Ok, so you've booked your flights and accommodation in Chamonix for your ski holiday and are turning your thoughts towards ski hire in Chamonix or even Chamonix snowboard rental. With so many options in the Chamonix valley you may not know where to start, so here are some tips to set you on your way.
To pre-book or not to pre-book your ski hire in Chamonix
Our advice is to always book your Chamonix ski equipment rental in advance. It takes the hassle out of ski hire on the first day and assures you get the skis or snowboard you are looking for. If you're holidaying in peak periods, choice on the day is going to be more limited and you could find yourself with the ski shop's oldest rental skis or wandering from shop to shop on day one when you could be out on the slopes.
Location, location, location
Skis, poles, boots and a helmet. That list already sounds heavy and cumbersome to carry around before you've factored in wearing layers of ski gear and trying not to lose a glove. So with all this in mind, we suggest one of the key factors in deciding on ski and snowboard rental in Chamonix should be the proximity of the shop to your accommodation. The closer the better. Not just for collecting your gear on the first day, but in case you need to pop back there for advice or to change your skis, and for ease of returning them on the last day too.
Booking through your tour operator or chalet company in Chamonix
You'll be hard pushed to find a tour operator or chalet company in Chamonix that doesn't offer to assist in the organisation of your ski and boot hire before you arrive. So is this worth doing? Well, we think so. Tour operators and local chalet owners will be familiar with the rental market and often have relations with ski and snowboard rental shops, meaning they can offer good deals, especially for large groups. They're also likely to have chosen a Chamonix ski hire shop close to your accommodation meaning you won't have to walk far to collect all your gear. Some may even organise for your skis and boots to be brought to your chalet on your first night so you're ready to go in the morning. Finally, should you need to return to the hire shop at any point in the week, perhaps because your boots are uncomfortable or you would like to try a snowboard for the day, then your chalet or tour operator will be on hand to facilitate this for you. On the downside, depending on the size of your tour operator, you may find they only have contracts with larger ski rental chains which means the skis you hire may be a bit more 'generic' than those rented by smaller outlets.
Booking ski equipment online
Increasingly, independent ski and snowboard rental shops are joining forces with large internet-based companies to offer downright cheap ski hire online, snowboard and boot hire if you book in advance. Larger establish rental brands like Intersport also offer the same sorts of offers and services. Prices are quoted as being up to 50% off the price of renting on the day, to secure your custom in advance. So why not, right? We agree. There are some great savings to be had online and the booking systems are simple and comprehensive, meaning you can have any combination of skis, snowboard, boots, poles and a helmet all pre-booked and paid for before you leave, with very little difficulty. The two main disadvantages are that there is often less choice of rental location so you may find the closest shop is a good walk from your accommodation and you won't have the same personal service offered by your chalet host or tour operator if you do need to go back to the shop for any reason during the course of your holiday.
What sort of skis or snowboard should I rent in Chamonix?
There is quite a big price difference between the most basic level of ski and board hire and top-end hire. So what difference does the price make and which skis should you opt for? Quite simply, you do get what you pay for. There tend to be three levels of ski hire; basic, intermediate and advanced, often graded using Bronze, Silver and Gold or colours of the ski runs. Some companies offer a deluxe level above the advanced. The most important thing is to be honest with yourself about your ability. If you hire a ski or snowboard well above or below your skill level, it can take the enjoyment out of your skiing. In addition to the levels described below, if you're planning on spending a lot of time off piste you may wish to hire a specific ski suitable to your ability and the conditions. Here are the levels explained:
- Basic. Suitable for both complete beginners and those who've only had a week or two's experience. Also suitable for those slightly more experienced but who prefer to stay on the blue slopes. Expect a basic but functional and safe ski or board which is easy to use.
- Intermediate. Suitable for skiers and boarders with a few weeks experience who are progressing on red slopes. Expect a higher quality of ski or snowboard than the basic level, which offers more challenge to the skier and performs better at speed.
- Advanced. Suitable for experienced skiers and snowboarders who are skiing red and black slopes and want a high level of performance. Expect a top quality ski or snowboard, usually less than two years old, which performs well for a demanding skier on steep slopes.
Insurance for hired skis and snowboards in Chamonix
Most ski and snowboard rental companies offer insurance for your rental skis and snowboard as an added extra. The main reason for this is that most travel insurers don't insure your kit against theft if it is left unattended and unlocked in a public place, such as outside a mountain restaurant or an après ski bar. It also provides insurance against any damage you may cause to the skis or board during the rental period. We'd advise checking your travel insurance carefully before making a decision. As with most insurance you probably resent forking out until it happens to you! For the few euros difference in price, depending on how you ski, it may just be worth it...
Protective ski equipment hire in Chamonix
Not so long ago, skiers and boarders wearing helmets were rarely seen on the piste and helmets were usually considered to be domain of gnarly extreme skiers only. In North America, almost everyone wears a helmet, and gradually this trend is shifting across the Atlantic. Looking out across the piste, we reckon well over half of all skiers and boarders in Europe are now wearing helmets. Even the odd instructor is spotted sporting a protective 'casque'. As well as protecting you from head injuries, most helmets are in fact really warm, are well designed to minimise loss of special awareness and provide adequate ventilation. There are plenty of cool styles, so think of it as a fashion accessory! Many children's ski hire packages come with protective ski equipment hire included in the price.
Additional protective equipment you should consider if you're going to be snowboarding are padded shorts to prevent a bruised coccyx, elbow and knee guards for obvious reasons and probably most importantly, wrist guards. There are two basic types of wrist guard; stiff ones with a single bone running from your palm down past your wrist, and flexible ones which are composed of multiple individual bones and allow greater movement. Make sure your ski gloves are big enough to fit over your wrist guards. Some specialised snowboarding gloves come with wrist protectors built-in.
Know you've got the low-down on gear rental head over to our Chamonix ski hire listings