How to get into freeskiing cheaply
Let's be honest here- skiing as a sport is not cheap to get into and getting into freeskiing can be expensive even if you already ski. This is meant to be a guide for those who already ski and are looking to start free skiing or those who do not ski yet but are interested in getting into free skiing at some point. There plenty of ways to lessen the cost of freeskiing. Here are a few ideas to consider as the 2020-2021 season approaches.
Times to buy
Obviously any skier will need skis and gear like jackets, pants, boots, bindings, etc. etc. If all your gear is new you can quickly be looking at spending at least $1500 dollars for a new set of gear. Even just new skis and bindings can cost as much as $1000 dollars. Do not lose hope! One of the many ways to bring these high prices down is to be smart with the time of year that you buy. During the spring, as the season starts to come to an end many ski companies or outdoor stores will slash their prices on skis and ski gear substantially. You can expect anywhere from 10% to 60% in savings on most types of ski gear as shops and companies try to clear their inventory. Do be warned, if you were looking for a specific item or size there is a good chance that it may be gone by then. Check early and check often! It is also worth it to start checking online around holidays. Memorial Day, Labor Day, and Black Friday are some good ones. Also, many companies, like ON3P offer pre-order specials during the summer. There are a variety of deals, from skis being $100 off, 20% discounts, or some extra swag with your order.
Work in the industry
If you are in high school, college, or are just a ski bum with nothing to do during the winters, getting a job in the industry is a great way to not only learn more but also get some sick deals. Many companies offer "pro deals" which are discounts they give to those who work in the industry. These deals are usually 20% off some or all of a company’s products and almost anyone who works in the outdoor industry can get them. Anyone from lifties, to ski techs, to even those who work as a cashier or cook at a resort, can potentially get these deals. It's worth it to apply and most companies only require you to fill out a short form and send proof of employment, such as a pay stub. Even smaller companies like Moment skis offer pro deal forms on their websites.
Used doesn't mean useless
Buying used is an obvious choice for getting great gear for cheap. Here on Newschoolers, we have a great Buy/Sell page where members can list and buy gear from others. There is a ton of gear priced super low, most of which is in great condition. To speak personally I have bought from the Buy/Sell forum multiples times. It has saved me a lot of money and as long as you aren't too concerned about having a stain or two on your jacket or some delamination on your skis you can easily find used gear for 50% or less of what it would cost new.
Another great option is contacting your local hill or ski shops to see when they are having a ski swap. A ski swap is usually an event where anyone can bring their gear and sell it. Think of it as a big community yard sale for ski gear. I was able to pick up a pair of full tilt boots at my local in great shape for $40. These usually happen in the fall and spring so keep an eye out on your resort social pages to figure out when to go for some sweet deals.
Shops don't have much overhead so it's unlikely that they will be able to match the savings offered by larger retailers. What shops do offer is the ability to work with you personally for what you need, and who knows, they may have some great deals or a ski tech may have a pair of skis he or she is trying to get rid of for cheap. Also, as a bonus, you are potentially saving on shipping costs and are supporting your local ski industry.
While finding student discounts for actual gear may be difficult, you will probably have to buy a lift ticket at some point over your skiing career. Most resorts offer a student discount on their season passes, and others like Trollhaugen, even offer discounts on day and night tickets to students. Also, larger multi-resort passes like the Icon pass have discounts for students, the military, and healthcare workers. Saving on your tickets can be a great way to cut down on the total cost of freeskiing. If you want to improve you will likely be at the hill quite a bit.
If you can't make it to the hill that often, or have a less expensive limited pass, having a backyard setup is a great way to improve. The supplies are pretty simple and inexpensive. Wood, screws, and PVC are about all you need. It's also not terribly hard to find these supplies lying around at construction site dumpsters. Find someone working and ask if you can take it off their hands. Most of the time it's just garbage for them and you can get all the supplies for free. Always ask though, you don't want your free set up turning into an expensive court case. If you can get some artificial turf or snow fencing you can easily use it to improve your skills during the summer as well. Below is an example from the backyard master himself @john18061806
For more info on how to build a backyard set up check out these resources.
NS member @SofaKingSick had some great input as someone who has been skiing for 20 years in and around Vermont. He knows his stuff and has some specifics for you.
"If you're on a budget, boots are the most important part of the equation (and are generally expensive) so calculate your budget accordingly. Don't worry about the marketing of the boot too much, the important things are that they fit and they have the general level of stiffness appropriate for you and your skiing"
"Tyrolia attack 13s are THE cheap-but-good binding right now and it's not even close. For skis, I think finding a pair of ARV 96s on sale is the ski equivalent."
"A 90s waisted ski can do literally anything from rail rat days to big mountain. Most people don't need even 2 pairs of skis, just get one that can do it all"
"Go to ski expos in the fall and shit like that and you can usually get some random free or cheap lift tickets."
"Places like TJ Maxx can have legit snow gear for cheap. It's great to support ski shops if $ isn't a primary concern but if it is there's no reason to buy most of your gear at a shop for retail prices"
This is just a shortlist of things you can do to lower the price of getting into freeskiing, but there are plenty of other things that may not save you tons of money but are important nonetheless. Learn how to tune and mount your skis, it will save you shop costs and make your pricey skis last longer while you bash them on rails. Don't eat resort food, bring a lunch and eat with your pals at the car. Not only is it a more enjoyable experience but you also won't be paying $8 for some fries. Carpool as much as possible and make friends that do freeskiing. We are a pretty relaxed bunch and saving money on gas and having friends who can help you get into the sport both can make a huge difference.
Using these tips, and being shrewd can take the cost of getting into freeskiing (or skiing in general) down from the vicinity of $2000 for a new set of skis and gear to below $1000, with the potential to be much less expensive than that. I personally purchased a new set of gear two years ago and only spent $750 bucks on new outerwear, skis, and bindings as well as a pass.
We only have a few months left before the season, so good luck grinding for that dough, and happy deal hunting.
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