Fly, ship, or rent? It's the vacationing skier's eternal dilemma. But the bottom line is always the same: You want the best and you want to be comfortable. There's not always one right answer, however. Below, professionals in all three industries share their pitches—and prices—to help you make the best decision possible for your situation.
When you fly with your skis there’s always the chance they may be lost. Plus, there's the hassle of waiting for luggage and then lugging said luggage to your resort. But as my friend Michael likes to argue, “I am very comfortable using my own equipment.” Frequent fliers with special status on airlines including Southwest, Alaska Air, Frontier, Jet Blue, and United can often convince the airline to count their ski and boot bags together as their one free checked bag if it weighs less than 50 pounds, but some of our editors who aren't on the VIP list have had luck too just by asking. Still, those without status should be ready to face fees that can reach up to $125 per checked bag.
If you get separation anxiety over leaving your gear at home, you’re in luck. FedEx’s Ship Your Gear program is available to anyone with a U.S. FedEx account and can get you up to 16 percent off of their services. Rates based on a standard six foot long, 25-pound ski bag tend to fall between $20 to $120, depending on where you’re shipping and how quickly you need your stuff. Jason Baker, a FedEx Global Media representative says FedEx always recommends that customers use a box to ship skis in order to be protected by the FedEx Packing Pledge. “We often build custom boxes for around $40,” he says. “This protects your ski equipment from scuffs and dings.”
Alternately, get your gear to the slopes with Luggage Forward, a shipping company that specializes in sports gear. They offer overnight, two-, three-, five-, and seven-day door-to-door services. Co-founder Zeke Adkins points out small airports, such as Aspen, are usually served by smaller aircraft. “Big double ski bags often get bumped off of flights due to weight imbalance issues,” he says. According to Mr. Adkins, greater New York to Colorado is one of the more popular routes, and on average the seven-day service costs $84 door to door for ski equipment. Money is refunded for any late bag, and the company will reimburse up to $500 for any expenses incurred.
“When you look at your skis in your Texas garage and the edges are all rusty and the equipment isn’t up to date, do you really want to pay to fly with them and then pay another $50 to get them tuned?” asks Ian Prichard, co-founder of Black Tie Ski Rental Delivery. Black Tie, Ski Butlers, Door 2 Door and other on-the-ground ski rental delivery services bring the newest ski equipment right to you. Black Tie has 14 locations serving 36 resorts. Just go online before your trip, choose your equipment and the staff arrives at your home or hotel doorstep to custom fit your gear.
Prichard says that on average, premium equipment ranges from $48.80 to $54.90 per day for skis, boots and poles in Steamboat Springs, but other locations could vary by $8. A child 12 or under can rent free with a renting adult. Rentskis.com also allows skiers to reserve the latest gear online—including equipment from Völkl, K2 and Rossingnol—and then pick up and return at 90 slope-side or in-lodge shops in 19 major ski resorts.
Rentalskis.com national sales manager Tapio Niskanen points out that the ski equipment you own isn’t necessarily designed for the terrain you’re going to ski. “Not to take a dig at the East Coast,” he says, “but you’re skiing a harder packed surface and usually more icy terrain than Colorado or Utah where you’ll want an all-mountain ski for softer snow and powder.” Mr. Niskanen says advanced reservations will save 20% of what a walk-in rental would cost. Plus, if you want to swap out your skis all you need to do is ski down to the slopeside shop.
For the once or twice a year skier or anyone who wants to avoid more luggage, GetOutfitted.com will deliver not only equipment, but also an entire ski ensemble including pants, jacket, goggles and gloves starting at $135 for a three day rental.