Photos and story by Mary-Colleen Jenkins
Photo at right: The line up – Little feet grow fast! Early on, this can mean good deals on lightly used skis.
“I think I got a nibble on the little red skis,” said Michael.
The week before, we’d picked up new skis for our daughter. We didn’t go to a ski shop. Instead we drove across the 520 bridge, wound our way through hilly neighborhoods and stopped in front of a house on a cul-de-sac.
“Be right back,” Michael said.
Five minutes later he opened the door to the car and showed us the skis, slightly nicked, but otherwise in great shape.
“The kid was about 13 years old. He got new skis for Christmas and is selling these so he can get new bindings.”
Ah, the beauty of Craigslist.
Our daughter had a new-to-her pair of skis because of a Craigslist ad, and now her beloved red skis—which were suddenly not fast enough—were listed, too. The perfect skis for the next kid who came along.
Good Gear: The Gift that Keeps on Giving
Next to lift tickets, the biggest skiing expense is keeping growing kids in gear. In late summer parents grit their teeth as the dreaded Try on the Gear Day comes around. You can’t wait too long because what if an early, freak dumping happens in November and the kids aren’t equipped to take advantage of it?
Kids complain and parents sweat it out, but it happens. Two piles emerge: the “This Still Fits” pile and the “Dammit!” pile.
If the “Dammit!” pile consists of well-cared for gear and clothing, it can become a resource for new(ish) replacements. You can sometimes trade with another family. For years we traded clothing and equipment with our neighbors because the kids were stair-stepped in age. When the youngest kid finishes with whatever piece of gear, the original family gets it back to sell or give away. One legendary blue snowsuit survived use by at least seven kids!
Selling good kids’ gear on Craigslist or via a site like Turns All Year is a great way to make sure well-loved gear gets a good home. Kids tend to fall in love with their skis, so it’s nice for them to see another family excited to get them. The best part, of course, is getting quality gear for a good price.
When New Happens
Eventually, there’s no way around it: The kids need new stuff. As they get older, it’s harder to find used gear. Cost goes up once they’re out of youth sizes. Suddenly you realize that they are wearing the same size boots or clothing that you are!
The better skiers they become, the more kids know what they want from their equipment. Their opinions will be based on skill rather than on their favorite colors. They’ll look at what constitutes good gear the same way you do: What is the best equipment for what I want to do and how I want to do it?
Research the options, so you can jump on a great deal if you see one during spring sales, late summer ski extravaganzas or on Craigslist. One summer I bought brand new skis, still in plastic, from a shop specializing in used equipment that had advertised them on Craigslist. On that hot summer day I wasn’t thinking about buying skis, but I had known for months what skis I would buy if the opportunity came up. I paid a fraction of what they would have cost the winter before.
Boots are the toughest part of the equation. Unlike with jackets or pants, too much “growing room” in boots can damage feet, ankles or the surrounding nerves. Always look for sales, but buy boots from a place where professionals can assist kids with proper fit. They know the right questions to ask. If you do happen to find a great pair on Craigslist, see if any shops sell the same boots or something similar. Go in and have the kid try on a new pair and get advice on fit before buying blind.
The Family that Skis Together…
Money-saving strategies aside, participating in this sport means investing in it. I see it as more than a financial decision. I see it ultimately as an investment in our family and the idea that our collective love of skiing will stand the test of time.
Filmmaker Warren Miller once said, “The family that skis together bitches at each other.” And, more and more often the kids peel away for a few runs with their friends and yell back, “We’ll meet you at the car!” Eventually, we’ll just see them in the car on the way there and on the way home. Someday, they’ll join us on ski trips with their own families in tow.
And, though Warren Miller is right about the occasional bitching, the best part of skiing is the “family” and the “together” part.
Winter weekends call Mary-Colleen out to the snow, but during the week she can be found warm and dry and working with words. Jenkins is a freelance editor, writing coach and writer of two blogs, Too Fond of Books (toofondofbooks-sea.blogspot.com) and Along the Branches (www.alongthebranches.wordpress.com). You can find her on Twitter at @EmceeReads
Catch up with all the previous posts of “Tales from the Lift Line” below.
>> I. Waiting for Winter
>> II. Dorothy and Oz
>> IV. Vittels
>> VI. Olympians
>> VII. Emergence
>> VIII. Nickels and Dimes
>> IX. Nickels and Dimes Part II
>> X. Letting Them Run
>> I. The Beginning
>> II. When Seeing is Believing
>> III. Expeditionary Forces
>> IV. Velocity
>> V. Pack Rat
>> VI. Dude
>> VII. Expectations
>> VIII. Don’t Cry in the Trees
>> IX. The Sounds of Silence
>> X. Known/Unknown