More time for fun, more beer, less hassle.
Why don’t they have this for golf?
Skiers and golfers have one thing in common – bitching about how the airlines keep screwing them and making travel more difficult – and expensive. But at least golfers can stuff their golf travel covers with clothes, shoes and stuff – a pair of skis or a snowboard usually travels solo, weighs very little, but still blows half your free luggage allowance – if you are among the lucky few who still get a free baggage allowance. Otherwise you can be looking at upwards of $100 per trip just to bring your own skis.
Also, a set of clubs fits in the trunk of a rental car (except in Ireland) but skis don’t. And while your golf clubs are just as good (or bad) in varying conditions, your skis aren’t. Come from the East and the skis you own probably are not the right ones for the Rockies. Go form the West to the East and they surely are not. And anyway you look at it, they are quite simply a hassle to bring.
But the biggest difference between the sports is that while most golfers are extremely picky about their equipment, with mixed and matched brands and clubs in their sets, custom shafts, lofts and lie angles that rentals simply cannot replicate, for the vast majority of skiers, even excellent, playing off scratch skiers, good rental shops often stock exactly the same thing they ski on at home, so there is no loss of quality when renting. In addition, despite all the equipment hype, golf gear improves very slowly, but changes in skiing have been dramatic, especially this year, so even if you own skis you may be better off renting to take advantage of the new and incredible “rockered” technology this season.
It has always been easy to rent skis or boards, if by easy you mean either stopping on your way in from the airport or getting up early on your first day of skiing and skipping first turns in fresh powder to wait on a long line while some college student on spring break who knows nothing about the gear tries to help you and your five kids. Two hours later, you are out on the slopes, maybe with decent equipment in decent shape, maybe not.
Or you can forget all your worries and call Black Tie Skis, which is what I did in both Steamboat Springs, CO, last winter and Big Sky, MT, the year before, and can therefore heartily recommend.
Here’s the deal: Black Tie eschews brick and mortar storefronts for an all-delivery model (actually they have one shop) that saves them a lot of money on rent and stuff, and lets them provide door to door service for about the same price (sometimes even less) than the quality ski shops offering the same type of higher end gear for rent in each of their destinations (prices vary slightly from town to town).
So you call or book online, arrange a time, and they come to you in the Black Tie van, complete with a quiver of skis or boards you have pre-selected from a variety of packages (Premium, Performance, Beginner, etc) and boots if you need them as well (though I recommend investing a good pair, traveling with them, and just renting the boards or skis – you can even carry on your boots, lots of avid skiers do). They will do the fittings and adjustment in the living room of your ski condo or hotel room, which begs the question: why stand in line to rent while you could be drinking a beer by the fire through the process? Each Black Tie “shop” is also locally owned by a licensee, so the person bringing you your skis doubles as a concierge, ready to give you real local insider info on where to eat, drink, find the best snow, etc. Did I mention this is while you are sitting there drinking beer?
There are two other big benefits. Unlike golf clubs, which work even when we let them get dusty and rusty, the most important element of a ski’s performance can be its tune, even more so than the ski itself. Lots of slopeside big rental shops churn and burn through equipment with minimal care given to tuning, but Black Tie keeps their gear in pristine shape, and delivers skis and boards ready to work for you. If you don’t like a particular model or want to try a wider version, say after a big powder dump, call them and they come switch it out, simple. Finally, when you are ready to go home, you don’t have to spend the final night of your vacation running the kids around like herd of cats while you drive into town to return the skis to the shop. Black Diamond picks them up while – you guessed it – you drink beer.
Black Tie has spawned a small handful of competitors in the nascent ski delivery business, which may be just fine, but they are the oldest (coming up on ten years), the biggest, and at least for me, the tried and true. Don’t forget that you can get additional discounts by booking in advance before you leave home. They currently have locations at most major western resorts including:
Aspen & Snowmass, CO
Vail & Beaver Creek, CO
Big Sky, MT
Whistler & Blackcomb, BC
Steamboat Springs, CO
Copper Mountain, CO
Mammoth, CA; Northstar-at-Tahoe, CA
Alpine Meadows, CA
South Lake Tahoe, CA/NV
Park City, Deer Valley & The Canyons, UT
Winter Park, CO