The last thing you want to do is spend a lot of money for skis that you don't like.
1) Go to www.techsupportforskiers.com. Pay Peter Keelty the $20 (or whatever) to join and you can look up most every ski sold in the US for the past several years. Each review contains factual info (eg, lengths offered, sidecut dimensions, etc.), a brief text description, recommendations for suitable use (eg, ice, racing, powder, etc.), and ratings for the ski in a half-dozen or so aspects (eg, carving, skidding, stability, etc.). I have hundreds of ski related sites on the net bookmarked and this is the best place by far to go for basic factual, well organized info on skis.
2) Consult the archives of the "ski gear discussions" , and "consumer gear reviews" forum sections of www.epicski.com:
There are tens of thousands of discussions amongst extremely knowledgable people (many are in the industry) archived there. Use the search function before you ask a question because probably every question that you can imagine has already been discussed.
Tom / PM
The good news is that all NEW skis and boots on the market now are of very high quality. If you buy it new, you won't be buying junk. The most important thing is to find the right category of equipment that meets your needs. (A true gear-head may have some qualifications to add to my blanket statement but most people don't need to worry about it.)
Boots are the most important piece of ski equipment (just like speakers are the most important component of a sound system). Put your money and time into buying boots. Based on your skiing level a competent salesperson will help find the right category of boot for you. Within that category, the most important thing is proper fit. Don't worry about Brand X vs Brand Y, worry about fit. If you have to spend an extra $100 on a pair that fits really well, spend the extra $100 dollars. It will be money well spent.
To simplify the ski buying process:
1) Find the right category of ski using the websites, salespeople and even the ski magazines. There is a lot of debate about the proper description of categories and placement of certain skis within certain categories. Most middle-of-the-road skiers don't need to sweat this debate too much. The category of the ski will determine the sidecut dimensions (head, waist, tail) and how much energy/performance there is in the ski. Greater energy/performance is not always a good thing: most drivers couldn't handle an Indy 500 race car, and most skiers couldn't handle a set of race skis. Note: based on the particular definitions of the ski categories, you may find yourself looking at skis in more than one category.
2) Primarily based on your weight, find the appropriate length for the skis within the chosen category(ies). Use the above resources for help. There may be a slight variation of ideal length between skis within a category.
3) After steps 1 and 2, demo some of the selected skis. (Demoing is the best method of determing how you should choose the results of steps 1 and 2, but expert advice will suffice for most people. Most people don't have the time or patience for rigorous demoing.) If you can't demo, don't sweat it too much. Don't worry about Brand X vs Brand Y; any ski from steps 1 and 2 will be good for you. If one ski costs a lot less, buy the cheaper one. If one ski has better graphics, buy that one.
[This message has been edited by JohnL (edited 10-16-2003).]
Also, Ski and Skiing (owned by the same company) tend to give high marks to ski companies that advertise heavily in those magazines. Their reviews are supposed to be objective but after reading lots of posts on Epicski on the subject, I'm not so sure. Head, for example, makes some great skis but rarely scores high marks in the Ski Buyer's Guide for some reason.
I am not a gearhead like Physics Man or Otto but I agree with them that trying skis on the mountain is the way to go. Also, boots are more critical than skis. Buy your boots first and take them with you when you decide to demo skis.
Even Peter Keelty admits that the business is set up in a way that makes it difficult to demo. Equipment is ordered in the Spring, delivered at the end of the Summer, with payment due in December. Ski shops are set up to sell their stock in the Fall. Not the prime demo season in North America.
Furthermore, as has been discussed on other threads on DCSki, the selection of demos available at local ski shops and local areas is limited. (Even at Ski Center, I was there this past weekend.) A skier who is on the slopes 10 times a year (or less) may be hard-pressed to demo. A skier who is on the slopes 30 times a year and who travels a bit will have a much better access to a variety of demos.
johnfmh, if you had access to Epic ski and Peter Keelty's site, would you have made the same purchase mistakes?
Also, were your ski purchase mistakes made because you chose a ski in the wrong category and/or of the wrong length?
[This message has been edited by JohnL (edited 10-16-2003).]
Another point: listen to the pros. My partner (an advanced skier) and I take a few lessons at the beginning of each season. I have used the recommendations of my instructors in addition to the pats/pans of friends and shop pros to determine a basic quiver for demoing. It seems to work well for me.
I am not impressed with the ski rag recommendations. Most times that I demoed a ski that came highly recommended via a rag, I was singularly unimpressed. Buying skis is hard!
Basically, to paraphrase Nike; just demo it!
I skied the Bandit XX and a race-carve Volkl back to back on 6"-30" days at Snowbird and Park City. The Rossi felt dead underfoot, but man, the Volkls just zipped through anything.
Must be my old pencil ski skills/vices, no doubt.
I offer the observation that magazine ski reviews are like movie reviews. Find one or two you trust and ignore the rest.
-cheap semi-gratuitous endorsement #1:
I trust Ski Presse and Peter Keelty: the rest offer just too little information for the way I ski.
-cheap semi-gratuitous endorsement #2:
Spend an hour on a monoski. It'll change your powder life.
I have Volkl G-31 Vertigo skis in a 188cm length.
They are great skis for powder and work well on crud and hardpack. However, they are a little above my ability level. What that means is that I get tired skiing on those skis if I try to exceed more than 20,000 feet of vertical a day or if trails get a little bumped up after a big storm. This is no big deal in the Mid-Atlantic where the Lodge is never more than 1,000 feet of vertical away, but on a ski route in the Alps, where I still have 5,000 feet of difficult, beat up vertical and a 35-40 degree headwall to negotiate before I can relax with a beer in front of the fire, it can be a big deal.
I think if I had demoed more skis, I would not have opted for such an aggressive ski in such a long length--something shorter and slightly easier to turn might have satisified my demands a bit better.
I also feel that if I had had access to Peter Keelty's site or Epicski when I bought those skis, I may have bought something different. So maybe you are right, information available on the Internet can allow one to skip demo days. However, that requires reading a lot of technobable. Isn't easier just to try the skis on snow?
Snowshoe and 7 Springs have big slopeside stores that allow buyers to demo skis. Another option is to head for New England for a long weekend to demo skis at one of the larger resorts there.
My next approach to buying skis will be to buy them in Austria, where they are half the price and where new models come in a year before they arrive in the US. That can truly subsidize a trip to Europe. Austria refunds the 15% VAT sales tax for US travelers. US travelers are also allowed a $400 exemption on US duties and the next $1000 is taxed at 10%. That means if you paid $450 for your skis and bindings, you only pay $5 in customs if you declare your skis. Intersport also has mountainside demo centers at most of the big resorts.
[This message has been edited by johnfmh (edited 10-16-2003).]
For most of the regular posters on DCSki and on EpicSki, demoing is by far the best evaluation approach of a set of skis. And the most practical. However, for the reasons I've stated earlier on this thread, I think we need to qualify our message to the majority of readers of DCSki. If we constantly harp that demoing is the only way to go, then we risk alienating or intimidating the vast majority of ski buyers out there. Skiing is a great sport, but the gear buying hassle is by far greater than any other sport I've ever played in my life.
As an FYI, I strongly recommend that anyone who subscribes to Peter Keelty's site (www.techsupportforskiers.com) pays the extra $10 for personal email consultation. This will help to tame the techno babble and narrow the choices for the non-gearheads out there. Which is most of the skiing public. That's the main reason I tried to post a simplified version of the ski buying process.
[Posting at Scott hours. Just got out of playing an ice hockey game and still wired.]
I hope you are not a Red Sox fan like me.
Yeah, I basically agree with your point here. Having your own skis makes this whole process that much easier. Almost any ski/boot combination one buys will be better than your average rental ski and boot--especially rental boots. The Whitetail rental operation is extremely efficient as far as rental operations are concerned but it is still a pain to wait an hour for skis on a Saturday morning. Wouldn't it be better to be getting first tracks on your own skis? If the choice is owning skis without demoing them or not owning, I would say, read up, and buy. Sure it's a risk but it will be better than constantly facing the hassles of renting.
Also, once you have a decent set of boots, you can always buy a second pair of skis. That's my plan. Like bicycles, no single pair of skis will satisfy all the demands of an advanced skier. You need a ski for the groomers, an off-piste ski, a terrain park ski, and rock skis.
One other option is to rent a pair of skis for the entire season. Some stores offer this option. I would do this for skis but not for boots.
[This message has been edited by johnfmh (edited 10-17-2003).]
I don't think demoing is the only way to go. But, in essence, it is the most practical. If you do not own skis (which last year at this time I did not), then why should you just go out and buy before the season?
I made a decision last year that I was going to buy skis at one of the sales this year. I made that decision for my wife also. I read up on skis so I would have an idea of what I would like to try. If the shop had one of these skis, I would try it. If not, I just asked the tech what he/she recommended.
By the end of the season, I had changed my mind 3 times on the best ski for me. I then shopped on price (and availability since one was a Head).
BTW, after trying women's skis and other manner of different skis, my wife's favorite was the same regular rate rentals from Snowshoe (Salomon Verse). And I bet this ski was never recommended on anyone's list for a good woman's ski. If she hadn't done the demo, I could have made a big mistake and bought her something she would have always hated, thereby turning her off to the sport (and it took me 7 years to finally get her excited about it).