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Managing Your Expectations When Demoing Skis

We hear constantly, “You must demo skis before you purchase them. That is the only way you can decide if a ski is right for you”. This is a topic that comes up a lot on SkiTalk with our readers. Demoing skis does makes sense in a perfect world but we don’t live in a perfect world and demoing, in most cases, isn’t the cure for all that ails you in your ski purchase. Why is that? Well, for numerous reasons that go well beyond most peoples' access as a ski consumer. We talk about the four things to consider when demoing a ski: the conditions in which you are testing the ski, the tune of the ski, what demo binding is on the ski, and, lastly, the ski. That is addressed in this article...

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We also focus in on how the binding affects your demoing experience in this article ….

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Much of that has a lot to do with what we deal with in the media when we go to an industry event, but as a consumer, your experience can be a lot different, especially when you are at a resort and you see that sign saying “Demo Center”.

Sadly, the vast majority of demo centers are not really there for you to demo skis for your purchase consideration. They are simply higher end rental departments masked as a demo center. Years ago when I worked at Start Haus, Jim Fowler (aka Sierra Jim) kept their demo skis separate from the rental skis. These skis were used for one purpose and one purpose only: they were sales tools and only went out with a person who was considering buying that particular ski. Jim made sure these skis were tuned meticulously and waxed after every time they saw snow. These skis saw snow maybe once a week where your typical demo center ski will see snow every day by people who just want a better ski experience than a typical rental ski.

What we did then is not the norm in today’s environment. Only few select shops might do what Jim used to do. Most put skis in their ‘demo’ fleet and use them as a profit center and send them out as much as they can. This is not to make your purchase better but to make money. These skis usually do not get tuned regularly let alone see any thing more than a hot wax roller and a buffing. The bindings on these skis also tend to be whatever the shop could buy on closeout or the least expensive demo option, i.e. an 11 DIN binding on a 100+mm wide ski.

If you are trying to compare a few skis, chances are you will have even less luck. You will be limited to the brands that are affiliated with the store the demo center is part of. Ideally you want to compare all of your options on the same day, on the same terrain, with the same conditions. If you are interested in Volkl, Rossignol, and Fischer, for example, one store may not carry all three of your chosen brands. If they do they may not carry comparable skis across the brands.

I am not saying to not rent these skis. I am saying if the demo is to help your purchase decision, you can be wasting your time and money.

The best time to demo skis for purchase consideration is at a consumer demo day at a resort. These tend not to be the glorified rental skis discussed above but manufacturer representative demos, the same ones that the media sees at industry demos. You will also have the opportunity to try those different options in similar conditions and terrain for a fairer comparison. Unfortunately, with consumer demos being less and less prevalent, these opportunities are few and far between.

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So, if demoing is not an option, how do you choose what ski to buy? Honestly it is difficult. Who do you listen to? In a world now filled with artificial reviews generated by AI or ChatGTP, paid shills (sorry, “brand advocates”), and friends/others who are validating their own purchases, it can be a challenge. Obviously, we feel SkiTalk’s reviews are a great place to start. Our reviews are well balanced and fair. While SkiTalk does have brand sponsors we don’t favor them in reviews and indicate that up front. We don’t numerically rank skis nor do we have “Ski Of The Year” awards. Where SkiTalk also differs from almost every review platform is that you have unfettered access to the testers, who are regular skiers like you, to ask questions.

So what are you to do if you cannot try before you buy? Well, you are in luck in that there are very few bad skis marketed any more; you can pretty much rule out getting a dog of a ski. With few bad skis, that only puts you in a position to avoid the wrong skis. Passing on skis that might require too much attention, that are not strong enough, or not right for the conditions you actually ski versus conditions you hope to ski is your goal. Past that, with all of the very good skis out there and realizing there is no one perfect ski for all conditions, you can narrow you selection to two or three options and be very content with any of them.

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.

Replies

The bindings on these skis also tend to be whatever the shop could buy on closeout or the least expensive demo option, i.e. an 11 DIN binding on a 100+mm wide ski.

Hey - what's wrong with an 11 DIN binding?? Do most people actually need anything more than that?
 
Do you think people need DIN settings greater than 10?
Some yes, most do not but high DIN bindings tend to be built better so you are getting a more solid coupling.
 
Yes, demo bindings place you higher, but then you also read here that the Tyrolia Protector's very high stack is just fine. So... YMMV. Some of that is about preference and usage, and whether you like leverage in turns vs something more neutral for, say, powder.
 
Yes, demo bindings place you higher, but then you also read here that the Tyrolia Protector's very high stack is just fine. So... YMMV. Some of that is about preference and usage, and whether you like leverage in turns vs something more neutral for, say, powder.
The Protector stack height is workable on a narrower ski but still some concern once that ski reaches triple digits in millimeters.
 

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