Chain Gangsters

Hope everyone had a wonderful Valentine's Day/Presidents' Day weekend! I had a blast of a weekend in Mammoth Lakes, CA on the slopes. The very cold atmospheric conditions and a few minor injuries/illnesses had put a small damper on things, but the snow was absolutely wonderful. Here are a few scenes heading to, skiing at, and returning from Winter Wonderland:

[What I wore for the trip home: Gap stripey top, Splendid cashmere henley, cloud print hoodie from Fred Flare, COH jeans (plucked from the Loehmann's clearance racks for a very successful hemming job on my trusty ol' sewing machine), Nike airwalks.]

After each ski trip, I bring home a different set of memories and musings on things:

-My skis and bindings match my outfit. It is completely unintentional, of course, but it worked out pretty well. Being the poor student (and now young professional), I could only afford to buy my ski gear piecemeal. Making the decision to buy gear can be a bit scary, especially when it's expensive. Thus, it's important to assess at least several things: 1) your budget, 2) your commitment to the sport, and 3) which piece is the most crucial for your sport of choice given your budget range. If it is not a sport that you intend to carry on for the long run, it could be a waste to spend all that money on gear that you would likely be using for only a few times. If you are only going to engage in the sport at a leisurely pace and frequency, it might not make sense to invest in top performance gear. Just like you would calculate your cost-per-wear ratio, the cost-per-use ratio applies.

I started off with the boots a few years ago because it was a) the most important component, in terms of control and comfort, and b) it was the least expensive of the components I needed. Now that I have enough experience and know that I want to do this for a while (and finally can pony up the necessary capital), I decided to commit to buying my skis. Given the rising costs of ski rentals, and the inconvenience of having to driving around to hunt down rental gear locally (in lieu of renting at the resort, which costs even more), and the number of times I anticipate I'll be using skis, it made sense to buy my own pair. I went to a local ski and snowboard liquidator store to get a ski and binding package at about half off of retail, had the bindings installed to suit my needs, and they were ready to go. The downside to shopping at a liquidator store is that I was essentially sifting through the "leftovers" from past seasons, so sizes and styles were limited. But as long as the equipment did what it was supposed to do, who cares? These babies are far superior to the rental gear I had to contend with in the past, and that is good enough for me.

-One day passes, or multi-day passes? If this is one of your first times trying out a sport, I would advise a wait-and-see approach: take it one day at a time. Most likely, you'll find that you're a natural and want to go back for more, but it is also possible that you may regret ever giving it a go. If it is the latter, you will walk away even more unhappy if you feel like you're forced to make a difficult decision: go back and do more of what you don't want to do, or sit out and swallow the losses on the second day of the pass.

For non-beginners, the decision comes down to the sum of past experiences. If you have had a good track record for going multiple days, and the multi-day pass cuts down on the cost per day, it might be worth it to go for the multi-day pass. However, if you tend to get tired and not do much the second day (if anything at all), or if you have been prone to injury, I would advise going one day at a time.

-Whole-day pass, or half-day pass? That depends on when the prime conditions for sporting is. If the best times are in the morning, but the half-day pass does not start until noon, you may ultimately gain very little enjoyment for your hard-earned buck, especially if the conditions deteriorate in the afternoon. This would not be good if you have already spent a lot of dough (i.e., tranportation and lodgings) just getting there; in an attempt to save a few bucks, you may end up losing a lot more. However, if you only intend to work up a sweat for just one or two hours, a half-day pass would be quite sensible.

-My biggest peeve of ski trips is chains for the tires. Putting them on is not the most fun, but that is not what bothers me--what really troubles me is the 21st-century version highway robbery in the form of "chain installation services." The official-looking "chain installers" would offer to "help," but at a price, of course. The price is surprisingly steep: I have heard a quote of $40 just to put chains on, and I saw a sign for another $15 to take them off. Chain installation may seem intimidating, and can be time consuming, but it is certainly not worth $40 of labor. The only times I would be willing to pay that price is a) if I was really in a hurry and can't take 15 minutes to put them on, or b) if I have a car full of young children who could not withstand the wait without driving me crazy. Therefore, I would strongly encourage skiers and snowboarders to learn how to buy and install chains from friends and family who have done it before, or simply learn it from a self-help source.


continuum said...

or you occasionally get the instance where the chains don't $*)#!! want to go on, so you need to pay Mr. Chain Installer the $40 to get his bigass tools and years of experience to help get them on.

Or you could luck out like my car did this trip and not need them at all.

Sales Rack Raider said...

Or head out earlier, like you guys did, and beat the CHP and the weather.