Although renting ski kit is not a novel concept, the leasing of good quality, high-performance skiwear and accessories is new terrain. With the fashion industry championing rental schemes as a way to combat global carbon emissions, the outdoors and sportswear industry is now following suit. Start-up enterprise EcoSki launched skiwear rental for men, women and children in September 2021 in conjunction with My Wardrobe HQ, a project that soon mushroomed. Last Christmas and New Year, and then again over the February 2022 half-term, almost every item in its range was booked.
“We’re envisaging rental to grow far bigger than sales,” says EcoSki founder Rachael Westbrook. “People are interested mainly from a fashion perspective, but find it fulfils environmental ethics, too. It also works well as a try-before-you-buy option.”
Decathlon swiftly followed suit in January 2022, linking with Hirestreet to trial the rental of 18 different styles for women; the French sporting goods retailer has said it plans to extend its rental programme to offer ski clothing rental for men and children. Then in March, equipment manufacturer Rab launched a rental system for clothing, sleeping bags and backpacks, which a spokesperson described as: “A very important step within our overall Rab DNA sustainability strategy, as it reduces single-use purchases and avoids kit being sent to landfill.”
A typical polyester ski jacket will take about 500 years to decompose in landfill, so renting this hard-wearing kit instead of buying makes sense both financially and environmentally. It also ensures style-conscious skiers that they can wear the very latest trends and often better-quality kit than they might have purchased.
For winter 2022/23, EcoSki has updated its stock to include a wider range of sustainable brands as well as more of this winter’s trends: bib pants for both men and women, kit designed for layering and block colours. The platform is also exclusively stocking a pioneering range of clothes, from New Zealand brand Icebreaker, called Shell+ — a water-resistant shell jacket and pants made entirely from 240gm2 merino wool, a biodegradable, natural fibre.
Tour operators are also getting in on the act, with Crystal Ski Holidays launching The Ski Edit in time for the 2022/23 season. Partnered with fashion rental service By Rotation, the rental collection features a limited range of items from fashion brands including Columbia, Fusalp, North Face, OOSC, Free People and Poivre Blanc.
“We want to make skiing more affordable and accessible to everyone, and we do understand it’s a holiday that requires special gear and costs can add up,” says Crystal’s senior marketing manager, Ellie Eyles. “Our research shows that more people would be more willing to borrow or rent items to avoid a potential one-off purchase.”
According to Crystal, nearly half (45%) of Brits confess they own items of clothing that have only ever seen the light of day once, with one in five (21%) owning up to six pieces that ultimately end up gathering dust.
Picture Organic — which launched a kit rental service in France last year — is expected to bring the concept to the UK before long. Laura Christopherson recently rented ski clothing from the company, and from EcoSki for her sons, 10 and 13, who had outgrown everything from their last ski trip. “They never wear the same things a year later,” says Laura. “I was frantically trying to borrow ski gear as it never sits well to buy for one year’s use only.”
Laura says she managed to rent outfits, including ski gloves, goggles, salopettes and ski jackets at a lower cost than she would have spent buying the cheapest gear. “Renting means less work and no storage,” she says. “It’s a win-win all round.”
Considering the devastating effects warming temperatures and changing global weather patterns are having on our glaciers and alpine snowfall, skiers have even more reason to ensure they reduce their impact on the environment, even if it’s stopping just one more jacket sitting in landfill for 500 years.
How to hire ski gear
Rent: Choose hire items online, selecting the rental dates required. Providers then send out clothing and accessories.
Return: At the end of the rental period, items are returned (bag and postage label provided) for cleaning, sanitising and any repair.
Or keep: There’s an option to purchase, with item prices often minus the rental costs incurred.
Time frame: Rental durations vary from as little as three days to a week or more.
Prices: Costs also vary but, in most cases, they’re a fraction of the price of purchasing.
Published in the Winter Sports 2022/23 guide, distributed with the December 2022 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)
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