Skis: hire or buy?

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Skis: hire or buy?

Experienced skiers will often have differing opinions on buying versus hiring skis, particularly where airline travel is involved. Given the baggage restrictions on air travel, taking your own skis often means compromising on what other luggage you can take, or paying more for the extra baggage allowance. So why do it?

Rentals: tuned and ready to pick up at your destination.

Hire cost and ski quality

Many people hire their gear at the ski area or nearby town when they go on a ski holiday. Hiring beginner or even basic intermediate skis is usually pretty cost effective. It's common for beginners to hire the full package - skis, boots and poles - so the ski rental shops are well equipped for it. If you're planning a long stay, then it may be worth looking into buying your own skis. Beginner skis can be inexpensive to buy, and you can potentially get a better pair than you will be able to hire.

If you want higher performance skis - or a pair of specific skis like powder or slalom skis - you can still hire them. Sometimes the choice of performance skis you can hire is limited, however at other times the ski shop might have a great range of recent model skis. If they do, you can spend your days trying different models, or using different types of skis for different conditions. Advanced skis are usually more expensive to hire than beginner skis, but if you're only going for a short holiday the cost is not prohibitive. Again, if you're planning a longer stay or are planning to ski every year, it's worth comparing the hire price against the cost of purchasing your own skis, particularly if you plan ahead and buy your skis during the end of season sales.

Ski shop peak hour

When you're on holiday, you don't want to waste time in the ski shop. Trying on boots, choosing skis and setting the bindings up all takes time. Time you could be out skiing or enjoying yourself! Ski hire shops are pretty efficient, but generally everyone is getting their skis before the lifts open first thing in the morning or when they shut in the afternoon: it's ski shop peak hour and it can mean time wasted. If you are hiring, it's often best to visit the shop the evening you arrive to avoid missing out on first tracks. The same goes if you want to swap any of your gear - for example, if the boots aren't right. A good alternative is to hire your gear online, ready for pick up at the shop in the resort or delivered to your hotel when you arrive.

Tuning and repairs

When you hire skis they come pre-tuned: waxed, with sharp edges, all ready to go. If you own your own skis then you'll need to get them tuned. Your skis will need a quick hot wax and edge tuning on a regular basis. At least once a season, depending on how much you ski, they'll need a more expensive base grindi. This will ensure your skis have the appropriate base structure for the type of snow you are skiing on. Base grinding needs to be done by experienced operators, so be sure to choose a reputable tuning shop and discuss your needsi.

If you hit any rocks you may also need a base repair. If you are a little bit handy, you can do basic tuning and repair yourself, but you'll need to have the equipment, which means more in your bag. Edge sharpening, waxing and basic repairs can generally be done by ski shops overnight, but it's still best to get your skis in as soon as you come off the hill. It's good to provide more time to the tuning staff for a base grind, so book it in on a rest day.

Getting there

If you are going to take your own skis, plan ahead. Be aware of bag restrictions on your airline. You might be restricted by weight, size, and/or number of bags. Oversize luggage - like skis - are generally allowed, however some airlines have limits on maximum lengths. Some airlines may charge a fee for oversized luggage while others may have a limit on the number of skis per passenger. Also, consider how many pieces of luggage you can realistically manage - particularly if you are travelling by bus or train to your final destination.

The investment in your own boots can be worthwhile, even if you hire skis.

It's worth considering a wheeled ski bag for all your gear. Bags like the Dakine Concourse Double can carry boots, poles, clothes and more. Be aware that these bags themselves are often not light - so you will lose some of your baggage weight allocation to the bag itself. If you are taking a separate ski bag with your skis and poles, look for the lightest possible bag that can protect your skis.

If you are travelling with a friend or family, it might be possible to take one double ski bag for both sets of skis. However, be aware that while beginner skis are usually short and light, powder skis are generally wider and longer: it's important to check before departure day that two pairs will fit in your double ski bag!

A word on ski boots

While you may be fine with rental boots, you might have to try more than one pair until you find ones that are comfortable. Ill-fitting boots can greatly impact your skiing enjoyment and progress. If you are going to rent ski boots, consider buying footbeds to help the rental boots fit better. Many advanced skiers agree that having your own ski boots is advantageousii,iii,iv. You can get boots that fit well and help you progress as a skier. You can also get your boots expertly fitted before you leave home or in the resort.

iThe Carver's Almanac, Tuning, viewed on 1 June 2015,

iiYounj, J 2014, 'Ski hire or schlep your own skis to the slopes?', On the Snow, viewed on 1 June 2015,

iiiIntersport Blog 2012, Taking Your Own Ski Boots On Holiday: Five Reasons Why It Works, viewed on 1 June 2015,

ivBradley, C., ‘Why do ski boots suck?‘, Blister Gear Review, viewed on 01 June 2015,