The most frequently asked question when ski season rolls around is: To rent or not to rent?

And the answer is: That depends!For some it's an advantage to rent ski equipment, while for others it isn't.

According to Dan Meldrum, a co-owner in Canyon Sports, 1844 E. Fort Union Blvd., rentals can be an advantage to a person who doesn't ski much during the ski season, or for a child in the growing years, or a skier in the learning years.

"Take a skier that doesn't ski much, for example. Instead of having to go out and buy $400 or $500 in ski equipment, he or she can rent for $7.99 a day . . . and know that they are getting good equipment."

Also, it can be an advantage for children in the growing years to rent instead of buy. "That way," notes Meldrum, "they can keep stepping into equipment that fits as they grow . . . bigger skis, bigger boots and longer poles." Rental packages for children at Canyon Sports run $4.99 a day.

Also, it can be an advantage to the new skiers, the beginners, young or old, to rent.

The reason, notes Meldrum, also a certified ski instructor, "is they can start with shorter skis and advance to longer skis as they develop their skills. Most new skiers develop pretty fast. With rentals they can progress with the length of the skis as their skill increase."

Rentals offer another advantage to developing skiers: They can try and test skis until they find something that suits their needs.

Most ski rental shops offer performance and high performance packages. Skiers can rent longer skis, shorter skis, skis with a stiff flex, skis with a slalom cut, skis with a giant slalom cut, skis for recreation, or skis for racing, and keep renting until they find what suits them best.

A performance package, with a retail value of around over $700 cost $9.99 to rent for a day at Canyon Sports, while the high performance packages with equipment retailing for over $900 rent for $11.99 a day.

Skiers, too, can feel comfortable knowing how far ski equipment has come in the past few years. Skis have come a long way and so, too, have ski rentals. From something that was old and not too efficient, to a package as highly technical as modern ski equipment can get; from something that involved more guesswork than skill, to something as precise as modern science can get.

Back in the old day, and they weren't too long ago, maybe 10 years, remembers John Bartlett, also a co-owner in Canyon Sports, there were no codes, no guidelines, no limits, no standards in the ski rental business.

"You'd do the very best you could, but back then everything was so different . . . the skis, boots, bindings. You'd end up setting the boot in, slipping a card under the sole for clearance, then either hitting the boot on the side or having the skier get in and twist to see if the binding released. There were no guidelines to match tension in the heel and toe, no standards for weight or ability."

The next step was to come up with guidelines for setting tension on the the heel and toe. Salomon was one of the first to do this. Other binding makers followed. What came of it was charts and scales for setting both the heel and toe pieces. Also, binding manufacturers got together with boot makers and tried to come up with a standard sole, something that was of the same material for consistency, and something that was of standard height and width so that it fit into all bindings the same.

It was a good attempt and it worked somewhat. Still, not everyone in the industry followed.

Then the ski industry, and indirectly the ski rental business, took giant strides forward. Boot makers did come up with standardized sole measurements. And, binding manufacturers came up with standardized charts for adjusting bindings and boots, according to size and ability.

Now, everything is taken into consideration - weight, age, ability and boot-sole length. Everything is considered and charts have been made that will tell the technician exactly what numbers to set the bindings for maximum efficiency.