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Exclusive: The Ski Industry's Gear Pricing Model Is Just Messed Up

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Sorry, this is nothing new. It has been going on for a while and I just get fed up enough to type out this rant regarding why the ski industry's pricing of gear, if you really think about it, just does not make sense. Why is it that two skis using the same construction from tip to tail and in the same length, one 88 mm underfoot and the other 96 mm, the 96 is $50 to $100 more? It cannot be the amount of materials it takes to make the ski because, if that were the case, a 185 cm size should be more expensive than a 170 cm or 177 cm, right? Because of the higher price point, the wider one is presumed to be a better ski because the price is higher, when it is just not the case. It is just a different ski.

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The same could be said for ski boots. We talked about boot pricing models in a previous article in which we discussed why a 130 flex boot is $50 to $100 more than a lower flex model. At least with boots you might be getting a better liner or riveted buckles. I will ask then, why should a lighter skier, who might not need a 130 flex boot and is well suited in a softer 110, have to settle for an inferior product because it is pared back to meet a price point. This just does not make sense for a better end product for the consumer.

This issue is not just limited to skis and boots. Binding brands are also guilty. Why is a binding that is offered in an 11 and 13 or 12 and 14, when both use the same exact housings, construction, and design, be priced $30 to $50 differently when the only variation is the spring that is in the binding? Do the higher rate springs cost enough more to warrant the $40-50 price increase? I think not.

I think there needs to be some sort of restructuring in the thought process on how prices are set. In changing the model some, I think we can bring some equity and simplification for the consumer which could, in the end, help them decide what might be the best ski boot or binding for them. It could take the price dependency out of the decision process and could help them get the best gear for what they need.

There are some instances where we do not see this pricing concept. Here are a few examples: Head’s Supershape collection all have the same price regardless of waist widths. Kastle's MX collection, be it a 75, 83 or 88 mm wide and different lengths are the same price. Look’s Pivot 15 and 18, with the same construction, are the same price. It doesn’t, however, explain why the Pivot 12 and 14 are priced differently when, other than a spring, the two bindings are identical. If more is more, why are 115 mm brakes not more expensive than a 85mm brake?

Honestly, we don’t expect a change in the model unless every brand agreed and that could be considered collusion. There is no logical reason for the industry to have a model like this other than the current belief of needing a heirarchy in pricing. The industry feels it "needs" certain price points to to be addressed ... or is it just a simple cash grab? Thank you for letting me vent.
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

Rossignol must have been listening, prices have come way down on a couple new ones reviewed here:
 
Two thoughts:

One: they can ask for whatever they want, because 'obviously', higher numbers (flex, waist width, DIN) are better right? There are a lot of dumb customers around.

Two: if the choice is to pay what they ask or not buy new stuff - people will pay what the manufacturers are asking for it.
 
It's the illusion of luxury, premium or performance. Most times consumers will pay exponentially more per perceived unit increase in either category irrespective of actual value. This is true across any product category.
 
Yes, it's all part of the marketing and highly effective. I'm totally good with the skinnies priced lower though. Boot flex is a beauty...praying on male insecurity like that! Shameful. But highly effective.
 
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They price that way because they can.
 
I have wondered the same thing many times. Imagine of mountainbikes were the same way: the long travel bike costing more than the short travel version.
 
It’s all about maximizing their ROI. Sales, marketing, competition, and demand at each price point drive prices. And probably some more factors like how much your can produce and other costs are factored in of course, but you have to be competitive for a certain type of skis. They know demand at each length and width, so. you maximize that. It's not just about cost per a specific ski. Plus lots of manufacturers don't sell old products at huge discounts, then most wouldn't buy when new products are released. For example, high end lux bags like Louis Vuitton destroy unsold bags instead of sell them at a discount. It would devalue the brand value. Like if you knew K2, Rossi, or Line sold older skis for 1/4 of the price a year or two later, than most would probably wait instead of pay full price for a new ski. Sales happen of course to push as many units as possible but its hard to find those. #IMHO of course.
 
Like if you knew K2, Rossi, or Line sold older skis for 1/4 of the price a year or two later, than most would probably wait instead of pay full price for a new ski.
Actually they do crear out old product on "closeout", and those discounts are seen, these are the skis tha show up on clearance sites like Backcountry and such. There was a wave where people were buying Factions at less than $300 and Fischer races skis for under $50.
For example, high end lux bags like Louis Vuitton destroy unsold bags instead of sell them at a discount.
This is a mistep that Kastle make early on, putting unsold skis on a clearance site, it really diminished the value of the brand for a while.
 
There are many reasons why prices differ: elasticity of demand, fixed vs variable costs, scale (or volume). I have a PhD in economics and all I can say is I have no clue how companies price goods.
I think it is safe to say that for ski equipment, pricing has little to do with underlying material costs. Much of the cost is going to be things like design, IP, marketing, etc., much of which is fixed anyway. (It's not too different than when you see an iPhone "teardown" showing the cost of components is <25% of the cost of the iPhone).

As for why they price that way - it's to hit competitive price points. Different length skis? Want to sell to consumers based on "right" length. Different width skis? Positioning within a given niche of the market to compete there. Keep in mind also that all companies want to engage in some form of price discrimination - if a certain segment/target consumer is more willing to spend more those prices are likely to be higher. So a 130 flex boot that probably is aimed at a smaller segment of ski population the bootmaker can likely charge a higher price because there's a group of people who "have to have" 130 flex. For others 100, 110, 120 may all be just fine.
 
Actually they do crear out old product on "closeout", and those discounts are seen, these are the skis tha show up on clearance sites like Backcountry and such. There was a wave where people were buying Factions at less than $300 and Fischer races skis for under $50.

This is a mistep that Kastle make early on, putting unsold skis on a clearance site, it really diminished the value of the brand for a while.
That's how I got new FX85 HPs for $400 in 2019.
 
Take a look at Majesty Skis all the carbon touring models are the same price, all the Ti Freeski models are the same price and so on, regardless of width or length...
 
It is called "price point" and "market positioning".
There must be a reason companies pay $$ to their marketing staff or marketing consultants.
 
The objective of any business is to maximize profit.
To do so within some ethical standard, well that's always been a problem. To let the market self regulate or bring 'balance', that's nonsense. That naive plain dumb theory has never worked. Most spectacular examples are the S&L scam, the Enron scam & the last leveraged fncl crisis.

We need watchdogs like Philpug & the rest of us to call out BS and make this beautiful sport reasonable & accessible.
 
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