When Leasing Ski Equipment Makes Sense
by Mitch Kaplan
There's a problem with kids. (Well, actually, there are a lot of problems with kids, but we're talking here about fitting kids with ski or snowboard equipment.) The problem? They grow. You spend a small fortune on their equipment and, next thing you know, they've outgrown it. Worse, the stuff doesn't yet fit little brother or sister. What's a parent to do?
Leasing provides the ultimate defense against wasting money on equipment that may become out-grown, outdated or overused. You simply use the stuff for a season and then give it back to the shop.
"If you've got two, three or four kids and you have to buy all that equipment, it gets expensive to do every year," comments Jim Gregory, sales associate at Danziezen & Quigley in Cherry Hill, NJ. "If you lease, it's roughly fifty to sixty percent of the cost of purchasing."
Gregory breaks the situation down into two categories of comparison: leasing versus buying; and leasing versus daily rentals. In either case, leasing usually is prudent. "If your children ski [or ride] a minimum of seven to ten days a season, leasing makes every sense in world," he says. "If you only take them skiing once or twice, then it's probably not worthwhile."
How Leasing Works
It's really pretty simple. For a certain amount of money you rent the use of equipment for the season. Most commonly a lease package includes skis, bindings and boots. You have your child fitted in the autumn, you pay for the lease and leave a deposit to assure that you'll bring the skis back, and you return the gear in the spring.
In addition, you usually can choose between new or used gear. With used equipment, the choices may not be as numerous, but the equipment will be in good shape. According to Gregory, "Most of the equipment will have been used last year or the year before. The longest it will be in the program is three years."
Lease pricing varies, depending on the skill level at which your child skis, his/her size and age, and the equipment's age. D&Q leases equipment for three levels of skier - beginner, intermediate and advanced - and their prices range accordingly. The typical price range for intermediate level skis with bindings and rear-entry boots is about $150 for new equipment and $90 for used.
Boots and/or skis can be leased individually, or an upgrade from rear-entry to buckle boots can be built into the package. D&Q, for example, offers three boot styles to go with the child's skill level: rear-entry, and two- or three-buckles. The same "new or used" choice holds true for boots. Typical pricing for mid-level, new, buckle boots would be $50, while you can expect to pay $110 for comparable skis. Used gear would cost less.
Leasing vs. Buying
The decision here boils down to cost, but it also involves flexibility. The major advantage to leasing is this: if something's wrong with the equipment's fit or function, or if your child outgrows the gear (in size or skills) during the season, the shop will replace it. If you buy the stuff and little Johnny grows three inches and two shoe sizes in the next month, you're stuck with it.
The growth syndrome is especially pertinent for boots. Properly fitted boots are any skier's most important piece of equipment. Leased boots will not only be properly fitted, they can be returned if (when) outgrown.
Now, a parent might be tempted to mix-and-match the buying/leasing approaches. Why not buy gear for the eldest child in the family, then hand it down to the younger kid(s)? Meanwhile, equipment can be leased for the junior member(s). Yes, this can work. But, keep in mind, that your smaller skiers may not be ready - either in size or skill-wise - for that stuff that older bro is using right now. And, with boots especially, fit from hand-me-downs can be disastrous.
Leasing vs. Daily Rentals
The most obvious advantage leasing warrants over daily rentals lies in wasted time. Each time you go to the ski hill, you're going to spend at least an hour, probably two, in the rental process, particularly if you tend to arrive at prime time. Lease and you need only go through the process once. And, leasing will pay for itself in about five or six days rentals.
Quality, too, plays a major role in this choice, as does boot fit. Says Gregory, "The equipment in the rental shop won't be as good, and there's little or no choice between types of skis, boots, etc. What's more, the boots may well be ‘packed out,' that is, the liners might be pretty worn."
Keep in mind that if you do buy, you may recoup some of your investment in resale at ski swaps. Children's equipment is always in demand, especially for families of resort communities.
When Not To Lease
Actually, only two situations come most readily to mind:
if you only ski two or three times a season
if you prefer very specific equipment that the shop can't supply.
Timing is Everything
It has to be said that, like any equipment purchase, timing matters. The earlier you get your child into the shop, the more equipment choices you'll have. This is especially true for high-performance equipment. Typically D&Q's stock will last until around Christmas, Jim Gregory indicates, but coming in earlier will offer far more choice.
Of course, an early October fitting for an eight year-old might mean that the boots have been outgrown by February, but that's where the guaranteed return policy offers security.
Most good shops will have a comparable program for snowboarding, although many don't necessarily carry an equal amount of stock. Still, the same leasing advantages apply to riding as skiing.
Poles: Most leasing deals do not include poles. "Smaller kids don't need them," Gregory explains, "and because that's most kids who lease, including them is not to their advantage." Older/larger kids do need poles, so many shops will sell them to parents at steep discounts. At D&Q, Gregory tells us, that discount is forty percent off.
Damage Insurance: This is another worthwhile option offered by some shops. In essence, for a modest fee (usually about $10), you remove yourself of the responsibility for damage to the equipment while it's in your care. Be aware that policies may not include lost or stolen equipment.
Most quality ski/snowboard shops offer kids' equipment leasing programs. Before you go shopping, call ahead to your area's shops and ask for full details. Among the items to ask about:
brands of equipment
ages included in the lease programs
options to buy
...... Mitch Kaplan
is the author of The Unofficial Guide to the Mid-Atlantic with Kids, The Cheapskate's Guide to Myrtle Beach and The Golf Book of Lists. He is a contributor to The Unofficial Guide to New England & New York with Kids and to the annual guide Ski America & Canada.