When I was growing up, my family traded ski gear every year with another family. Their oldest son was one year older than me, their middle child was one year younger than me, and their youngest was one year younger than my younger brother. We were nearly perfect stairsteps and over the course of several autumns our parents would gather all of our equipment, line us up and see what fit whom. This trading arrangement kept all five of us kids skiing and kept our parents from going broke.
Of course, this was in the 1970s and our moms also shared childcare duties in a babysitting cooperative. I am sure that communal relationships like this still exist somewhere, but when my kids were young, we paid for babysitting or begged a friend to help out in a crisis. An organized plan for sharing babysitting among multiple families was simply too complicated. As for passing on clothing and baby equipment, it was handed down without reciprocity or sold. Still, in the spirit of being both a brave and frugal ski mom, I would be remiss if did not discuss the trade, borrow and beg gear strategy.
TRADE: Find another ski family, or two, with children who are not exactly the same size as your kids, but are staggered in size and age. Determine what sort of gear they buy. If you like to search out and purchase the “best,” gear trading may not work with a family that likes to search out and purchase “bargains.” While their kids will benefit from your research and investment, your kids will pay the price with equipment that may break easily or isn’t warm. Determine how serious they are about skiing. Are they beginners or experienced? While it doesn’t matter so much when kids are very young, more demanding skiers need better equipment to keep them safe and keep them progressing.
When you find a family or two with whom you match, get together, be clear about your expectations and set some ground rules. For example, who pays when equipment is broken or needs repairs? When is something deemed too “worn out” and ready to be retired? If one family comes without any gear, is some sort of investment on their part expected?
The questions to ask and rules to set vary with every circumstance, but it seems to me that clear communication upfront will ensure that you will save a bundle on gear and that everyone involved remains friends. Recognize, however, that this strategy works best with young families. Younger kids grow at a more predictable rate, regardless of gender. Growth spurts can really upset the trading flow and older kids are also much more picky about their gear. Good luck!
BORROWING: New to skiing? Not sure if it is a sport for you and your family? If you have a good friend who will lend you some gear, borrowing can be a good way to try skiing for the first time. Coats, ski pants, and other soft goods are especially appropriate for borrowing. Borrowing skis, boots and poles is actually called “renting” and it can be done at your local ski shop or ski resort.
BEGGING: I don’t recommend begging from friends. I do recommend begging from family. Ski season falls squarely in the midst of the Christmas holidays. I am a Christian, so I can’t speak to gift-giving traditions among other faiths with any experience or authority, but in our family, the grandparents are always happy to receive a “Christmas List” from their grandchildren and they really appreciate being able to buy something useful and long-lasting such as ski pants or gloves.
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