If you’re planning to take your kids skiing or riding for the first time, you probably have a lot of questions about ski, snowboard and equipment rental. Don’t worry. Everyone from the most experienced skiers and riders to those on a ski vacation for the first time have questions about equipment needs, rentals and safety when it comes to protecting their child.
Adults in charge of planning a ski vacation need to know a few basics about kids ski rentals. Below, we break down the entire rental process from the initial planning through returning your equipment. The suggestions below generally apply to any ski resort in North America, but it’s best to research your specific destination once you’ve made your plans. Use our tips below as a checklist to ensure you have all of your bases covered.
This may seem obvious, but the first step to any successful mountain ski vacation is to make sure that your youngster likes the cold weather. Most parents will start out by playing in the snow at home, throwing snowballs, and even sledding. This is a good way to expose your child to the cold weather and all of the processes involved in getting prepared to go outside. It can also show them how fun it is! Looking at pictures of mountains and talking about skiing with your child can also be beneficial, especially if you live in a climate where it rarely snows. Once you’ve established a love for the outdoors when it’s cold, it’s time to plan your family ski vacation.
What to Rent
Once you have selected your ski destination and travel arrangements, your first move should be to secure lodging and lift tickets for your vacation. This will ensure that you have a place to stay and access to the mountain for the dates that you want to ski or snowboard. Once you have those plans set, it’s time to think about gear and equipment rental.
There are more than 9 million active skiers and snowboarders in the United States, and most of them rent their ski and snowboarding equipment. This is especially true with children, since kids continue to grow year after year. It can get awfully expensive if you purchase new ski gear every year, so a majority of families rent while on vacation. All ski rental shops should offer a nice selection of equipment for children.
First, you’ll need to decide if the child is going to ski or snowboard. There is no real answer to this question, it is merely a matter of personal preference. There are plenty of people out there who do both, and children are typically better at learning both at a young age, if that is your preference as well. All popular ski resorts in North America should offer both skiing and snowboarding lessons, but classes may be separated or at different times. Keep this in mind when making your plans.
Next, it’s best to see if you have any winter gear from home that you can use on a ski vacation. This could include a large winter jacket, ski pants, gloves, thermal underwear, heavy socks, sunglasses or goggles, earmuffs, scarves, and additional items that you can layer. When on the mountain, it’s best to dress warm in layers, and peel of clothing as needed. It’s always better to have too much than not enough! You should be able to rent or buy most of these items at the ski resort or rental shop when you arrive, but be warned that the pricing may be elevated in some stores. It is recommended that you secure most of these items beforehand.
The basic gear for skiing includes a set of skis, a pair of ski boots and a set of poles. Helmets are strongly encouraged and often required at many resorts as well. Protective ski goggles are also strongly recommended, as it gets exceptionally bright on the slopes with the sun glaring off of the snow. Ski pants are also a popular rental, as most people don’t own a pair.
For snowboarding, you of course need a board, along with bindings and boots. You will also need a pair of snowboarding gloves, which are different from regular gloves. A helmet is strongly recommended and required at many resorts. Impact shorts, knee pads and elbow pads are also a good idea. Snowboarding apparel is often different than ski gear, so jackets and pants are going to have a different look and feel in some instances.
Where to Rent
A good ski shop should have excellent quality standard equipment, and may also offer premium equipment for rental. Most ski rental shops will have package deals that give you everything you need, and many have group plans for adults and children combos. Don’t worry about knowing everyone’s boot size or measurements. The seasoned professionals at most ski shops are eager to assist to get the appropriate sizes and fit. Many times, it’s best to trust their judgment and experience, especially if you are new to skiing or riding. But definitely don’t be afraid to ask questions or speak out and let them know if something doesn’t fit or is bothersome. They are there to help.
Pro tip: There are ski rental delivery companies available at many top resorts that will come directly to your hotel, condominium, or private home and fit your entire group for a skiing and snowboarding adventure. Some popular companies in North America include Ski Butlers, Door 2 Door and RentSkis.com. If you’re looking to save time or the hassle or going to a ski rental shop, then this may be a great option. When you’re vacation is over, they will come back and pick up everything!
What Age to Start
Generally, ski lessons for kids begin around age 4. Most ski resorts in North America offer ski lessons to children age 4 and over, although may start at 3 years old. Some private ski instructors may offers lessons to children as young as 2 1/2 years old. It largely depends on the child’s individual development, both physically and emotionally.
First Time on the Slopes
Lessons at this tender age should be short and fun. It mostly about introducing a toddler to the mountain in a positive way while touching on the physical fundamentals. While it is a slow and patient process, you will be surprised how quickly kids pick up skiing or snowboarding. (Often times faster than their parents!) If you’re planning a ski vacation for first-time skiers or snowboarders, you should plan on at least two days of ski lessons before you attempt to ski independently without a trained professional. Most children above kindergarten age are skiing independently after only a day or two of instruction. Children should continue to take lessons and hone their skills as they get older. Lessons should end only after the child has complete comfort on the mountain, and can maneuver safely and ensure the safety of others.
A quality ski rental shop should have ski gear and equipment available in varying sizes for children. If you go to an actual shop, plan to spend about an hour getting fitted for your equipment. There may be additional wait times during peak times during the ski season, so plan accordingly. It’s always best to reach out to your specific ski shop prior to your arrival to make an appointment or get specific instruction on how to best utilize your time.
A note about ski poles: It’s best to have ski poles for your child. If your little one is taking ski lessons for the first time, the instructor may not use the poles. Some instructors choose to teach younger skiers how to navigate properly without using them. This teaches the youngster to rely more on balance and technique, rather than using the poles to balance. Some instructors use poles from the beginning and others choose to introduce them later, after the child has demonstrated a proven ability to balance and move down the hill without them. Don’t be surprised if you see kids (and adults) skiing without poles. Keep in mind, ski poles are useful when climbing the mountain, walking or stationary turning. So it’s always best to be prepared and have ski poles for little ones.
The Once-In-A-While Kid
After you’ve rented skis or snowboard equipment the first time, you understand the process a little better. Your next ski trip won’t be so full of questions. For those who plan on skiing more regularly, getting your gear is just another step in the process. You’ll soon get to know the ski brands and develop your own personal preferences. As you begin to hone the craft of skiing or riding, you begin to delve more into the particulars of the sport, such as ski length, the different types of snowboards, and varying boot styles.
Ski shops are a great resource for kids looking to explore all that the sport has to offer. Most ski shops pride themselves on having all of the top gear. Like most sports, skiing and snowboarding are full of trends and dynamic changes. It’s an ever-evolving sport, and any ski shop worth its salt is sure to stay up on the latest trends and popular brands. Talk to your ski pro about what’s new and how you can elevate your kid’s game. Styles change each season, so what was in during last winter’s ski vacation isn’t always what’s popular this year. In fact, it rarely is. A good ski shop can be a Godsend to pennywise parents whose kids need to rock the fresh gear.
The Every Day Kid
Believe it or not, even kids who ski or ride every day rent their equipment. It just makes sense. Gear is not cheap, and most people cannot afford to buy their kids new equipment every year. Almost every piece of gear used in skiing and snowboarding is based on physical size, and it’s no secret that kids grow like weeds. A parent or guardian could go broke buying a new ski jacket, ski pants, skis, goggles, gloves and poles every ski season for 15 or so years until the child is fully grown.
Most parents also know that kids can be rambunctious from time to time, and things do break occasionally (or all the time). Renting ski gear ensures that you can get a replacement or a repair if something goes wrong. In most cases, the ski shop will work with you to get you back on the slopes quickly without a hefty price tag.
Local kids who are everyday skiers also love the variety and stylish clothing options that a top ski shop offers. Today’s kids likes to multi-task. Maybe it’s ski today and ride tomorrow? Renting gear gives you that flexibility, when purchasing all that gear could put you in the poorhouse.
When Is It Time to Buy?
Renting gear throughout childhood gives kids the opportunity to try different things. There are a lot of options out there in the growing sport of skiing and snowboarding, everything from innovative new equipment to top-shelf new fashion designers that are revolutionizing the industry. A quality ski rental shop allows kids to sample the smorgasbord and choose what’s best for their own individual style and taste.
Most skiers and riders wait until they’ve reached the level of everyday skier/rider before they purchase gear. Even then, many will continue to rent until they reach almost full-grown age, somewhere around age 18-20. Athletes who live an active lifestyle can get years of use out of quality equipment if it’s maintained and cared for properly.