No matter what we do, no matter where we go, we seem to have a lot of gear. Biking? Gotta have a bike, helmet, shorts, gloves and a camelbak. Hiking? Should be simple, but still involves boots, hat and again, a camelbak. Camping? Well, just take a look at our rig when we headed out last weekend. ‘Nuff said. Skiing? Not as much as camping, but multiply our equipment needs by four people and that is a lot of gear.
Now I am not a gear head. I don’t love my gear (except for my tent — see below). I don’t study gear, I don’t care about all the gear specifications. I want gear that works as advertised and does its job well. I don’t seek out new gear each season. We don’t focus on having the latest and greatest, but still, with growing boys and lots of activity, gear gets worn out and out grown. Replacing needed gear each year gets expensive and that is why all brave ski parents need a gear strategy.
SPRING: As temperatures warm and the snow gets soft, take a look at your kids’ equipment and clothing and determine what will need to be replaced for next season. Make your best guess as to what size your kids will be and determine what you need. Choose your preferred colors and sizes and styles before you start looking. Know what size and type of skis your child will need next year. Be picky and search until you find what you and your child are both looking for.
Most independent ski shops, big box retailers (Sports Authority for example) and online retailers begin putting the current season’s wares on sale in about March. These goods are usually not fully marked down, but if sizes are limited for the item you want, you may need to snatch it up at 25-40% off. I like to support local, independent shops as much as possible and I would never buy ski boots or bindings for my kids online. I want the expert fitting and service that comes with a ski shop. Clothing is another matter and I have found plenty of good deals at local stores and online.
My favorite online sites for outfitting kids with high quality outerwear: backcountry.com and yellow-turtle.com. Sierratradingpost.com and campmor.com are great for basics such as fleece and wool base layers.
SUMMER: If you are like me and you neglected to inventory the gear until this summer, do it now. You are not too late but you may find that many sizes and styles sold out long ago. However, in my experience, great deals can be had all summer long at ski resorts. Prices tend to get lower as temperatures rise and great deals can be found into September when the stores begin showcasing the upcoming season’s goods. Case in point, two weeks ago, we were in Copper Mountain, CO and had a bit of time to kill. My oldest and I were browsing the sale racks at Copper Sports when we found the exact pair of ski pants he coveted last season in his size at 50% off. Score!
QUALITY: For ski wear and equipment, I can only recommend that you buy the best quality you can afford. This doesn’t mean blindly buying according to brand name, but using your best judgment and the expertise of sales people to help you make decisions.
The first time we took our then 3-year old skiing, he had a very cute winter coat sold by a national childrens’ clothing chain. He looked great and he felt miserable. We went home and ordered him a down parka from Lands’ End. He was warm and cozy and he has never looked back. After he outgrew it, the Lands’ End parka was passed onto his brother and then to another family, still in great condition.
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