Novice Snowboard Costs, Zero To Sixty?
February 13, 2009 12:34 PM   Subscribe

How much should I budget to both equip myself and my wife for snowboarding and get us enough instruction so that we enjoy it? I mean, we own nothing with the possible exception of some gloves we could use, and we want to get ourselves outfitted and capable of boarding happily all day at places like Heavenly or Whistler. What will this cost, or, barring that, what do we need to budget for?
posted by scrump to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (19 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Do you have pants and jacket? If not, you could probably pick those up for about $200 total. Add in goggles for $40.

In terms of snowboard equipment, you don't have to buy anything to start. You can rent on the mountain and most ski resorts have newbie lift ticket + rental packages (boots, bindings, snowboard) that are a better deal than getting them separately. I recommend renting the first few times before you start shelling out serious money for equipment.

Heavenly lift tickets are in the $70s (for each day) and I recall Whistler lift tickets are about the same. Figure an extra $20 for the rentals and you're looking at about $90-100 per day on the mountain.
posted by junesix at 1:00 PM on February 13, 2009

Best answer: Have snowpants (or at least some sort of mostly waterproof outer layer), a winter coat, hat, and gloves for the first time out. It doesn't matter too much what you wear under this, but try to avoid cotton. Take a class and find out if you even like snowboarding before thinking any further. (I've known people who were sure they were going to love snowboarding and found it really wasn't their thing after trying it.) Usually a class will include your equipment rental for the day.

If you find you do like snowboarding, rent until you find a swap meet or ski sale in your area and pick up a used snowboard and boots for cheap.

Things to buy after that, in order: wool socks. A helmet. Ski googles. (You'll really love ski googles out on the slope, and paired with a helmet they are an unbeatable combination for keeping your head warm.) Long underwear, fleece shirts and pants, and other non-cotton base layers. A neck warmer.

I'm sorry, I can't help you much on prices, but for the first time out look at class prices for your ski hill of choice, make a note if they include rentals or not, and buy or borrow snowpants, coats, hats and gloves. (Maybe 100$ each if you need to buy everything - look for sale prices this time of year.) Don't forget to budget for hot cocoa in the ski lodge as well. :) For each day after that, it's price of the lift ticket + rentals. Have fun.
posted by warble at 1:07 PM on February 13, 2009

Best answer: Don't rent on the mountain unless your vehicle won't allow you to carry the equipment. Rent at Sports Basement in SF. You can get your gear for a whole week for the price you'd pay for a day's rental at some resorts.

You can get discounted lift tickets to several places there too and I believe that all but Squaw Valley are returnable if you don't end up using them.

Sugar Bowl, on weekdays, has free lessons (at 10 AM and at 1, I believe) with the purchase of a lift ticket. That said, I would have paid double for the private lesson that turned me into a Person Who Skis a few years ago.

If you're meaning to do this this season you may pay more of a premium for your gear, but if you're thinking long term, you'll be able to scoop up pants, jackets, socks, gloves etc. at the end of season sales. I got a pair of $150 Columbia pants at Redwood Trading Post in RWC for $50 last spring.
posted by padraigin at 1:10 PM on February 13, 2009

Depending on what kind of car you drive, you'll probably also need a car-top carrier for yer boards. Until you're ready to make that investment, though, Budget claims to offer free ski carriers with their rentals.
posted by mudpuppie at 1:17 PM on February 13, 2009

Response by poster:
That said, I would have paid double for the private lesson that turned me into a Person Who Skis a few years ago.
Can you expand on this?
posted by scrump at 1:17 PM on February 13, 2009

Best answer: Here is stuff you need and approximate prices. Clothes are very important; you don't need top of the line but don't get crap because then you'll be cold and miserable. You can get started using some of your existing clothes as long as you buy the correct pants/gloves/socks.

Most important:

Board Pants: $50-100; may be able to get a cheap set for less. Reasonably thin ones tend to be better than thick padded ones. It's pretty important to have these be comfortable.

Ski/Snowboard Socks: Very important; make sure they have no cotton. Maybe $10 a pair; if you already have relatively thin, long wool socks, they'll do. No cotton. Really.

Gloves: An OK set will cost probably $40-60; you may be able to find something cheaper. Don't buy $15 gloves at the supermarket. These are really important, especially when snowboarding, because you'll be falling into snow a lot and if they get wet, your hands will get cold. Also, you may want to pick up some chemical hand warmers (they're cheap), as with all likelihood, your gloves will get a bit wet anyways. I don't advocate using the gloves you have unless they are appropriate.

Less important (it's important to have something, but using suboptimal gear won't ruin anything)

Jacket: Specialty ski jackets can get expensive real quick; a normal waterproof jacket that you already have can do OK for a while.

Goggles: Find a set that fits you OK; no need to get an expensive one if a cheap one fits. Can use sunglasses if you're a beginner; once you start going fast or board in snowy weather, sunglasses will be a problem. I'm a pretty good skier and I typically carry both shades & goggles and use my shades maybe 70% of the time.

Headgear: Have a hat or a helmet. You may be able to rent helmets. Any beanie will work.

Baselayer: A nice baselayer will keep you warm and reasonably dry. $20 each for top and bottom.

Important but rentable: Board, bindings, boots. Don't rent on the slopes if you can help it (it'll cost waaay more and you'll stand in line) but rent for a few times before considering buying. That way, you'll know if you're interested and will know a bit more about what gear you want.
posted by bsdfish at 1:19 PM on February 13, 2009

Best answer: BTW, as far as learning, snowboarding is one of those sports that's pretty hard to start and pretty easy once you 'get it.' Skiing is the opposite IMHO. So your first day or two of snowboarding may be miserable -- lots of falling, etc -- but don't get discouraged and remember that as soon as things 'click' and you figure out how to do toe-edge, heel-edge and switch between them, you'll start having lots of fun and will improve quickly.

Also, if you both are beginners, don't go to an expensive resort. Heavenly & Whistler are great because they are big and have a large variety of slopes, including many advanced ones. On your first few days, you'll get to see about 5% of Heavely, so a resort that's significantly smaller can do just as well and can be a lot cheaper. In the Tahoe area, Donner Ski ranch is promising for complete beginners (though awful for anyone who's decent).
posted by bsdfish at 1:26 PM on February 13, 2009

Best answer: That said, I would have paid double for the private lesson that turned me into a Person Who Skis a few years ago.

Can you expand on this?

You bet.

I was really nervous about learning to ski--I was thirty, I don't have a history of being athletic, my husband's family are all experts, I get frustrated really easily and am prone to crying, whatever. I figured I'd do better one-on-one than I would in a group lesson, and it really was true: having someone to focus on only me and tailor his methods to my learning style was so amazing. I worked with the instructor all morning my first day on skis and after lunch I was doing just fine on my own.

I've since taken lots of group lessons and since I'm better at it now, I actually get quite a lot out of watching the other people in my group and listening to the different ways the instructor explains each technique, but as a beginner that would have confused the shit out of me and I would not have taken to the sport as well as I did.
posted by padraigin at 1:34 PM on February 13, 2009

Best answer: (and OMG, I love Donner Ski Ranch. I've probably nearly exhausted the possibilities there, but it's such a divey little mom and pop joint. When I went skiing in Minnesota and Wisconsin over Christmas, all the places we went were like Donner Ski Ranch)
posted by padraigin at 1:36 PM on February 13, 2009

Best answer: Just curious, why is everyone saying no cotton?

I also say to go to a smaller resort with more green trails for beginners - your expensive lift ticket will only be used for a very small fraction of the mountain of you're at a big resort, so it's not worth it. Some mountains (I don't know about that area) have cheaper beginner's lift tickets that are only good on a couple of lifts, but that should be enough if you're just learning.
posted by KateHasQuestions at 1:37 PM on February 13, 2009

Best answer: A couple of articles you may or may not find useful:

So, you want to snowboard?
What to Wear

/disclaimer: I run the site

Cost-wise, hills usually have a first-timer rental/lift ticket/lesson at a very reasonable cost. After all, it's in their best interest to have you return. One lesson should be enough to get you going on the green runs.

You're going to want decent snow pants since boarders tend to have more contact with the snow while doing-up bindings or taking a breather (it's more tiring to balance on a board than skis when stopped on the hill). Same with gloves, ski gloves tend to be designed mainly for warmth, but boarders have a lot more contact with the snow, so some attention to ability to shed snow and moisture is important for a comfy day. Synthetic base layer, quality fleece, costs more but worth it. Jacket shell, as long as it sheds snow, you can probably go cheap, however, at big mountains you can be sweating at the base and freezing at the top, so things like armpit zips can come in handy.

Get a helmet, seriously. Beginners catch edges very easily, so a few good knocks to the noggin are common until skills are further developed. They weren't common when I learned, but these days, like when bike helmets were encouraged, they've been around long enough to be, well, common.

A cheap board and bindings is going to pay for itself within a few days out. Until you know what you want out of your equipment it's not worth investing in higher-end gear. The exception is boots. Don't skimp there, get ones that fit well, otherwise you'll be miserable, and when boarding you really need a good fit to properly get the board on edge.

For goggles and a toque, cheap should do here as well.

Rough estimate (each), $200-300 for proper clothing if you don't already have some that's suitable. $200 for a cheap board and bindings. $150 for boots. Board cable lock $20. Lift ticket budget. Helmet $40.
posted by hungrysquirrels at 1:45 PM on February 13, 2009

Best answer: Oh, and yes, do rent the first 3 or so days out. Clothing can be re-purposed, but since the accepted time to 'get the hang of it' is three days, you'll probably want to wait at least that long before buying the board/bindings/boots.
posted by hungrysquirrels at 1:51 PM on February 13, 2009

Best answer: Ditto giving snowboarding at least three "full" days of learning. I quit after two, mostly because I got sick, but I did it knowing that I was not over the hump. If I was to go back to boarding from skiing, I would expect to start from scratch and allot at least two, maybe three days to get to the point where I could do a short green run without falling. Speaking of falling, I also recommend wrist guards - fairly cheap, and some rental places have them to rent as well. Get them and put them on before buying gloves/mittens - they're not huge, but you'll need slightly larger gloves than you would otherwise.

@Kate - Cotton holds your sweat next to your skin rather than wicking it away - your feet get cold and stiff quickly. Wool wicks the sweat away, and as a bonus, doesn't tend to smell!
posted by attercoppe at 1:52 PM on February 13, 2009

Also ditto (on posting) what hungrysquirrels says about a helmet. You can take a pretty hard fall going almost 0 mph - and even further from your control, someone else can run you down, especially if you're on the ground. Wear a helmet!
posted by attercoppe at 1:54 PM on February 13, 2009

Best answer: I spend a week every March snowboarding in Snowmass.

My snowboarding gear is:
- Capilene long underwear (top and bottom)
- cotton gym socks
- SmartWool socks (not these exact ones) over the cotton ones to keep my feet warm & dry
- a North Face ski bib which is my favorite piece of equipment - I don't care if I look cooler in snowboarding pants - I don't get any ice in my drawers this way
- A fleece layer over the bib
- A ski jacket (not that exact one) over all that
- A neck gator
- Snowboarding gloves - make sure that they cinch tight around the wrist
posted by charlesv at 2:04 PM on February 13, 2009

And ditto on attercoppe's mention of the wrist guards, it's the most common snowboarding injury. Dakine make a slim one that fits inside most gloves, it's what I use. It helps with not only preventing breaking your wrist, but especially when beginning you're using you hands (and wrists) a lot to get back up from the ground, they help reduce having sore wrists at the end of the day. There is some people who say they only make it more likely to break your forearm, and others who say that's better since it's easier to mend than the little wrist bones. Anyway, something else to think about.
posted by hungrysquirrels at 2:10 PM on February 13, 2009

You don't want cotton because it has no thermal value when wet. Wool and polar fleece are able to provide insulation even when wet. Cotton is not your friend when you're playing outside.
posted by LunaticFringe at 2:19 PM on February 13, 2009

Best answer: I highly recommend the lessons at Whistler/Blackcomb. Far, far superior to lessons I had in Tahoe or Washington. The group lesson is perfectly fine, and less tiring than an individual lesson. Rates are here. If you go up there, get lift tickets with a lodging package- the lift tickets with lessons are only good if you are with an instructor, so don't buy those if you want to take a few turns after you're done.

It doesn't matter too much what you wear under this, but try to avoid cotton.
I feel that you can get away with any water resistant shell, as long as you have a good first and second layer underneath. The disgusting clammyness of not-very-good thermals is not only unappealing, but will cause you to get chilled too easily.
So I would pay for premium mitts, mitt liners, socks, and thermals. Jackets and pants-bibs don't have to be great to start, especially on the bunny hills. Fleece can be cheap. I like silk thermals and socks with a smartwool layer on top, maybe a wool sweater (I personally hate fleece, but that's just me) if your pants and jacket are just shells. Sierra Trading Post always has great prices for silk thermals. Amazingly lightweight and warm, I far prefer silk to any other thermal fabric against my skin. A neck gaiter that can be pulled up over your nose, decent new goggles, and a fleece or wool hat.
posted by oneirodynia at 4:33 PM on February 13, 2009

Don't rent on the mountain unless your vehicle won't allow you to carry the equipment.

This is good advice in general, but not for your first time. It's better to rent on the mountain (or at least nearby) in case you find that your board is really the wrong size, or your boots are horrible, etc.

In terms of getting clothes, ask around to see if any friends can loan you pants and/or a jacket. Splurge on "wicking" underlayers as others have said, it's way worth it!

I personally recommend Northstar at Tahoe for beginners, skiing or boarding.

Oh and wear sunscreen kids!
posted by radioamy at 7:26 PM on February 13, 2009

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