snowboards
Skiing and riding conditions vary everywhere you go. In the East, hard pack and ice require sharp edges and a stiffer ride; in the West, you’re likely to encounter more powder and will want an all-mountain ski. So take the guesswork out and pick up the equipment when you arrive. Out west, consider Black Tie Ski Rentals, the largest ski and snowboard rental delivery service in North America. You pick the resort you are visiting (they service 36 locations including Colorado, California, Canada, and Utah), the day you are arriving, and the time you want them to arrive. They will meet you at your room with gear matched to your ability. Their technicians will fit you in your room, and if you want to change gear later, they will bring new equipment to your door. Rentski.com is another option that will allow you to reserve the latest gear (Solomon, Volkl, K2, Rossignol, and Burton) online, and then pick it up in over 90 slope-side shops and in-lodge shops at 20 resorts. If you are heading east, contact the ski area you are visiting because each one has its own rental shop, many that let you reserve gear before you arrive. There are also several large outdoor stores that rent gear. East Coast Alpine, Buckman’s, Eastern Mountain Sports, and REI are all solid options.
The beauty of snowshoeing is just about anyone can partake in it, no prior experience required. It might be the least technical winter sport that there is. All you need are some warm boots and clothing, plus some snowshoes. You can rent them from REI and Eastern Mountain Sports. Both have rental desks located in each store carrying a wide array of gear, plus staff with intimate knowledge of the surrounding terrain. These spots also often have maps to share as well as tips only locals know. Some of the better snowshoe areas are intermingled with nordic ski areas across the country. Besides renting ski gear, most nordic centers also offer snowshoes. The Cross Country Ski Areas Association has links to over 350 areas with contact info.
Why drop a couple thousand dollars on the latest ski clothing when you can rent it for a fraction of the cost. That is the vision behind GetOutfitted.com, a company that will ship rental clothing to any resort in the country. It offers the latest gear from Patagonia, Burton, Roxy, and Obermeyer, freshly washed and ready for you to hit the slopes. All you do is preorder the components you want before you arrive, spend your vacation having fun, and then drop the prepaid return bag off at the front desk of the hotel on your way out of town. You can even get goggles, gloves, and skis/snowboards, and you can also purchase a base layer, if needed.
Ice climbing is something that is best done with professionals. The gear is specialized and there are some technical skills you need to master before climbing a frozen waterfall. The Ouray Ice Park located next to the town of Ouray, Colorado, has over 200 routes for all abilities. Ouray Mountain Sports rents a full setup of gear and has guides to boot.
If flying into Colorado to head into the backcountry to ski, Bentgate in Golden rents out touring, telemark, and splitboards from names such as Dynafit, K2, Rossignol, Never Summer, and Jones Solution. It also offers climbing skins, avalanche safety equipment, boots, and poles. In the Wasatch Mountains of Utah, Jans.com offers a wide array of gear that will equip you for days of hidden powder stash exploration. The Lake Tahoe region can have some of the deepest, and heaviest, powder there is. The Back Country has the gear you will need. Anywhere else, call the nearest resort and ask for the recommended shop, and you’ll be pointed in the right direction.
Brooklyn-based Geartogo.com has a full lineup of items you need to ensure you don’t turn into an icicle overnight. That includes tents, sleeping mats, stoves, crampons, cooking kits, ice axes, and the proper sleeping bags. Best of all: The company will apply 50 percent of your rental fee toward the purchase of the same type of gear if you decide to buy it.
There are over 350 Nordic ski areas across the country, and each has its own ski shop that rents terrain-specific equipment. Custom wax setups and tuning will help you have a great day on the trails. The Cross Country Ski Areas Association has links to most areas and is a great place to start looking for gear. If you want to head more off trail, and skip the established areas, REI or Eastern Mountain Sports both offer rentals, have locations in most major areas, and can provide you with the rundown on local trails.
Nothing can be more fun than ripping through the woods on a snowmobile. But they are not cheap and not as portable as your other skis. Luckily, more companies are allowing you to rent them. Try Gosnowmobiling.org, the official website for the International Snowmobile Manufacturers Association. With information on rentals and tours in 26 states, the site will point you toward the correct company to rent from and give you info on trails.