Everything you want to know about skiiing
LAS VEGAS — The annual Ski Industries of America ski show winds up this weekend after a bursting-at-the-seams gathering of snowsports retailers, skiers, snowboarders, snowshoers and international business persons.
And if you think you’re tired of hearing about shaped skis now, wait until next season when all the ski makers predict the shapers will take over 85 percent of the market.
Among other predictions:
*By the year 2000 snowboarders will either match or outnumber skiers on the hills.
*Also by 2000, a significant minority of New England skiers will be wearing helmets; the far West will lag but will be wearing more and more of the hard domes.
*Sales of backcountry gear, such as hiking skis and skins, snowshoes and outdoor gear will continue to soar at rates of more than 35 percent per year.
*There will be a major shakeout of snowshoes brands; right now more than 250 are around, but there are only 50 actual manufacturers.
As of March this year, sales of snowsports gear and apparel set another record of $1.74 billion. That’s up from $1.5 billion the season before.
Considering the snowboard boom, it’s surprising that that Alpine ski sales grew by 23 percent in units and 40 percent in dollars. The average price point for shaped skis, $386, for traditional skis, $345.
Anyhow, the only real news break at the show was the signing of Phil and Steve Mahre by Volante’s Hank Kashiwa. The brothers have skied for years for K2, using largely off-the-shelf skis in races. But now with his thumb mended after his tumble at Squaw Valley earlier this year, Phil is ready to return to the ski wars.
Volante is obviously moving into the front rank of ski makers; its new Super Carve shaped ski is winning rave reviews on top of the outstanding sales year for its Power Karve and Max G traditional skis.
The biggest attraction at the show, held in the gargantuan Vegas Convention Center, was Klaus Obermeyer’s 50th anniversary fashion show. Starring 16 professional local dancers and produced by Gail Jones, the show was super-fast-paced, well-choreographed and showed enough top-of-the-line ski wear to make a movie star happy. Never have so many flat tummies, skin-tight ski pants and eyebrows plucked to a pencil line gathered on one ski show stage. That goes for both sexes.
The SKEA fashion show was also well done but was smaller. The Ski Industries of America also staged a fashion show, but because all apparel makers had dibs on showing their wear, the show was more slowly paced.
I’ll follow with a more detailed report on the show next week, but a couple of items right now.
If you’ve got a pair of Reusch gloves, and you’ve been suffering chilled fingers on the slopes, don’t toss those gloves away. I had a long talk with the new CEO of the company, mentioning how I had been uncomfortable of late in my three-year-old Reuschs. He said he had the same problem and now the gloves were coming with a new kind of double lining that will lick the problem.
The gloves always looked classy but had those finger problems. The CEO said he was working on a retrofit liner and would let me know. I’ll keep you posted.
Meanwhile, at the Swany booth, I stopped to thank the company for the prompt and free replacement of Swany gloves a year ago. I had bought a pair through PSIA and quickly found that it was nearly impossible to remove the gloves without reversing the lining (and we all know what a pain it is to get the lining back in the fingers).
At last year’s how I mentioned the problem to Swany, and the VP said send us the gloves and we’ll replace them. So I did, but meanwhile I had bought the Reusch gloves for cold weather. I asked for spring gloves as replacements and the company sent me a superb pair. No cost.
So I thanked the VP and said I would mention the service in my writings. He said thanks, but please tell your readers to go back to the retailer with problems rather than writing the company. Done.
Also talked with the Hertel wax people who offered me a sample of a new kind of nonwax for skis, Zardoz. You gotta clean the old wax off before you apply it since the old wax blocks the Ptex pores and this new nonwax has to get in the pores to work. The idea is that capillary action slowly draws the new nonwax out of the so it can do its hydrophobic wonders. Keep listening.
Hertel also came up with a solution for Volant skis, which because of their stainless steel top seem to collect thick layers of snow. The answer is a edge protector goop used for shipping skis to avoid rust problems. It seems to keep the top of the Volants clear of snow. We’ll see.
As mentioned, shaped skis will dominate the ski market next season. A couple of firms are marketing asymmetrical skis, a turning edge on one side and a more conservative on the other. Fischer was particularly hot on this and had set up a six-foot ramp covered with a kind of soft cloth.
The sales rep had three mecho-man figures, looking like Erector Set skiers without bodies, just hips and legs. He placed them on the ramp and the three would ski down in various radius turns, the asymmetrical model making the neatest short turns. Great fun, and as I watched I thought what a perfect teaching tool as it made clear the kind of knee and ankle movements needed for shaped skis. Keep an eye out, they might be making a short video of the thing.
The Vermont Safety people were on hand again, this time with a couple of updated videos about avoiding the dreaded ACL. One video is the for the public and doesn’t show a crash through to the ACL. The other, too realistic some say for the public, is aimed at ski professionals and shows complete sequences of ACLs.
This videos make it overwhelmingly clear how ACLs happen. And they also vividly show how certain corrective actions can avoid ACLs. We’ve heard it before, but these videos spell it out.
Three things you can do in a fall to avoid an ACL: Keep both hands forward; keep weight on both skis; keep hands over skis.
The interesting thing is that these three key positions are ones that ski instructors harp on time and again. Another is keeping the hips above the knees. That’s called standing up.
If you’re up on time this Friday and you’ve got a student ID, head for Mt. Rose where you can get a student lift ticket for $5. Be sure and bring your student ID. Skiing at Mt. Rose is reported to be at its peak. And if you’re an adult you can always join Rusty Crook’s Friday masters class for some nifty instruction vividly delivered. And you get a free cup of coffee between 9 and 10 a.m.
The Northern California Special Olympics was a great success, with participants from Visilia to the south and the Oregon border to the north taking part. More than 150 took part in the races with 100 parents helping organize things. Not too late to take part in the Celebrity Winterfest at Kirkwood and the Horizon, the Tahoe Mountain Brewery and Planet Hollywood on Saturday. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Clint Eastwood will be taking part in the benefits for the Special Olympics.
Coming up at Kirkwood are the North American Extreme Championships March 19-23 and Kirkwood Jammin’ IV, all kinds of fun and games during the last week of March. More later on the two events.
Northstar-at-Tahoe as usual has a busy lineup of events you can take part in:
*Sunday March 9 you can learn to telemark or brush up on your technique in a five-hour clinic. For Learn to Telemark the fee is $45 and includes limited lift use. For Telemark Ski Improvement, a more advanced clinic, the fee is $69 and includes an all-day lift ticket.
*This Friday the Snowfest Series Ski Race will be followed by an Hawaiian party. The free GS race will be run on Main Street at 11 and is open to one and all. You need a lift ticket. The party will be in the Alpine Bar and includes Hawaiian type goodies and a giveaway.
*Senior can brush up on skiing skills March 11-13 in a Golden Stars Clinic for those 60 or older. Fee is $159 ($105 for those 70 and over) and includes three days of morning lessons, all-day lift ticket and video analysis.
I’m leaving next week for some skiing in Slovakia. Yes, Slovakia, in the Tatra Mountains at a resort named Jasna. This is the annual meeting of the International Ski Club of Journalists and with the help of E-mail I’ll file a column from Slovakia to tell you about life in the old East Bloc. Slovakia, you know, is the bottom half of the old Czechoslovakia before it split off. The word is that the Czechs got the factories and Slovakians got the mountains. Should be fun, as I haven’t planned foreign correspondent for many years.
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