In the past 10 years, manufacturers have begun to narrow their focus so that each consumer can find a product that will not only fit their budget, but also their ability level. Ten years ago a person may have had one option, per company, that truly was a suitable ski. And for snowboarders? Forget it, very few options, sometimes as few as one or two boards per ability level (beginner, intermediate, advanced.) Today companies will often have upwards of a half-dozen choices for each level…or more.


How To SHOP For SKIS & SNOWBOARDSWell, with more choices there are more decisions to be made. This can make the purchase of new skis or a new snowboard that much more difficult, and exciting. But by following a few simple rules, you can be fully satisfied and get the most out of your purchase.

The number one rule, without a doubt, is to be honest with your salesperson, and yourself, about your ability level. Most consumers have a tendency to “play up” their ability level, i.e. a beginner says they're an intermediate, an intermediate says they're advanced. The first question you're likely to hear from a salesperson is, “What's your ability level?” By answering this, you're salesperson will automatically have you narrowed down to probably 10 to 15 percent of the skis or snowboards on the rack without you even knowing it, and the transaction will continue from there. If you're a beginner and tell your salesperson you're intermediate, you'll likely be choosing from a selection not suitable to your ability. Ski and snowboard constructions change drastically from entry-level up to advanced, so it's critical that you make a purchase within your ability level. This starts by recognizing what that level is and relaying it to your salesperson. If you don't know what your level is, talk with your salesperson about what your experience is and they'll guide you in the right direction.

Try to prepare for and avoid the “new car” syndrome. When we go onto the showroom floor of a car dealership, our first reaction is to look at the newest, sleekest model the dealership has to offer. It's the sharpest looking, often with the freshest paint job, and has more bells and whistles than any other vehicle on the lot. And more times than not, it's not the best ride for your needs. If you bought it, it would probably be an impulse buy. The same is true in skis and snowboards. Manufacturers intentionally turn the dial up on the graphics of their higher priced skis and snowboards so they'll stand out on the rack. The only problem is that if you're a beginner or intermediate, you don't need that ski or snowboard, just like anyone living in the mountains has no business owning a convertible or two-wheel drive. Should the way a ski or snowboard look have any influence on a consumer's purchase? Absolutely, you should buy a ski or snowboard you like the looks of. After all, you're the one who has to look down at them on the lift. But be aware that more often than not the ski or snowboard that has the most attractive graphics is often for the most advanced skier or rider, and is usually at the upper end of the price bracket. Ski and snowboard companies spend millions each season so you'll take notice of their goods on the rack over other manufacturers.

Be better prepared when you enter a ski or snowboard shop…do some research. All the ski and snowboard companies that you're going to find represented in stores have websites, and although websites are traditionally biased towards their products, they do provide details such as: a list of skis and snowboards and for what ability level they are for, construction specifics, the type of terrain the skis and snowboards are suited for (you don't need a powder ski in the east), and often what the retail prices are. Skiing, SKI, Powder, and TransWorld Snowboarding magazines all have substantial issues dedicated to product reviews for the upcoming season, so that is also a good resource. Keep in mind, however, that the testers in those magazines are often experts, and test all levels of skis and snowboards, from beginner to advanced, and the way they ski or ride is drastically different from the way you do. Most stores will also have brochures that you can pick up.

But perhaps the most important thing to remember when shopping for skis and snowboards is to work with your salesperson. They are your best resource 99 percent of the time, and your direct reference and resource between you and that ski or snowboard you're eyeing up. Making a purchase is truly a team effort, and each party has to contribute information equally to make it a success. The individuals who work in ski and snowboard shops do it because they have a passion for their sports, not because they need to earn money. They could do that anywhere. Talking from experience, ski and snowboard salesmen are perhaps the most underpaid people in retail, which means when they are working to help you find that right ski or snowboard, they are working for you. But regardless, here's a sure fire tip to make sure your salesperson has your best interests in mind. Before telling the salesperson what your ability level is, walk up to the most expensive ski or snowboard on the rack and say, “Would this be a good ski (or snowboard) for me?” If your salesperson says anything along the lines of “yes” or “sure” or “that'd be a good ski or snowboard for anyone” without first asking you any questions, you know you're in the wrong place.

The bottom line is to find a ski or snowboard that's right for you. You know what you can afford, but do you know what you need? Use the guidelines and resources and you'll be well on your way to making a purchase that will make your season truly enjoyable.

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