Rental skis

Rental and test skis fill the racks at Bootdoctors in Mountain Village before the busy peak season. (Photo by Eva Thomas)

They’re here. Around 5,000 skiers are expected on the mountain Christmas weekend, according to Patrick Latcham, the VP of Sales and Marketing for Telski.

"That number is going to keep going until the 31st. Then we will have a huge exodus on Jan. 1 and 2," said Latcham.

While some of those skiers will bring their own equipment, a large majority of them will rent gear from local shops.

Alabamian David Sherrod, who has skied and snowboarded in Colorado for the past 30 years, rents gear because it is a good way to keep up to date with all the latest equipment.

"I definitely rent. The gear changes so often, and that way, I get the latest and greatest stuff. Also, I go every three years, so if I bought something and used it once every three years, it wouldn't be worth it," said Sherrod.

However, visitors like Sherrod should be sure to make reservations far in advance if they are planning to rent equipment from local shops, especially during peak season.

Local ski rental shops like Black Tie Skis, Christy Sports & Bootdoctors, and Ski Butlers are all experiencing record numbers leading up into the Christmas weekend and continuing through New Year's. 

Ski Butlers, a ski rental delivery service catering to over 50 resorts worldwide, sold out in advance at least two weeks ahead of time at the Telluride branch, explained general manager Brit Ebersold.

"A lot more people are booking months out. A lot were booking in summer, so that was definitely a lot different. Normally we see bookings at least two weeks in advance, but now we see a trend of more people booking earlier and running out earlier," said Ebersold.

Snowsports experienced a minor dip during the height of the pandemic, but this season there has been an apparent rise in demand. According to the National Ski Areas Association (NSAA), the national total of "Estimated U.S Snowsports Visits" increased from 51 million in 2019/2020 to 59 million visitors in 2020-21. In the Rocky Mountain region, which includes Telluride, visit and estimated visits went from around 20.1 million in 2019-20 to 22.6 million in 2020-21.

While an increase of 2.5 million region-wide doesn't seem exponentially great, many rental shops are experiencing supply-chain delays and staffing shortages because of COVID. According to Ebersold, inventory is a little lower than they expected "due to the shipping of our equipment."

Sam McNichols, the general manager of Black Tie Rentals, said they are still waiting on half of some of their orders because of supply issues this past year. Black-Tie skis make most of their revenue through delivery, but they do have an in-person location in Mountain Village. Within the past week, they have had to turn away multiple families looking to rent at their walk-in shop because there was simply not enough equipment, said McNichols.

"We have tons of advanced skis left — so we have tons of that stuff available for advanced skiers, but our beginner-intermediate skis are completely sold out," he added.

Black Tie sold out three weeks sooner than they usually do, right before peak season. Typically, they sell out a week in advance, explained McNichols.

Both Ebersold and McNichols anticipate reservations to open and for more equipment to become available the week following New Year's Eve.

With the recent increase in COVID cases throughout San Miguel County, which County public health director Grace Franklin referred to as an "unprecedented spike" in a Wednesday update, managers continue to keep staff safe and healthy by adhering to proper protocols, including abiding by the indoor mask mandate.

Buck Smith, the area manager for Bootdoctors and Christy Sports in Telluride, said one of his main priorities this season is "making sure that everybody is staying on top of safety protocol in terms of COVID."

Keeping staff and visitors safe is especially important in stores like Bootdoctors, Christy Sports, and Telluride Sports, where a considerable part of the business is in-store as compared to delivery.

"We're definitely looking at record-breaking numbers in terms of reservations for this year— across all five stores," added Smith. "We're going to get to the point this year where we may be turning off walk-ins for customers because we're going to be so busy."

Walk-ins refer to visitors who have not yet made an online reservation. All the stores mentioned offer online reservation forms, which are highly encouraged. Rental packages run similar prices across most rental ski shops in Telluride and Mountain Village. Premium packages typically range from around $64-$84 a day. As far as making a reservation, the sooner, the better. 

Jeremy Williams, who is visiting from out of state with his wife, paid and got fitted for boots and skis the day before they were set to go skiing at the Telluride Sports in Mountain Village.

"It was a pretty smooth process, but I'm definitely glad we did it (yesterday) because it would have taken longer if we had done it today," said Williams.

If you are looking to rent equipment from local shops, make a reservation as soon as possible, or you might be out of luck.