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Snowboarding on a Budget

Snowboarding on a Budget

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.

Warehouse Sales

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?


  1. Andy Cole

    I fully agree with your suggestion to shop on line. I also agree that equipment can be pricey, on top of season passes, making for a very expensive hobby. Something I have noticed is that a lot of people buy expensive equipment yet ride without a helmet. It may not be the coolest look on the slopes but it sure beats a brain injury in expensive snow pants!

    • Tom Drake

      Good point Andy. Use that saved money and get a good helmet!

  2. LifeAndMyFinances

    Great post. I currently live in Florida, so I obviously don’t have any snowboarding gear with me, but my wife and I are hoping to move back to Michigan where I used to snowboard quite regularly.

    These are great tips in the event that we are able to move back and enjoy that beautiful snow again!

    • Tom Drake

      And I’d like to be on the beach in Florida right now!

  3. Jessica07

    Thanks for the great tips. I really like the idea of finding volunteer opportunities. It’s always good when you can help someone else out, and still get to enjoy something you love. A horse lover that doesn’t have the funds to keep a horse, or a place to put it, for example, could do the same thing by volunteering at a horse rescue. Great ideas!

  4. SophieW

    That’s exactly how I aquired all my ski gear as well as my daughters 🙂

    I rented the first time I hit the hills after 17 years and decided I loved it and wanted to take it back up. Luckily one of the guys I work with, his wife wanted to upgrade her gear and he sold me awesome, barely used skis for $75. Another friend gave me a set of poles because they were cluttering up his garage. I ended up buying new boots but they were the previous season’s and on sale for 1/2 price at $100. The most expensive thing was the long underwear and ski suit. But I did manage to get them on sale too.

    Overall I spent less than $400 getting kitted out and it was totally worth it. Now my young daughter is hooked too and I got her skis from kijiji, boots from a ski swap and she uses her snowsuit to ski in. Oh and the helmet was another generous hand-me-down.

    I can’t imagine how much it would cost to buy everything new…

  5. youngandthrifty

    i bought my board at a warehouse sale too, it’s a good board (Option) and it was a “factory cut” so it cost a fraction of what it would normally cost.

    I find snowboarding so $, especially if you are starting out, but if you get quality gear, it should last a while.

    The lift tickets are what kills you! I got an Edge Card (one day) this year and I still paid $78 for a lift ticket for Whistler early season. I remember in the good ol’ days when a lift ticket at whistler would only cost $50.

  6. Akip

    For discounted lift tickets, don’t forget to check sites like Kicking Horse had 2-for-1 lift ticket vouchers on there all last season.

    Also, if you don’t mind waiting a bit, just loiter in the parking lot at the ski hill, and I guarantee you will be able to buy a day ticket off of someone who only did a short day. I have yet to see someone say no when offered $20 or $30 for a ticket they were done with for the day anyhow. (This especially works well on Sundays when people have to travel home.) We did this for friends all the time when they were visiting in Whistler and Golden!

    For inexpensive gear, watch for the “Turkey Sales” that happen in almost every resort town around (Canadian) Thanksgiving. Shops and stores blow out last years stock at rock bottom prices for anyone willing to brave the crowds!

  7. SylviaLH

    I’m a recent graduate and didn’t have the money to invest into snowboarding while I was in school. two years ago I decided I did have enough disposable income to take up this expensive hobby, and I basically got all my gear used (with the exception of helmet & goggles). Since I was recently in school I still know about the ski clubs at the close universities and I also know that they never ask for ID…so I’ve been jumping the ski buses at both schools in my city, so cheap!!

    Buses are also a great way to get a cheap lift ticket (like half price), so it’s worth it to check out the local ski clubs, because not only can you relax on the bus (and therefore not worry about how many ski-beers you have) but you also get a great deal on the lift ticket.

    Closer to the middle/end of season it’s also really easy to get lift tickets on craigslist & kijiji

  8. thethoughtherder

    Ditto the helmet comments, definitely worth spending the money on something to take care of the noggin. Also I would say if you get to an alright standard think about becoming an instructor, you don’t have to be awesome to pass on some of your knowledge and experience to others and the benefits in terms of cheaper boards and lift tickets are great. I got my last board $300 cheaper. Also learn how to wax your own board, you can pay someone else to do it or do it yourself and have a board thats it top condition and more money in your pocket.

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