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How to save money on new ski equipment for kids

Emma and Alex showing off their moves at Chicopee Ski Club, Kitchener, Ontario, Canada
The cold weather is here and we're getting excited..... Cold weather means snow. Snow means skiing! And skating! And doing fun stuff outside!

Ski season is still about a month or so away where I live, but November is when we start thinking about the gear we need to purchase or replace for the coming season. We introduced Emma to skiing 2 seasons ago. We didn't buy equipment for her then because we weren't sure if she would really like whooshing down the hills, strapped to two boards, with the wind and snow blowing in her face.  So like many, many other people we waited in long lines and rented her equipment.  Turns out that she loved skiing! Yay!

Last year, we decided to buy Emma her own gear.  We felt the cost of purchasing skis, boots and poles was worth the investment for our family. Why?
  • We enjoy being on the slopes more than being in lines.
  • Rentals for kids Emma's age for four hours of skiing at our local club are $27. It costs $31 for a full day of skiing.  By making smart purchasing decisions, we figured we might actually spend less on the equipment if we bought it vs. renting.
Unlike some things, you really can't buy gear like ski boots for your child at the season-end sales. It's too risky trying to guess what their size will be. So you'll probably find yourself heading to the stores around this time of year.  Here's what we learned when we bought Emma's new equipment:

Look for the previous year's styles 
This is probably the most important piece of advice I can give you!  For some crazy reason sports apparel and equipment companies change the colour and graphic design of their equipment every year. But the technology of the actual equipment only changes every few years.  So really, when you buy the 2013 ski boots that are white and blue, you are probably buying the exact same boot as the 2012 style that was white and pink.  This is where BIG savings can be made, because sport stores want to clear out the "old" merchandise when the new styles come in.  Last year, the store where we made our purchase actually had new boots in Emma's size that were two seasons old.  We paid a quarter of the original price.

Look for sales
Where I live, the ski sales start in November. Check the flyers for your local sport and ski stores and do some comparison shopping.

Take advantage of trade-in programs
Emma outgrew her boots - no surprises there. That kid has huge feet!  The store we bought her equipment from has a trade-in program where they will give you half the price of what you originally paid of last year's purchase towards the new equipment you buy this year.  There are some rules... You have to be able to show the receipt from last year. And the trade-in has to happen within a year of the original purchase.

When you purchase your gear, ask about a similar program at your store.  And don't lose your receipt!!

Stack your discounts
We try to purchase most of our sport equipment and outdoor clothing and shoes from the same store. It has a customer loyalty program where you purchase a discount card for $10 and then save 10 per cent on all of your purchases for a year.   The store allows the 10 per cent discount on sale merchandise, which is a huge bonus.  As you can imagine, we've saved a LOT of money this way.

Here's an example of how we saved on this year's purchase of ski boots for Emma by stacking discounts:
  • Clearance ski boots:  $71.99 (original price last season $119.99)
  • Trade in for old boots: $22.49
  • Four day Customer Appreciation, store-wide sale: 25%
  • Customer Loyalty discount: 10%.
Total cost of this year's boot purchase:  a whopping $29.50


You might be wondering why we didn't go for used equipment.  We checked out the used sporting store in our town and found that the discount for used gear was not as low as we were expecting. And the skis and boots were pretty beat up.  By using the tips I just talked about, we found that we were able to purchase brand new stuff at just a tiny bit more than the cost of used.  Now - this was my experience when we checked out used it equipment.  I encourage you to check out the prices of used gear in your town because you may just find a deal of a lifetime.

So, we've got the gear. We're ready to hit the slopes. Now, we just need a bit of snow..... Do any of you want to join me in a snow dance? (Pretty new ski boots not required for dancing)

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