Equipment Manager

I'm back! I'm still sore from all that muscle-exertion, but the cause is definitely worth it. That's because I had a grrreat time on the slopes of Mammoth, CA--unseasonably warm, and other than the occasional slushy or icy spot, the skiing was great. I even feel like I have a nice "glow" to my complexion, which is a great upgrade from my recent illness-induced paleness.

Since my bag had no room for the camera, I didn't take any pics from the slope. But here are a few nice ones from the road:

Trips like these usually cost a lot of money, which is why I don't go often. I've had to skip a few years due to scheduling conflicts (school) or financial issues (paying for the Bar this past year), so I was really excited about this particular trip. Finally--I can pay for it without worrying that the piggy bank would go broke. The friends who plan the annual sojourn into snow country are seasoned veterans when it comes to cutting down costs. First, a sizable group of people fit into a spacious cabin, splitting the lodging expenses. Next, the dining arrangements are economical. After volunteers for individual meals sign up for their shifts and declare ingredients for their menus, a run to Costco is warranted. It's great to have home-cooked, nutrious, and affordable food in the company of friends. The savings go toward our lift tickets, which seem to get more and more expensive by the year.

When I felt pretty committed to skiing, it was finally time to commit to buying my set of gear. Rentals are incredibly expensive, and oftentimes they are ill-fitting enough to spoil a day on the slopes. It's cheaper to rent from a local Sport Chalet and truck the equipment up North than to rent at the resort, but it gets cumbersome and the expenses add up. For all the money I've spent on rentals, I could have gotten a pair of skis and bindings by now. It didn't make sense to buy gear a few years ago, since I had little money and time to go, but now that those impediments are less problematic, the question becomes "what should I buy first."

That question can be pretty tough to answer, as it depends on your degree of committment the sport. To get the most bang out of the buck, I'd start with something which requires a comfortable fit (especially if it's hard to find and it's on sale) and/or the cheapest component. If it's not too expensive and you're on the fence about the sport, you won't feel so guilty about "throwing money away" if you decide that the sport is not for you. Conversely, if you do enjoy the spot and can't see yourself doing anything else, it's good to start small and build your equipment cache one piece at a time.

The first thing I decided to buy was a pair of ski boots. After numerous unpleasant experiences with rental boots, I knew that I had to get a pair of boots that fit comfortably even after hours and hours of thrills and spills. I went to a discount ski and snowboard outlet store and tried on a bunch of them before finding the pair that really worked out well. $99 for a pair of ski boots was a great deal, but it was also quite a bit of cash for me, so I walked away from it. After yet another bad rental boot experience, I knew it was time to snag my "it" boots before they were gone. That was the right call--several years later, the boots are still comfortable and in great shape, and I can knock a few bucks off the ski rentals because I don't need to rent boots that made up a large portion of the "total package" price.

Now I'm looking to get a set of skis, bindings, and poles. Waiting until now is better than buying the skis for my first few trips, as I wouldn't have known what my needs are and how things are supposed to fit. Actually, I'll wait just a little longer--end-of-season clearance sales translate to substantial savings on the expensive gear.

One thing that I know I can wait on is the clothing. Yes, clothing is equipment too, especially the pants that keep the snow out of the boots. But given how well "regular" jackets can work, there is no need to rush out and get those. My orange puffer from the Gap has served me well for years and years. It's poofy, but it's warm, it has many pockets, it's waterproof, and makes it easy for my friends to spot me. Best of all, I can wear it out to the street.

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