Participating in winter sports can add a layer of complexity to the process of planning a vacation: Do you rent or bring your gear? Answering this question largely depends on a number of factors, including where you're flying, how far you're traveling, how many are in your party and how skilled you are. There also are trade-offs between convenience, cost, and personal preference. Here are a few issues to consider when addressing these questions in advance of your next cold-weather trip:

Cost of renting skis on the mountain. Recently I researched fees for a family ski trip from our home near Seattle to Vail, Colorado. Depending on which ski resorts I selected, on-site rentals averaged around US$40-$58 per family member per day. As part of my research, I also discovered another option: Ski Butlers, a ski rental delivery company that delivers your equipment to your hotel or condo and fits you and your fellow travelers with boots, bindings and skis on site. The quote from this company was US$420 for a family of four; this covered two days, not including taxes and insurance. There are other companies that provide this service, too, such as Black Tie Ski Rentals. You pay more for these services, but they take the hassle out of standing in line at the mountain and lugging gear to the hotel. Another benefit: Access to the latest gear.

Viewfinder tip: Be sure to do your homework on cost for bringing or renting skis. In some cases, you could save hundreds of dollars by choosing one over the other. 

Cost of bringing your own skis. With the increase in airline baggage fees, the cost of checking your skis to travel with you can vary depending on the airline you fly. Each airline has its own policies for oversize gear, which usually include sporting equipment. The biggest drawback: If your ski bag is lost or or delayed, the airline could ruin a good ski vacation. Another way of “bringing” your skis from home is to ship them via FedEx, or with the help of a shipping service named Luggage Forward. Luggage Forward promises the fastest and most cost-effective delivery; the company also vows they will refund your money and reimburse you up to US$500 per bag to cover rentals or other expenses associated with delays. Using the price calculator at date of publishing, I estimated a 5-day advance return shipping to be US$79 (single skis) to US$119 (double skis or snowboard) per bag, for a total round trip of US$476 for a family of four. Snowlink is another service that will ship your ski gear direct to the mountain via FedEx. 

There are other issues inherent in the discussion about whether to bring or rent skis for your next vacation:

How attached you are to your own gear.  I know die-hard skiers who wouldn’t dream of renting boots and skis at the mountain because the unfamiliar gear would make the trip less fun. If you are this kind of person, chances are that you already have made up your mind to bring your skis. Don't fight it!

The tradeoffs of convenience. Ultimately, once you’ve run a basic cost analysis of bringing your own skis vs. renting at your destination, it is really up to you to decide if avoiding the hassle is worth the expense. For me and my husband, who travel with two girls, the cost and logistics of shipping ski gear is more hassle and we prefer to rent on the mountain because it saves us stress. For you, the answer might be different.

Which ski resorts do you frequent for winter vacations?