Mountain Style: Winter Sports

Rent vs. Buy

By Molly Absolon

Most kids that grow up in the Tetons spend time sliding on snow. And with the start of each ski season, parents around the region pull out last year’s gear only to discover that skis that once fit perfectly now come up short, and last year’s boots look small enough to dangle from a car’s rearview mirror. So, with the ski season upon us, it’s time to assess our equipment needs.

Parents know that kids sprout fast, but to put it into perspective, kids grow about two and a half inches and six pounds per year between the ages of two and ten. During puberty, girls grow nine inches and gain fifteen to fifty-five pounds. And pubescent boys, on average, grow eleven inches and gain sixty-five pounds. No wonder it seems as if they burst out of their gear almost overnight!

Around here, most parents tackle these rapid growth spurts by leasing ski or snowboard equipment each winter. “It is so easy and economical to rent for the season,” says Scott Sanchez, the store manager of JD High Country Outfitters in Jackson. High Country Outfitters leases roughly four hundred ski and snowboard packages a year. “Kids will even outgrow their gear during the season. If they’ve leased it, then they can just come in and trade it for the next size up,” he says.

Peaked Sports in Driggs, Idaho, leases a similar number of packages each winter. According to store manager Tricia Hoesel, the advantage of leasing is that kids can try snowboards, skis, and even Nordic gear as they begin to develop their interests.

Most lease packages feature recreational equipment—as opposed to performance equipment—making this a better option for beginner or intermediate levels. But competitive racers, aggressive skiers, or upper-level snowboarders may grow out of rental equipment and need more specialized gear. “When the boys were young and growing fast, we leased gear,” says Kathy Rinaldi, a Driggs resident and mom to two boys, ages eight and eleven. “Leasing works great when they are little, but purchasing makes more sense when they need higher-performing gear.”

Some families try to cut costs by buying their children’s gear in a slightly larger size so that it will last longer. Others plan to pass down the equipment to a younger sibling in future seasons. But the trickiest option for finding kids’ winter equipment is shopping for used gear online or at swaps. People who have the most luck are skilled shoppers who can evaluate the gear’s condition and accuracy of fit.

Abby Warner, of Victor, Idaho, whose two children now ski race, has tried everything from renting, to buying, to scoring hand-me-downs.
“Ultimately, [for us] it has not really been a financial decision, but more of a ‘right gear for the fun factor’ decision,” she explains.

Seasonal Leases:

In Wyoming:
Jackson Hole Sports

JD High Country Outfitters

Hoback Sports

Hole in the Wall Snowboard Shop

Grand Targhee Resort

Snow King Mountain

Teton Village Sports

In Idaho:
Peaked Sports

Used Gear:

Headwall Sports

New kids’ gear is also available at most of the listed locations.

NOSO Patches

You don’t have to be a domestic goddess to artfully personalize your kids’ winter gear. Jackson-based NOSO Patches make fashionable fabric patches for those allergic to sewing machines. Ripped pockets? Frayed seams? Leaking down puffy coat? No worries! Just peel off the back and stick to the affliction. Or use them inside jackets for one-of-a-kind garment labels (Sharpie not included). From on-the-slope Band-Aids to playground head-turners, the NOSO Puffy Patch is a stocking stuffer must (psst … who’s gonna tell Santa?). Note: You can rock them on adult garments, too. – Christina Shepherd McGuire