Road Trippin!

Every year we try to up our game by doing continuing education. This year we sent five boot fitters to Masterfit University for three days in Reno. Masterfit is the group we have spent the most time with over the years. I got my first Master Bootfitter certificate from them in 2002. Since then we have graduated many fitters and this year we got five more certified. They were getting their Masters or Masters Plus certificates. Masterfit is a great organization that has helped bootfitters in North America, Europe and even in Australia learn to help make lots of skiers have more comfortable feet!

We then had a fitter (Greg Winkels) go to Montreal Canada for a BootDoc clinic which is another entity that does Bootfit training. BootDoc is part of Wintersteiger.  Wintersteiger sells the big tuning machines (some costing $500k or more) that ski shops use to tune skis. They have developed a great boot fitting catalogue now as well. “Winks” has been through all the Masterfit training already and so went to this alternate school to broaden his scope. Being in Eastern Canada, the classes were taught in both English and in French. Very exotic. Winks now claims that he is “internationally certified”.

In a few weeks we will have a World Cup fitter who works every year on the “circuit” in Europe at the highest levels come here to give us insight and tips from the elite levels of ski racing. His name is Jules and we really enjoy it when he comes to visit. He has great stories about things like breaking Bode Millers boot the day before an important race and using duct tape to make the repair!

This last week was my turn to go to an event. BootDoc had a three day clinic at the Wintersteiger headquarters in Salt Lake City. I went with our head fitter Paul, as well as Eric and Lace. This clinic was taught by Brent Amsbury. Brent works with Wintersteiger to develop the BootDoc product lineup. Brent is a great guy that I have known for a long time now and I respect his competency as an instructor. He is a master bootfitter as well as a Certified Pedorthist so his technical knowledge is very strong. Brent tours the northern United States providing stance / alignment services, and gives lectures on the bio-mechanics of ski boots to PSIA (instructors) groups from Big Sky, Montana to Buck Hill, Minnesota. He also owns Park City Ski Boot in Park City, Utah and provides fitting services from entry level skiers to U.S. ski team members and coaches. (see more on Brent at http://www.parkcityskiboot.com/BrentBio.html)

We went with the intention of working with their foot scanner, learning more about their brand of foam injected liners, and gleaning more information about Brent’s ideas on stance alignment. Stance alignment is something which we have been getting more involved with. In addition to her exceptional general boot fitting skills, Lace has a masters degree in Kinesiology and is in Med School to become a Podiatrist. She is really into alignment. Really really into alignment. And good at it. Therefore we are using her knowledge to add more of this to our services offered.  We also got some good insole work in and talked a lot about all the new materials being used to lighten ski boots. We discussed how to heat, stretch, grind, and punch these new and exciting plastics. Plus we all got to do injected foam liners for our own boots. You know, the usual stuff.

In addition to the three days at BootDoc training we were able to get over to DaleBoot which is only about ten minutes away. DaleBoot partners with us to make custom ski boots. We take a series of measurements and send them off to DaleBoot.  Your boots are then built by them to the exact specifications of your feet. Awesome! We have worked with them for a number of years. I have been to the factory several times (as I spend a lot of time in Salt Lake City anyway) but the rest of the crew had a great time seeing the only ski boot manufacturer building their boots in America. Big plastic injectors and industrial rivet machines are very exciting to us don’t ya know? more on DaleBoot at: (http://www.daleboot.com/en/)

The second night after clinics we spent at Fischer’s Salt Lake City office. We work closely with the Fischer crew.   For this meeting we were very excited to see products that will be available in 2019/20 and beyond. With a professionally presented power point presentation by Scott Ford and lots of boot samples to play with all I can say is “WOW!” Fischer is coming on really strong. Adding people like Scott and Mike Hattrup to the team has taken Fischer to another level. It is apparent in the current and upcoming products that North America’s influence is combining with the Austrian side of the world to really produce some great stuff. Vacuum boots and Ranger skis plus so much more! Fischer will continue making big waves in the industry. Mark my words on that one. I would tell you more but then they would have to kill me- sorry! Fischer is at: https://www.fischersports.com/us_en/

So the four of us had a great trip. Three days and two nights chock full ‘o boots! What a great job! Toys and more toys! Life is good.

So…This season we sent 10 fitters to three venues to gain knowledge. These events are expensive but hopefully well worth it. It is always great to get instruction and to hang out with our peers. We come back with lots of tidbits and sometimes big conceptual changes too. We continue to distill it all and see if we can raise our game here. We had a bootfitters meeting this morning for an hour to debrief and talk footbed concepts. There will be several more brain storming sessions to follow. Our Best Practices and methodology will continue to grow and improve.

And so it goes. We try to bring a better product to our customers. We try to grow as fitters individually and as a group. I feel blessed to work with such talented colleagues here. Many master boot fitters work in a very solitary environment. We get to all work with each other as a team. We push each other and learn from each other. It is very collaborative. We fit individually but also very much as a team.  I like it that way. We think you like it that way too. We think it gives you the best experience plus the best fit. And that’s why we go to work every day. Usually in Berkeley. But sometimes in Reno.  Sometimes in Montreal. And sometimes in Salt Lake City. Whatever it takes to make what Paul likes to call “Happy Feet”. Come on down and get some happy feet too! We will see you then!

It can be a bumpy run!

Life has it’s bumps. It’s hurdles. Obstacles. Whatever you choose to call them. My feeling has always been that if you never have a bad day you cannot really appreciate a truly great day. If life was a string of one great day after another then wouldn’t “great” quickly become “average”?

That’s what it is like around here sometimes. You want everything to go smooth all the time with a business and as an employee. But then it would just be the same mediocre existence day after day. Right? I cannot answer that because it is not smooth every day. It is a bumpy ride. Some days still are better than others.

Does it have to be like that? Maybe not. Maybe a business can go through growing pains and it can have a history of days. And we can then have all great days here if we remember how it used to be when it wasn’t this good. Maybe Perspective might just be the key?

I don’t know but I would like to find out some day. In the mean time I believe that trying to constantly improve is important. It is my own personal and professional goal for sure.

And we do surely try to improve every day.  How do we determine how well we are doing? What are the measuring sticks? let’s look at a few things that might be indicators.

Boot Satisfaction. Do people find that they love their boots after buying them here? I think we are pretty good there. Fifteen years ago we sold 400- 500 pairs of boots per year. Lot’s of them came back for additional work after being skied. Enough that we would work on a dozen or more pairs after work some days. A few dozen pairs would end up being traded out for entirely different models or different sizes because we couldn’t get them to fit well. Last year we sold about 1400 pairs of boots. We swapped out six pairs. That is a little less than one half of one percent. We work on a few pairs a week to modify and improve them. The rest seem to simply be out there on happy feet. High scores for boot satisfaction.

Yelp. Not scoring quite as high here. We were all 5 star reviews for a long time. I still remember the first “bad review” we got. It was very upsetting. Now our score has dropped to 4 stars over all. We have several bad reviews. Actually a number of them from last spring alone. Still very painful and upsetting, but I have learned that it simply happens. The Yelp service people have talked me off the ledge a few times when I felt we were being unfairly judged. But I must admit that many of the complainers have a valid point. We are not perfect and as it gets busier each year, we make more mistakes and use poor judgement from time to time. Room for improvement on Yelp.

General business in terms of dollars and cents. Well if you measure in gross dollars alone we are doing well here too. At 29 years old we are doing three times the gross business we were after the first 10 years. We have been on a steady growth rate the whole time. After adjustments for inflation and the like we still look good. Profitability is different than gross revenue. I could do a better job being more profitable but I can only say that all my problems are “first world” ones. I am not going hungry, and I didn’t get into this line of work to make a lot of money. I did it because I am passionate about it.

Fun meter. Are we having more fun? Well that is a hard one to measure – and super important! On the one hand there is more stress as we have a lot more pressure to get a LOT of work done in this little building. It is more crowded and more intense in the store on a busy weekend than it used to be. We have gone from 7 to over 30 employees in the last 15 years. We used to have two boot fitters on staff. Now we can have 8 working on any given day mid winter. We have more titles, job descriptions and other “corporate” type stuff going on. Someone is “in charge” of rentals. Heck we have an I.T. person on staff. Monthly management meetings? Really? Yup.

But we have enjoyed it too. Change and challenge are good. It keeps us on our toes. We still have the same type of eclectic employees. There are just more of them. A cool thing is that we are now on the radar of the brands we sell. We get to do a lot of prototype testing on boots and skis. We don’t pay
for the gear and we get to keep it- always nice. They also pay for us to go to meetings (many times with their European counterparts) for retailer feedback. These meetings happen in places like Jackson, Park City or Austria. Skiing is always involved. That is a heck of a job perk. We may or may not be any better at what we do, but we seem to be getting more recognition due to a long track record and sales numbers that are noticeable to the big wigs. Fun meter is probably a draw. I loved my job then and I love it now. It’s just different.

Job satisfaction. Awesome scores here. I get to deal with most of the problems. so I see that stuff. It happens most weeks that I need to deal with some sort of customer feedback that involves a complaint of some manner. It is minor though compared to the warm fuzzy stuff. Customers are constantly letting me know how happy they are with whomever they got help from. It happens every day. The staff here is simply great. That is a wonderful feeling and it happens about 20 times more often than any negative stuff. I tell people often that I love my job I mean it.

And most days I get to sit down and introduce myself to someone that needs boots. A few hours later I put their feet into the chosen boots for a final time after doing what I do to make them fit great. And after slipping them onto their feet, I look up. And I wait for it. And there it is- a twinkle in the eye followed by a big smile. And I know what they feel. And I smile back. And that is why I come to work in the morning.

I always did like the bumps!

One More Time…

Well here we go again…
A week ago I was high up in the mountains camping. Today I am back in the hustle and bustle of Berkeley. Yesterday the ski shop was quiet and looked pretty much like it did in early May when I checked out for the summer. Today it is filled to the ceiling with boxes of new gear for the upcoming ski season. Such is the nature of August for me and for the shop. After a long time of relaxing with very little going on, it all changes  overnight. I find myself shifting gears very quickly. It is a very familiar change at this point. It has become a yearly event like leaves turning colors. Remember when you were a kid and by the end of school you were bursting at the seams for the summer vacation to start? And then by the end of summer you felt the same way about school starting? That’s a bit like I feel about work. I get the summer off and I really look forward to it. Then I get to work during the winter and I love that too. I suppose that I am very lucky. I get to go back and forth. Each helping me to appreciate the other. Life is good.

So what is going on at a ski shop in August? Two things are going on. As I said, the new 2017/18 product is all showing up this month. Every day is Christmas! The other thing is that we are prepping for our big Parking Lot sale starting in a few weeks. That is also a bit like Christmas – at least the crowds in the shop during the sale remind me of December.

To get ready for the sale we need to take in all the product. We price it. We display it. We oogle it. Actually we oogle it a lot. And who wouldn’t? A Giro helmet with a visor built in? That is super cool! A Uvex goggle that changes tint when you press a button? Also super cool! And that is just from the first day!

Even better than cool gear is that I get to see the whole staff again. I have little contact with the team over the summer for the most part. Now it is reunion time which I love. Today we decided we needed to have an staff event. We were thinking about a BBQ after the first sale day over at the Flad family mansion.

The Flad family mansion. How great is that? Pretty great I think! It is great to me because of what it represents. Erle Flad has worked at the ski shop for over 10 years now I believe. He also ski patrols at Dodge Ridge. In addition to his ski stuff Erle is an excellent golfer, a wine connoisseur, a smooth jazz expert, a huge patron of the arts and a totally cool dude. Erle’s wife Pinke is a great skier, a greater tennis player, an even greater (and classically trained) cook and is every bit the cool dude that Erle is (but much prettier). Over the years Erle and Pinkie took the time to have three children. All three Flad children had successful ski racing careers. One is still coaching skiing. Another is a sales rep in the outdoor industry. The third will also surely go on to great things when she moves into her professional life after school. All three kids are “Flad to the bone” and have been around the shop long enough that we feel like we have watched them all grow up. Actually I guess we have. And that is why a party at Flad family mansion is so great.

That is part of the beauty of this place for me.

I have owned this place for over 15 years now but am still only a small part of the legacy. Martin Sulser will always be an idol to me. He started in the industry the year I was born. Barb just started here last fall- her previous careers were as an engineer and as a housewife- but her boot fitting accuracy blows my mind. Martin and Barb are both equally important to the shop. Equal parts of the family.

Even more folks will check in during the actual sale dates. Lot’s of regular customers will check in during the sale. Many will just want to chat and get their early season ski stoke going. That is always cool. Many employees that have not “worked” here in over 10 years will come by to say “Hi!” during the sale. Also very cool. The previous owner will come by. Our landlord will come by. Joe, our landlord, actually started the ski shop in the 80’s to fill the lull in his wind surfer business. The guy who does the building maintenance will stop in. Our neighbors at Royal Robbins will come by to see us. Russell of Kassman Fine Piano fame from next door will be part of the weekend.

And all the key Characters in our little world will be back in one place. Old timer employees like Aunt B (Benelia), and Erle, as well as Newbies Mad Dog (Jeff) and Roger who just started last year. Christian Naple who met his wife fitting her boots years ago will work the sale as well as Christian Davidson who starts college this fall. Christian Davidson joined the Family when he became a sponsored racer at about 12 years old. Now he is off to college after becoming an employee- wow. Christian Naple now has three kids now that are almost old enough to be sponsored racers. I still remember that day when he boot fit his wife Heather. Martin is in his 80’s and Sam is just getting into his teens. Kim is older than 28 and her son works here too. Kim got the job because her cousin does our printing. Her cousins husband was a boot fitter here for abut 10 years. We run the gamut. We really seem to have little in common at first glance. But we love the same things. We love to ski. We love to sell skis. We love to hang out together. And we love being part of this big ski family. And in the next few weeks this all starts to happen again- one more time…

We hope to see you at the sale. Or stop by any time. Anyone is welcome.

Demo Results are in

The industry demo’s are done. We have made all our buying decisions. One of the tools we use to make the decisions is to document all the skis we try and give them scorecard style reviews. We fill out cards for each ski weather or not we like it. We fill out cards for every ski even if it is a brand we do not carry (and we ski a lot of these models). After we are done with the test cards we then send the cards off to Jackson Hogan at Realskiers.com. Realskiers is the (in my opinion) best resource for ski reviews on the planet. It incorporates test cards from what they consider the 20 or so best test shops in the country. Lots of skier levels, lots of different snow conditions. A hundred or more test cards on a popular ski will give a pretty good “average” score. Check out realskiers at http://www.realskiers.com/

Before the cards get sent off, one of our employees takes all of our employees cards and puts them on a spread sheet for our internal use. We use this to decide on our buy for the next fall etc. We all like to compare notes as well. This is the email he sent to us with the spread sheets. I figured you might find it interesting and a bit humorous. I did.

Greg

Hey y’all,

Well, I finally finished entering all our ski test results into a spreadsheet. Click this link
to access the spreadsheet, and feel free to add a comment if you see
anything that’s out of whack. I haven’t done any in-depth analysis yet,
but I did go ahead and pick out the top rated ski for each skier. The
results are pretty clear…
Benelia – Rossignol Famous 10
Ty – Fischer Pro Mountain 86
Barb – Stockli Laser SX
Pete – Stockli Laser SX
Greg W – Head Kore 93
Paul – Head Kore 93
Winks – Head Kore 93
Mad Dog – Stockli Stormrider 88
Christian – Stockli Stormrider 83
Roger – Stockli Stormrider 83
Katrina – Stockli Stormrider 83
Florian – Dynastar Legend 96
Erle – Stockli Scale Beta
These
results sort of reinforce my decision to not bother testing the Laser
SX, Stormrider 83, and Stormrider 88, because honestly I could just grab
a card and write all 10’s on it for any of them. My favorite review
comes from Mad Dog, when commenting on the Stockli Stormrider 88 in poetic, near-haiku form:
I know I’m going fast
Because I can hear the wind

Seriously, add a 5-syllable third line, Jeff, and you’ve got a ski review haiku (I think).  
Mr. Whitehouse weighs in with a review of the Stockli Laser SL: 
YUM. SIMPLY YUMMY.”

I
couldn’t agree more. Finally, my favorite negative review comes from
Roger (someone forward this to him — I don’t have his email), when
commenting on the Blizzard Bonafide:

Skis like a 2×4″
I also agree! Hope everyone is doing well.
Ty

The Perfect Ski?

I got some new skis near the end of last year.

They are from a company in Teluride Colorado called Wagner Custom Skis. A friend of the shop told me that I would like Pete Wagner and that we should figure out a way to work with him. Time went by and apparently he heard the same thing about us from his end. Eventually I called him (or he called me? Doesn’t matter-) and we had a short chat. How a Retail store would partner with a brand like Wagner was not obvious but had interest to us both. I like working with people like Pete. He is bright, interesting, and unassuming. I like him very much.

So we met in Denver one day last January and figured it out.

Pete’s company does custom skis. If you order a ski from Wagner, you get a ski that is built to be perfect for you. Yes, it is built for you and only you… it will be different from every other ski on the planet. Graphically different. Different shape. Different construction. The only ones. Built to what Wagner calls your skier DNA.

At California Ski Company we sell skis to people that we decide are the closest thing to perfect for them. We have the limitations of the manufacturers products though. Very often we think that “if they only made that in a slightly smaller size” or “if that ski was only a bit lighter” or some other variable on the skis we have to choose from it could be even better for our customer.

Wagner doesn’t have to do that. He get to construct the skis exactly the way they need to be. How they need to be to be perfect. On the other hand there is immense pressure to get it right. Pete says he builds 1500 perfect skis every year. Wow, that is simply awesome.

I want to deliver perfect skis! My customers should all want perfect skis!
We can now sell you a perfect ski in conjunction with Wagner Custom Skis.  We take orders and get delivery of your skis. You interface with Wagner to help him learn what he needs to to build your skis. If you buy them through us there are some advantages. You get some good add on items. Upgraded bases. Stronger edges. You can receive a free seasons pass to Teluride. That kind of stuff.

In addition to the Custom skis we decided to do some “house skis”. These were designed by us for our classic customers. The type of customer profile that we get a lot of.We did two mens models and a ladies.

We have the silver one that is a very versatile all mountain ski and is oriented a bit more towards groomers. This model is very refined, and accepts exacting skier input. It has a huge range of things it does well, but it is not too tiring to ski. This is a model for a very good skier that has backed off a bit because he is simply not 25 years old any more. It is the “skiers ski” that won’t leave you too tired at the end of the day to go out to dinner,

The red ski is designed to be similar to a Blizzard Bonifide but a bit smoother and less bouncy. The Bonifide is the best selling high performance ski in America, so my message was clear. Make it better.

The purple women’s skis are light and designed for a technically proficient athletic skier without being too much work. Similar to the mens Silver ski. A bit more groomer oriented but very versatile.

Pete and I worked out skier profiles for these skis and he built them. We have them for sale and we have them in Demo. If this sounds like you, then they could be your ski!

But if you want a perfect ski you should go custom. So I did…

I ordered some Wagner’s for myself. I filled out the questionnaire. I got the call to discuss things. We discussed what I like in a ski. What I do not like. He asked what I ski on now. I ski up to 75 different skis a year. I have about 8 pairs in my current personal ski stash. A few of them are prototypes that give him no clue to anything. I like most skis. I have learned to adapt to whatever they ask of me. In the end we came up with a description of what the ski should be. Mostly I relayed tactile feelings and a bit of what I really love. This would potentially be what I thought of as a world cup slalom ski that is made to be more “all mountain”. This should be a ski that made the hair on the back of my neck stand up when I think about skiing it. Then I let Pete do his job. I got the preliminary design. We talked ski physics for an hour or so as he explained his design to me (this step is only for serious ski geeks). I picked a simple top sheet design that I really love and I waited.

Then I hurt my knee- torn meniscus. Season over. Then the skis came. They were so beautiful! They were really thick. Stiff. Powerful. But I couldn’t ski them! Oh no!

So I let a few other people ski them. Two different employees went out on them. They did not like them at all. Too much ski they said. This was not the first time other people did not like the skis I really really liked personally. They also thought I would love them. I was hoping they were right.

I finally got to ski them this last week. I spent two days on them.


I just don’t know what to say. I can normally review a ski pretty quickly.
Good at this- bad at that- yada, yada, yada. The Wagner’s were not like that. I
just skied. I didn’t really think about them. It was not till mid day that I
even realized that was the case. I just knew I was skiing great and having a
blast. so I paid more attention. The reason I didn’t think about them much
turned out to be because they simply disappeared. I did not have to compensate
for any single thing about the ski. I just skied and they did every thing I
asked of them. They never let me down.

The more I think about the skis the more blown away I am. I realize now that
every ski I own has a personality slightly off from my perfect needs. Too
stiff, too soft, too this and too that. The Wagners don’t make me change for
them. All other skis do.

I was going to do a comparison the second day. I had picked out Head Monster
88’s, Dynastar Power Track 89’s, and Ski Logik Front Burners to compare the Wagner’s to. I didn’t do it. I just skied the Wagner’s and marveled at how great
they were. How well suited they were for me. How big the “sweet spot”
is. How they combine all the great skis I have loved. How I like the graphic so
much. How I just love my skis.

The perfect ski. Pete Wagner builds the perfect ski.

Eric’s skis have arrived as have Paul’s. Ty has ordered some as well. It is
a whole new game. Come play if you like. Ski the demo’s to see how great a ski
he makes. Buy a pair off our rack if you fit the profile. Or if you want to
find out what your perfect ski feels like, it is now available. It is not cheap
but it is the only perfect ski made just for you. Pete guarantees it. It will
be your best day ever on snow!

For more information about Wagner skis visit http://www.wagnerskis.com/

 

 

It’s been going crazy around here! People are seemingly carrying over the excitement from last year into this season. The photo above is taken from the top of the stairs leading up to rentals. It shows eight (yes 8) boot fitters busy a few weeks ago on November 12th. That is amazing considering the time of year. So far we have been busier than ever before. Our Kickoff Sale is seven days and we broke records for single day sales, weekend sales, and overall sales. Since then we are up more than 30% over any previous year. Just incredible. We have only been open Thursday-Sunday since the Kickoff Sale as usual in the “pre season” and have had the entire staff working most days so that we could train new staff members. Many days we had five new staffers, three trainers, and five regulars to run the store and attend to customers. Instead everyone has been helping customers all day and the new staff has been learning as they go.
These are fantastic happenings from a business standpoint of coarse. It is also fun for us. When it is busy we have more fun for sure.
We are also enjoying our new boot room. We added about 800 square feet of space over the summer and it holds all of our boots, as well as the completed skis from the shop waiting for pickup. It is amazing to wonder where we put 1200 pairs of boots and 80-100 skis in here before we got the new room. No more off site storage units but it is still surprisingly cramped and crowded around here!
So that is where we are at. This week we go to being open every day. The snow is here. Staff and customers are skiing. Christmas is coming up before you know it and along with it comes the intense business rush that comes with the holiday season. Another season is upon us- yippee! Let it snow!

Working with Masters of their Art

This week was Masterfit University week in Reno. We had a great time. It was a small crew this year. We bring a big group every other year in a collaborative way with specific goals and tasks. The “off years” we only send a new fitters.  The group this year started out as a rookie fitter (Florian) and a third year fitter (Eric) to mentor him and get continuing education for himself. Then I decided I should go along to do some networking (and play some Wheel of Fortune perhaps?). At the last moment John Oshima went along too. John has gone through the
most advanced classes probably 10 times, but he just loves
to hang out and talk boots, so he gave me his best “puppy dog look” and
got thrown into the mix.

So what goes on at these events? Masterfit is the most important educational organization for Boot fitters world wide. (http://masterfitu.com/). They have instructional classes in the United Sates, Australia, and Europe. Masterfit also develops boot fitting tools and fit aids, plus they run the industry boot test each year (http://masterfitinc.com/). In addition they are the organization behind America’s Best Bootfitters (http://www.bootfitters.com/). We go to many different Boot clinics, conferences, and seminars. Some of them effect our concepts and best practices here at the shop. Others are good excuses to ski and hang out with our peers with a little boot talk thrown in. Masterfit is the grandfather of them all and where most good fitters should start their journey. Masterfit has classes for all levels of fitters and sections that cover all types of knowledge including foot and skier evaluation, foot bio-mechanics, alignment issues, shell or liner modification techniques, and even the business aspect of boot fitting. There were probably 30 choices of classes in addition to the main content for each level. Certificates are given for attaining various levels of education. Very comprehensive. Super fun!

If you have been reading my blog over the years, you have already heard most of this and I just have to say it again. Masterfit is a great organization! I respect that they are simply trying to do the right thing by helping to provide a better experience for skiers. Yes, Masterfit is a business and they make money off some of the things that they promote. But the people behind it and who do the work are not in it for the money. If that was the goal, they would find other things to do. They are involved with skiing and bootfitting because they love it.

On the way home we were speaking of why we work in the shop and we are the same way. I have a team of people that are all basically under paid for the amount of knowledge, expertise, and skill they bring to the table. Most (probably ALL) of us could make more money doing something else. But this is more fun. It is more rewarding. We get to sell fun and lifestyle to people. Our customers love to come here. Not many people are excited to go to the DMV or to visit the Dentist. People love to come here. They come here to buy and maintain their toys. The shop puts visions of skiing into their heads and skiing makes people smile.

Masterfit is like that too I think. The instructors are all top notch, underpaid for their level of expertise, and having a great time while doing it. I have gotten to know most of the instructors pretty well over the years. They tend to work at resorts. This allows them to have the free time to teach until the tourists show up. It gives them the opportunity to submerse themselves in ski boots for a few months. They get to travel. Kitzbuhel Austria is not a bad gig for a week or so. Australia? Not so bad either. But mainly I think that these folks do it because it allows the skiers throughout the world have a better experience one boot at a time, and that is simply what a bootfitters mission is- or at least I think so, and I would like to think my entire staff agrees. Bootfitting is not a competition. It is a passion.

So there you go. Masterfit is simply a group of really passionate people who do their thing to make the world a better place. That holds true for the owners, the teachers, and the students. Hard to beat ‘eh? We are lucky folks…

 

Holding our breath…

Well it is getting to be that time of year. The shop is about ready to rock and roll. Events are happening- tonight is our annual Backcountry Mixer. All we really need to get off the ground is some snow. Boreal has traditionally tried to open on Halloween. This year with all the El Nino talk it seems that Mt Rose was talking about opening a week earlier than that. Now it is too warm here this week to get excited but other places are ready to go. Sunday River in Maine is opening this Monday and will be the first resort in North America to open.
As a shop owner it is kinda important to see the resorts open. The sooner the better! Until they do, there is a chance they will not get enough snow to open until- who know? Christmas? That would be bad for business for sure. And we would all have to travel to ski or just keep waiting.
The Staff is eager too. A number of them need more hours and will not get them until it snows. And they want to be selling, renting, waxing, and fitting. Until it snows they are arranging, dusting, cleaning and the like.
The customers are getting more and more antsy too. This is like knowing you are going to a great concert but not knowing when it is going to happen. Just waiting to do something you know will be great…
And in the meantime we just wait. And try to remember not to hold our breath. Just relax. It will happen. And it will happen soon. Or it will be longer than that. But when it does happen it will be great- and that’s what counts!

The Buyers Guide issue Blog


Well the 2016 Ski
magazine buyers guide is out. Every year lots of skiers await the arrival
of this edition to get their winter stoke started. Many skiers also rely on this issue to
help decide what to buy. Over the years that mainly meant skis. Now they review
boots too. And in between all the gear reviews are the ads. There are ads from
all the major players. The review issues are to ski advertisers what the Super
Bowl is to beer company’s. Everything looks cool and inviting.
So the products are beckoning to the consumers. We know what this means and it is somewhat important to us as a retail shop. We know that highly rated skis will sell well for just that reason. We typically
look through the issue as a group and scoff at what we consider the
inaccuracies. To our mind, they always seem to get some things right and some
things wrong. But we know that customers will not always ask for our opinion compared to the printed word. And why should they? Ski magazines help sell skis- period. They are one of the many influencers the consumer is exposed to. It is a fact of our lives.
This year I perused the issue by myself for a number of
visits before we all looked together. I probably read every review once and those of ski’s I know well a
number of times. I analyzed the comparison tables. I looked at all the ads. Here
are my thoughts- right, wrong, or indifferent, about this years issue.
First of all I would like to say that one ad stood
out from all the rest. Volkl? No. Marker? No. It turns out that Deer Valley is
the Budweiser Clydesdales of Ski Magazine marketing. I agree that Deer Valley
is magical, but the 36 page ad (yes 36 pages!) was more than I needed to send that home. Pointing out that Deer Valley was rated one of the top three ski
resorts in North America for the past 10 years in a row by the readers of SKI
Magazine
(including five consecutive #1 awards),would do the trick don’t
you think? I will say that I enjoyed the ad though. It really made me feel the
experience of a ski vacation and got me thinking about how I love to ski and
that I would like to ski at Deer Valley some this year. The food, the lodging,
the grooming- all first class for sure. There is probably no more civilized
place to slide down hills on sticks than Deer Valley Utah! 
Next up was the short but important Trends section.A few highlights:
-Lighter skis are hot. Yes light is definitely still a trend in skis. What
is light done right however? Too light can be a problem and weight has its
advantages. I agree with all this.
-Revenge of the nerds? Are bootfitters Nerds? We always thought bootfitters
were cool!
-Best in test winners by brand. We agree that
blizzard deserves to be on top overall. We have carried them for years and know their excellence. Volkl and Rossi are both traditionally
strong as well. They are deserving of the next two spots.We actually added both brands this season with their best
scoring models in this test being the main reasons why. We came to the same conclusions during our own testing. Actually Volkl had the top scoreing models in the issue
based on points for both Men and Women. We are carrying those two skis (and
those two skis only) from Volkl this year.

Next came the ski test results by category. Skis are
tested by test skiers and given “report cards” of a sort. Scores are
compiled and averages  given. Results are
based on scores and a written review of the skis is provided talking about the
skis character and feel. You know- basic ski reviews. Overall the writing is
good. This year the reviews seemed to be pretty accurate to me.
There are things I have a problem with however. I
must state that I feel (once again) that both Head and especially Fischer were
under rated or simply did not send skis (or the right skis?) to the test. Our
shop test scores follow along with ski magazines on many models but those two
brands are glaringly absent. I am simply at a loss as to why these two brands
seem to fail at winning gold medals with Ski Magazine. On the other hand, it
was great to finally see Stockli really participate in the test. Surprisingly they
did not seem to enter the Stormrider 95 which we think is a fantastic ski.
Overall though this year’s scoring  seemed to be lined up pretty well with our testing
impressions and scores. Better than most years results from Ski Magazine do.
Why do our results vary from the test? The magazine testers
are certainly qualified for these tests if skiing excellence is the criteria.
However most of our customers are not level 10 skiers and we feel they may find
they get different outcomes. We still feel that 
Realskiers.com
(which we contribute to) is the most accurate testing and reviews for
consumers. Like our staff, the testers have a broader range of experience and
skill. We think this mirrors our customer base more closely.  I would also
guess that we are simply a bit partial to our brands and have a bit of
unintentional bias? Who knows, as we all do the best we can.
 
Things in the ski test that made me smile:
Four out of five stockli models tested win
“stability at speed” in their category. Most of them by A LOT.
 The fifth gets second place.  We have known this for years. Nice to
find others getting a chance to experience the Swiss Ski that we love here so
much. They are not for everyone…but you know who you are!
Head women’s skis have been embraced by the
magazines female testers. While I just noted that both Head and Fischer did not
show as well as expected in the men’s categories, at least Head did well on the
ladies side. While we loved the older head women’s skis, this new direction is
certainly exciting for us. We are glad the magazine thinks so too. 
Boot tests-
We think it is hard to test boots. The criteria has
to be based on performance with some fit notes thrown in. Since as bootfitters
we know that “comfort is king” to about 98% of our customers, we
don’t focus on performance as much as on fit issues when choosing our lineup of
boot models. That being said we were happy to see that the top two performing boots
in men’s technical models are ones we chose as well. The top performance boot
was the Head Raptor 140 which is a staff favorite. The magazine quote about the
boot was even from our own Eric Kipp who was one of the boot testers. Eric
said “…quick, stiff, precise, with an amazing feel for the
snow…”  How fun for Eric to be
recognized for his thoughts in a big review like this!
The Fischer vacuum boots also got a mention about
how “the stance is awesome”. This is important, because it is awesome
for everyone due to the molding. And the molding is why it is awesome. Other
boots do not do this. Other boots are set in their angles to factory settings.
There is a small amount of cuff adjustment on most boots but it is difficult to
get a boot aligned perfectly without paying for a lot of labor. The Vacuum
models becomes correctly aligned for whomever they are fit to (provided the
fitter is well trained). It is a magic feeling when you are aligned perfectly.
We feel this makes more difference than any other boot feature. Great skiers
spend hundreds of dollars extra to get aligned well in their boots. Vacuum
models do it for free. 
One thing the boot tests are disappointing on is the
seeming bias against 3 piece construction. Dalbello Krypton models were absent
entirely. We feel they ski great and offer comfort that is first rate. If the
testers all had free ride backgrounds instead of carving and race backgrounds,
we think it would be different. Maybe it’s just us? 
On an interesting tangent, the Dale boot from Salt
Lake City was tested and highly reviewed. We have sold these custom built boots
for about ten years now (I love my personal pair). We agree with their
assessment of the boot and would like to point out that the Dale is basically a
three piece boot too!
Overall it is good to see boots reviewed. Boot
reviews are tough. That is why they have just started doing them in a rigorous
fashion the last few years. The folks from Masterfit University are definitely the best crowd to take on this task. We felt it was important to have has a tester there.
Eric got the call because he is the right size and shape to test a lot of
different boots. I think it was a value to the shop and Eric felt that he
learned a lot. He got the scoop on the testing protocol, and skied more boots
over four days than he had in his whole life. One take away of Eric’s is that
he needs to spend as much time necessary to get himself in a legitimate World
Cup race boot. After feeling the power they posses he has decided he needs to
go there for himself. I found that to be an interesting and telling take away!

Viva la France?

France
 The highlighted country on the map to the left is France. There seems to be a chicken looking at the map of France. Under the chicken it say Rossignol. Why is this important you ask? I’ll tell you why…
 Our Fall Sale starts
tomorrow. We will  have a LOT of skis from last year marked way down in
price to make room for the new gear. Alongside these skis will be the
exciting new skis that have just arrived for the 2015/16 ski season.
For the first time, some of these will be from France.
France is where
Rossignol comes from. Rossignol has been in the ski business since 1907 and has
many Olympic and World Cup victories. We have not sold Rossignol in the past,
but we have always had a healthy respect for this iconic brand. We have
continually tested the Rossignol skis over the years and the current models ski
incredibly well and offer some fantastic values. After many years of stocking
primarily central Euopean skis, we have said “Viva la France!”. 
While
we still love our Swiss, German and Austrian skis we would like to think we
have evolved and become more open minded. We simply believe that Rossignol skis are
some of the best right now and are
pleased to finally offer Rossignol skis to our customers! 
So come on down and score some big savings on boots, skis or whatever else you need the next few weeks. The sale runs through September 13th. And while you are here, check out the latest and greatest from France!