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Photo by Mico Mazza

And it’s time to invest in more than just mittens

IF THE ALMOST-FREEZING temperatures this past weekend herald anything, it’s that winter is coming a lot faster than you think. Cold-weather clothes are being dug out of closets and basements, and stores are swapping their summer stock for Santa-themed sweaters and heavy knits galore. Whether you’re in love with the idea of a winter wonderland or spend every December screaming at the sight of snow, now is the time to get out and take advantage of the change in seasons—at least as far as winter sports equipment is concerned.

Sick stock

It’s a little-known fact to non-retail workers that the seasons change in malls three months before the switch outdoors. That’s why it’s easier to buy a bathing suit in April than it is in July—you know, when you actually need one. While early retail changes may make your summer shopping an ordeal, there is a definite benefit to hitting the stores early if you’re in need of some new sports equipment.

Winter sports equipment starts racking store shelves as soon as back-to-school sales are over. What does that mean for you? It means that there are more Burton boards, Rossignol skis, and Helly Hansen jackets than you’ll know what to do with. Hitting stores at the beginning of the winter season means you don’t have to settle—no more ill-matched ski suits for you!

Killer quality

Another trick of the retail trade that all winter sports enthusiasts should be aware of is what stores do with returned stock. There’s no way Sport Chek or Tommy and Lefebvre can afford to send their $500 returns to the dumpster. So what do they do? Why, resell them of course, and with a hefty discount to boot.

Any honest sports equipment store will refrain from charging full price for returned merchandise, even if it’s in mint condition. That means serious savings for you, without having to compromise on quality.

A bit nervous about spending your hard-earned dough on someone else’s castoffs? Keep in mind that, until the snow starts falling, it’s unlikely any returned equipment will have actually been used. Most of the time the only issue was that the colour of the boots just didn’t mesh well with the customer’s existing equipment, so they decided to opt for another pair.

Cheap chain stores

Whether you’re a seasoned pro looking for a new addition to your current equipment collection or a noob hitting the hills for the first time, the best way to ensure you’re getting a good price is to hit up the chain stores in town before you check out the specialty shops.

While there are benefits to buying local, most Ottawa-based shops sell the same brands as the big-name chains—at an extremely elevated price. When stores only sell two boards a day, you need to make as much off those sales as you can. Unfortunately, that translates into higher prices and petty discounts. If you really want to spend less on your equipment update this year, then chains are the cheaper way to go.

It may be a while until you can use any winter equipment, but if you want the best quality and the best price, now is the time to shop.

—Jaclyn Lytle