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EXPENSIVE SKIS - Wall St. Journal Report

post #1 of 22
Thread Starter 
For those interested, from today's Wall St. Journal -- I don't know
how to make the pictures show up, sorry:


A New Way
To Blow Cash
On the Slopes
Prices on Range of Skis Now Exceed $1,000,
As Makers Eye Lucrative Sports Market

By ALEX MARKELS
SPECIAL TO THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
February 8, 2005; Page D1


Talk about a ski jump.

With weekend athletes, from golfers to mountain bikers, shelling out increasingly large sums of money for the latest gear, ski manufacturers are eager not to miss out. One result is a proliferation of skis that cost $1,000 and up.

Just a few years ago, the suggested retail prices for top-of-the-line skis from companies like Rossignol and K2 Inc. rarely exceeded $650. Now, Volkl Sports Holdings AG has 13 models that retail for more than $1,000, more than twice what it had just two seasons ago. In that same time, Salomon, another major ski maker, has also doubled its offerings in that price range, to six different skis.


Volkl K2 Recon Apachea (right) are $875, sans bindings and $3,000 Bogner skis.


The main reason that more skis are now piercing the $1,000 barrier is the growth of models that come already outfitted with special bindings, or so-called integrated skis. The bindings, which are actually designed into the skis, slide on the skis ever so slightly as you turn, which allows them to flex more. That, manufacturers say, makes it easier for skiers to turn.

It isn't the first time, of course, that pricey skis have shown up on the slopes. It's long been possible to get hand-made skis from boutique manufacturers such as France's Lacroix, whose customers can have skis made to order and finished in their choice of exotic woods. This year, Willy Bogner, a German ski racer-turned-ski designer, is hawking a $3,000 pair made in part from bamboo.

But now it's the mainstream ski companies that are also pumping out ultra-premium models. Some of them come with other bells and whistles that also help to jack up the price. Volant's Platinum HF skis, which go for $2,300, come with computer-enhanced bindings that flash an "OK" when they're properly engaged. (For that price, customers also get a leather carrying case and a subscription to a newsletter with tips on other ways spend large chunks of money, including private ski resorts, high-end watches and concept cars.) Meanwhile, Head's Monster i.M 75 skis have a computer chip that senses the ski's flex. When it detects too much vibration, the chip sends an electronic pulse that causes fibers that run along the skis length to stiffen.

New features aren't the only thing pushing up ski prices. Skyrocketing prices for raw materials of everything from plastic to steel to aluminum are also having a big impact. For example, top-end models typically also have a small amount of a titanium alloy called Titanal, which helps stiffen the ski while keeping it as light as possible. But Titanal adds about $25 to the cost of any ski.


Volant's Platinum HF ($2,300) have computer-enhanced bindings (right)


The escalating euro is also hurting ski shoppers. On average, skis from European makers like Adidas-Salomon, Groupe Rossignol and Atomic, a division of Amer Group PLC, are currently priced about $20 to $40 higher than equivalent skis from K2, the only major U.S.-based manufacturer.

For the industry, the spurt of new high-end skis is aimed at ending a profit drought that has seen sales stagnate at about $800 million a year for the past five years. And, as in other sectors, the ski business has been hit with a rash of recent corporate consolidations, and more companies are now outsourcing their manufacturing to China and Eastern Europe.

"Ski equipment has become a low-growth, low-margin business, which means those who want to make money either have to cut costs or offer something that's really cutting edge," says Seth Masia, editor of Snow Industry News.

While integrated skis sell for about the same as skis and bindings bought separately, they offer higher profit margins. There is another reason why they're good for business: If customers' skis get gouged during a poor-snow year, they have to replace not only the skis but the bindings too, because the two pieces are part of a single package.

With ski equipment, the last big leap forward technologically was in the late 1990s, with the advent of parabolic skis. Their unusual hourglass shape, which requires only the slightest tilt of the knee to initiate a smooth turn, pushed many skiers to trade in their narrow, pencil-shaped boards for the newfangled models.

More recent innovations, however, haven't been so successful. One example is the introduction four years ago of "soft" boots, an attempt to relieve the vise-like discomfort of traditional ski boots by replacing their stiff plastic tongues with soft fabric. "We all thought soft boots were the next big thing," says Kenneth Friedman, a long-time ski retailer whose Biostance Alignment Service offers boot fittings in Beaver Creek, Colo. "But they're pretty much dead."

As for the latest ski trend, Stafford Lindsay, an executive at a graphics company in Boulder, Colo., recently bought the Salomon Scream 10 Pilot ski-and-binding system (list price: $1,025). "I don't know if [the system] makes a difference, but the skiing was sure different for me," says Mr. Lindsay, who tried out at least half-a-dozen brands.

But integrated skis are as much about marketing as performance, according to ski specialists. "There's a slight performance difference," says Scott Speedy, sales manager at retailer Boulder Ski Deals, as he peered down a 30-foot-long row of newfangled skis. "But a lot of it is about getting you to buy your skis and bindings from the same company."

A smart shopper should have no trouble finding a good pair of top-end skis for less than $600, and decent pair for under $400. That's in part because new technology is increasingly trickling down to even moderately priced skis, says Joe Cutts, equipment editor of Ski Magazine. Innovations now available in less-expensive models include the parabolic shape, integrated binding systems and various types of advanced construction to reduce vibration. One example is K2's MOD system, which was introduced four seasons ago in its top-end models and is now available in K2's entire line.

Another good strategy is to count on manufacturers' overproduction, which regularly leaves 25% of skis unsold each year. The glut is on full display during the spring clearance and early-fall ski sales, where discounts can be up to 90% off the retail price. Even now, with the ski season well under way, a number of retailers are already offering discounts of 30% or more on top-end equipment, says Mr. Masia, of Snow Industry News.
post #2 of 22

bump for TBT

post #3 of 22

I find Bogner skis at al. a yawn; if you want to identify with a lifestyle narrative, get a poseur watch like a Rolex. But I'd be interested in anything anyone has on electronic/more sophisticated bindings. Something like that would be nice before there's no more snow to use them on. 

post #4 of 22
Lol I don't see anyone here paying $3k for 1 pair of skis. On the other hand I can see foks here paying $3k for 4 or 5 pairs of skis!
post #5 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by beyond View Post
 

I find Bogner skis at al. a yawn; if you want to identify with a lifestyle narrative, get a poseur watch like a Rolex. But I'd be interested in anything anyone has on electronic/more sophisticated bindings. Something like that would be nice before there's no more snow to use them on. 

 

I don't know much about watches: what makes a Rolex a poseur watch, vs. say another brand?  My grandpa has one he got in Hong Kong back in the 80's, nice, but a gold watch isn't quite my thing.  The thing is bombproof though.  

 

I always liked the James Bond edition Submariner from "Live and Let Die". Thought it was a sweet watch I would love to own.  Should have bought a vintage model when I was in college and they were going for $900 on eBay!  Worth thousands now! 

post #6 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by Coach13 View Post

Lol I don't see anyone here paying $3k for 1 pair of skis. On the other hand I can see foks here paying $3k for 4 or 5 pairs of skis!

How much are a pair of Wagner custom skis? If they are $1750 to start, I'm sure people pay $3k for some. Not that I would.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by dawgcatching View Post
 

 

I don't know much about watches: what makes a Rolex a poseur watch, vs. say another brand?  My grandpa has one he got in Hong Kong back in the 80's, nice, but a gold watch isn't quite my thing.  The thing is bombproof though.  

 

I always liked the James Bond edition Submariner from "Live and Let Die". Thought it was a sweet watch I would love to own.  Should have bought a vintage model when I was in college and they were going for $900 on eBay!  Worth thousands now! 

Prefer Sean Connery as Bond, but the Omega Planet Oceans of the more recent Bonds.

post #7 of 22

I have one of the luxury brands, Volants.  Only mine are from 2002 and I paid $99.99 for them:D.

post #8 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ghost View Post
 

I have one of the luxury brands, Volants.  Only mine are from 2002 and I paid $99.99 for them:D.


My Wife's Volants cost me about $150. I got rid of them when they lost all their camber. Who knew that would be all the rage years later. I think my friend's Wife is still using them to this day.

post #9 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by dawgcatching View Post
 

 

I don't know much about watches: what makes a Rolex a poseur watch, vs. say another brand?  My grandpa has one he got in Hong Kong back in the 80's, nice, but a gold watch isn't quite my thing.  The thing is bombproof though.  

 

I always liked the James Bond edition Submariner from "Live and Let Die". Thought it was a sweet watch I would love to own.  Should have bought a vintage model when I was in college and they were going for $900 on eBay!  Worth thousands now! 


Fair question. Complicated answer; I have a close relation who literally makes watches. So my perspective is not typical. Anyway:

 

1) IMO Rolex is like Cristal. Good, but awareness of its price, clever marketing - for instance, they copyrighted a prefix, "superlative" that they added to the official "certified Swiss chronometer," and advertise it as if it refers to a new, better category - and association with celebrities drives demand more than anything unusual about its quality. But in all honesty, I feel that way about a lot of expensive things. Some are really worth the price, more aren't. 

2) Ironically it's a comparatively new brand, started in England in 1905, became fully Swiss made in 1915. No real pedigree in the rather insular watchmaking world. It's (oddly) a victim of its own success; so many are sold each year that its movements essentially have to be mass produced. That gives them tight tolerances, by using modern factory technologies, and makes them easy to repair because the parts are unusually interchangeable. But this is an industry that admires watches made partly by hand, with "complications" that take silly amounts of time to machine and assemble. 

3) Not sure it's bombproof. It's got a reputation in the industry as being average, nothing special (which granted means very reliable in general). For instance, most major Swiss brands, including Rolex, underwent series of torture tests in the early 60's run by NASA to select a watch for the Apollo missions. The Omega Speedmaster came out on top, is still the only wristwatch NASA ever qualified for EVA in space, although astronauts have used several others as backups, including Bulova's and one Rolex. FWIW, I know that several brands the public may not associate with prestige are widely respected in the industry for their reliability; Longines comes to mind. 

4) So not saying Rolex's are Citizens. (Although most $50 quartz Swatches are more accurate than any mechanical watch made.) Just bit overrated and desperately overexposed IMO.

5) Fully aware I'll get static on this from the Rolex wearers out there. :duck: 


Edited by beyond - 3/22/15 at 9:41pm
post #10 of 22
My Timex works fine. Only looses 15 min a day.
post #11 of 22

--

post #12 of 22

Psh, if you aren't buying Zai's you don't know what you're doing.

post #13 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by joe strummer View Post

My Timex works fine. Only looses 15 min a day.

Pretty sure my employees own the same watch.
post #14 of 22
Apparently they were selling a 14,000$ Zai at our mountain. Not sure if it sold. What a burden to get it tuned though!

Then there's Bomber which gets good reviews but sells for about $2,500 all mountain or $1,600 for slalom.

http://www.epicski.com/t/106069/anybody-heard-of-bomber-skis
http://bomberski.com/
post #15 of 22

We have some new old stock Zai Odavon that are 133/91/114-ish in a 165cm that we are hesitant to take out until we have sufficient snow so we don't damage them. The finish on these is beautiful and definitely stand out from other skis offered on the market. We hope to have an on snow review by the end of the season from A-Basin.

 

 

 

 

 

post #16 of 22

are you holding the tip or the tail in the 2nd pic?    

post #17 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by cantunamunch View Post
 

are you holding the tip or the tail in the 2nd pic?    

I am assuming you are referring to the picture of the base? I am holding the tip up. 

post #18 of 22
Let's not forget the Carradan Ski which never materialized afaik.
12-19k in 2008

http://www.epicski.com/t/70386/carradan-skis-worlds-most-expensive
post #19 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tog View Post

Let's not forget the Carradan Ski which never materialized afaik.
12-19k in 2008

http://www.epicski.com/t/70386/carradan-skis-worlds-most-expensive


If you come to Arapahoe Basin in May, you may get a chance to fondle the Zais

post #20 of 22

What are your Zai's mounted for bsl?

post #21 of 22

I didn't say you could ski my Zais.  I said you could fondle them. :eek

 

(BSL 280)

post #22 of 22
A nod is as good as a wink.
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