Since its widespread emergence in eastern Canada in the 1950s and 1960s, skiing has been considered one of the most expensive sports for Canadians to pursue. Today, however, faced with climate, population, and recreational changes, the ski industry is increasingly adapting to 21st century realities, and making skiing more affordable for the customer. This series, which focuses on the two main costs of skiing, lift tickets and equipment, discussed new (and not so new) ways to save your hard-earned cash when purchasing lift tickets in Part 1. In Part 2, it will explore methods to save money when buying equipment, and obtaining high-end equipment at lower-end prices.
Despite the happiness of those involved in the ski industry 40 or 50 years ago, the mood for skiers looking to purchase equipment was not very happy. Those desiring high-end equipment were required, for the most part, to possess a "high-end" wallet and shell out big bucks. Apart from Boxing Day and intermittent sales, there were few ways to save if you truly wanted high-performance or name brand equipment. Today, however, with rising fixed costs and decreasing disposable income for many Canadian families, the retail ski industry has had to adapt in order to provide customers the same gear they have always been accustomed to, but at lower prices. Furthermore, people today desire high-end equipment without wanting to pay dearly for it. The following are some money-saving techniques to get the equipment you have always wanted at low prices.
Buying Last Year's Equipment: Come fall, many small, independent ski stores have gear that is leftover from the prior season. This leftover gear is a pain to shop owners, because it takes the spotlight off their new merchandise and hogs valuable space in the store. As a result, they desperately want to get rid of it, and frequently are willing to dispose of it at or near their initial cost. For shoppers, this translates into brand-new, never-used gear at 40%-50% off, or even more! Unless you are fixated on getting the newest gear, explore this option in great depth, because often, the only changes to equipment from year-to-year are colours, trim, etc… In order to get the best selection of last year's equipment, consider shopping after the season has finished (April/May) or well before it has started (September or October) – That is when the stock will be the best!
Buying Demo Skis: Most ski shops located at or near ski hills offer demo skis, which are available to customers to try before purchasing their own equipment. Similarly, most manufacturers maintain a fleet of demo skis for when they tour ski hills for demo days. In order to stay in tune with the newest equipment, these demos are used for at most one season, but often even less. Manufacturers and stores then liquidate these skis at unbelievable prices to frugal customers, often at 50%, 60%, or even 70% off regular prices! For those worried about having used or damaged skis, keep in mind: most demo skis are used for three or four runs, and the skis aren't used more than a few dozen times. This is equivalent to a few full days of usage, so if you can accept a few cosmetic surface scratches, you can get virtually brand-new skis for a huge discount. Be sure, however, to inspect closely the base of each ski, for scratches or nicks too large to be fixed by a tune-up. If demo skis interest you, consider shopping pre- or post-season to benefit from the widest selection.
Shopping from Online Retailers: Today, like almost anything else, ski equipment can be purchased online. While this option is clearly not for everybody, it is a great way to save money for those comfortable shopping on the Internet. Granted, since you cannot actually see, feel, or try the equipment, it is only a viable option if you know exactly what you want. For daring shoppers, however, this can work if you go to a store, decide what you would like to buy and in which size, and then return home and purchase your gear online. A quick browse of various online stores, such as kunstadt.com, skis.com and levelninesports.com reveals discounts from 20%, all the way to 80% off. Online retailers also offer frequent promotions, so unless you have to, do not buy right away. If you wait a few weeks, a promotion might allow you to save even more money. Possible pitfalls when shopping this way, however, include not being able to receive your equipment right away, not getting exactly what you need or want, and shipping inconveniences.
Shopping from Classified Websites (Kijiji, Craigslist, eBay, etc…): If you are an infrequent skier or simply cannot justify spending hundreds of dollars on skis or boots, consider browsing various classified websites such as Kijiji or Craigslist. Especially during the winter season, they feature many owner-posted advertisements for equipment ranging from barely used to well worn. A quick browse at the time of writing revealed many sets of ski boots for both men and women for sale in the 40$-60$ range, and pre-owned but definitely still usable skis for as little as 80$ to 100$. With this type of shopping, significant caution must be taken concerning the condition of the equipment and its usability. If your find turns out to be in good condition, as most probably are, you can enjoy your equipment for years to come, as well as the peace of mind knowing you bought it for little money.
One of the most popular age groups for which to purchase cheap ski equipment is children. This is with good reason: children outgrow their skis and boots quickly, and it is very costly to replace their equipment every year. As a result, there are many options available to parents looking to score great gear on the cheap.
Stores with Ski Swaps: Many independent ski stores offer large pre-owned ski and boot collections, and carry especially large stock for children. While not usually high-performance, the equipment is generally very inexpensive (100$-200$ for skis, 50$-100$ for boots) compared to purchasing new. These stores generally get their stock from customers, who sell their equipment back to the store after having used it for a year or two. For parents who must purchase equipment for their kids every year, this system works perfectly: buy a set of skis and boots for a low price, use them for a year, then bring them back to the store and give back the equipment for a credit on new equipment. Furthermore, if one has multiple children, the equipment can be passed down from child to child, making the equipment last even longer! For the majority of children who just ski casually, this is one of the best (and cheapest!) ways to acquire equipment.
Seasonal Equipment Leases: Many ski shops offer seasonal equipment leases for children. Usually comprising of skis, boots, and poles, these packages are perfect for parents who want a no-fuss, no-hassle solution to acquiring ski equipment: Simply use the equipment and then return it at the end of the season. Ranging from 120$-150$ for used equipment to roughly 200$ for new equipment, this method is worth one's while if their child skis as little as 5 or 6 times per year (considering a 20$-30$ daily equipment rental cost). While maybe not as cheap as buying second-hand equipment, a seasonal lease is great for parents who do not want to experience the hassle of shopping with children or maintaining equipment.