On Snow demos - Keystone Colorado Feb --- 2007
The winter ski and snowboard season is just really getting started when the process begins to reveal the next years product line. It all begins at the SIA - Snowsports Industries of America - annual trade show in Las Vegas in January. This year's kick off event was January 22 at The Mandalay Bay. The annual show has it all - parties, scantily clad models drawing attention to the new gear, clothing and must have accessories. Once you have spent 3 - 4 days looking at the new gear, drinking and gambling, it is off to mountains for round two which is the On Snow demos and testing.
This is where the work assignment gets good. This year's Western Regional show was held in Keystone Resort in Colorado. Conditions were perfect for testing skis and snowboards. The past week had seen some new snow to freshen up the surface and we now had blue skies and sunshine for solid conditions. The beauty of this task is that there is so much good and great product being made by all the ski and snowboard companies.
It is difficult to go wrong if you match features and performance with what kind of terrain you are skiing and riding with your ability level. Make sure you pick the right model for what you will be skiing. My plan was to ski as many skis in 2 days as possible and get a feel for what brands and models were moving up and who was falling short. We all have our biases and this needs to taken into account as we pick winners and losers.
In addition to my testing, the listed conclusions here were based upon the sentiments of the team of product testers from Retails Concepts and others who I spent the several days with skiing and testing skis.
The two big winners by all accounts were Volkl and K2. All of us skied many skis in each of the lines. My personal favorite was the K2 line and specifically the Radical in a 174. This is a new version of the Apache model for next year and was responsive, stable and easy to turn in all conditions. The new Volkl Tiger Shark also made a huge impression and comes with the caveat, you better stay on this ski and be ready to ski it aggressively, or it will take you for a ride. This ski is not for the feint of heart.
The loser and biggest disappointment was from the Salomon collection. I tried 4 different models and they all were dead and simply did not ski well. No fluidity, not very stable and quite the disappointment.
Pleasant surprises and products/brands that appear to be making a move in the market were from Elan and Head. The Elan line with Magma technology was a fun, liveley and responsive ski. I will look to add this model in the Magma 12 to my quiver for next season.
Another pleasant and unexpected surprise was a new ski introduced by Palmer snowboards. The all mountain freeride ski was fun and will perform well in broken snow and powder. The tip has nice float and the ski as a whole was very fluid in hard and variable snow.
Dynastar - The Legend line and the 8800 were also winners. Rossignol skis also had a good buzz going. This is encouraging as the former power house has lost significant market share over the last 5 - 7 years. The skis were skiing well and it appears that Rossi may be on the way back.
On the boot side I tested one boot company - Dalbello. Boy was this a nice fitting and performing boot. They had purchased the Raichle technology and patents and have introduced this in their new boot line. I will be skiing the Dalbello Rampage next year.
My closing comment is - make sure you get to a demo day next year and test before you buy. Not only does it help you select just the right gear, it is an awful lot of fun.