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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."
About author
Philpug
I started skiing in the mid-70s in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania; from then on, I found myself entrenched in the industry. I have worked in various ski shops from suburban to ski town to resort, giving me a well-rounded perspective on what skiers want from their gear. That experience was parlayed into my time as a Gear Review Editor and also consulting with manufacturers as a product tester. Along with being a Masterfit-trained bootfitter I am a fully certified self proclaimed Gear Guru. Not only do I keep up with the cutting edge of ski gear technology, but I am an avid gear collector and have an extensive array of bindings as well as many vintage skis.

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I understand the "new shiny object" idea and how it impacts the product cycle. But I don't understand changing the graphics of a ski that hasn't changed, particularly when a ski is successful. Whatever happened to momentum? Most skiers don't buy new skis every season. In my skiing lifetime, I remember the run that the Rossignol 4S had. At first it wasn't a huge hit but then they added the VAS plate and switched to the teal colored graphics and sales took off. Everyone wanted that ski and over a couple seasons it seemed like everyone had it. At the same time, Dynastar had similar success with the Course ski with the red weight on the tip and the white graphics. Both of these skis were successful and people kept buying them over a number of seasons.
Recently Blizzard had huge success with the Brahma, Bonafide, etc. Part of that came right after they switched to the graphics with the bull skull split across the left and right ski. These looked great and were instantly recognizable. They also stretched this graphic design over a couple seasons. But they couldn't stretch it out longer. Then they started changing them to make the skull smaller and more abstract and it seems like, while the skis are still great, all the momentum is gone.
 
I ski a 2016/2017 Enforcer 100 and have a 2017/2018 used flat E100 waiting for me when I destroy my current pair. I have no intentions of changing to the newer model when I love this run so much.
 
I’m mending my glove liners, online chatted w/Eddie Bauer about a zipper, Oakley about nosepiece on a pair of shades that keep coming off monthly and was finally lost after 6 months.

Better to be a minimalist, less gear to take care of.
 
The short market cycle and constant change means leftover skis are cheap! I've bought 4 pairs in the last 10 years and never paid over $500 including bindings. Sometimes a lot less.
Yes, this model can be great at times for the consumer but when shops have to sell gear at 50% off and lose all of their margin and there is not anything left to pay employees, rent, and other operating costs.
 
Agree Phil. The consumer going this route obviously will probably be locked out of the current hot ski in his size. And it does give the retailer a way to not sit on inventory over the summer. Sometimes the best deals are excess inventory that a MFR sells to an online seller to clear them out. Bought two pairs like that.
 
The same applies to cars, golf clubs, runners, etc. It's the result of competition. If only one company manufactured all skis, I'm pretty sure it wouldn't come out with new skis every year.
 
Yes, this model can be great at times for the consumer but when shops have to sell gear at 50% off and lose all of their margin and there is not anything left to pay employees, rent, and other operating costs.
Actually, the sales at 50% off create the cash flow that's necessary to make payroll. Profits don't pay employees. They pay owners. Turn the inventory and get the next hot item in there as soon as possible. That's how the retail market increases its profits.
 
I'm betting phil knows a bit about ski retail. Barely making ends meet isn't a business. It's simple, mean, survival. There are much easier ways to make a living.
 
Having a cult following of almost religious zealots don't hurt methinks. :ogbiggrin:

And then for some companies-it would be REAL nice if they stopped changing the names of their products every damn year. Just pick a name and stick with it. Like MacBook for instance...or Stormrider...:ogbiggrin:
 
Having a cult following of almost religious zealots don't hurt methinks. :ogbiggrin:

And then for some companies-it would be REAL nice if they stopped changing the names of their products every damn year. Just pick a name and stick with it. Like MacBook for instance...or Stormrider...:ogbiggrin:
First of all, they don't change the the names "every damn year", graphics yes but names no. Second, I disagree with this. I think it can be bad to continue the same name..especially when the product has a dramatic change in design. Example: the Volkl Mantra. There were 6 generations of the Mantra with some very different changes in direction. The Rossignol Experience is also another example.
 
First of all, they don't change the the names "every damn year", graphics yes but names no. Second, I disagree with this.

Blossom White Out?
For me, as an average consumer it is super confusing-reading reviews on the interwebs then going to the website of the manufacturer and seeing some totally different names? What is what now?

Besides, having 960865976 modes or thereabouts is even more confusing.

Stockli website: Piste ski: 7 models only. One colour per model only. If you do not like the color, well that's too bad.
Simple.
 
Fischer The Curv? Blossom White Out?
For me, as an average consumer it is super confusing-reading reviews on the interwebs then going to the website of the manufacturer and seeing some totally different names? What is what now?

Besides, having 960865976 modes or thereabouts is even more confusing.

Stöckli website: Piste ski: 7 models only. One colour per model only. If you do not like the color, well that's too bad.
Simple.
The White Out has been in the line for at least 4 years. the Curv has been a series for numerous years also, while it went away from the US offerings it never left the line in Europe. As far as Stockli, don't forget the AX uses to be called the AR, and now the AR is a different ski at 85mm underfoot. Stockli changed the construction of the Stormrider 88 after ONE season when they tried the balsa core. A Stormrider today is much different than a Stormrider from a decade ago. Some times there is evolution in a model, sometimes there is revolution, I talk about that here: You Say you want a Revolution.
 
Stöckli changed the construction of the Stormrider 88 after ONE season when they tried the balsa core. A Stormrider today is much different than a Stormrider from a decade ago.

I am aware of that, yes. iPhones from today are totally different from iPhones from 2007. But they are still iPhones.
 
I am aware of that, yes. iPhones from today are totally different from iPhones from 2007. But they are still iPhones.
Very true, but the person buying an iPhone expects certain functions and for that it delivers in spades. The upcoming Ford Maverick is very different than a Maverick from yesteryear. The recent Dynastar Legend evolved into the M-Pro, that was a smart decision, it is a completely different ski. If someone came from the last Legend 96 and the new M-Pro was called the Legend 99 and just bought that, they probaly would not be happy. When Volkl went to the zero camber Mantra (100mm) from the knuckle dragging extra long cranium Manta (98mm), it put a lot of people off that expected a "Mantra", it was a completey different ski.

Manufacturers balance the strngth of a name with the redirection and weigh what the costs are both ways. In most cases they get it right and in some cases they miss. In more than one review over the years, I have said "The new incarnation is so different from the outgoing model that they should have changed the name".
 

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