Buying or renting winter sports gear generally comes with a large and sometimes complicated list of what, why and how much it all costs. But equally important is where: Tahoe area shops are probably your best bet. You may have to pay more than if you rented or bought your gear in the Bay Area, but getting outfitted by the person who knows where all the powder stashes are three days after the last storm, or had a featured part in the latest Matchstick Productions film, more than offsets the extra cost.
The following are five favorite places to pick up gear–and maybe a tip or two–in the Lake Tahoe area:
Alpenglow Sports (415 North Lake Boulevard, Tahoe City; 530-583-6917), whose main focus and passion is cross-country and back-country skiing, has an amazing selection of gear, suitable for newbies to uber-black diamond powder hounds. They have a knowledgeable staff and an enormous catalogue of top-quality products.
South Shore Snow (955 Emerald Bay Road, South Lake Tahoe; 530-544-2699) has perhaps the friendliest staff in the South Lake area, and when your owner is former U.S. freestyle team member Chris Hernandez and your master tuner is former U.S. ski team technician Pam Warman, you know they know their stuff.
The Start Haus (10990 Donner Pass Road, Truckee; 530-582-5781) is perhaps the place to get your ski boots fitted or skis tuned–sorry, no snowboard stuff here–in the Tahoe region. Owner Jim Schaffner, the former World Cup ski and boot technician, and his professional and knowledgeable staff know how to give you the racer's edge.
Tahoe Sports LTD (4000 Lake Tahoe Boulevard, South Lake Tahoe; 530-542-4000) may be the largest sporting goods store in the Tahoe basin, but to them it's the little things that count, like having a friendly and knowledgeable staff, offering professional service and, most importantly, getting times done in a prompt and timely manner.
Truckee Sports Exchange (10095 West River Street, Truckee; 530-582-4510) has a huge selection of new and gently used resort and back-country gear and a large consignment loft. But what sets this shop apart is that it is staffed by seasoned winter athletes who enjoy sharing their extensive knowledge of the local mountains with visitors.