Absolutely. But it will take patience and persistence.
When my wife started skiing, she bought all her equipment—skis, boots, poles, clothing—for less than $300. She’s now outgrown her straight, old-school skis and manky boots, but they worked well for those early days on groomers. Here are tips to get you into what can seem like an overwhelmingly expensive sport.
Skis and Bindings ($200)
As a beginner, don’t go for the fat powder boards or high-tech chargers. You’ll want a pair of cheap skis that you’ll grow out of after a season or two. A good general rule of thumb is to stick with skis that are 100 millimeters underfoot or skinner and about nose-height. Start with your desired price point rather than a specific model of ski. You can usually find a pair of used boards with bindings at sites like Gear Trade and the Evo Outlet and for less than $200. Pro tip: Visit your local ski shops after the season ends to get a good deal on used rentals.
If you go with used boots from Craigslist or Ebay, make sure you can try before you buy. Boots are the one item you want to fit very well right off the bat—otherwise you’ll be miserable on the slopes—and it’s worth spending the money to get the right pair. We recommend the Evo Ski Boot Outlet (prices typically range from $95 to $700) for killer deals on new models.
You want layers made from wool and synthetics. Steer clear of cotton. You don’t need fancy socks either, but buy a thin pair—thick socks restrict your circulation, making your feet extremely cold. Start by visiting the Backcountry.com Outlet, which has great deals on everything from baselayers to hardshells. If you strike out, comb your local thrift stores for synthetic shirts.
Pants and Jacket ($150)
Outerwear is your main defense against wet and cold. And because waterproofing capabilities diminish over time, we suggest avoiding used layers. Look at sale places from the Evo Outlet and Backcountry.com where—if you’re patient and persistent—you can buy a setup for less than $150. Many of the leading apparel brands (including Patagonia and Mountain Hardwear) also have discount sections on their websites.
Ditch the sunglasses in favor of goggles, which will give you more protection and keep your face warmer. We like the Targa 3 for its high-quality Spy lens and comfortable, flexible frame.
An inexpensive helmet like the Smith Holt can save you from a potentially expensive hospital visit.
Once you’ve got the gear (for a grand total of $680), you’re going to need lift tickets. Liftopia is a great place to start—if you’re flexible with your dates, you can save a lot of money. And when looking into skiing, check out the local, non-brand-name mountains like Sisters Oregon’s Hoodoo. These often have cheaper day passes than their big competitors.
For more tips to help you ski on the cheap, read our article on hacking lift tickets, travel, and lodging.