Saturday, January 27, 2007
The latest skis, the latest snowshoes... and a little bit of huh?
The outdoor retailer show started Friday in Salt Lake, with an on-snow demo day at Brighton Ski Area. Dozens of gear makers turned a snowy field on the far end of the area's parking lot into a tent city. There were skis from Atomic, Rossignal, K2, Karhu, G3, Goode, and a few smaller manufacturers.
All the big snowshoe makers were hawking their latest wares, including the two big ones, Atlas and Tubbs, which, oddly, are both owned by the same company, K2.
Most the the retailers were there to ride the latest and greatest gear.
I spend most of the morning trying out new skis. The verdict: skis have gotten wider; boots (at least for the tele crowd) have gotten stiffer, and no one is making a ski that doesn't feel supercharged.
A few favorites from talking to the crowd were the G3 Reverend and the K2 Wold Piste. I loved the quick, snappy turns of the Rossi Powderbirds.
Riding up on the lift with a ski shop owner from Virginia, I asked, "Is this really where you decide what your shop will sell next year?"
"Not really," he said. "A lot goes into it, like relationships with sales reps, wholesale prices... but you know, it's nice to ski so many skis in a day. You can't do that in Virginia."
One thing no one was buying was the skishoe (www.shoeboard.com). It is a snowshoe-sized Swiss Army knife-type contraption that folds out from a stubby little ski to a snowshoe with the push of a lever (and another lever, and just one more lever). Huge crampons can easily be snapped to the base. The shoe could lock down into a downhill ski, sort of like a snowblade, or have a free heel for touring (though I'm not sure what touring on a 24-inch ski is like.) It was so multi-purpose and funny looking it seemed like something out of an old James Bond movie. It retails for about $200. But poor skishoe. No one was stopping at its booth. People only slowed down, like cars looking at an accident. I felt so bad I had to stop in.
The guy in the tent was the inventor, owner, and president of Ski Shoe Inc. He had the bubbling, somewhat confused confidence of someone who'd waited in line for hours to get his chance in front of the American Idol judges.
"This is the first skisshoe," he said. "We have our new design almost ready, which is made right here in Salt Lake, and it's much, much better. It has none of the problems of the old skishoe."
I didn't know what the problems of the old skishoe were, but he seemed so hopeful, I didn't really want to ask.
I only hope the real show, which starts today, with over 800 different gear makers, holds as many weird things as the skishoe. I think a lot of the small retailers feel the same way. They need something new and a little unusual, to bring in the customers.
Posted by Dave Philipps at 6:52 AM