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Your Experiences Buying w/o Demoing

post #1 of 23
Thread Starter 

Hi all!

 

It's my first post here, but I've been reading the site for awhile so thank you all for the information in the past.  There are some great deals to be had right now on end of year gear, but I'm wondering what everyone's luck has been like buying skis based only on reader reviews and no on-snow experience.

 

I'm currently skiing an Atomic Nomad Highnoon (178), and looking to make the jump to a new ski as I make the transition from Advanced to Expert.  I've been skiing my whole life, but went to school in the south so took a few years off and am regaining my abilities.  I'll end up skiing around 30 times this year and 20-30 times a year moving forward.

 

The three skis I'm looking at are the Line Prophet 90s and the Volkl Mantras or AC50s.   I live in the Northeast and demo days for these specific skis are tough to find, and likely all done for the year.  Being that I'm in the northeast, powder days are few and far between (unfortunately), but I'd like something that I can use to ski anything and everything the conditions present.  I spend most of my time on trail, and about 50% of the time on the edge of the trail snapping out quick turns in what's left of the soft stuff and 50% railing the longer arcs over the ice and crud.  Kind of a weird combo I know but I like to mix it up a bit as the day goes on or depending on who I am skiing with. 

 

Any thoughts you all have on purchasing a ski without a demo would be appreciated (or ideas how I can demo this late in the season as well).  Also, any thoughts on these three skis (or other suggestions) would be appreciated as well.  I have read most everything on the forums I can find on them and am currently leaning towards the Prophet 90s based on reviews and value, but am certainly open to ideas.

 

Thanks in advance, and sorry for the long first post!

 

-Jim

post #2 of 23

IMO the skis you are thinking about are to powder oriented or to wide for the Eastern skiing you plan to do. Dynastar 4x4, Head Monster 78 or 82, Volkl Tiger Shark 12 or AC 30 are some examples of skis I would be looking at for what you describe.

post #3 of 23

Three of my last four pair of skis were bought without a demo.  In each case I was faced with a deal that was so good that I couldn't loose.  They all worked out to be skis that I liked so I kept them, though my favorite pair of the four is the one I demoed.

post #4 of 23

Hi, welcome -  I buy a lot of skis without demo since I live in the NE, not a lot of fatties make it back here. Roughly your level. Seem to be right about half the time, so a lot like flipping a coin. But some skis are safer bets than others. For back here, and for the missions you state, none of the skis you mention make much sense. Maybe the AC50, but it's pretty stiff for the bumps we grow, and not a tree ski by any reach of the imagination. The others are inappropriate unless you like to get into the woods or other soft snow, will avoid hard groomed when you can. 

 

Eric S has it about right. If I could only own one ski for back here, it'd be a close call between the 4x4 and Blizzard Supersonic. The iM78 is a really super ski for relaxed skiing in softer snow or lower speeds, I didn't warm to it at speed in ice. The iM82 has better grip and a higher speed limit, but pretty burly and not particularly happy at lower speeds or bumps. If you want more of an all mountain do everything well instead of a frontside specialist, I'd rec the Magnum 8.1, Rossi CX80, or Elan 82Ti. 

post #5 of 23

 It's a very good question. Buying strategy can make buying gear fun or provide a skier with the wrong gear.

 

Some gear purchases are riskier than others. I tend to buy without demoing if I can gather ample info on the ski and if the price for the ski is very good.

 

A popular ski that has been in use for more than a year is a safer purchase than a new model that only a few skiers have used. If the ski is a good performer for a wide range of users and conditions, everyone will be raving. If the ski is difficult to use or very specialized, good reviews will be hard to find. If the ski is new, the lack of reliable reviews increases the risk.

 

The 3 models you list are well liked by many skiers. There is still a risk that you will not like the ski, but the risk is below average overall.

 

Price matters too. If the ski can be purchased at a very good price due to year end sales, the purchase is less risky. If you don't like the ski after a day or two's usage, just sell it on eBay for a manageable loss.

 

Michael

 


Edited by WILDCAT - 3/22/2009 at 06:57 pm
post #6 of 23

Unless you know from experience that the reviewer's opinions consistently match yours, buying on the basis of reviews is a crap shoot. For what you'll end up spending on a pair of skis, it's worth the $30-$50 to demo out of a shop. Don't know where you ski, but see what they have in the shop at the base of the mountain and you can try a several different skis in a single day. Even try a something that isn't on your list; you never know that you'll discover.

 

post #7 of 23
Thread Starter 

I appreciate everyone's feedback, so thank you!

 

What drew me to the Prophet 90s is a bunch of articles/reviews I've read stating they are a top all-mountain ski for Northeast skiers.  (Mainly on Backcountry.com)  My two biggest complaints with my current ski (Nomad Highnoon) is that they are too narrow in anything more than 3-6" of new snow (or perhaps I'm too heavy ;) and have too much chatter at higher speeds on the harder stuff.  This is obviously also a function of the fact they are an intermediate - advanced ski and I have probably outgrown them in ability.  The Prophet seemed to be a balanced solution to both of those problems and any powder day in the 6-12" range.  I know a higher end carver will eliminate the chatter issue for the most part as well, but not sure about the powder days or off-piste stuff, and thought maybe better to err on the side of being too wide vs. being too narrow.  I only really hit bumps on the days when they are new / soft.

 

A friend of mine of similar ability & tastes skis the Scott Missions and enjoys them, and the P90s seem to be a similar ski but reportedly better handling on ice/crud. I guess I also tend to like the look/feel of a freeride ski vs. a carver, but that's pretty superficial and won't be a big factor in the decision. 

 

Per your suggestions, I looked at the 4x4s and Supersonics.  I think the CX80 is out of my price range.  It seems like the major difference between these and the p90s are dimensions and turning radius (and obviously the twin tips).  What other differences should I be aware of to tip me in one direction or the other?  Does anyone know of a retailer or rental place anywhere in New England that sells or demos these?

 

More about me:

Age: 26

Height: 6'3"

Weight: 195 lbs.

 

Thanks again fellas :) 

post #8 of 23

One other ski to consider is the Atomic Crimson Nomad. Great on eastern groomers and wide enough for New England powder.

 

Michael

post #9 of 23

get the 178 4x4 from sierraski.com. use coupon epic20 and you will get additional 20% off.

 

For about $500 you wont find better skis with binding included. Check with them if they can match the  evogear.com deal for about $465.

 

I like them a lot, I'm 6'4 205.

post #10 of 23

I bought my 190 cm Volant Machete G without demoing, based on reviews and advice (thanks VA).  It worked out fantastic.  Realskiers called it a serious deep snow ski and gave it one and two black diamonds.  VA gave it a thumbs up.  I just got back from skiing it today.  I had been saving it for a deep snow day that came when I was away.  Today, even though the snow was groomed I took them out.  Man, what fun it is to make big turns on a ski that was made for those turns.  I had a blast. It's not the best on ice, but I can just go straight on the ice patches and turn later.

 

I bought my Fischer WC SC based on reviews.  Very happy with them.  A better short turn hard snow ski for me is hard to imagine.  I had however demoed the Equipe SC, RX8, SX10, SX11, 9S Oversize, and read reviews on all of them so I had a feel for how the reviews corresponded with my experience.

 

When I bought my Super-g skis I was very glad I had a chance to demo; the 205 cm skis were not stable enough at "ludicrous" speeds, but the 208s were fine, and the next size up was too much ski.

 

I haven't skied my Volkl P50 F1s; Marker Comp bindings haven't come on sale cheap enough for me.

post #11 of 23

Sometimes the purchase is a hit, sometimes a miss.  That's just how it goes if you can't demo beforehand.  The unfortunate side of this issue are people who NEVER get to demo (or basically don't go out of their way to do it).  People who never ever experience other skis (different manufacturers, different shapes, different constructions) don't really know what they like (IMO).  So although they may say they like their current ski - their lack of demoing experience may be leaving them, unknowingly, on something less than stellar for their needs.

post #12 of 23
Thread Starter 

Are demos more accessible out West vs. in the Northeast?  I've skied about 30 days this year, at many of the premiere hills (Sugarloaf, Stowe, Stratton, Wildcat, Jay etc) and have only seen 1 demo day (at Attitash) that was primarily tele gear.  Do I just have really poor timing?

 

Does anyone know of retailers that will allow demo of a ski that you're thinking of buying, or do they require you to buy the ski and then try to return it afterwards?

post #13 of 23

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by wfujim View Post

 

Are demos more accessible out West vs. in the Northeast? Absolutely, although most places in the NE have a demo day in the fall or early winter, and most slopeside shops have a range of carvers and narrower all mountains to demo for a price. Thin on anything over 80 mm though, and forget anything fat, smaller market, or indy unless you go to a bigger area like Stowe where folks do serious AT. Also IME, tunes are worse back here because most places don't want to retune every coupla ice runs. 

Does anyone know of retailers that will allow demo of a ski that you're thinking of buying, or do they require you to buy the ski and then try to return it afterwards? Everyone will or should let you demo several skis and apply the total charge toward purchase. Some let you demo for free if they trust you're serious about buying, need to choose between two models say. Make sure before you do it. If they won't, walk. Returns can be problematic. OTOH, if you expect to demo a bunch of skis for free and then buy online, why should they help out? You have to be honest about this. 

 

post #14 of 23

I've been having the same problem getting to demo skis.  I've skied between 20 and 30 times so far and not one demo day. I've skied west and south East, oh, and Ontario Canada.  Demo days seem few and far between by the ski makers now compared to 10 years ago . They probably  cut back on those big rep salaries and expense accounts for holding such things as the economy has tightened.  There is not one ski store in my area (North Carolina/South Carolina), that will demo their skis when I asked or they had only intermiediate range skis.  THe one store In Charlotte, NC that to me has the knowledge and supply, has a pair of the Nordica Olympia Victoria's I'm really interested in buying for sale, but they wont' demo any skis, even paying for the demo.  I told them if they wanted to charge me $60.00 for the demo and then take it off the purchase, I would buy them if I liked them (they're last years skis) and they laughed at me.  So...I'll probably look for a deal on line and buy them without trying, but I sure miss the days when I taught full time and could catch all the mfg. demo days (there was lots back then), and buy what I liked.

post #15 of 23


 

Quote:
Originally Posted by wfujim View Post

 

Are demos more accessible out West vs. in the Northeast?  I've skied about 30 days this year, at many of the premiere hills (Sugarloaf, Stowe, Stratton, Wildcat, Jay etc) and have only seen 1 demo day (at Attitash) that was primarily tele gear.  Do I just have really poor timing?

 

Does anyone know of retailers that will allow demo of a ski that you're thinking of buying, or do they require you to buy the ski and then try to return it afterwards?


 

Waterville Valley had a demo day in December sometime, the gear I saw was mostly high end alpine but might have fit into the range you are looking at. The shop on the mountain (Sport Thoma) has a $35 demo deal, but I'm not sure if that money ends up being applied to whatever purchase you might make (it would make sense to me if it did).

I bought skis early this season on eBay with no demo, but folks here have swung me around to thinking I should do demos before my next purchase.

post #16 of 23
Thread Starter 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Virtus_Probi View Post

 


 


 

The shop on the mountain (Sport Thoma) has a $35 demo deal, but I'm not sure if that money ends up being applied to whatever purchase you might make (it would make sense to me if it did).

 

 

Do you end up getting killed on their prices vs. what you can find online though?  Also, I called one shop today about a price and the guy said he was basically giving stuff away as they close for the season March 31....then the price he quoted was $100 more than what I can find online.  Have people had success haggling with ski shops over price or do they not match online pricing?

post #17 of 23

I can't speak to brick and mortar shops.  I can tell you that evogear has a best price guarantee.  If you can find the same product on-line for cheaper than their price...they will give you that price plus an additional 10% off.  I took them up on it and..sure enough..they honored the price.  Its a pretty cool deal.  That said, I was in some shops a couple of weeks ago in CO and I found their retail prices were still 3-4 hundred dollars more then the prices online--its hard for me to imagine buy a ski from a brick and mortar shop..they are simply not compeitive on price.

post #18 of 23

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by wfujim View Post

 

...I'm wondering what everyone's luck has been like buying skis based only on reader reviews and no on-snow experience.

I've bought four pairs of skis without trying them first. Three of the four were poor choices that I replaced after about a season.  The fourth pair I liked a lot.  So, my batting average is .250

 

Meanwhile, I 've bought a total of four pairs of skis after demoing, and have been very pleased with all four - for a batting average of 1.000.

 

You wanna play ski roulette?  Buy without trying.  Want a sure thing? Then you know what to do.

post #19 of 23

I would not buy an expensive ski without demoing.  In the past, I have found ski reports to be completely useless.  A while back, there was this ski called the Head Monster i.M 75 chip super railflex.  Everyone raved about the ski.  It was ski of the year at realskiers.com.  But I demoed it and it was the WORST ski I have ever skied on.  Fast forward to yesterday.  Everyone LOVES the dynastar contaxt 4x4.  I demoed it yesterday at mount snow.  Were all the reviews correct?  Yes.  It is a very stable ski--able to easily make any turn radius, hold at ice, cut through crud.  It carved short turns cleaner than any other ski I demoed that day, and was unflappable at high speed as well.  But did I like it.  No.  Why?  Because it just wasn't all that fun for me.  It was damp, and super stable, but to me--that made it boring.  It was also heavy and I don't like the feel of heavy skis, since I am a lightweight.  Honestly--the ski truly feels like riding in a 4x4--so the name is 100% appropriate.  But I don't want to ride in a 4x4.  I want to ride in a sports car.  

 

Given that the 4x4 costs $600 on ebay, I would have made a big mistake had I purchased it.  I currently own the monster i.M 72.  Is it far less stable than the 4x4?  Yes.  But I like it because it's fun to ski.  And that's all I care about.

 

BTW, if you want to demo skis in the NE, goto mount snow.  They have the largest demo fleet in the NE.  But wait till next yr--most of their demos have been sold by now.  Okemo also has a demo day every year in early March. 

 

 

post #20 of 23

Colorado Ski & Golf has a satisfaction guarantee on their ski purchases.  I forgot all the rules, but I skied a pair about 6 times and was able to return them for credit towards another purchase.  I've used this guarantee twice now (I also returned the pair that I busted my leg on ) and they didn't even blink when I brought them back.

post #21 of 23

WFUJIM, I personally would never buy a ski without demo'ing it.  I have been tempted more than once by great reviews from trustworthy sources and a great deal, and very nearly pulled the trigger.  But in almost every instance, when I finally got to demo the ski, I was glad I didn't own it.  Most were unremarkable to me, and some I hated.  The feeling that each individual wants from a ski (and how each ski responds to each individual's size and technique) is just too personal.

 

Although free demo days are a rarity, I know some of the areas you mentioned skiing in NE have shops at the mountain base where you can demo as many skis as you want for a fixed daily charge (usually around $50) which they will deduct from the ski price if you buy.  Stratton, for example has two shops in the base village, a short walk to the lifts, that offer a variety of models (Volkl, Blizzard, Kastle, Rossi, Salomon, Dynastar, Nordica, K2).  Of course if you have targeted a manufacturer they don't carry, you're out of luck.  For example, I really wanted to get on some Fischer Progressors and Head Supershapes but couldn't track down a convenient place to demo. 

 

Price-wise, most shops in NE are selling most of their remaining ski inventory at 50% off retail.  You can probably find a 10-20% better deal shopping on-line, but I ended up buying where I demo'ed because they were very helpful, offered great service, and came pretty close to the best on-line prices when I factored in my demo charge allowance (money well spent).

 

I'm sure you will get no shortage of recommendations about skis that you should consider, but my $0.02 (I'm about your size, but a lot older), for what you described:  Dynastar Contact 4 X 4, Atomic Nomad Blackeye, Volkl AC30 (all of which I have skied).  On this list of skis I didn't get to try that sounded like they would be a good Eastern choice:  Fischer Progressor 9, Head Supershape Speed or Magnum.

post #22 of 23

I've bought a number of skis without demoing. I've also bought skis following demo.

 

In the vast majority of cases I've been happy with my purchase.

 

I can think of one ski (Volkl g31) that I bought blindly and didn't like. I figured it was can't-miss based on all the positive reviews, but it bored me.

 

On the other hand, I've bought skis following a brief demo which I also wound up not liking. Sometimes that initial new ski "wow factor" overly biases a demo opinion - or sometimes it's superhero snow when anything would work well or I'm just having a great day - then on repeat testing the opinion changes.

 

I generally think demoing is a good idea, but I think one can select skis blindly if one does a decent amount of research and are honest about skill level and expectations.

 

My primary problem with demo'ing skis is the cost - my local shops usually charge $40/day  which can be applied to purchase price. But then if I don't like any of the skis I've tried I'm SOL and the retail pricing locally tends not to be anywhere near as good as online pricing, except at season end.  So my strategy recently has been to research, research, research, and then buy from an Epic supporter (I've primarily used Dawgcatching since I like his inventory). It's worked for me, but YMMV

post #23 of 23


 

Quote:
Originally Posted by wfujim View Post

 

Do you end up getting killed on their prices vs. what you can find online though?  Also, I called one shop today about a price and the guy said he was basically giving stuff away as they close for the season March 31....then the price he quoted was $100 more than what I can find online.  Have people had success haggling with ski shops over price or do they not match online pricing?

The shop at WV did have very good deal on a few skis, but the markdowns on most of the skis weren't blowing me away. They did have some kids' racing skis marked down a lot. I guess that I would lean towards paying the $35 if I was able to demo a few skis I was interested in and then just buying some online if I found something I liked...unless the shop was willing to come down a lot. That way, the shop is still getting something out of it (unlike trying on a bunch of helmets in a shop and then buying elsewhere) and I'm not paying hundreds of dollars more than I need to.
 

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