Many Eastern folks understandably struggle with whether to bring their ski equipment with them when they head out west. Let’s face it, the conditions east vs. west are likely to be very different so the question is a legitimate one.  (If you are from the west and coming east to ski you have struggles of a different variety that we cannot help you with. Our only advice is to stop reading this article and call your shrink or guru to help you get your head screwed on more tightly.) Short answer –  our advise is to leave your east coast boards home despite the added cost of renting. Follow along with our thinking…

Let’s take one thing off the table right away. You should definitely bring your boots and ski clothing. Rental boots are horrible, and even if you could find good boots or buy them, the last thing you want to do is to try to adjust to new boots while on vacation. (Just do us one favor – don’t be that person on the plane with naked ski boots over your shoulder banging fellow passengers in the head. At least get a damn good boot bag to soften the blow.) And we would not advise relying on being able to find a new jacket or pants that you like in a retail shop. You might find that jacket of your dreams, but given the vast array of clothing available online these days, most brick and mortar shops carry a limited selection in type and size.

So…let’s get to the heart of the matter – skis! And this issue goes back to east vs. west conditions. Fact: we at conSKIerge are as happy at Jay Peak on a powder day as anywhere in North America. But another fact: despite Jay’s 350 inches plus a year of snow, you are more likely to ski real powder on or west of the continental divide. This issue has gotten more complicated given the deep bench of “all mountain skis” available at reasonable price points. Certainly there are skis that can perform reasonably well front side/back side (phrases the ski industry has embraced; front side = groomed; back side = not groomed and hopefully powder).

But our obnoxious advice – the skis you love in the east are not made for the western mountains. The reason you have decided to tolerate airports and overtaxed flight attendants is most likely in hopes of softer and deeper natural snow of the variety that falls from the sky, not hoses. Your eastern skis that keep you on track at Cannon will be digging for China at Jackson. And unlike boots or clothing, any decent ski shop at a western resort will have a healthy selection of both front and back side skis. This is particularly true if you avoid the generic rental shop and rent from a good ski shop right at the base of the mountain. Most good shops will, for a set price, let you swap out skis as many times as you want during your stay. This means you can typically be on the right skis for each day of your trip, whether there is new snow or not. In addition, this will free you up from lugging skis through airports, waiting at the oversized baggage claim and worrying about what torture chamber the airlines have put your skis through.

However, we admit there is one problem with this approach and, yes, it is an important one – $$$. The financial cost of bringing your skis – your sore shoulder and whatever the extra baggage charge is (roughly $30/40). It’s a decent tad more to demo/rent good skis for a week, but the cost won’t break your piggy bank. Here is one specific example from the Motherlode Powder House at the Wildcat base at Alta:

  • Ski selection – Blizzard, Rossingol, Salomon, Volkl and Armada
  • Cost for a five day demo for all mountain, powder or groomer ski if rented online – $310 (basic rental ski for same length of time – $275, kids rental package – $125)

While prices will certainly vary, for $55 – $65 a day you can be on premium skis that can be swapped as many times as you want depending on the days conditions. Reserving online or over the phone with the local ski shop in advance insures you get the skis you want and typically lowers the price up to 20%. It also saves you the hassle of spending the morning of your first day of vacation finding a ski shop, figuring out what skis to try, getting fitted, etc. You’ll show up, have the shop adjust the bindings to fit your boot (which you’ve flown with) and be on your way.

In short, while it is definitely not inexpensive to do so, we recommend leaving your narrow ice skis behind and demoing skis for your western ski vacation.

Be Well; Ski Well

conSKIerge co-founder

Kevin Dennis is a life long ski bum with a 34 year legal career on the side. Now retired, he skis 80+ days a year. While he lives in Alta UT in the winters, he has traveled extensively through skiing and has skied almost every major resort in North America (and many you have never heard of). He continues to hit the road often throughout the western United States and Canada and trips over the last several years have included ventures in British Columbia, Montana and Colorado. Whether you want to know about the behemoths like Aspen or Squaw or are interested in the road less travelled (Lost Trail Powder Mountain in Montana or Whitewater in BC anyone?), Kevin has been there, has an opinion and you will most likely have to tell him to shut up after a half hour!