The US ski rental industry currently stands at $294.2M in revenue. Are you tapping into this potential this year? Its steady 5.7% growth from 2018 to 2023 shows an upward trajectory in the coming years. If you haven’t already, get your ski rental business started today.
Setting up shop in the ski rental industry will require a few checkpoints before you start earning profits. These include finding the right customer base for your business, figuring out the finances, planning and starting the business, and expanding it with rental software.
Don’t worry, we’ll guide you through this process. Here are the 7 steps to launching your ski rental business.
1. Find customers for your ski business
To start, find your customers. These can be semi-professionals who want to practice their art on a new slope. These can also be groups of people who want to have an adventurous and memorable trip together.
You can also rent your ski equipment to families that vacation in your area during the winter. If you live near a popular winter tourist spot, you may also have a seasonal influx of tourists wanting to try out a new experience.
Identify the target audience
Chart out a few common personas that fit into your target audience. If you are a ski enthusiast yourself, it won’t be too difficult to narrow down your target audience.
But, if you’re new to this business, you may visit popular and active ski rental businesses to note down the general customers who visit frequently. That will give you a great starting point to customize your business.
Research the competition
If you are close to a popular ski resort, visit it and learn how they take you in, provide you with the necessary rental equipment, and offer support.
Researching your competition before starting your own lets you identify what to offer, how to offer it, and who to offer it to.
A deep dive into the competition will help you understand how to price your rentals, how to add value to your offerings, and how to pinpoint the Northstar for your business.
Find and fill the market gaps
We’re sure that thorough market research will help you understand where the competition lacks, and how you can be the first one to fill that gap.
Read reviews about your competitors and highlight where they failed to miss the mark with their customers. Fill those gaps realistically through your ski rental business.
Create memorable experiences for your customers and delight them by providing what no other business in your locality is offering.
2. Calculate the finances in depth
Now that you have your customers sorted, the next step is taking care of investment and finances for the business. There will be several financial decisions for you to make at the get-go, including registering your business, buying ski equipment, and running the business efficiently.
We’ll help you chalk out some of the big dips you’ll have to make into your pockets. Keep in mind that there may be additional expenses to bear depending on factors like how you want to run the business, the state you live in, etc.
Fees for registering as a business entity
Register your business in a legal structure that fits your needs. You will have to keep it taxable. Additionally, you may also have liability for unforeseen circumstances.
You have a few choices in how you register your business. Choose sole proprietorship if you’re the sole owner of the business. Choose a general partnership if you are a business or share business ownership with others.
Choose a Limited Liability Company (LLC) to keep your assets protected and to keep yourself legally separate from your ski business.
To create an LLC, file the relevant paperwork like the Articles of Organization. You may easily find the required paperwork at your State’s commercial services department.
Cost of buying the ski rental equipment
Stock up your ski rental business with the right ski equipment from the right manufacturers. It can be a daunting task to find the best equipment at affordable prices.
Don’t stop bargaining with the vendors when shopping for the equipment. Search for the equipment online to compare and find the best deals.
Don’t buy more than you need or else your ski rental business will suffer from underutilization of ski assets. The rule of thumb is to buy high-quality ski equipment once as it will last you multiple seasons at a stretch.
Cost of buying or renting a store space
To run your ski rental business, you will also require a store space where you will keep your equipment and run your shop.
If buying a store is too high a price at the beginning, you can choose to rent the space for the initial seasons.
By partnering up with a winter resort, you may be able to cut a sustainable deal to rent their space. It will help you add an extra experience for their customers while helping you establish a customer base for your ski business.
Cost of regular maintenance of ski equipment
If you have enough capital, consider investing in a ski service machine too. The upfront cost will be higher but it will be justified by allowing you to offer ski maintenance as a side gig.
You can outsource the regular maintenance of your ski equipment from an external vendor if, initially, buying the maintenance equipment is not in the cards.
Salaries for business helpers or employees
Get a projected number of customers you will be receiving on average. You may calculate this by observing the regular and seasonal customer influx at the location where you set up shop.
Once you have these figures, make an informed decision about your ski business’ workforce. You can keep your ski business a one-person show or run it with a team.
If hiring permanent employees is not in the budget, you can opt for hiring business help or interns during the heavy footfall season.
Unless you’re working solo, you will have to keep in mind the cost of hiring another person or a team.
Cost of insurance and tax expenses
A recurring cost for your ski rental business will be the different types of insurance you get. These can be for your ski equipment, your employees (if any), and yourself.
The taxes you will incur are regular expenses you need to keep into account when budgeting and calculating your business cost.
Budget for marketing and advertising
Set some capital aside for marketing and advertising your ski business. This may also include creating a website to cater to your online customers.
For the first few seasons, you can tap into the marketing potential of social media to get the word out. You may also invest in old-school advertisements like getting flyers printed, doing a short TV commercial, etc.
Utilize the power of AI tools to help you write, create, and market your business to your target audience. Most of these tools like ChatGPT will be free to use in a limited capacity. Get creative and cleverly use the free plans available for marketing tools.
Subscription to ski equipment rental software
Offer a seamless customer experience on your ski business by integrating powerful rental software.
An all-in-one equipment rental software will enable you to automate a huge chunk of your daily business operations. Let next-gen technology take care of managing your bookings, customers, equipment, and locations.
Buffer for unseen expenditures
Always save for a rainy (or a snowy) day. Keep aside a buffer to help you tackle unwanted expenses due to unforeseen circumstances.
Most rental business ideas that turn into lucrative rental businesses account for expenses they can’t predict before or during the initial start of the business.
3. Plan and start a ski rental business
Once you have ensured that your ski rental business is secured in terms of finances, move on to creating a business plan and the actual legwork.
There is no industry standard when it comes to naming, branding, and marketing your ski business. The possibilities are endless.
Be creative and position your business in a way that attracts the most customers to you.
Name your ski business
What’s in a name you ask? Everything! When you look at some of the most popular brands in the world, you will see that their names are easy to recall.
Although, a business name that has your name in it will feel more human and personal, but, don’t fall for this. Be inspired by the tech industry and name your business in such a way that it has high recall.
A short, crisp, even humorous name will resonate quickly with your customers. It will be easier to spread like wildfire through word-of-mouth advertising.
For example, a ski business named Ski-U is both, a wordplay on ‘skew’ and an acronym for ‘ski and you’.
Brand your ski business
If you’re great at branding, do it yourself and save important finances for other aspects of your ski business. Otherwise, hire a freelance designer to give your business an upbeat vibe through proper branding.
Make a business logo that is cheerful and invokes emotions. Use colors that stand out in the sea of conventional whites and blues of ski businesses.
Create a brand personality with a mascot and let that mascot build trust between your business and your customers.
Create a business plan
Start with a business plan that maps out at least 1 to 2 seasons of your business being active.
Set goals that you can achieve every quarter till the end of your year.
This business plan will help you achieve success quicker, and it will also enable you to stay on course.
Open a business bank account
Never use your bank account for your business transactions. To keep your liability protected, separate your personal bank account and business bank account.
A business bank account will also help you build up credit, raise capital, and take out loans from the bank.
It’s just an easier way to handle your business finances.
Register for taxes
If you are in the US, you can get a tax ID and file your taxes online via the IRS. Keep in mind that you won’t be able to open a business bank account without an employer identification number (EIN).
For other countries, search the internet to find out how to register your ski rental business for taxes.
Get the necessary licenses and permits
Your state may require you to get licenses and/or permits to open up your ski rental business.
Do a deep dive online to find the right licenses and permits you will require for the business.
If that is not fruitful, you can always hire a consultant or ask your local authorities about licenses and permits.
Choose the right store location
Always set up your ski rental business at a location where you not only get walk-in customers but also use the customer base of nearby places.
The store location is a key factor in the discoverability of your business. Try to set up your business near a winter resort or a popular slope.
In case you are torn between choosing one of the two or multiple locations on offer, rent out the space initially. This way you won’t be tied to a place permanently and you may also experiment with moving up or down the stream in every new season.
Don’t choose a location that is too far from the mountain.
Consider opening near busy shopping areas in the last town before a ski resort. Being the last town, you can cater to tourists who stop to stock up for the resort.
Stock up on ski equipment
When stocking up on ski equipment, buy according to the projected number of customers you will be dealing with every single season.
You can add to your ski rental inventory as you start establishing a great customer base for your business.
Here are a few things you will have to stock:
- Skis (non-sidecut, parabolic, twin-tip, powder, etc.)
- Ski suits
- Ski socks
Create a website or a rental store
Get your business online with a professional ski rental business website. You can save money by opting for a one-pager website that gives your customers all the crucial information they need.
Additionally, adding a webstore for your rentals may also be a feature within the rental software you choose.
That rental store will help your customers find your business online, book equipment from you, and aid you in spreading the word about your ski business via social media.
Be present on social media
The power of social media and influencers these days has enough power to make or break a business.
Do everything right within your business, offer great customer support, and give your customers a memorable experience.
These happy customers have the potential to make your business viral on socials. The more eyeballs you get, the more your ski business thrives.
If you have some budget to spare, you can partner with influencers to highlight your business to their viewership.
4. Learn how to rent ski equipment
Now that you have the finances in check, the equipment in store, and your business online, the next step is to rent out your ski equipment.
If you are already using rental software, you won’t have to bother too much about how or when to rent out your equipment.
Keep in mind that any asset or equipment that is rented out will have a few agreements and policies attached for fair usage. Chalk them out thoughtfully to cover all bases for any liability.
Create a robust rental agreement
Draft a rental agreement that is in-depth. Make the contractual document crisp and clear for your customers to understand.
Remember, your customers will be anyone from a CEO at a top tech company to someone who is a first-timer.
Your customers may not even be familiar with the US or even speak English for that matter.
So, be mindful of them and write your rental agreements in as simple English as possible.
Define your rental rates
The current ski rental rates start from $20 and above. But this can go up depending on where your business is located, how much time the equipment was rented out for, etc.
You should define your rental rates in the early stages of starting the ski business, to tackle any future hiccups.
Offer rental rates based on hourly, or daily charges.
Offer discounts and promotions
Additionally, you can offer discounts to groups and families since they’ll be renting from you for more than one person.
You will get the right margin to bring the rental price down since you will also be getting more business than usual, from multiple persons.
Rent ski equipment as bundles
You can bundle up your equipment and rent complete kits for individuals instead of leaving your customers clueless about what equipment they should rent out.
A feasible categorization among bundles is creating bundles that are suited for a diverse range of ages, heights, and weights.
Charge late return fees
Incur a late return fee in case your customers return the equipment later than they reserved it for.
In the rental software, do keep a buffer time between returns and renting out again. This buffer will help you to avoid overbooking equipment from a customer since the equipment will already be unavailable on your webstore or rental catalog.
Cover your losses with damage fees
Safeguard your ski rental equipment against damages and misuse by clearly stating and charging damage fees.
Since the equipment is your bread and butter, don’t allow wayward customers to damage your equipment and get away with it.
Establish a maintenance schedule
Lastly, maintain and service your ski equipment regularly and frequently. Keep them up to standard by scheduling regular maintenance checks, in addition to the regular servicing checks that occur between two rent-outs.
If you purchased service equipment, use it as often as required to keep the ski equipment well-oiled and running.
5. Create efficient daily business workflows
The real struggle for any rental business is keeping the daily workflows streamlined during peak season.
Ensure that your rental operations are automated to work on their own with minimal downtime and effort from you.
A robust rental software will guarantee that your ski rental business is always up and running.
Book and manage ski rentals online
Using rental software or a rental webstore for your ski business will help you book and manage your rentals effectively.
All rental software comes equipped with booking management which enables you to quickly rent out your ski equipment to the next customer.
Keep one centralized app that helps you track, manage, assess, and optimize your rental bookings.
Optimize renting out and returns
Create a proper strategy for renting out ski equipment and checking it back into the rental software when it is returned.
A comprehensive rental software will allow you to streamline these workflows with a single tap or a single click of your mouse.
Keep maintained equipment available to rent
Use the maintenance and servicing module in your rental software to quickly make ski equipment unavailable to customers during maintenance.
You want to avoid letting a customer rent out ski equipment when it has gone for maintenance.
Once you get a hang of the ski business, you will be able to forecast maintenance downtime for every specific piece of equipment.
Manage ski equipment rental inventory
Rental software enables you to analyze utilization trends over a peak season. This helps you understand which pieces of highly utilized equipment you want to add to your existing inventory.
Similarly, if you analyze the underutilization of ski equipment, it will highlight all the ones you can sell to regain capital. Otherwise, unused equipment will start piling up and become a bad investment due to breakage.
6. Expand and market your ski business
After a season or two of running a successful ski business, you can return to the whiteboard to innovate marketing strategies.
An expert marketing strategy can help you expand and scale your ski business, increasing your business revenue even further.
Utilize SEO on your business website
You can use the power of search engines to make your ski business website visible to new customers.
Every new season, a good portion of your customers will be first-timers. To increase your brand awareness of these potentials, use SEO optimization for your website, webstore, or mobile app.
The right keywords incorporated on your website will organically bring in more leads.
Make your ski business searchable and invest in local SEO to beat your competition.
Write killer descriptions for your ski equipment
On your ski business website and your rental webstore, ensure that every piece of equipment has an attractive yet easy-to-understand description.
Mention all the unique selling points of the equipment to lure in advanced customers as well as new prospects.
Highlight the material, number of uses, quality, longevity, and durability of your ski equipment. Make it loud and clear for anyone and everyone to understand.
Partner with local tourist and travel companies
Do your research and find tourist and travel companies that are operational in your vicinity, city, county, and state.
Offer to partner with them in exchange for discounted rates.
Use their customer base and lure it into your ski business.
Connect with local Airbnbs in your area, leave a flyer of your ski business there, and let their customers come to you soon enough.
Join your city, county, and state directories
Another great way of ensuring the expansion of your ski business is to list it in all types of local business directories.
In the digital world, create a Google My Business profile to list your ski business there. Create an attractive profile there, and get your customers to leave a review when they come in to return your ski rental equipment.
Use local directories to your benefit.
7. Inaugurate and grow your ski business
Finally, when you have completed the above-mentioned steps, you will be on the path to not only running but also growing your ski rental business.
What rates do you charge for renting ski equipment?
The rental rates for ski equipment start from US $20 and above. This amount can go up based on the type of equipment, the time of renting out, and the grade of quality it is. The price can also differ if the ski equipment is rented out as a bundle. It will also vary depending on the customer size, like ski equipment for adults, kids, etc.
How profitable is a ski equipment rental business?
The ski rental equipment industry in the US earned $294.2M in revenue from 2018-2023. The projected increase is above 5% in the coming years. So, it is safe to say it is a very lucrative industry to invest in for 2024 and beyond.
Should I rent or buy ski equipment?
It depends on how many times you will be using the ski equipment within a year. If the answer is less than 5 times a year, then renting out ski equipment will be cheaper for you. However, if you want to seriously pursue skiing as a hobby and frequent a ski resort at least once a month, you should consider buying your ski equipment once and for all.