The author, ready to ski at A-Basin after spending a very small amount of money on gear.
The author, ready to ski at A-Basin after spending a very small amount of money on gear. (Wil Hotz)

F or my first season in Colorado (and my first year out of college, code for: I have no money), I've decided to do skiing the cheapest way possible.

Dirt-bag skiing has been done before. But I'm setting out to achieve the best fun-to-money ratio I can.

First stop, a steezy winter coat.

I admit, I'm a bit ridiculous. The coat I wore all through high school and college was a black Columbia that my mom bought me sometime in the eighth grade.

Apparently, when you live in Colorado, this won't cut it. I've become aware of the term "steezy," which was a new one for me. This combo between "style" and "easy" describes the look the snowboarders hope to achieve while wearing obnoxious patterns, baggy snowboard pants and neon colors while coasting down the slopes.

The black Columbia coat from eighth grade is not steezy. But I wasn't quite ready to commit to a bright yellow coat just yet.

When my mom came out to see me in my new home a month after moving here, we set out on an epic coat-finding adventure. We struck gold (har har) at the Buffalo Exchange on Pearl Street: A basically new 686 coat, Army green, long and super warm, originally around $300 -- only $27 for me.

Pants at a time like this?

I understand the importance of a good pair of ski pants. They need to be waterproof since I'm a novice and will probably be falling on my ass all season.

After two trips to Plato's Closet, I settled on two pairs: one heavy pair of lavender Nike ACG snowboard pants for cold days, $20, and lightweight pants for spring skiing, all black Helly Hansen ski pants: $16.


Brand new, the two together would have cost me somewhere in the neighborhood of $300. Dirt-bag success.

Perhaps pants-related: An investment in an REI membership (around $20 for a lifetime membership) gets you access to the store's garage sales, where you can find used and returned merchandise at seriously cheap prices.

Who you know

I'm lucky. I happen to know a guy in the rental shop at Arapahoe Basin, and there just so happened to be one pair of used ski boots my size left for sale. As I began trying on the boots with and without my thick socks, the rental shop manager walked in and cut me a deal: $10 for the boots, $50 for the skis.

I'll take it.

Both skis and boots are around three or four years old, and sure they've seen their fair share of feet, but I wore two pairs of socks for double protection against possible foot germs. Maybe I can put two pairs of socks on my brain, too, to prevent me from thinking about those feet.

If you don't want to buy a pair your first season out, lots of shops will let you rent a pair for an entire season (Christy Sports, Crystal Ski Shop, Colorado Ski and Golf, etc.) for between $100 and $150.

Poles were a bit more challenging. The rental shop didn't have any on hand for me to purchase, but I chatted with some local riders I know, and 10 minutes later, bam, I walked out of their house with poles, Oakley flat light goggles, a Holt helmet and a pair of Dakine mittens. My friends found the gloves in a parking lot a few seasons ago, someone left the helmet in their closet and never came back, and the poles were too tall for someone, so they were abandoned.

I realize this would be difficult to replicate, but my advice: make some friends!

--Follow Sarah Kuta on Twitter: @SarahKuta.