Out west, snow’s falling. Here in Michigan the temps are falling, too. Ski season is so close you can taste it in the air. Many of us have our eyes on the weather and are thinking about winter ski plans – shaping our budgets for gear, buying lift tickets and booking winter travel to net the most fun for the best value possible.

For parents with ski kids, value especially matters. This means hitting the gear exchanges, ski swaps and trade-up programs to score sweet deals on gear to fit those ever-growing children. While these avenues are great for experienced parents to procure gear, it may seem daunting to new parents trying to navigate their options to best suit their family’s budgets and needs.

So to get the best input, we turned toward our local experts for tips on purveying new gear for kids – whether its via a trade-up program or at a local ski swap. Here’s what they had to say!

Q: What should parents think about when buying skis for kids (time on the hill, level of skill, budget)?

A: The first item to consider is, “How often will the child be skiing?” Generally if you’re going less than 6 times, rental makes the most sense financially and logistically.  Resorts often package lift tickets with rentals at an affordable rate and the family doesn’t have to manage transportation, storage, maintenance etc..  If you go more than 6 times, then purchasing makes more sense as the cost is about the same as buying and you don’t waste slope time waiting in a rental line. ~~ From Jon Holmes at Bill & Paul’s Sporthaus

Caberfae Season Pass Sale

Q: What benefits do parents get from working with a trade-up program?

A: I think a trade in program takes the “fear of cost” out of skiing for a growing kid. Some programs allow you to trade your entire setup for a completely new one if your kid grows in that time. Some allow you to pay a small fee to upgrade. These allow kids the ability to get the right equipment as they grow.There is nothing worse than having the wrong gear in any sport for your height weight or ability. Programs like these help alleviate that. ~~ From Mike Buczek at

A: Parents should be conscious of correct sizing for kids. Make sure the boots fit right and the skis are not too long. After all these are the critical learning years. A trade up program eliminates the hassle of having to sell the old equipment. Parents can purchase equipment at full retail price with the promise of full or partial credit towards new equipment. However be wary of hidden fees such as membership dues, mounting, and late return fees. Our lease program is a simple – equipment lease deal, the parents just re-size each year and pay one flat rate. ~~ From Andrew Horton at Northern Edge Snowsports

A: Affordability, flexibility, and added value.  By knowing the equipment can be traded back whenever necessary the family isn’t stuck with a pile of junior equipment they can’t get rid of.  The child is free to pick the style of ski that fits them best, they can buy new or used equipment (used purchases get free base tunes), and they can switch from skiing to boarding and back as often as they like without costing Mom and Dad a ton of money.  Because experienced staff insures the children are in proper fitting gear it’s more likely they’ll be successful and comfortable on the slopes (and that makes everyone in the family happy!).  Finally there are always the extras that come with the purchase like t-shirts, ski vouchers, and other fun gifts for kids. ~~ From Jon Holmes at Bill & Paul’s Sporthaus

Above: Grand Rapids ski racer Emma Starner (age 9) trades in last season’s skis toward new gear at Bill & Paul’s Sporthaus as part of their trade-up program. Photo credit: Lisa Rose

Q: What should parents be advise of if they choose to hit the ski swaps and purvey used gear on their own?

A: If at all possible, take someone with you who knows the gear. Find someone at the swap and ask lots of questions. More and more shops are getting involved with swaps and sending their own employees there to work them. There should be someone there that can help you to answer questions about size, fit, etc. Also, try not to buy equipment that is more than a couple years old, especially ski bindings. Bindings need to be tested by professionals to make sure they are in proper working order. Some bindings might be so old that when you buy them, a shop won’t work on them because they are outside of what they are able to work on. ~~  From Mike Buczek at
Q: Why is it beneficial to have your children’s skis fit properly and tuned by a technician?

A: If you’re talking about having a certified shop tech adjust and test the bindings, then we’re talking safety for the skier and peace of mind for the parents. As for the ski swaps, we tend to see parents oversize their purchase because they want the equipment to last for the next 5 years. This prevents the child from achieving immediate success as they have to fight their gear. So if you do purchase at swaps, skis should come to about the nose of the skier, a snowboard to just under the chin. And boots can be sized up 1-2 sizes without worry, but much bigger and the skier loses control and gets cold feet! ~~From Jon Holmes at Bill & Paul’s Sporthaus

Above: Ski tech at Bill & Paul’s Sporthaus checks sizing and gets dimensions for Emma’s tuneup and bindings. Photo credit: Lisa Rose

Q: What are some of the new trends for 2014 we should be excited about for youth skis?

A: The U-Flex ski from Élan uses a special core making it 25% more flexible than previous skis. This allows the child to flex and carve the skis easier than before. Learning time is reduced.  Another innovation is size flexible boots which can be adjusted up to 3 sizes. ~~ From Andrew Horton at Northern Edge Snowsports

A: With techwear, I am most excited about the clothes that grow with your kids up to a certain point. We recently purchased an Obermeyer set up for our daughter, which features a system that will allow the sleeves and pants to be lengthened when the need arises. Simply trim the seam that is on the inside of the sleeves and pants and you get some extra length. This is nice because you don’t have to buy your kids new clothes every single year. ~~ From Mike Buczek at

Shop and ski local. Online retail definitely has its place, but we all know that our local ski shops and the people behind the counter are anchors for our ski community. Beyond product, local ski shops offer service and in-person technical support. Here’s a short list of Michigan retailers offering expertise to get you and your groms properly set for this winter’s season:

Boyne Country Sports
Bill & Paul’s SportHaus
Northern Edge Snowsports
Summit Sports

Continue the convo: Got tips for trade-ups and ski swaps? Drop them in a comment below or contact us.

Written by: Lisa Rose