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Have the ski manufacturers shot themselves in the foot?

post #1 of 62
Thread Starter 
The other evening I was having a conversation with the Colo Tech Rep for K2. We were discussing ski sales at the retail shops in the Front Range (Denver,etc) and the shops in the mountains were down. We explored the reasons, ranging from the economy to geographical buying trends.

As he had just returned from the Annual Sales Meeting (always just prior to the SIA Show in Vegas), he was telling me all about the new line for next season.

Thusly, my question-

"Have the ski manufacturers done themselves a dis-service by changing their line every season?"

In the past, a ski company would change its line about every 3 seasons. It built its reputation on a few models, and drove the market in that way. Now, the lines get changed every season. Granted, technology is changing faster than ever, and they are anxious to get that technology into the hands of the consumer. But in their haste to keep up with the competition, they are losing consumer "loyalty" to a product.

Here is where my point comes in. By changing the line so frequently, the retail consumer is reluctant to purchase a ski which will likely be "outdated" by next season. Add to that equation the fact that every rental shop now carries the best new equipment every season. Given the choice, does the consumer buy, or rent? From what I am seeing and hearing from my students and others on the hill, they are renting.

Their rationale-
Why carry skis all over the US(overseas) when they are waiting for me at the slopes? Sure- they will pay a premium to rent that equipment, but to them, its worth it to have the latest equipment. After all, they will likely only ski 8-12 days during a season.

The rental shops are experiencing growth of snowboard-like proportions, while the retail shops have declining sales. Have the manufacturers realized this trend? I'm not sure, but they had better see it soon! With a decreasing number of hard core skiers buying their own gear each year, they can't keep going like this. Even the rental shops won't keep them alive.

What do you, as a (hopefully) ski buying consumer, think about this? Does this level of change affect your purchasing habits?

: : :

post #2 of 62
Then again, there's also the theory of planned obsolescence. They want you to buy new equipment every year. Granted only people as obsessed as us do that, but maybe they see the income level of the average skier going up (they see all those Lexus and Mercedes sport-utes in the parking lot), and figure they could sell them new gear every year if they change the line every year. ???
post #3 of 62
When people ask me about buying their own skis, I ask them to do some simple maths. How many days a year do they ski? And then to compare the costs of renting for that period with the price of a set of new skis and bindings. Then add in this constant churning of ski models, and renting becomes a very sensible choice. With the proviso that when they find themselves on a pair of skis they love to bits, they can go off and buy them without guilt!
post #4 of 62
Thread Starter 
Are those Mercedes and Lexus' rentals too?

post #5 of 62
Who wants to stand in line to rent, then stand in line to return the equipment. Then there's the question of will I always get the skis I want and in the right length.

When it comes to renting boots, no skier with a little bit of savvy about how important boots are wood ever rent boots unless in an emergency or a last minute chance to go skiing when he didn't have his own equipment.

Therefore, my take on this question is, hardcore or serious skiers don't/won't/wouldn't think of renting.
post #6 of 62
I don't think it makes good sense to change a product line every year because like you say you never know whats coming out next so when do you buy, but how much do the skis really change, sometimes a lot, sometimes just graphics, sometimes I think not for the better, my case in point I have a k2 axis x pro that I really like, k2 quit making it & I don't think the xp fits my needs, I also have a mach s, now they have totaly changed it & all the reasons that I bought the mach s for are gone, the current ski would not fit my needs so I would have to look at a different brand, as far as rental I am going to be in summit county end of this month & would like to try the rossignal rpm21 but the only thing I can find is an rpm17 just like last season I could not find a mach g or mach s to rent in summit co, one other point if you buy a ski that you can learn & maintain so you know what you have I believe you will progress in your learning faster than changing every time you go skiing, I also think if you shop you can own the skis for approx what high end rental cost for one season plus you could sell them when your thru with them, I bought my wife some salomon verse pilots brand new 350.00 in my hand, she will use them for 9 days this season but what would it cost to rent these for 9 days, I would think at least 30.00 a day x 9 = 270.00 , now like I said hers are new & we can sell them if we want but hope to use them for a few seasons, as far as technology changing sure skis are getting better but if someone bought a scream series in 2000 & they are not used up what makes them not any good just because the latest ski is a scream pilot 10, now if it is a total change in type of ski thats a different story.
just my .02
post #7 of 62
Vail snopro wrote:
Are those Mercedes and Lexus' rentals too?

Maybe not- but I bet a lot of them are leased!!

I have the same skis (Volant Ti Powercarves) for what is now my 4th season. I would love to get a new pair this season (or 2!) but can't justify the cost right now. Maybe in the spring when the discounts are even deeper....
post #8 of 62
I can fuly understand the rationale for renting if you are doing only a small number of days a year, say 8-12 as you mentioned vail. The costs of renting over a period of years will probably be more than the cost of a pair of skis but you have no maintenance cost, and not the big outlay to purchase them initially.

As far as changing lines of skis go, I agree the manufacturers seem to be scrambling to launch ever more variety and improvement on each seasons skis. I am amazed at the amount of niche skis you can buy now, a ski for every condition, but inevitably a compromise in lots of other areas.

I suppose with the revolution in ski design and the subsequent increase in people going back to skiing (or taking up skiing rather thean snowboarding) in the last 5 years it is understandable that the manufacturers are probably testing the waters to find what the consumer will continue to buy and what they will, in the long term, reject.

I have said before that I believe that once the technology frenzy and the skier growth curve eases off and a few manufacturers go under (as will inevitably happen when buying slackens) that we will again be faced with a more consistent range of skis year to year. So I guess in answer to your question, IMHO yes they have shot themselves in the foot to an extent.

I get annoyed by the way skis are marketed now, bracketed into categories that are based purely on a trend (e.g. 'Skiercross', surely just a detuned GS race ski (or a beefy all-mtn ski)?, cos how many people actually buy Skiercross skis to compete in??). I guess this is symptomatic of the current consumer market in all kinds of goods....we are the target of very slick marketing and promotion that the media (magazines etc) buy into all guns blazing.
post #9 of 62
Many "new" ski's are just new graphic and/or gimmick. If I'm interested in a ski I rent it first so I can demo over a couple of days. The more they keep changing the current model the less likely I am to buy this years model (by the time I am ready to buy there's a new one out that I must try, or I can pick up last years model at a better price).

post #10 of 62
I was actually thinking about this the other day. Remember the teal Rossi 4S? that ski was on the market for about 3-4 years and was a top seller. The K2 5500, when the first incarnation came out it was around for 3 years, tehn the next change was very subtle in the graphics.

I agree, changing graphics every year, its not the manufacturer thats suffering.. its the retailers. The are obligated to buy the product early on (at "list" price), then it is their responcability do move it out and make money. If they are stuck with excess inventory.. oh well. People are smart (for the most part), they know somehting new and different is coming down the line and they will wait it out. The retailers are the ones that are suffering.
post #11 of 62
I think the teal Rossi 4S was around for even more than 3-4 seasons. I seem to recall they made a splash at the '84 Olympics, but I didn't buy my pair until the start of the '89-'90 season. Granted, they were then being phased out by the 7S, but I think they carried them for another season or two with a new, glossy top sheet. I recall hearing that it was the single best selling ski ever.

I tend to agree with the thought that ski companies shouldn't be updating their models as frequently. I have been looking for new skis for the last three seasons. Problem is, I demo most of the season, then have a hard time finding the model I liked because they are sold out and being replaced for the next season. I loved the Volkl P40 Platinum, (which I believe was only around for two seasons, and had its sidecut altered for the 2nd one) but I didn't demo them until late in the season before they were replaced by the P50, which I didn't like as much. I also liked the K2 Patriot G5 because of its similarity to my beloved old Merlin Vs, but that ski was only around for one season, and it very limited quantities. Maybe I just need to act faster when I find something I like (which ususally takes two demos on different days), but it used to not be this hard.

Perhaps if ski manufacturers slowed their development pace down a bit, the damn things wouldn't cost as much. Of course, they'd all have to agree at the same time.
post #12 of 62
Dynastar doesn't change all that fast. The SkiCross (yeah, Rock, but it's just a name, and nothing else to me) that I'm on is 3 years old, and hasn't changed (other than getting shorter). Next year, it will change a bit by getting a bit wider over the length, but I skied it the other day, and it skis exactly the same, and I still love it. I've demoed about 7 or 8 pair of skis this year, and I still haven't found anything I like better. Even those dang Volkl 5 Stars didn't seem as good to me (everybody in PSIA-E seems to have them) : . They were great on the short turns, but got sloppy at speed in big turns. An Elan Dual H was the next best thing I found, and the Head World Cup (GS) was also nice, but its sweet spot was further forward than I'm used to, so it wasn't as comfortable a ride for me.

Really, the technology these days, is allowing for skis to get wider without twisting out on hardpack. But there is a point where they are too wide, and I think the technology has gone beyond that point. So the skis really aren't changing as much as the topskins are.
post #13 of 62
My biggest gripe to the manufacturers is price. Skis and cars are about the only 2 things in this world that have not come down in price as technology advances. Does a quality setup really need to cost between $600-$1000 JUST for a single pair of skis/bindings?

Snowboarders can outfit themselves for about half (or less) of what a skiier can, that is where I think a huge amount of the sales are going. Snowboarding is gaining popularity and it's priced to take over.
post #14 of 62
Why do we allow ourselves to get duped by the sales hype. I have been fortunate or unfortunate in that I can't afford to buy the latest technology and newest skis every year. The skis I bought this year are in their last production year. Guess what, the ski doesn't know that. The skis I bought 3 years prior were old inventory bought through a Rep on staff. They were miles ahead of my old 4S's bought in their last production year. When you wait a while, the cost come down. You still get to upgrade so your a half a step behind the latest. Does technology change that much?

Manufacturers change and keep the prices high because they feel they can. Do they care if they are selling to a private party or to a rental shop? The goods still move.

Stop paying steep prices instead just ski in steep places on your old gear another year. If your skis are dead, look for close outs. Also, here in the East, after lean snow years sales are down and pre-seasn deals can be great. Stop being duped and prices will come down.
post #15 of 62
Its interesting to read this topic, a lot of the comments echo my own views, but I've found that rather than chase the latest technology fad its better to wait things to settle down. I have a case in point 3years ago, I bought a pair of Salomom X10 pilots, I only bought them after testing 5 other pairs of skis. At the time I thought they were great, later that year on a trip with my son we exchanged skis, he had Dynastar 4x4 Powertracs. Result, I thought the Dynatars even better, at the time of my purchase I didn't even consider the Dynastars because I thought them too old fashioned. Now I'll ski on the 4X4s every chance I get and they just seem to get better whereas the Salomons are now looking their age and do not seem to have worn as well. I've formed or maybe reinforced the opinion that Salomons are just not as well made as skis like Dynastar or Atomic and as a result their dynamics change more rapidly than other skis. Any views?
post #16 of 62
Last week was "Canadian Money at Par" week at H.V. and most of the town of E-Ville. And, as happens every year, the pungent smell of moth balls fills the lift lines. Oh those retro outfits, the stretch pants tucked inside the boots. The neon one piece suits. The Olin Mark IV's, the K2 5500's, the Rossi Strato's, the breakable Tyrolia toepiece bindings, The leather, yes,leather boots. Etc. Things have changed for some but some things never change.

Hey, Rossi has kept their Bandit line for the past 5 years now. Just minor changes along the way. Look how long Volant survived with those stainless steel caps. The industry is no different than the auto industry or the tech industry. Heck, my new Dell computer I bought is already outdated and a newer version will cost me one third less. Don't buy that Plasma T.V. yet for $6000 cause two years from now it'll be better and cost half the money.I could go on and on.

I've said this so many times before on this forum. Anyone who spends big bucks on ski equipment is nuts. There is at least a
%200 mark up on ski equipment. A ski that retails for $675 may sit on the floor till Spring, when the store will sell it for half price or take it to the swap next Fall.They'll still make money on it folks. Rossi Scratch 170 retails for $650, Scratch Binding retails for $300, kid buys it on the shop form for $359, ski and binding, gets poles for $20. Duh! Someones making money here!

I'm guilty! I've got to have new skis every year, sometimes two pair a year. I ski an average of 50 days and usually more a year. And, I can get them Pro Form, sometimes shop form. If I had to pay full retail, I probably wouldn't. But, don't feel sorry for the ski industry. I haven't seen too many ski shops go out of bussiness lately, have you?
post #17 of 62
Just interested ...... but if mark up on ski equipment is so high why are so many ski firms struggling or going out of business? Normally profit margins get cut before people start going out of business - what's different about the ski industry?

[ January 18, 2003, 01:32 PM: Message edited by: DangerousBrian ]
post #18 of 62
my problem is less with the markup, which is ridiculous, but more with the change in models/makes. For example the volkl vertigo 30 became the 31 became the g3 and will become the 24/7 next year. I'd accept the subtle changes in the lineups if the names were the same. I know it doesn't mean much but think about cars. You know that the ford explorer or the suburban isn't going anywhere, there will be subtle changes. But you know that the car you buy today will be similar to the car you buy in the future. Its not the same with skis, every 2-3 years you have a "newer better model". I think thats the reason that the Bandit line is so popular, its a known comodity. The bandit XX that oboe skis today may be different fromt the first generation of bandits but its a known quantity that people can depend on.
post #19 of 62
I'm not sure about the US and the prices dealers pay, but I am aware of the UK cost prices on several skis, and I can assure Lars, and others, that UK dealers aren't marking up by 200%. It would be normal for a ski package (i.e. skis & bindings) to make a profit of less than 20%. Clothing and accessories are where the money is.

post #20 of 62
Fox has a point. I found a great deal on the Bandit XX in Manchester, UK, but the international shipping kicked it up. In the end, I spent the same amount on Ebay, but the shipping costs from Cambridge, Massachusetts were substantially less.

[ January 18, 2003, 02:44 PM: Message edited by: oboe ]
post #21 of 62
Back to the original question on the thread...

I tried the tactic of renting/demo-ing skis instead of buying them when I lived in North Carolina and skied only 8-10 days per year. I could never find a decent pair of skis. Went to Keystone, Copper, and Vail and never found the skis I was looking for. The shops always pushed me into a pair of crappy rental skis that they said was "just like the Merlin VI's or the Bandit XX's". Yeah, right! I've been skiing for more than 35 years and I always act dumb with the 19-year-old, multi-pierced shop rats, but when I brought them back their crap and demanded a real pair of skis, they never had them. In reality, if you're only skiing 8-10 days per year, you don't want to waste the time multi-swapping in the rental shops...you want to be out there!

The only place that I found decent skis was at Snowbird...they let you demo top of the line skis for $32/day (a few years back, mind you) and you could swap them up to 6 times in a day right at the mid-mountain shop.

Shop wisely, but get your own sticks. I personally don't care if I have the latest/greatest as long as I'm happy with what I'm on. I'd love to get some short slalom's, but I'm happy with my 193cm Merlin VI's and my 180cm BetaRide 11.20's.
post #22 of 62
like bjohansson said its hard to find the ski you want to try in the right length & good tune, not impossible mind you just hard, a few years ago when keystone was ran by ralston they had really good ski rentals, I rented some k2 MSL's & when the shapes came out they had k2 fours, I don't know what they have now, I look at it this way I spend a gazillion dollars to be skiing so thats what I want to do when I get there, I will be at DIA jan 31rst around noon & by 2-3pm I will be skiing until close at keystone, I could not do that if I had to go hunt rental skis, add to that I will be skiing 9 days at keystone & hopefully another 5-7 in march in utah, they cost me between 5& 6 hundred dollars with bindings mounted last season & I believe will have paid for themselves by the end of this trip, & if I take good care of them they will still be great 2 seasons from now or I can sell them, one other point is that when figuring cost for a ski trip it helps not having to factor in several hundred dollars each trip for ski rental, I know you also have to factor in ski maintenance but I think the residual value of the ski covers that. thank you ebay
just my .02
post #23 of 62
I will be at DIA jan 31rst around noon & by 2-3pm I will be skiing until close at keystone,

You'll be lucky if your luggage shows up in the carousel by 2-3 PM, much less be skiing by then, lol.
post #24 of 62
VSP, I absolutely agree, I think that changing lines every year
or every second year (like the Volkl P40-P50) is too quicl a pace
for us, everyday consumers.
OTOH, I alwayas look for "new" things at the end of a season, when the new models are out, and shops still have the current
models in stock. Of course I have to buy what I find.
As an example my P40 F1 (red-white ones model 99-00) are far too
long, at 198 cm, but I have them, and I will ski them for at least another couple of seasons, unless some real cheap offer this spring comes...
Yet, do a simple math.
Two kids, needs new clothing nearly every year, and this year it's costed 170 Euro.
New boots, that's 95 Euro (I managed to pass the Nordica's GP TJ four buckle of my older son to my younger, so I needed to buy
"just" one new set for the older).
The helmets are still fitting, what a luck, otherwise that would have meant 50 Euro each.
For what? 10 days a year, so, I will not, absolutely not, buy ski for them (at an average offer of 140 Euro, incl. bindings)
Since I can rent skis for both of them at 10.50 Euro a day (to spend 280 Euro in renting I should ski at least 20-25 days with the family)
Now, Wifey's boots are old, the inside is worn, and she will absolutely need replacement. She'll need new skis as well,
her Völkl P20 SLC (195 cm) are becoming old too...
So, I will wait to buy a new skis for me, and new boots too (despite drooling all over a pair of Tecnica Icon Race, which
at 299 Eu are well below the official price, but still too high a price for me, and these are already the 2001-2002 model, not the 2002-2003), and my 10 years old Tecnicca TNT race will have to do for a while yet.
OTOH, yesterday I rented as pair of Volant (model unknown) just
to try something different. Despite not being new models, at 10 euro, I could afford to rent them and ski the afternoon on them, and have a little bit of fun sking differently...
Changing gear every year? I wasn't doing it when I was a single,
for different reasons than now (I liked too much my P9 RS-super and my K2 SLC, and hear hear, I bought both skis the same year just to name the fore-lasts skis, which btw are still sitting in my garage), and now that we are a family is completely out of the question.
If the prices are staying the way they are, I plan to change gear not earlier than every 5 years.
post #25 of 62
Well, for me renting makes no sense because our rental shop buys the crappiest skis they can find, then lets the dumb tourists beat them to death for about 2 years before they buy new ones Not exactly my kind of ski
post #26 of 62
Originally posted by Taylormatt:
I will be at DIA jan 31rst around noon & by 2-3pm I will be skiing until close at keystone,

You'll be lucky if your luggage shows up in the carousel by 2-3 PM, much less be skiing by then, lol.
I thought I was the only one that had experienced the 2-hour wait at DIA. Good thing they have the most advanced luggage handling system in the world : ....how long would it take if they used the same system as in Atlanta (where my bags used to regularly beat me to the carousel).
post #27 of 62
You'll be lucky if your luggage shows up in the carousel by 2-3 PM, much less be skiing by then, lol.

hasn't been a problem for the past several seasons & I carry my ski boots & clothing in my carry on, also am going to ship my 2 double sportubes fed x so they will be waiting for me in frisco, I also finally convinced my wife we didn't need to take everything in the house on a ski trip.

post #28 of 62
Skiing's importance has changed in the minds of people. The majority of skiers simply don't ski 20 times per year anymore, they ski 3. In Oregon 40 years ago, it seemed like everyone was skiing (according to my dad). Now, in my fraternity of 30+ college guys, only 7 went up to the hill for either skiing or snowboarding last season. People have other forms of entertainment that didn't exist 30 years ago. If people are not skiing much, they won't be buying many skis.

I know the shop I work at does a booming rental/demo business. We are located in a highly priced resort ($400 per night for a house rental) and most of the people coming here are the middle aged, 2 kids, Lexus SUV types who don't ski more than a few times per year (too busy making money). Anyways, our demo business is great, our skis were new at least last year, if not this year. But, as of today, we have sold only about 15% of our new ski inventory-sales have been pathetic this season. As was mentioned before, why buy decent skis/bindings for $700 if you ski 4 times a year, even if you are making $300K per year? It isn't a very good investment. Not when you can demo a $600 ski for $20 a day. Find me a person who skis 15+ days per year, and I can sell them a pair of skis. Trouble is, they don't come to this resort.

I don't know about ski companies changing their models so much, as it seems only the hardcore skiers know much about ski models these days anyway. The only skis we sell are to older retired folk who have the time to ski often. Prices of gear just have gotten out of hand, even for a gearhead like myself. I couldn't justify putting down $700 for new skis when I can get last year's model for $300 on ebay, same skis w/different graphics. And, is this year's ski really "new and improved"? Check out the Axis X Pro vs. the XP, Head Worldcup vs. i-Race, ect.
post #29 of 62
I'm all over the net and eBay looking for the skis I want in last year's model...no luck. It seems the market is FLOODED with Bandits and Axis, if you want something else, well, no luck.

All I can find are Bandits, Axis, Dynastar Outlaw and Rossi CUT rental grade skis. :

If anyone has links to online shops selling high end stuff other than Bandits and Axis, I'd LOVE to know about it!
post #30 of 62
Manufacturers are simply getting better at marketing to a shrinking market. The obvious plan is short production runs of many different models, even if some "models" are differentiated only by graphics. This prevents price competition among shops, because few shops in the same area need to carry exactly the same models. Low production of each model creates shortages (and high prices) of certain models, and those models that sell welll can be put back into production quickly for mid-season. (Look for 5 Stars to re-appear.) All the confusion over different models depresses the the used ski market (which helps the new ski market), because you can never be sure what you are buying, unless you have the advice of a knowledgeable dealer.
The good news is skis continually improve, and today's skis are for the most part much better than the skis of five years ago. (That statement has been true for at least the last thirty years.) And if you don't need the latest and greatest, you can still find end of season bargains on excellent skis.

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