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I cannot count how many times it has been posted here, there, and everywhere: You must DEMO DEMO DEMO DEMO before you buy. So, what can you learn from demoing a ski? Well, let's talk about what it takes to demo skis properly.

“If you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there” —Lewis Carroll

First of all, you need a baseline or point of reference. Since you are demoing, it can be assumed that you need skis because what you have isn’t working for you. The question becomes, Do you know why what you have is not working for you? If the answer is yes, great, we are on the right track; if not, you need help before you even enter a high-performance rental department or demo center. The other reason you might be demoing is that you are looking to fill a need with an additional ski; it still circles back to the fact that what you have is not working for you. If you have read anything we have written over the past two decades, you know that we have said umpteen times, When you are demoing a ski, you are demoing three four things, which I will address individually.

Thing 1: The Snow
The first thing you are demoing is the snow. If you are testing more than one pair of skis, ideally you want to do it the same day in the same conditions on the same trail or terrain. Yes, conditions can change from morning to afternoon, but they change more from day to day and week to week, and if you can't test the skis back to back, it is very difficult to compare each one fairly. And yes, I added terrain to the equation. Are you testing on the same terrain, ideally the same run? Are you testing on the type of terrain that you plan on skiing it on? If it is to be a hard-snow specialty ski, test it on the groomers. If it is to be a powder ski, wait for a powder day to demo. A one-ski quiver? Then test it all over the mountain.

Thing 2: The Tune
The next thing you are testing is the tune, and in some (or many) cases, the lack of a tune. If you were considering a new car, would you test drive a rental with bald tires and a bad alignment? No. I mentioned earlier high-performance rental departments and demo centers, because there is a difference. A high-performance rental center is just that, a rental center under the façade of being a demo shop. It turns out glorified rental skis that are usually treated as such. The skis go out on snow nearly every day and tend not to be tuned or cared for as well as skis in a true demo center, where they are intended to be sales tools and go out only with prospective buyers. If you are serious about the reason you are demoing skis, don’t waste your time with the former because you have a better chance with the latter for the last thing you are demoing: the ski!

While we have talked about the three things you need to take account of, the snow, the tune and the ski, I have updated the chacklist to add a fourth think you need to take into consideration and that is The Binding.


"New" Thing 3: The Binding
We doubt you will find any place on the interwebz that is more obsessed with bindings. Our readers and followers will lament over fore/aft postion, stack height, and delta angle of every single option. Well all of those aspects of a binding also come into play when you are demoing a ski. Most "system skis" that are demo'ed will usually have the same (adjustable) binding that your will be getting when you purchase the ski, so that leaves little variables. Where bindings come into play is when you are demoing a flat ski and the retailer/rep has installed a "demo" binding. You need to take this into consideration when demoing a ski. Skis that are set up with Markers will have a negative delta, meaning, the toe of the binding is higher than the heel also Marker's demo binding stack height (how high you are from the top of the ski) is very close to the retail versions. Salomon's Strive demo bindings, like the Markers ski very close to their retail counterparts, which is very good. Tyrolia Attack and Look Konect demos will ski different than the retail versions because you are significantly higher off of the ski so this also needs to be taken into consideration.

Thing 4: The Ski
Yes, now we get to talk about demoing the ski, which is why you are reading this anyway, right? So, how do you demo? Ideally, you want to take a run first on your own skis so you can get a feel for the conditions. Next, if you plan on testing multiple pairs of skis that day, don’t start with your first choice; save it for your second or third ski. Why? Well, chances are, you are testing either a new improved version of what you have or you are trying a whole new segment or category of ski and you will need to adjust to the design. If you jump right in, you might not get a full appreciation right away. If you have the luxury of getting on three or four pairs in a day, don’t hesitate to go back and try the first selection at the end of the day; the snow might be a bit different and the ski might surprise you.

Results
So, at this point, what do you do with the information? First off, can you remember it all? As @Tricia says, a short pencil is better than a long memory. So, take notes. If paper and pencil work for you, great, but you have a voice recorder and camera in your phone. Take some recordings of your impressions. It seems pretty simple to remember what model and size were you on, but we all have memory lapses.

[The following is a true reenactment of a failed sales transaction, but brand and model names have been changed to protect the innocent.]

Customer
: "I demoed the Atomic Vantage and would like to buy it."
Salesman: "Okay, great, I would love to take your money. Now, the Atomic Vantage is a series or collection of skis; which Vantage?"
Customer: "Uhhhh. The 90?"
Salesman: "Are you asking me or telling me?"
Customer: "Telling you."
Salesman: "The CA or the Ti? Even better, do you remember what color it was? Did it look like this?" [showing them the current model]
Customer
: "I'm not sure."
Salesman: "Ok, where and when did you demo it?"
Customer: "I forget where but last year."
Salesman: "When last year? At the beginning or toward the end?"
Customer: "Why does it matter?"
Salesman: "Well, Atomic changed the Vantage for this season, I just want to make sure you get what you demoed. If you demoed at the end of the season last year, you might have tried this year's model. Did you take a picture of it by chance?"
Customer: "YES! Let me pull it up."
Salesman: :Great, let's take a look."
[Turns out it was not the Atomic Vantage 90 but the Armada Invictus 89Ti.]
Customer: "This one."
Salesman: "Oh, that's an Armada Invictus."
Customer: "Are you sure?"
Salesman: "Yeah, I'm sure."
Customer: "Oh, I really wanted the Atomic Vantage. Now I have to research the Armada."
[... there is no need to go on at this point....]

Conclusion

Go by your gut -- and your feet. If something stood out for the application you want, go with it. Don’t overthink it. Remember, there is no one perfect ski. If there were, it would be the only one on the ski wall. There is no one best ski, which we addressed in “What Is the Best Ski?” So what does this all mean? Demoing is still a crapshoot, and chances are, you will come away with more questions than answers. Most skiers are better off coming to sites like Pugski.com and asking questions. Our experienced testers have been on dozens of skis and can discern the nuances of different skis and explain who would benefit from them.

9/06/22 Demo video added
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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Great info.....expect nothing less!

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And let’s not forget to emphasize the length of the ski. Especailly if you are on the ends of the size spectrum, it can be pretty hard to find the lengths you are interested in to demo, and then the temptation is to extrapolate the performance of the demo ski to a different length. Some ski’s seem to be behave very differently in the biggest size.
 
I would add in you are also demoing you. If you're having an "off" day, your results will be different than an "on" day. Are you tired? A softer, more forgiving ski is going to probably feel better than a charger. Did you get a lot of sleep, your boots are perfect, and you feel strong? Those chargers are going to feel great and the softer one may feel like a noodle. Take how you feel into consideration when demoing.
 
Exactly......... multiple skis, same trail, terrain and conditions . Kinda feels like work but oh so necessary to make an honest back to back comparison. I'll add in "Drills". I'll always throw in a few drills when doing a demo. It makes us "Stop" and really think about what each ski is doing differently during distinct movements. Not to knock Blister as they do a great job, but just about every pic on their reviews now, is Cliffs & Air Tricks... I wanna see the "Slow & Mundane" pics!
 
Exactly......... multiple skis, same trail, terrain and conditions . Kinda feels like work but oh so necessary to make an honest back to back comparison. I'll add in "Drills". I'll always throw in a few drills when doing a demo. It makes us "Stop" and really think about what each ski is doing differently during distinct movements. Not to knock Blister as they do a great job, but just about every pic on their reviews now, is Cliffs & Air Tricks... I wanna see the "Slow & Mundane" pics!
Great add-on.....When we are demoing, I will add some basic pivot slips to the process.
 
I demo till I stumble on something I love, and then I buy it. Don't worry about where it fits in the quiver, or even if it's time for new skis. If you don't love it, keep trying.

(It helps to ski with Phil. He seems to have an uncanny knack for predicting what I will love.)
 
Honestly in the past few years I have basically really liked almost every ski I have demoed. There are so many good skis out there. What I buy really depends what I am looking for specifically to add to my quiver. The info I have gotten from skitalk.com including skiessentials.com (which I know thanks to this site) has been so good that I can hone in 4-5 pairs of skis that should be good for me and look for those. It can come down to something vain like graphics or to something specific like weight and brand reputation / loyalty.

I do know that while you can get a ski that is very wrong for you whenever one gets a new pair of skis there is always a short (or should be very short) period of adjustment on the hill and all is good.

Regarding the tune I think every enthusiast that cares about skis should get a true bar and a small swix sharpening / de-burring kit.
 
I've always wondered if there is such a thing as a Cheerleader Effect when demoing.

The selective attention referred to there is certainly something that *can* occur.

Dunno, but, I have been put off by skis during demoes, right away, a bad tune can do that from first turn. Also, conditions matter, some snow conditions make any ski feel good but I dont recall the last time that happened during a demo day. Most have been during firm, crispy, skied out conditions here in Colorado, not exactly hero snow days.

But I stand by that now more than ever there a LOT of really good skis being made.
 
Dunno, but, I have been put off by skis during demoes, right away, a bad tune can do that from first turn. Also, conditions matter, some snow conditions make any ski feel good but I dont recall the last time that happened during a demo day. Most have been during firm, crispy, skied out conditions here in Colorado, not exactly hero snow days.

To be sure. I mean the cheerleader effect exists but your speed date can still have bad breath and broccoli teeth.
 
I have been out for demo days when the snow was almost too good. We were on $399 package skis that could carve good turns. As far as the cheerleader effect, very interesting concept.

We do see this phenomena with discussions like "What (enter favorite brand HERE) should I buy?" and not "What ski (that meets these characteristics) should I buy?" When a brand gets so popular that people assume that everything they produce is the best.
 
I believe the NEWER Marker demo bindings are not a negative delta. Is that correct, @Philpug?
 

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