To: All Ski/Boot Manufacturers:
When are the ski companies going to wake-up and quit supporting on-line ski and boot sales? It is killing the ski industry! Skis and boots are not simple commodities. They both need a fair amount of professional service to maximize performance.
No question that nearly every ski boot needs fitting/modification for a proper fit - even long-time, experienced skiers need help with this - the natural trend is to go too big with the boot. Poorly fit boots lead to cold or hurting feet, and could be a safety issue to the skier ( boot too big, too stiff, etc.) The ski boot fit it tough... You sure as hell can't do this over the internet.
There is also the myth of new skis being ready to ski right out of the wrapper. The factory tune doesn't cut it - most of the skis "cure" and change after manufacture, and need a full tune before skiing them. To be sure, some ski companies offer a better factory finish than others, but they all need to be tuned to be decently skiable. Some frankly, are just awful out of the wrapper (e.g. Rossignol, Dynastar, Salomon, Head) no wonder their products get picked apart here and in other reviews - the stuff probably just isn't tuned. So, when a customer buys these on line and has a sub-par experience with the product - it hurts the reputation of the manufacturer and the industry as a whole.
What about binding adjustment? How many ski/binding systems that are sold on-line and do-it-yourself adjusted? The retailer needs to be indemnified, and tested in order to sell and work on bindings. Most consumers don't appreciate or understand this. So it becomes a safety issue, if someone gets hurt because of an improperly adjusted binding, it is unfortunate (maybe avoidable) and hurts the industry as well.
I see post after post noting the number of specialty ski shops that are out or going out of business. I also see posts detailing sub-par buying experiences in traditional retail stores. But, by and large most specialty ski retailers and stores with specialty ski departments are manned with passionate, knowledgeable staff that want to help the consumer maximize their skiing experience. There are definitely "doubting Thomas" consumers that don't trust their local ski shop staff, but they can certainly "educate" themselves on forums like this or (gasp!) TGR, then go buy the model that they want at retail. If the manufacturers and consumers don't work harder to support "brick and mortar" specialty retail, it will go away except for a few well placed shops (at the bottom of major ski resorts). Then who will fit the boots, tune the skis, and adjust the bindings? I know that the manufacturers might currently sell incrementally more product supporting the on-line only retailers, but the long-term damage that it is doing to the industry is more than off-setting it.
Flame me if you wish, but this is a very real series of issues facing the ski industry and it needs to be addressed.