Why have the SUV sales dominated? Simply, image. In reality, there is nothing that the vast majority of SUV’s can do that a sedan and specifically a deceased wagon can do in real world environments. The get worse fuel economy, they handle worse, they are more expensive to maintain. As far as storage? Most are significantly smaller inside than the long gone sedans they replace. Four wheel drive and ground clearance? Pffft, I got through a few Tahoe winters with a front wheel drive Volkswagen TDI equipped with winter tires and never had an issue.
How does this relate to skiing? Well like all the SUV’s you see on the road, look at what people are skiing. The vast majority are on skis well over 90 mm underfoot. Why? Ego and the fore mentioned image, pure and simple. Like people buying an SUV to go off road, which they rarely do, people buy wider skis for conditions they hope to ski, which most rarely see in all but the best seasons. I am not even going to address the skiers skiing on 110+ skis as their daily driver, these are the ski equivalent of a jacked up SUV with 24” bling wheels.
How did we get here? Where did it start? What is the chicken and what is the egg? Great questions. Was it the Salomon Xscream, Volant PowerKarve or Rossignol Bandit? How about the original Volkl Explosiv or Mantra? You can ask 10 industry experts and get 12 different answers that might be one of the skis I mentioned or a slew of other viable skis.
For me, the straw that broke the camel’s back was when a recently defunct magazine did a “Frontside Ski Comparison Test” that included 13 skis in which all but three were over 90mm underfoot. Let that sink in. When you’re thinking of what a frontside ski is, you would think a ski that excels mostly on piste and with that groomers and some bumps & trees. To me that is NOT a 94 mm wide ski. Now, I cannot fully put all the blame on said magazine, some has to be put right on the shoulders of the brands. I know how this particular magazine set up their test, they had their categories and asked the brands what skis they want to submit. Could the magazine have had better criteria like “Frontside Skis 80-90mm Underfoot”? Yes. I know brands that submitted a 94 mm ski when they had a much more viable 84 mm ski that was a significantly better ski for the segment. When I approached that brand, they said the 94 mm ski will outsell that 84 mm offering 10:1 even if the 84 mm ski was indeed better.
Buying a ski for the conditions you hope to ski verses conditions you actually ski.
Where was I? Oh, yeah, following the car industry. Gone are cars like the Chevy Malibu, Ford Fiesta, Focus and Fusion, Nissan Maxima, Toyota Avalon, Volkswagen Passat and others. The Chrysler 300 and Dodge Charger are soon to follow all in favor SUV’s to replace them. Fortunately ski brands still produce narrower skis, but they are not on the ski walls of shops so, do we blame the shops? How responsible are they to have to educate the consumer? When someone comes in looking for that “all mountain” 94 mm ski, it is better to ask, what binding do you want on it as compared to “Have you considered this 84 mm system ski because where you ski, it will be a better ski”. The customer will be polite, say they will do some research then bee-line to the next shop and buy that 94 mm ski that wanted. It is the same at the car dealer when it is suggested that the sport wagon is a better option over the SUV. The customer is off to the next dealer to buy the SUV.
Where does this leave us?
Yes, skiing is about personal expression, but my point here is to make you think about this: Is the ski marketed to you, the best option for what you actually need for a day-to-day tool? I will close with what I used to tell my car customers, “Don’t be the grandparents that buy the 7 passenger SUV because the grandkids come in once a month.” So to you, I will reiterate, “Buy a ski for the conditions you actually ski versus conditions you hope to ski, and damn the marketing."