There are three ways to do a ski vacation in Colorado.
You can bring your own gear, assuming you have your own, and pay extra to check it in oversized luggage on the airplane. Not to mention the hassle of hauling skis through an airport.
You can rent gear at your destination ski resort and spend a ton of extra money.
Or you can be a savvy skier and rent it down-mountain beforehand. It’s usually cheaper to rent in Boulder and the lines are much shorter.
Boulder may not be a ski town, but it has plenty of outdoor shops, many that rent skis, snowboards and all kinds of winter equipment. You can also buy used ski gear or sell your old stuff in Boulder. You will find chains, like REI and Christy Sports, as well as independent shops.
Here are some of our favorite locally run shops where you can rent skis or boards in Boulder.
Epic Mountain Gear (formerly Boulder Ski Deals)
Village Shopping Center, 2525 Arapahoe Ave.
Epic Mountain Gear, formerly Boulder Ski Deals, claims it’s been around since before snowboarding was even a thing. This long-time ski shop rents ski and snowboard gear, kids’ equipment and more. Epic says it guarantees the best price. Nothing here is full price.
Crystal Ski Shop
1933 28th St., unit 101
Crystal has been an independent, family-owned and operated business since 1976. It specializes in equipment rentals — of high-quality gear on the cutting edge. The best way to rent here is via a daily package, which includes skis, boots and poles, or a board and boots. You can rent anything piece by piece, too. Crystal Ski Shop claims the “largest inventory” of well-maintained, current-model rental equipment. Also find snowshoes, jackets, sleds, snow pants and helmets.
Years ago, helmets had a stigma; few people wore them. Today, you’ll stand out more if you don’t. Most locals wear helmets and not just to protect against a fall or crash. It also helps protect you against other skiers or boards who don’t have good control.
Local tip: “Get good socks. Happy feet make happy skiers. Avoid cotton at all costs; it traps moisture (either from sweat or snow) and it’s not as elastic as other materials (wrinkles and bunches more easily). Your sock should also be taller than the cuff on the boot to help reduce friction and pressure on your shins and calves. We’ve got a great selection from our favorite brands stocked all winter long.” – Justin Burger with Crystal Ski Shop
Crossroad Commons, 2317 30th St.
Outdoor Divas specializes in all kinds of women’s outdoor apparel and gear, including ski. In fact, Outdoor Divas says it was the country’s first women’s only ski shop. We love Outdoor Divas’ apparel. It’s fashionable and functional.
2820 Wilderness Place, unit H
Backcountry Access isn’t a traditional ski shop. It specializes in avalanche safety equipment and researches and develops products designed to help save your life from avalanches when in the mountains. Backcountry Access makes equipment like avalanche beacons, float avalanche airbags, avalanche shovels, Scepter ski poles — you know, the stuff no one likes thinking about but is a reality in Colorado’s backcountry. If you’re planning on skiing off the beaten path in any way, visit Backcountry Access first, for not just equipment but also education.
633 S. Broadway St.
Neptune is an outdoor gear shop that offers more than just ski equipment. Per the name, it also offers mountaineering and rock climbing gear. Neptune has been around since 1973.
One of the most interesting features at Neptune is its museum, which contains climbing and skiing equipment and photos from the mid-1800s on. (The vintage ski apparel is always a hoot.) To enhance its educational offerings, Neptune also organizes lectures, often by famous skiers, mountaineers and climbers.
For more info on Neptune’s rentals, check out its rental page. You can also get your skis tuned, waxed, scraped, buffed and prepped here.
Boulder Nordic Sport
3600 Arapahoe Ave., unit 200
Boulder Nordic Sport specializes in cross-country skiing. This locally owned store will fit you, tune gear, recommend equipment and even coach you on your skills. Its ski camps and events are held around the world, or you can schedule private lessons.
As a full-service ski shop, it offers Tazzari stone grinding, repairs and heat box preparation. It also offers a mobile wax service center at events around the country.
For the most part, Boulder Nordic Sport does not rent equipment, with the exception of a limited demo fleet that is typically used by customers who are thinking of making a gear purchase. That said, the shop is the only dedicated cross-country ski shop on the Front Range and the largest cross-country retailer in the country.
200 E. S. Boulder St., Lafayette
You’ll have to venture a bit beyond Boulder to access Lafayette’s Snow Hut. The staff here is legit, with experience on the U.S. Ski and Freestyle teams. No automated stone grinding or waxing machines here. Snow Hut tunes the old-school way: with a stone grinder and by a hot iron and a hand file.