Paying down to gear up

At the risk of sounding like a TV carpet pitchman — if you paid full price for your ski and snowboard gear, you paid too much. You might look cooler with the latest style, but the only reason you’re skiing faster is because your light wallet isn’t slowing you down. Here are eight tips for saving some cash when you gear up.


So you don’t want to shell out $600 for skis, boots and bindings that junior is going to outgrow by next year. That’s why most ski shops offer season leases. At Sturtevant’s in Tacoma, you can rent a full, entry level setup from October to May 1 for $129 for kids, $169 for young teens and $199 for adults.

At Sportsman Chalet in Bellingham, a seasonal lease runs to $125 for kids and $239 for adults.

But owner Noel Lemke says few adults lease their skiing or snowboarding gear because they’ll likely keep their gear for a few years, unlike children going through growth spurts.

“We do very few of those. It’s mostly for the kids,” Lemke says.

Budget-conscious families could combine leases and gear purchases to save money, according to Lemke.

If they have two children, ages 8 and 6, they should consider buying new gear for the older child and leasing for the younger, Lemke says. That way the new gear could be used for three years as it gets passed on to the younger child, he explains.

Once the kids are done with the gear, recoup some of your money by selling their old skis and snowboards at gear swaps.


There are a few of these in Whatcom County that offer rich opportunities for those looking to save some money. Options include:

• Gear Grab at Western Washington University on Nov. 29. It runs 5-8 p.m. in the Viking Union multi-purpose room. Local businesses, including Backcountry Essentials, Fairhaven Bike & Mountain Sports, WWS Board Shop, American Alpine Institute and Sportsman Chalet, will be there to sell new and used gear.Those who have gently used gear may bring them to buy, sell or trade with other shoppers at the event, which also will showcase the music of Savage Henry, with its blend of rock, pop, funk, punk and ska.

Organizers say bring the kids; it’s a family friendly event.

You’ll have to keep these other two Bellingham events in mind for next year:

• Mid-October: Winter Gear Swap at Sportsman Chalet.

• Oct. 23-25: Komo Kulshan Ski Club Ski Swap in the multi-purpose room at Bloedel Donovan Park.

CLASSIFIEDS The classified pages or a classified Web site, such as Craigslist.com, is a good place to get deals on gear. Some ski shops will even unload last year’s gear this way. However, Keith Rollins of Sturtevant’s says to do your homework. “I have people coming in all the time who got a great deal on bindings but have a piece missing,” Rollins says.

Thierry Werderits, a ski instructor and Fairhaven Bike & Mountain Sports employee, echoes that warning.Make sure, for example, that used skis have enough metal on the edges so that the skis can still be tuned, Werderits says.

ONLINE AUCTIONS Web sites such as eBay and auction.com are another good place to get a sweet deal on gear. However, Rollins offers the same warning for this method of shopping: “Do your homework.”

“Make sure you know what you’re getting. Make sure the person who’s selling it to you knows what they’re doing,” says Lemke, who reports seeing a 250-pound guy coming in with women’s skis that he bought off the Internet.

There are some key considerations when buying used gear for children, Lemke says.

“Make sure kids are in kids’ gear, not small-adults gear. There’s a big difference,” he explains. “They can’t bend an adult boot. If you can’t bend a boot you’re not going to be able to turn the ski very well.”

SHOP OFF-SEASON OK, this bit of advice isn’t going to help you now, with the season looming. But if you can survive one more season on that beat-up snowboard, you are sure to score a good deal late in the season or during the summer — especially if you don’t mind using last season’s gear or gear that had been used by a shop as rentals. Buying early, before the season starts, also will save you plenty of dough.

Both Fairhaven Bike & Mountain Sports and Sportsman Chalet, for example, have good deals during their Labor Day sales.

DEMO DAYS Not only are demo days a great opportunity to try the latest skis and snowboards, but also they’re often a good opportunity to get a deal. Rollins says Sturtevant’s best deal on next year’s skis is at the late-March Spring Fling at Crystal Mountain. You’ll have to preorder at the event, then pick up your new skis in the fall.


It might be worth it to scout the inventory at Second Ascent (secondascent.com), a Seattle store that sells used gear. Second Ascent will also buy your used gear if it is in good shape. Play it Again Sports (playitagainsports.com) offers a similar arrangement. You can find Play it Again in Bellingham at 1155 E. Sunset Drive in Bellingham.

RESORT LEFTOVERS Every other year or so, many ski areas sell their rental fleets to local ski shops, which in turn sell this used, entry-level equipment at steep discounts.