By Gregory Kempers
As a kid who grew up in the midwest, I’d only skied for a single season for a club at school. I was pretty good at it then. When I moved here to Colorado, just a few miles away from Monarch Mountain, I knew I wanted to hit the slopes as much as I possibly could. The only issue is that nature guides don’t make a whole lot of cash, and there was no way I was dropping $700+ for a setup. So I set out scouring Craigslist, recycled gear shops, and thrift stores for cheap ski gear. In the end, I got a full ski touring setup (skis, skins, bindings, boots and ski poles) for a grand total of $302. It’s not fancy, but it gets me on the slopes a few times a week and hasn’t failed me yet!
Most ski towns have a used gear shop or recycled gear center. These are often staffed by ski bums who were, at one time, in your predicament. My local recycled gear shop helped me with getting the right fit and one of the employees actually ended up selling me some of his personal gear he needed to get rid of. In the end I got some killer powder skis for a fraction of what they were probably worth.
CONSIDER TOURING GEAR
Want to know the best way to avoid that ridiculous resort price tag? Avoid the resort! Chances are, if you live near a ski area, you have some solid backcountry options near you. While you absolutely need to know what you’re doing and have the proper safety gear in avalanche terrain, you can often find gentler slopes towards the base of mountains that have little to no avalanche danger. Check with your local ski bums for the beta!
Most major mountains nowadays have uphill routes for those who want to be their own lift. They’re there mainly for those with uphill skis, but are also open for those who want to snowshoe or simply hike up. Yes, this money-saving route is a lot of work, but I prefer it since you can include a great workout with your ski sessions. Check with your local mountain for pricing, I got my uphill season pass at Monarch Mountain for $20! An added bonus, most uphill access passes allow you to skin up and ski after hours! I routinely get a run in by headlamp after work once the crowd is gone.
Most mountain employees get discounted day passes for family and friends, take advantage of this! Get to know the locals and hang out where the ski bums are!