Skiing is fun, but wicked expensive. The full kit—boots, skis, poles, helmet, gloves, and outerwear—will likely run you at least $1,500. Thankfully, there’s a wallet-friendly way to get into the sport: buy used or discounted gear. You'll have to do more research if you shop this way, but the payoff can be considerable. Here are five places where you can buy an affordable kit before the snow starts flying.
Online Discount Retailers
Just like cars, last year’s skis go on sale once companies roll out their new models. Several online retailers, such as Backcountry Outlet and EVO outlet, have giant selections of last year’s boards. Warning: make sure the retailer has a good return policy, just in case you realize later you hate the pair you bought. Alas, there are no demo options this way.
New skis are shipping to your local retail store right now, and if the shop has any leftover skis from last year, they’ll likely be steeply discounted. Just don't go into a retailer, get advice, and then buy your skis online anyway. That's a faux pas in the ski world and a waste of the shop owner's time.
Some towns put on great ski swaps. Others are underwhelming. Check out a local paper for any swaps around you. If you find any, be sure to arrive early: the best skis go fast (sometimes in the first 15 minutes). Generally, ski swaps are best for beginner or kid skis when you're putting a premium on value, not performance.
Used Gear Shop
If you live in or near a mountain town, you might have a used gear shop nearby. Your ski shop might have a used gear section, too, with last year's demos. These are great places to find high-quality skis that have taken a bit of abuse, but that can be restored to full high-speed glory with a little tuning love.
If you’re new to the sport, enlist a friend who knows skis to help you buy a pair off Craigslist. It’s easy to overpay or buy mismatched gear (say, your boots don’t fit the mounted bindings you bought). If you go this route, make sure you can check out the gear in person before you buy. You'll want to pay especially close attention to the skis' metal edges: if they're worn down or severely damaged, move on. Gashes in the plastic-y PTEX bases are easier to fix and less of a problem.