By: Emily Simon
If you’re anything like me, you identify as a badass woman who is obsessed with skiing and wants to get after it as much as possible. Unfortunately there is nothing badass about my income; I am a teacher and grad student who devotes a sizable chunk of every paycheck to getting after it in the mountains. There’s no denying that the cost of my favorite activities is STEEP. Because I love my job and don’t want to pursue a whole new career that might do a better job of funding my activities, I have had to come up with creative ways of obtaining good gear that will serve my needs in the mountains at a discount. While I appreciate sites and stores that often have good deals on gear, even discounted gear can still be pretty expensive. These tips are for those who are willing to do a little extra work to get a REALLY good deal (or even better, free stuff).
Tip #1: Free Stores and Secondhand shops in Ski Towns
“Free Stores” might not be the correct term, but many ski towns have donation centers that they have turned into free stores. Because of their locations and the demographics that generally donate to these spaces, the “stores” are usually stocked with gently used, name brand gear. I’ve found some AMAZING things in these places (My snowshoes, North Face winter jacket, Gore-Tex Snow Pants and North Face mittens were all finds from ski town “free stores”)
Some of my favorites near me in Colorado:
- Saint Mary’s Garage in Crested Butte -Everything is completely free and their inventory is consistently fantastic!
- The Thrift Shop of Aspen in Aspen- This is a thrift store but they have some amazing deals and gear
- LiftUp Routt County in Steamboat Springs
- Headwall Sports in Jackson Hole, WY (not in Colorado, but they always have INCREDIBLE deals on high quality winter gear, it’s always worth the stop when I’m there)
Tip #2 Facebook Groups
The Facebook groups that I am a member of have been incredible when it comes to knowing about discounted gear! There are similar groups in different regions, but here are a few of my favorites in Colorado…
- Buy Nothing– There are chapters of the Buy Nothing Project all over the country. The idea behind it is that so many of us have a lot of stuff we don’t use, and your neighbor might have a use for it, so it’s a platform for connecting people. I am located in Golden, Colorado and the amount of high quality gear I have been able to give and get through this group has been awesome. People giving away gear through this group are generally respectful of the mission and don’t post heavily used items or things that no longer work.
- Colorado Backcountry Ski and Board– People are always posting gear at a discount on these groups, and it’s a great way to access a community that will have a lot of knowledge around where to find the best deals on gear in your area.
Tip #3: Investigate wellness options through your workplace or health insurance
This is one that might be really appealing to those who aren’t interested in secondhand gear. A lot of employers and health insurance policies have funds for “wellness.” These are generally for gym memberships, nutritionists, etc. BUT there is an argument that can be made for these funds being applied to gear! My health insurance plan gives out “wellness funds” at the end of each fiscal year and has allowed me to apply these funds to gear that keeps me fit and active. I made that argument one year and it was fairly easy to have these wellness funds cover my backcountry bindings when I wanted the Atomic shifts and a new pair of touring boots!
Tip #4: Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist
This one sounds like common sense but is worth including on this list. One thing I have noticed over years of using these resources for gear- The men in my life have tended to walk away with better deals, so ladies, don’t be afraid to haggle! Also, be sure to check out the gear in person before buying. A lot of people will sell gear they’ve never used before and it’s in pristine condition, but others will try to get top dollar for something that might not be in great shape or serve your exact needs.
Tip #5: Keep track of local swaps and sales!
Local gear swaps can be amazing! Keep an eye out for these kinds of events in your area! Also keep track of sales going on in your local stores, especially rental shops!
It can feel like a gut punch to find a badass activity that you’re really excited about and then realize sky’s the limit when it comes to how much you might have to spend to access that activity. It can feel like a real socio economic barrier to accessing the joy that can be found in the backcountry, but if you’re creative with how you acquire your gear it doesn’t have to be an insurmountable barrier!