We are going to start and probably end with this statement: Expect to find a shortage of ski gear this winter. In a recent article, Where Ski Retail Is Headed in the New Normal, we talked about how retailers will need to adjust for this season, but what about consumers? This past summer we saw shortages in every outdoor pastime including bikes, camping gear, paddle boards ... all activities that offer some level of social distancing. Now, as winter approaches, which sport requires two 6-ft-long sticks on one’s feet, preventing someone from getting too close? Oh yeah, skiing.

Let’s revisit the typical ski retailer’s buying cycle timeline. In January, shop buyers begin to look at gear for the next season. In February they start to demo and decide which products they want to stock. In March they put their orders together. And what happened last March? Right. It might seem like six years ago rather than months, but yes, the ski season stopped dead. Ski retailers and their buyers then had to reassess what to order for the following season. Combine their buying process with the manufacturers' production cycle, throw in the need for factories and warehouses to social distance, and the whole product chain was thrown into complete chaos. With the back channels in disarray, the consumer will feel it.

On the hardgoods side of the shop, we can start with those 6-ft social distancing tools (aka skis). There is a consumer belief that you should demo before your purchase; well, forget that. With many shops limiting face-to-face contact, demo skis will be either nonexistent or very limited. If you are convinced that you must demo, make sure to consider whether the model you settle on will still be available once you finally make a decision. It is very likely that it won’t be. So, what do you do instead? You will need to trust either your gut or, even better, reviews like ours. In our not-so-humble opinion, our reviewers are probably more qualified to choose a ski for you than that gut of yours. Here is how to decide which ski to buy: read our reviews, ask our testers questions, and feel confident that you will not be led astray. Choose a ski, place your order, complete the sale, and know that we helped you make the right choice. As we started out here: Expect to find a shortage of ski gear this winter.

Now to the foundation of your gear, boots. There is still no substitute for meeting with a qualified bootfitter trained by [sponsor plug] Masterfit [/sponsor plug]. Like everything else, the process for this year will be a bit -- I mean a lot -- different. Don’t expect to just go in and try on boots; you will need to plan ahead and make an appointment. Don't be surprised if you have to put down a deposit with a fitter; that deposit will go either to the fit consultation or toward the price of the boot. You will be expected to bring your own clean socks or buy new ones. Expect boot options to be at least as limited as skis.

In our conversations over the past few months, more than one ski rep and product manager have told us that inventories are done and depleted, there will be few or no special orders. Combine those already-low inventories with a recent fire at the largest ski factory in Europe, well, what is either on the shelves at your shop or in transit, that will be it. So if there is something you have your eye on (especially if it is a hot model in a popular size), buy it now because as soon as the snow starts flying and the guns are blasting -- everyone together now -- expect to find a shortage of ski gear this winter.