Growing up, I was lucky enough to live in an area that had good access to quality mountains. We also lived near a lake, so we had ample opportunity to lie on the beach and go swimming in the summer, but could also head up into the mountains for some winter fun. It was during my teenage years that I first learned how to snowboard. The first few times I went, I fell down a lot, but I had enough fun that I wanted to get a season’s pass and my own snowboard. I found some cheap snowboarding gear… used gore-tex snow pants and a friend sold me his old snowboard for $50.
I saved up a bunch of money, bought myself an early bird season pass, and off to the mountain I went! Unfortunately, nobody in my family enjoys winter sports, and being 15 years old, I didn’t own a car, nor was it legal to drive one. So I was reliant on my friend’s parents to give me rides, and I barely made it up enough to make the pass worth it.
A few years passed, I gave away or sold my snowboard, as I was in college, away from the mountains I grew up next to, and I thought I was never going to snowboard again. However, I then moved to a place that not only has access to mountains, but I actually have four high quality mountains within a two hour drive. How fantastic! Except, I needed to use my money to get married, buy a car, and do all those wonderful things that are associated with starting a new life in a new place. The hibernating dream of spending a winter on the mountainside slept quietly – until my friend got a pass. I wanted to spend more time with him, so I told him that I would rent some gear and head up with him once or twice this season.
The next hurdle, however, was that I didn’t have a jacket, or snow pants anymore, so I would need to rent/borrow/buy those. I still had my old boots, and gloves, but I couldn’t find my goggles anywhere, so I would need those too. And if I was going to invest so much money into snowboarding gear, and if it was going to cost me $40+ for rentals, and $50+ for a pass, wouldn’t it be worth it just to buy all the gear and a pass and save myself some money?
Oh dear. This is quickly becoming expensive. One could easily drop $2000 on snowboarding gear, and season passes at the cheapest of mountains start at about $700 if you buy them at this time of the year. So what is one to do? This is how I am going to go snowboarding this winter on the cheap.
Find Snowboard Sales
Usually by this time of the year, snowboard gear is flying off the shelves. No retailer is going to be heavily discounting their snowboarding gear as everyone is realizing that they really don’t want to spend another season on that old crappy board. Therefore, there are few sales for the aspiring snowboarder. However, if you decide you can rent/wait until the end of the season, most retailers will have fantastic prices come the end of February and March. Right now, actually, you may still be able to find some clearance goods on old 2009 stuff that never sold, as everyone wants to make room for the 2010/2011 gear.
In my search for gear I have run across a gentleman that is clearing out a snowboard factory of their old stock. He is able to get brand new gear that has just been sitting in a factory warehouse waiting to be sold for discount prices. I found him through craigslist, but you may be able to find someone through a co-worker, online posting, or friend.
Similarly, Winners takes factory seconds and old gear that hasn’t sold and puts it up for sale. At Winners, I found my highly rated technical snowboard pants and jacket for less than half of retail cost. My regular $300 jacket cost $130, and my $200 pants cost $99. Absolutely flawless gear for cheap prices – the only tradeoff is that Winners rarely carries the right colour and size of the article that you want. I probably scoured six different Winners in three different cities looking for the snowboard jacket and pants I wanted, and I still never found matching gear.
Right now, craigslist is pumped full of people selling their old gear as they want new stuff. While that means that there is a lot of selection out there, you have to act quickly on good deals as they could disappear before you get there. Just be careful of really old equipment, especially snowboards, as damaged snowboards have a limited lifespan.
Any snowboard that is selling for less than 80 or 100 dollars is probably really old or really damaged. However, I have found some brand new gear that is for sale, but I haven’t been able to track down anything just yet. Everything that I’ve wanted to buy has been bought by the time I’ve got to it.
Sadly, most snowboarding gear rarely gets used. Even in a good season, a typical snowboard will go up between 8 and 15 times. In most places, the season only lasts 8-12 weeks, and the rest of the year the gear is sitting in a closet somewhere. Chances are you can find someone that would be willing to lend you their gear over a weekend that they aren’t able to make it up the mountain. This is, by far, the cheapest option, but you lose resale value and take the risk of damaging somebody else’s equipment.
What about lift tickets? Even if you get a bunch of used gear borrowed off a friend, going up the mountain is still quite expensive. What I did was I went to the website of my three local mountains and looked for volunteer opportunities. Two of the three had applications for volunteers, and one of them contacted me and offered a position being a “Mountain Host”.
While I haven’t gone through the orientation and learned what exactly will be required of me, they did tell me that if I volunteer a set number of hours on the mountain, they will give me a staff season pass. While volunteer positions are quite limited, most mountains also have seasonal employment that is perfect for the aspiring teenager/young adult that wants a seasons pass and some pocket money to go with it throughout the winter.
As a final rule of thumb, the great thing about snowboarding gear is that if you are a beginner snowboarder, there is absolutely no point in paying for more expensive gear. Not only will you not notice the difference between a $200 board and a $2000 board, the cheaper board will most likely be a more forgiving snowboard to learn on, so don’t feel the need to drop a lot of money on cheap snowboarding equipment.
How have you managed to rock a normally expensive sport and/or hobby for cheap? Any tips?