Sean Beckwith: The cost-benefit analysis of gear greed
While images of lollipops, gumdrops and Fortnite dance through children’s heads, directional snowboards, multicolored bibs, mittens and boots drip down the screen of my tablet. The gear greed bred by mountain living is kind of outrageous.
I remember when I thought $20 for a new Sega game was an insurmountable amount of money. Try suiting up for ski season with anything less than 10 times that. For $200, you can get yourself a pair of snowpants or a decent shell or middling snowboard boots — not all three or even two.
I feel bad for a new co-worker who just moved here without a set-up. At the same time, I’m jealous because he’s mounting freshly minted bindings, breaking in boots and maybe adding a sticker or eight.
Most boards will hold for beginners learning throughout their first season but, as I learned my first season and pretty much every season since, some components will give out. With experience, you’ll learn how to keep track of gloves, helmet and goggles — until Highlands closing day has you gallivanting around the valley to different bus stations in search of your beer-stained belongings.
However, that same natural progression eventually will take you into the trees or to the top of the bowl where you’re more likely to nick an edge or, even worse, slash into a core shot. Imagine going out for one of the best powder days of the year only to have fog seep between your flat-light lenses while the other lenses sit at the office.
Makeshift solutions only go so far before you’re over the smell of p-tex and longing for that new cambered life. Taking advantage of season-opening and ending sales is crucial for peons like myself who live here year-round. A buddy of mine snagged a sweet board for around $100 at a recent swap, so now he just needs to spend double that on bindings or remount his preferred board prior to each use.
If you don’t mind getting up early to bump shoulders with AVSC moms, swaps and local sales are the best outlet for bare necessities like socks, pants, jackets and, if it hasn’t already been picked over, hardware. Right before the lifts start, you can find some of last season’s models discounted on a bunch of websites. My go-to stop lately has been http://www.the-house.com. The drawback to that is the most sought-after sizes quickly get snaked. Another spot is http://www.steepandcheap.com, a site that features rotating deals on myriad outdoors equipment, but that shopping style leads to impulse buys, which apparently aren’t good for a bank account.
Gear greed isn’t limited to ski season, either. Any number of hobbies you pick up in the area require going into your wallet for your credit — not debit — card.
Once you get past the ungodly price of a bike for downhill tracks in Snowmass and beyond, you need a helmet, gloves and pads. Considering I’ve seen some bikes priced the same as, say, my recently purchased car, that extra couple hundred dollars isn’t easy to come across nor part with.
Life on the river, I learned, is a lot easier with appropriately sized paddles, emphasis on plural, because it’s easier to row a two-person duckie with two people. If you depleted your funds on your main craft, it’s easy to find friends willing to lend a life jacket or an oar. The issue then becomes playing paddle cake, paddle cake and swapping gear when someone wants to use it. Also, paddles and life jackets are, shockingly, more expensive than you think. Had I fully outfitted my duckie for two, on top of the $500 I paid for it, it would’ve been a $700 to $800 investment.
The only mountain activity this doesn’t apply to is hiking because all you do is walk, sometimes with a stick or a backpack. I guess that doesn’t apply to overnight trips with tents, but technically that’s camping, which is a completely different — and more expensive — venture. It’s the only thing that will make logical people look at a cooler and think, “$1,500? That’s not too bad.” (Side note: I want a Yeti and I didn’t even camp this summer.)
You can rough it all you want. “I’ve had these skis for 15 years!” “My feet don’t cramp or get cold!” “Skiers down mountain have the right of way!” Cool, man, so in like an hour when you’re pining for a “cocoa” break, we’ll be out getting turns and avoiding your groans which are completely unrelated to your archaic gear.
This is the part of the column when you have to do a little cost-benefit analysis. Is that brand new board worth paying off throughout the season? Do I feel like what’s left of my edge is not going to kill me? Is looking like a gaper acceptable, or should I floss out like a boss?
I’m not here to tell you to put off your student-loan payments or rack up credit card debt. You need to figure that out on your own. Just beware of gear greed. New stuff is nice, though, it’s not always necessary.
Sean Beckwith is a copy editor at The Aspen Times. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.