The conventional wisdom for hard-core winter sports enthusiasts has been that the only way to enjoy a ski or snowboard vacation is to bring your own equipment. In fact, traveling with your gear was seen as a badge of honor — the implication being that anyone who rents is a newbie or poseur.
But, as anyone knows who has tried to fly with skis or snowboards, the exercise can be fraught with frustration.
First, you need to pack the equipment in appropriate bags, make sure they don’t weigh too much, pay a checked-bag fee and cross your fingers that they arrive undamaged.
Each airline may have different rules about the procedure, but don’t expect them to assume responsibility if there is a problem en route.
And as many of the top ski destinations likely to draw air travelers are accessible via connecting flights, there is always the possibility your skis won’t make the journey at all.
The good news is that ski areas are becoming more enterprising about offering alternatives, luring even expert skiers to the rental counter with top-line equipment and convenient service.
At Whistler Blackcomb, for example, there are 13 rental locations around the mountain, designed not only to outfit visitors that first day but also to enable them to switch out equipment during their stay if conditions change. Most of these rental shops also offer overnight storage to minimize the hassle associated with the transition to apres ski.
On the East Coast, Stowe Mountain Resort eases ski rentals for repeat customers by storing their information — what size skis you like and what the boot settings should be — in their system so that the rental process is a snap next time around.
Another option is using Ski Butlers, a company that brings the equipment to you at your hotel at more than 35 resorts in California, Colorado and Utah, as well as Jackson Hole and Whistler in Wyoming and British Columbia, respectively. The company also offers support if something goes wrong with the gear and picks it up at the end of your stay.
The advantage to travel agents is that Ski Butlers bookings are commissionable, and many resorts will bundle rentals into commissionable packages that can also include lift tickets, ground transfers and other components.