Skier's Guide to the Rental Process


A First Timer’s Equipment Survival Guide for Skiing

By Jackson Hogen/ Masterfit Media

EDITOR’S NOTE: The majority of beginner learning programs at resorts include the lesson, a lift ticker AND rental equipment. This article is meant to help you navigate the rental process either at a resort or a retail shop.

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If you’re brand new to the sport of alpine skiing, renting equipment, is the most economical way to try the sport, at least until you participate more frequently and are ready to buy. This guide will help you prepare for your first day on the slope and the rental experience.

Before diving into the nuts and bolts of a typical ski rental interaction, we suggest that you equip yourself with a sense of humor and a dollop of patience. These will come in handy especially if you happen to be renting during a peak period.

Here’s how you can help the process run smoothly:

  • Know your height and weight. Parents should have these stats for the kids.

  • It’s nice to know your street shoe size, but it’s better if you measure your feet at the shop using a metric measurer that corresponds to ski boot sizing.

  • If asked for your “skier type,” you are Type I, designated for learners.

  • Avoid peak hours of operation if you can.


This is pretty straightforward, as it’s based on your height. The rule of thumb is your first skis should be no taller than chin-height.


This is a bit trickier. Boots are sized using a metric rather than U.S. street shoes. A good rental operation will measure your feet using this scale.

More importantly, you should understand that a ski boot DOES NOT fit or feel like any other piece of athletic footwear you have ever had on your feet. THE CORRECT SIZE WILL USUALLY FEEL SHORT UNTIL THE BOOT IS BUCKLED. This is where you may need to call upon that extra ounce of patience. Only when buckled up, can you flex your ankles and knees forward into the cuff, which will pull the toes back off the front of the boot. That’s the exact movement you need to make to turn and control a ski.

A good fitting boot should fit relatively snuggly with the pressure of a firm handshake. Choosing a boot that is, in fact, too large, will make it more difficult to balance on skis and can cause other kinds of discomfort from the foot moving around inside. This is the most crucial piece of equipment you will use all day! Make sure you are comfortable and your boots fit well. They should NOT hurt.


Sizing is based on height and is easily measured: just turn the pole upside down and grab it just below the inverted basket. With the handle on the floor, your forearm should be parallel with the ground.

Pole straps are trickier than they appear. Your natural tendency will be to put your hand through the loop from the top and grab the pole grip. Instead, put your hand under and through the strap so your palm rests against the strap when you grip the pole. That gives you much better leverage and control of the pole and makes it much easier to propel yourself forward. This little maneuver will make your ski day so much more pleasant!


They usually are available. We recommend using one. You only have one head and it’s got valuable contents. Like a boot, it should fit snuggly so head and helmet move as one. And buckle your lid! An unstrapped helmet might as well be a baseball cap.


Some rental operations offer water-resistant ski clothes, usually bib overalls and a basic parka. Make sure you either own, borrow or rent BOTH parka and pants. If you don’t your day can be wet one. It won’t last for long but you WILL be sitting in the snow for period of time.

Underneath this water resistant outer layer should be at least a couple of torso layers you most likely own: a base layer, preferably from a breathable, wicking fabric. A zip T-neck is a great choice as it allows you to vent or close up depending on your exertion level and the weather but a non-zip T-neck works well. An insulating layer such as fleece goes on top.

If you don’t have dedicated ski pants and will be wearing a water-resistant shell outer pant, wear pants that can easily be rolled up below. A pair of loose cuff sweatpants or yoga pants will work. If you wear tight cuff pants, you won’t be able to hike them above the boot cuff.


Here are the other must-haves for your first ski day. If you don’t own these items, borrow, buy or rent them. They are crucial for a good experience.

  • Ski socks. These aren’t dress socks or athletic socks. Skis socks should be relatively thin, smooth and made at least partly from wicking fibers. ONE PAIR is all you should wear. Multiple pairs of socks can create blisters and raw spots on the foot.

  • Goggles or sunglasses with UV protection. Eyewear isn’t optional. Even on cloudy days, UV rays can be intense as they bounce off the snow.

  • Waterproof gloves or mittens.

  • Sunscreen with high SPF. Sun at altitude is brutal on skin.

  • Lip balm .

  • If you’re not renting ski clothes, make sure your outer layer is at least water resistant. (Perhaps you can borrow an article or two from a skiing friend.)

  • On coder days, a neck gaiter will do wonders to hold in heat and keep out snow. After all, it IS winter.

Skiing is a lifelong adventure. It’s more than just another physical activity or exciting sport. It offers opportunities for self-expression and even spiritual transcendence that few other human activities can match.

If this is your first time skiing, welcome, brother or sister. You aren’t just embarking on a new sport; you’re joining a community, one that embraces you and values your participation.

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A quick word about shops!

As you improve, you may want to rent equipment just to practice without taking lessons. Your best bet is a specialty retail shop. Most shops will allow you to pick up equipment the evening before the rental day. Also, many shops offer an upgrade model, but at this stage of your development, a fleet rental ski will serve you just fine.

Once you get passionate about skiing (and we know you will) and want to learn more about equipment, we’d like to offer you a complimentary copy of the Masterfit Real Skier’s Buyer’s Guide where you’ll find great intel from long-time skiers. Click here to get your free copy.

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