By Colorado Snow Sensei Patrick Byrne, Colorado Ski Country USA Public Affairs Manager
Some time ago, I stopped buying new ski gear. It wasn’t a money issue; like most of the readers of this blog I know that skiers and snowboarders can visit early season events like Christy Sports’ Powder Daze and get fully equipped at a reasonable price.
It wasn’t because the gear I have is adequate; I reached the level of technical ability where only better equipment can take you to the next level as a skier many years ago. So why – against seemingly all logic – do I continue skiing on racing boots from 1996 and a pair of skis from 2002 that are almost useless on anything but groomers?
It might have something to do with the gear I rode while learning to ski. In the early 1990s shaped skis hadn’t quite hit the consumer market, or if they did they didn’t reach the relative backwaters of ski culture that is Washington, D.C., my home town. Mid-Atlantic conditions at the hills of Pennsylvania demanded thin skis and stiff boots to hold edges in icy conditions, and until you physically wore your gear down there wasn’t much in the way of innovation that would justify shelling out cash on new gear anyway.
Really, I should have cast those sentiments aside the moment I moved to Colorado in 1999. My very first day was at Loveland, it was November, and I didn’t know how to turn my pencil-thin skis in the intimidating Rocky Mountain powder (there was maybe six inches of it). But my boots fit really well, and I had developed a misplaced derision of the fancy shaped skis that allowed people to make better turns in tighter corridors with more control.
Fast forward to 2008, and this attitude led to real problems the first time I had no choice but to wear super-fat powder skis at Silverton. I went from a 95th+ percentile skier at Front Range resorts to maybe a 5th percentile skier in the steep, deep powder of southwest Colorado. I won’t even go into details, but they involve tree wells and a vague sense of humiliation. And despite all that, I still wasn’t ready to modernize my gear.
Now, I am ready. I’m ready because a few weeks ago I ventured up to Loveland again, but for a radically different experience: the annual Christy Sports Demo Day, the day when prospective gear buyers get up to speed on the best new equipment and actually ride it themselves.
The deal they offer at Demo Day has to be one of the best in the ski industry. For $45 (or just $30 if you already have lift access), you get:
- To test high end skis and snowboards all day with tips from expert brand reps;
- A $12 lunch voucher (which actually covers a satisfying lunch at Loveland);
- A beer ticket;
- Entry into an après-ski party and prize giveaway; and
- A $100 credit towards the purchase of new skis or a snowboard from Christy Sports.
If you’re serious about getting new gear, the Christy Sports Demo Day pays for itself and then some.
I was determined to try on at least one pair of skis from every manufacturer that was present. It turns out that this wasn’t really possible because it would have taken at least two days to sample a pair of skis from each booth, such was the variety of options, including:
- Salomon; and
In addition, snowboarders had their choice between:
- Jones; and
- Lib Tech;
- Never Summer;
- Rossignol; and
In the end, I swapped my skis out after every run and managed eight runs on skis from seven different manufacturers, only one of whose skis I had ever worn before.
To put this into perspective: I started skiing 21 years ago, presently work in the ski industry, and had only ever worn six pairs of skis until Demo Day. In a single day, I more than doubled my experience of the diversity of lengths, widths, shapes, and construction of state-of-the-art skis. My knowledge of how modern skis are designed and constructed for certain terrain, conditions, and skier ability took an exponential leap forward thanks to the friendly and knowledgeable representatives, and I’m now much more informed and confident about which pair of skis to purchase next. It was like in sci-fi movies where people can become instant experts by downloading entire academic subjects into their brains in a matter of seconds.
Just like that… but colder, and more fun.
As I expected, the sophistication and quality of new skis these days is quite remarkable. With about four inches of fresh powder and another six falling throughout the day, the snow was consistently soft and was perfect for trying out all-mountain skis. I could really feel how the subtle differences in each pair of skis affected how fast they were, how easy they were to turn, and how well they rode on the snow. I could also tell that I would get more out of each pair of these skis with a 21st century pair of boots, but that’s a discussion for another day and another blog post.
It was obvious that different types of skiers would probably rank each pair differently, and I learned almost as much from chatting with other skiers on the chairlift as I did from the brand reps and Christy Sports staff. This underscores the value of being able to try lots of different skis. You can do this over the course of a season, but it’s so much more efficient (and cost-effective!) to go to the Christy Sports Demo Day and figure out the right pair for yourself. Demo day sold out this season, and really it should sell out every season in 15 minutes as if it was the hottest ticket in town. Because it might be.
In the meantime, you can always rent a variety of skis at Christy Sports, including the newest models from the best brands. Now learn from my mistake, branch out, and get the gear that will help you take the next step as a skier or snowboarder.