By Matt Myers
We own our gear, but it is truly painful to pay baggage fees when we fly. It's not a crazy amount of money, but it feels like it's a million dollar rip-off. Not that ski equipment is cheap, but at least we get to use that for a long while and they've more than paid for themselves. But we also rent sometimes, too, when it makes sense. So we have pulled together all of the various known costs, side-by-side, to RENT or FLY to help you make it make sense, too. But you may be strictly a renter right now and not have your own gear. And that's okay. We will get through this. We have also included some cost figures to help you find the point at which you are just throwing away money on renting vs. buying. There is a lot of data below, so hold your questions until the end, and snap your bindings down tight.
Here we are assuming that you own your gear, but are weighing the costs and hassle of taking them with vs. renting on site. So in these next two grids are numbers that we pulled from the Christy Sports rental process, Snowlink's "Ship Your Gear" table, and the updated baggage fee table from airfarewatchdog.com. Here's how the numbers stack up for skiers first, then snowboarders.
The various ski packages include skis/boots/poles/helmet. The snowboard packages include board/boots/helmet.
The Christy numbers are exact—including the 9.75% sales tax—from their site. This doesn't include the Colorado Ski Authority discount, but we'll get to that below. Is the sales tax different in other areas of Colorado? Really? Well, we didn't know that. The 9.75% gouge is from Beaver Creek.
The Shipping your skis/board numbers take the highest average, meaning from the farthest points in the US away from Denver. If you are flying in from Dallas/Chicago/Phoenix, prices will be considerably lower. From what we have heard, they will ship them right to where you are staying—not just a FedEx location; you just need an address. The people we've heard from really like this service, but we haven't used it. They also have a SUPER express option that arrives before you even make the request for an extra 300%.
Baggage is difficult because we have to assume so many variables about how many people in your entourage, number of bags, weight, size, personal items, etc. So we just estimated one extra bag for 2-3 days skiing and three bags for more than three days. So dial your game from here.
And of course, this is just accounting for one trip. If you are planning on more than one ski vacation in your life, well you'll need to open that calculator app on your iphone and do some maths.
Upfront: we have a deal with Christy. So if you click through from this page or from our site, you will SAVE 20% OFF your total at any Christy Sports location (even if it's not in Colorado). We have recast the same grid below, except these totals include that fat Christ discount. BUT WAIT. THERE'S MORE!!
Christy has locations pretty much everywhere across Colorado metros and in all of the major Colorado resorts. You can pick up or drop off your gear at any of their locations. And typically their shops are right close to the slopes. Big savings aside, Christy is just insanely convenient.
With the help from our pal over at AirFareWatchdog, we have a more detailed breakdown on baggage fees. Keep in mind that if your boots are in a separate bag from your skis/board, you might have to make the case to the airlines that they are one piece. It sounds like this *sometimes* works, but we're not in the habit of trusting airlines to give us a break, so assume the worst.
Keep an eyeball on the length of your bag. They have some pretty tight dimension requirements—not every airline is exactly alike—and no matter how heavy the bag is, it could bust their max. Careful.
Here are links to the ski baggage policies of the most common airlines that fly into Denver. You can get their exact definitions on checking ski and snowboard gear. Word to the wise: don't fly Spirit.
We know what you're thinking. That Fly and Buy converge into the same choice eventually. You're right. 1000 bonus points for you. And if you really are a Copernicus, looking at all the money you're likely to spend on renting skis/board, and thinking that you might want to instead invest that money in your own gear, well bravo, friend. Welcome to the game. But know that these numbers are huge generalizations. There are tons of variables at play here, and without knowing your level of ability, skier/boarder, price point, foot size, etc it's just too hard to give you an accurate reading. So what we have are some easy numbers. Meaning, if you spend this much, you will definitely get something good. You can certainly spend less, and you always go bigger, but at these prices you will definitely get in the game.
Skier Completely Outfitted = $1420. This includes skis ($500), bindings ($250), boots ($400), poles ($70), helmet ($100), and airline bag ($100).
Boarder Completely Outfitted = $1095. Board ($600), bindings ($225), boots ($250), helmet ($100), and airline bag ($100).
Here is a link to Backcountry.com where you can get a feel for what is out there and what it costs.
And here is a link to some Ski Bags on Amazon. Some of them cost way less than what we quoted above. All of those brands are ones we trust, however, we can't speak for the individual sellers. You are going to put $1000+ worth of equipment in there. Make sure you have the goods to protect them.
A few things to keep in mind on buying equipment.
#1. You are going to have to pay to ship these, either by checking baggage or actually shipping them, every time you hit the slopes. That bag will depreciate over each trip, but you will always have this cost.
#2. You don't have to buy everything all at once. Start with boots and helmet and work your way there. You will save $11/day from Christy if you have your own helmet. You'll also get a little discount on your ski package if you have your own boots. It's not great, but it's something.
#3. You don't have to buy everything. For our money, boots are the most important thing. You will immediately gain comfort and control, no matter what you are attached to. Your feet and lower legs hurt worse than anything after a day of skiing/riding, and new boots solve nearly all of this. They are also the easiest things to transport because they fit in regular-sized bags.
#4. We are quoting mid-season prices right now. There are TONS of great deals from rental shops—like Christy—that unload their demo skis at the end of the season. Or if you find some you like, wait and grab them online in the summer. Or, if you really need some help, just send us an email to matt(at)coloradoskiauthority.com and we will point you in the right direction to really get those numbers above down to a manageable level.
We hope this was helpful. If it wasn't, well crap.