Like the ivory-billed woodpecker, the multiyear product cycle in the ski industry was thought to be extinct. But we are seeing a resurgence of two-year cycles, and IMHO, it’s about damn time! There was a day when graphics were around for three or four years; skis such as the Olin Mark Series hung on even longer, maybe a decade. The teal green Rossignol 4S was in the line for what seemed like forever; then sometime in the 90s, it went from being the company's halo ski to filling the racks at chains like Al’s Discount Sports and Appliances.

Somewhere around the turn of the century, this all changed. With manufacturers popping up everywhere and more and more models appearing on the ski wall, companies were forced to one-up each other and get new graphics to the market yearly (what seemed like weekly).

The perception was that everyone wants the latest and greatest, the newest and brightest, but how many times is that just NGT, aka New Graphics Technology? How important is it that graphics change every year? Well, it’s not -- and in reality, we think it is bad for the industry on all three levels: the manufacturer, the retailer, and the consumer.

For the manufacturer: There is a cost to redesign graphics every year. It’s not so much paying a designer as it is holding focus groups, reprogramming the machines, and risking that new graphics could cost sales. There is also a cost in inventory: as the year winds down and new graphics are released, the outgoing graphics become distressed merchandise and must be discounted. Manufacturers usually go into closeout even before Christmas because new product is coming in a few weeks, which slashes their profits.

For the retailer: Inventory is one the highest costs for a shop. The clock starts ticking as soon as product hits the ski wall, costing shops money. A two-year cycle enables them to hold their margins longer and control their ordering process better. Retailers such as Mark Beard of Wick’s Ski Shop agree that this cycle would benefit the retailers tremendously. Scott Gray (@dawgcatching) says, “It's a big reason that some shops aren't carrying skis anymore; too large of a risk” and that he would "love having two-year product cycles.”

For the consumer: Once they see that retailers can hold their margins better, some consumers will think, "Great, now I have to pay more." Slow down, take a breath -- there will always be deals. But we all profess that we need to “support our local ski shop,” and this helps do that. It will be better than when someone drops $699 for the new blue-green Snowtopoulus XG65 only to see a skier a few weeks later sporting the XG66 with the all-new green-blue graphics. Skiers who like to resell their skis after a season will be able to command higher prices because the skis are still current. In the long run, this will keep the prices lower because of better inventory control.

Manufacturers are not keeping everything on the same cycle, though; introductions will be staggered. For example, Rossignol's Experience and “7” collections were two very successful series; the Experiences were unchanged on odd years and the 7s (Sin/Soul/Super) unchanged on even years. When Kästle reintroduced its skis last decade, it started right out of the gate with multiple-year cycles, and I really think it helped get the company established and create momentum. We are also seeing these multi-year cycles not only in skis but also boots and bindings, where it is just as (if not more) important.

@Dave Petersen Artwork​