VAIL, Colorado — Renting skis can be a hassle, admits Grant Leffel, a salesman at Christy Sports in Vail. “It’s never an easy process, especially this time of year,” he said.
Although renting skis during peak season can be a chore, a little planning will help you avoid a debacle.
• Arrive early. Avoid lines by picking up your skis the night before.
“For a big family, you want to come in during a good time of day, like after 5 o’clock,” Leffel said.
For the next best thing, come in early the morning you want to ski. Think 8 a.m. for some shops.
• Be honest. If you’re magic carpet material, don’t tell the shop you’re the best thing that ever happened to black diamonds. The rental technician will pick your skis based on your ability, so help them help you. “It helps if they’re honest so we can get a good assessment of their ability,” Leffel said.
For example, the ski shop might give a skilled skier slightly longer skis. If you fibbed about your ability, you might end up saying “that ski really worked me” and wind up back in the shop looking to exchange them, Leffel said.
• Think ahead. If you have your heart set on trying, say, the Rossignol S86 skis, request them ahead of time.
Make your reservation at least 48 hours in advance, said Ned Brennan, a rental technician at Bridge Street Ski Haus in Vail. During peak periods, reserve the skis three or four days ahead, he said. Some shops offer discounts if you reserve the skis in advance, added Sacha Gros, manager of Vista Bahn Ski Rentals.
On powder days, you might decide at the last minute to exchange your skis for a fatter pair. Visit the shop early to avoid disappointment, Brennan said.
“If it’s a powder day and you want to switch up your skis, do it early because if you roll in around 11, all the powder skis are already up on the hill,” he said.
• Wear ski socks. It sounds obvious, but some people come in wearing regular cotton socks. “We usually have to sell them a pair [of ski socks] because you can’t fit the boot properly,” Brennan said.
Some stores offer test socks, but it’s just easier to wear your own woolen pair.
“The biggest problem we run into is people trying to wear two pairs of socks or cotton socks,” Gros said. “We try to discourage them from wearing cotton or bulky socks. It puts too much pressure on the foot.”
Also, leave the skinny jeans at home. Sometimes people have trouble rolling up tight jeans when they try on their boots, Brennan said.
• Talk terrain. Tell the ski shop where you plan to ski. If you want to ride the Back Bowls, for instance, the shop might fit you with a powder ski.
Buzz Schleper, owner of Buzz’s Boards in Vail, said his employees work with customers one-on-one to find out what kind of skier they are and determine their size.
To get the best fit, tell the rental technician about any special issues. For example, Thomas Boyken said he had struggled with bunions when he rented ski boots last year during a Vail vacation. In retrospect, he said he should have mentioned the bunions to the ski shop employees so they could have picked a boot with a wider toe.
“If you have a foot thing, let them know about it,” he said.
• Look for demo deals. Some shops offer deals where you can try out several different skis in a single day. This can make it easier to compare the skis because you’re testing them in the same conditions, Gros said.