In today’s ever-evolving ski design, how does a brand keep the fickle customer happy? Skiers like shiny objects. We are always looking for the latest and greatest. A ski that was all that and a bag of chips two years ago hardly gets a mention today. Is it any less of a ski now than when it was the industry darling? No, it is the same exact great ski with different graphics.

In the past, a ski was expected to remain popular for a decade; remember the Olin Mark IV, Rossignol 4S, Salomon X-Scream, and so on. Then graphics started changing every year, and now we have basically four-year product cycles. But sales success rarely goes past the first two years: first is the honeymoon phase, and by the second year, the eyes start wandering to that sexy new model. So, just as with marriage, we must learn how to rekindle the flame after the honeymoon is over.

Let's look at a couple of skis that have enjoyed long-term relationships with their customers. First is the Völkl Mantra. When it evolved from the Explosiv in the late 2000s, the Mantra immediately became the gold standard in the “charger” 90-something class. Of course, being the reference ski is easy when you are basically the only one -- or at least the only one to figure it out. Völkl was smart with the Mantra because it was constantly tweaking the design, stiffening the ski, adding rocker; even when it made missteps along the way, such as removing the camber, Völkl quickly returned to its roots with the current design. Any product manager would love to have the track record of Völkl's flagship model.

For a decade, Blizzard has seen success with the Black Pearl, success approached by no other women’s ski. Where Völkl made many evolutions with the Mantra, Blizzard stayed the course. It made some minor tweaks but kept the waist at a tried-and-true 88 mm. The boldest thing Blizzard did was expand the Black Pearl name from one model to an entire collection. It's hard to argue with this method because the Black Pearl 88 has been the best-selling ski over the past few seasons -- and not just for women, but the best-selling ski, period.

Now, let’s look at the gender counterparts for these skis. Völkl had the Aura, the women’s Mantra. It was the same ski through its generations, a ski with its own loyal following among the strong (really strong) female skier. Well, the Aura has been replaced with the Secret 92. Will the Secret have the same following and blind loyalty that the Aura had? We haven’t seen it; as @Tricia has remarked, the Secret 92 is still a secret to many skiers. When Blizzard released the Black Pearl, the Bonafide also came to market, and that was the one ski that did hit the Mantra hard. Sales for the Bonafide waned over the years, however, and its minimal changes didn't keep the customer coming back for their third and fourth pairs, something Völkl was able to do with the Mantra.

K2 controlled the women’s ski market with the original Luv collection. As sales eroded, it tried to boost its women’s line by renaming it, which led to the Super models: Superstitious, Superburnin, Super this, Super that ... a Super mistake. K2's next campaign was “Bringing Back the Luv,” but it was too late. While today's women’s Anthems are better than anything K2 has ever produced, they just have not seen the sales success of the original Luvs. Being in the right place at the right time, combined with a little luck, cannot be dismissed when analyzing the success of a product.

This article was inspired by the release of this year's Nordica Enforcer 100. To the layman, the new Enforcer looks like last year's, which looked like the year before's, which ... well, as you see, it is uninspiring and by no means shouts out “all new." The guts and sizing of the Enforcer are all new, and when you read my review,you will see that it is a significant upgrade from the current model. But will it be enough to keep the early adopter who says, “Oh, I had the Enforcer -- great ski, but now I am skiing the [insert 2021's Hot-Ski-of-the-Year here]."

As I mentioned, today's customer is fickle. Where the Mantra and Black Pearl have had a blind loyal following, other models that started off as the “next reference ski” became "also-rans" within a couple of years. Did these skis change? Were they dumbed down? Or perhaps steroid-infused to the point they skied awful? Usually not. Was it a bad choice for graphics? Nope, not really. As the title says, the honeymoon was over. Eyes start wandering to that fetching new ski from another brand. As we have said repeatedly, we marry our boots and date our skis. Skiers are not looking for long-term relationships. They are not necessarily looking for the right ski; they are looking for the right now ski. It is a shame because the ski that was great two years ago is usually just as good today. And what would that ski say to its replacement? "Honey, don’t think you are the end-all; he will eventually replace you, too."