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Rain pelted the windows for days in November and December. Snow piled up in the mountains. Hubby Pat bought lift tickets to Mount Baldy, a small ski area in the San Gabriel Mountains about 100 miles north of San Diego. “A Christmas gift for the kids,” he explained.

Through Christmas break, the kids planned their day on the mountain. Problem is, our January calendar was packed with school, work, and mandatory social events. Then the weather turned dry and warm for just about all of January, and Patrick started panicking. “We’re going to be skiing on rocks if we don’t go this week!”

Then his tone turned sweeter. “Eve, would you mind researching in-town ski and snowboard rentals? Last time I rented at the mountain, and it was a hassle. Long lines, rushed workers, uncomfortable boots. I’d do it myself, but, well, you’re so good at that sort of thing.”

I couldn’t say no to the old smoothie. First I called Sports Authority at Grossmont Center (619-697-8160). “Some people like to get their rentals down here because it’s a little bit cheaper than renting up at the mountains,” explained a salesman. “The people that use our rentals are usually going on one- to two-day trips. If you’re going up there for a week but only skiing two of the days, it’s better to rent on the mountain.

“To rent skis, boots, and poles, it’s $20 a day. So, say you were to ski tomorrow, you’d come in today, pick them up, ski tomorrow, bring them back the following day by 3 o’clock, and that would count as a one-day rental.”

Patrick wants to ski, but the kids want to shred the mountain on snowboards. “For snowboard rentals, it depends on shoe size.” For an adult-sized foot, “It’s $25 a day for boots, bindings, and boards. Youth sizes are $20 a day.”

Would the quality of the rental be better up on the mountain?

“You might get a little better quality because they get new things in more often than we do, but for a beginner it is not going to be a giant difference. You are not going to know a difference between a $500 rental board and a $300 rental board — it is very minor.”

My hubby and kids, neophytes all, will be too worried about staying on their feet to notice.

“It’s a lot less hassle to rent in town,” explained the salesman at Sport Chalet in Mission Valley (619-718-7070), “because the rental lines up on the mountain can take anywhere from one to three hours. Here, for skis, expect to spend about a half hour per person getting fitted.”

As for the quality of the rentals, “We run about six techs in a store, so we’re on top of maintenance.”

Ski rentals at Sport Chalet: “Adults are $28 for the first day, $20 for each additional day. Youth rentals are $18 for day one and $12 each day after.” Snowboards for adults are $32 for the first day, $20 each additional day. Youth snowboard rentals are $25 for the first day, $15 each additional day.

“It’s going to be a little bit more expensive to rent up at the mountains — about $10 to $15 more,” offered the salesman at Avalanche Skate Shop in El Cajon (619-463-7106). “Also, if you rent in town, when you want to leave the mountain, you can just leave. You don’t have to go get back in that rental line.”

Avalanche, a youth-oriented store, rents snowboards but not skis. “If you rent the whole setup, the boots, bindings, and board are $25 for the first day, $40 for two days, $50 for three days.”

For comparative purposes, I checked out some of the closest resorts for their rental prices. Mountain High Resort, also located in the San Gabriel Mountains, is San Diego’s closest winter resort. They rent skis, boots, and poles at $30/day for adults, $20 for children 12 and under. Snowboards with boots are $35 for everyone.

Both Snow Summit and Snow Valley (Big Bear Lake area) rent a complete package for skis or snowboards at $30/day for adults, $25 for children 12 and under.

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