Equipment rentals—the part of a ski vacation that everybody loves to hate. Dropping an extra $100-plus on not-so-stylish equipment is sometimes a necessary evil, so we offer some tips to try and ease the sting a little.
My first piece of advice would be to skip the rental, frankly. Ask your friends a few weeks before your planned vacation—see if someone has gear you can borrow. If you’re going to rock ill-fitting gear, at least make it affordable. Another option, especially for those who have a few days to spend on the Eastside, would be to hit one of the awesome thrift stores (the Cast Off, Second Chance Thrift Shop) and score some lightly-used pants, jackets, or goggles instead of paying outrageous prices for them brand new, especially if you’re a once-a-year kind of skier. You can often also find high quality boots, poles and skis discarded by the glitterati of Mammoth who trade in their gear every season.
But let’s assume you don’t want to go that route. Then my first piece of advice would be absolutely get your gear the night before you intend to ski. Nothing is worse than staring out the window on a powder day as other skiers and riders get their freshies and you’re waiting to try on ski boots in a humid rental shop. Don’t put yourself in that position. Most ski rental joints in Mammoth will not charge you for an extra day if you rent your gear after 4 p.m. or so, and Black Tie Ski Rental even delivers to your door (but expect to pay a premium).
If you’re in the market to eventually buy, you may want to go the “demo” route (cool-speak for “demonstration”). You can try top-of-the-line, current season ski and snowboard gear and look like a cool flashy skier without dropping too much coin in a pair of skis that might not be for you. Shops like Mammoth Mountaineering, Kittredge, Footlose, and the rental shops at Mammoth Mountain all offer demo options.
If you’re skiing more than a few times a year, my recommendation is to at least buy a solid pair of boots—they’re arguably the most important component of your ski setup, so demo a few pairs and decide what you like best, and then customize them with a footbed from Surefoot in The Village at Mammoth if you really want the ultimate in comfort and performance.
Sarah Rea is a freelance dirtbag-turned-journalist who has been living in the Sierra on and off for twenty years, with eight spent in Yosemite National Park and five in Mammoth Lakes. She likes dogs, rocks, good food and jumping into cold water.