Skiing with a Hart on…

Sorry for the off color title today. Couldn’t resist. Wednesday Brian and I skied Sugar Bowl. The goal of the day was to take a good look at Hart skis hence the bad title pun. Hart skis you ask? Yes, Hart skis. Started in 1943 by Hartvig “Hart” Holmberg in Minnesota. Hart had been a force in the US ski industry and peaked in the freestyle ski era of the late 70’s and early 80’s.. In particular you may remember the Javelin model or images of Billy Kidd or Susie Chaffee (if you are old enough) on Hart skis. The companies ownership changed hands at some point however and US distribution subsided or went away completely for some years. Until now. The next chapter of the Hart story puts ownership in the hands of the grandson of Hart Holmberg and the headquarters are back in the USA. Current production is in Italy and all the skis are hand made and hand finished. Plans are on the table to move production back to the US in Minden Nevada (just over the hill from Heavenly Valley). Interesting. Another Stockli perhaps? A US built Stockli in a few years? We went to Sugar Bowl to find out!
We met Eric, the local Hart rep at 10:00. Erik is a good guy. We enjoyed our time with him. Nice guy and fun to ski with. He has come on board as the West Coast representitive and has only been at it for a few months. Eric doesn’t have all the answers yet but he was honest when he wasn’t sure of things. Eric had four skis for us to try. A 63 waisted model called the Attack, a 67 waisted Phoenix, an 86 waisted Fuelie Scarab and a 91 waisted Fuelie Boss. These were 07/08 models and there would be changes for next year including a change to bamboo for the cores. Prices would go down a bit from this year but we are still talking about $1000 skis. Expensive but worth it? Click in to the Markers and let’s go see! I am not going to do a full review here but overall the skis were good. Not mind blowing, but good. We had taken a Palmer, a Fischer race ski, a Stockli Stormrider XL and a Head iM78 to use as comparison skis. The Head and the Stockli stayed in the car as there was no competing Harts available. The Fischer and certainly the Palmer were more exciting than the Harts overall. I would rate the Harts a shade below excellent. The jury is still out however. There were some questions about the tune and set up of the Harts that I would like to check into more. There are also a few models that were not there to ski that we will pick up and take to Mammoth. I also see the line changing and evolving over the next few years- particularly if they make the move to Nevada. I like the idea of precision skis with a traditional bent being made in the US. There are currently a number of new US makers that all seem to have a “big mountain” only mentality. Hart does race, freestyle, and all mountain models. I am not ready to load up the ski wall with Hart models just yet but I would love to be on board from the beginning if Hart can achieve it’s goals over the next decade. Mammoth will tell all. At the price point we need to find a ski that can compete at the Stockli level of excellence to be able to sell them effectively. It will be fun to find out!
For more information on Hart, you can visit their website at: http://www.hartskis.com/home.php

Final Exams are like Clearance Sales?

We have a closing date now. May 11 will be the last regular retail day of the year. The days at work are different now. The end of the road is in sight and there is a tendency to just relax and wait. “Dudeman” has it about right in the photo to the left. Customer pressure is low so there is plenty of time to do nothing if that is ones choice. Instead of doing nothing we should be staying hard at it so that we have less to do in late May after we are technically closed. To keep motivated we are running an advertised sale from the 25th till the last day. This means pricing all the inventory, creating sale tags and doing all the merchandising. It is also a good excuse to schedule everybody for the weekend of the 25th and 26th and have an end of the year dinner the evening of the 25th. It should be fun. I expect to sell a lot of gear and the prices really are going to be down and dirty so the customers will be excited too!

In the meantime in addition to sale preparations, we continue to do inventory counts and the shop is starting to do the yearly maintenance on the rental fleet. Martin added some machinery that speeds up the waxing process for rentals and it maintains a bath of melted wax which makes the shop smell good! End of season tune ups are the main labor request at this point, but many are still at it and coming in for spring snow wax jobs. Todd’s last official day was Saturday. His wife Ashley is doing job training on the East Coast for a few weeks so he is Mr. Mom until she is back. So it’s mainly John, Martin and myself holding down the fort and everyone else has lost their work hours until the sale starts. Brian still comes by most days to work on his “frankenboot” project, and Christian, JJ, and others come by just to hang out for a bit. All in all it’s kinda like the end of senior year of High School. It will all be over soon, there is not a lot of pressure to work too hard, final exams (or clearance sales) are upcoming but overall the hard work is done and we are just enjoying our final days together before we do what we do in the summer.

Torn between two lovers

Well the weather has been really nice for the last month or so. Nice if you don’t like new snow that is! Nice if you don’t care about selling ski gear that is! Nice if you want to go bike riding or golfing that is! Oh well, I guess that’s why I have been doing a bit of bike riding and golfing. I wish I was writing about an epic powder day but I am not. The season is grinding to a sunscreen protected twilight that will probably end in Tahoe at the end of April if nothing changes. Even if we get a get a big storm, not that many people will head up to ski as I think many people have mentally converted to a spring/summer mindset. Tahoe residents wake up every day to snowpack all around them. They are still in winter mode. Down here we wake up to sunshine and mild temperatures. Lot’s of customers ask “if there is any snow left” at Lake Tahoe? Out of sight, out of mind. Yesterday I did a summer storage wax for a customer. It was the first one this year but they will be coming in regularly at this point. We have great prices and have brought in a bunch of closeout skis and boots but sales are a bit slower now and after the spring break rental returns, the rental department will be pretty lonely. I figure there is at least a month more business and 6-8 more ski days for me. Since we have a bit more free time we will use it wisely to do a full inventory count one category at a time. Then we will shift into spring cleaning and summer project mode. I am guessing that we will see Tahoe resorts close down at the end of the month for the most part. We may even be skiing at Mammoth for our final romp in early May. I hope not but that may be the case. It is strange to have an event like the staff Mammoth trip hanging out there. It is super fun so I kind of want it to be soon but as a business owner, I want it to be in June instead of May. Torn between two lovers? Wow, that was corny- on that note I’m off to the “office”…

About Peter Keelty

Peter Keelty is a skier that all skiers should love. He is fun to ski with for any style or level of skier. He is fun to just hang out with in general. An interesting and knowledgeable guide to ski with at Alta, Deer Valley, Snowbird or other Utah ski venues. With about 100 extra pounds he would look a lot like Santa Claus- and he has a matching “ho Ho Ho’ type laugh to go along with the image. Mostly we should all love him because of all he has done for the sport that we love.
Peter has been a director of instructors, rental department setup guy, an industry sales rep and a host of other titles at snowy places all around the country. All the usual mountain jobs. Peter has also been a reviewer and writer for many important ski publications, and high level skier and instructor. He has designed or contributed to the development of products that many of you are currently using. Peter has for some time now been working with Harold Harb and John Clendenin on a variety of collaborative projects. Both are highly regarded ski industry icons. (see http://www.expertskier.com/members/index.html) . Together these folks have created a complete methodology for teaching and learning the art of skiing.
As a writer, Peter has now moved from magazines and newsletters to the world of the internet. Peter builds websites for CalSkiCo and many other ski industry folks. His own www.Realskiers.com site has (what I consider to be) the best ski reviews available anywhere. Done on a much larger scale than the standard magazine format, this is the only source of reviews that I really find to be accurate across the board. In addition, there are boot reviews, instructional information and links, a number of good articles on various and pertinent ski topics, and a members forum. Anyone looking to buy a ski really needs to use this resource. Check it out. It is on my short list of favorite places. I simply love good ski reviews!
Anyway, that’s my unsolicited endorsement for Peter Keelty. Thanks for showing us around Utah. Also my personal thanks for about 40 years of contributions to our sport. Hope to see you in Mammoth this spring.

Happy people in Utah

As you can see from the photo, Rebecca was pretty happy to be sking in Utah. We all were. We were able to ski with Peter Keelty of www.realskiers.com fame on Monday and Tuesday and that was great. Peter combined a passholders tour of the resort with some great instruction each day. Monday at Deer Vallay was great with 6 of us. Tuesday at Alta with 7 in the group was great too. Wednsday we made a great decision and went back to Alta with a smaller group of 4. Todds dad’s rental boots were fine so that was great. We were sking the greatest snow on earth and that was great. Both resorts we went to had no snowboarders and that is great. Todd picked all the resteraunts which were all great. I saw really great moguls for the first time in a while. We were all on gear that we think is great. The greatest thing however is being able to share these great things with people you enjoy spending time with and enjoying the experience together. SOOO glad I was able to take my daughters. They are simply the funniest and most fun girls on the planet. Throw Todd into the same room and I feel like I am watching a sitcom. Great times!

The buying part is over

The Reno trade show has come and gone. I am now home contemplating various decisions that I made and packing to go to Utah on Sunday. I brought home some fresh new Head Mojo 94’s to mount up and take on the trip, so that’s exciting! Negotiations in Reno went well. A few new faces on our sticks will include a Palmer model (won’t sell many but it is just SO awesome!), two models of Line skis, Full Tilt boots, POC helmets, and some new clothing lines. John and I had a great time amoung all the candy and brought home some Fischer race skis, the Mojo’s, a pair of boots, a POC helmet and various other items. Leaving the building with all our loot we took some ribbing from various sales reps about having to pack up more goodies than them! The trip was mostly business but as is my way I always try to have a bit of fun as well. Tuesday night we went to a WWSRA sponsored party for cocktail and dinner with Brad our Stockli rep. There we closed the place down with “Alvie” from Rossignol, Neil from Sun Valley Ski tools, and Steve Baugh of Scott (as well as the namesake of “Baugh’s bowl” in Grand Targhee). At the end the group of us was standing around one of the tables after everyone else had left. When the hotel staff cleared out the mess and eventually took away the kegs we all moved on to the Brews brothers bar. There we continued our Merriment and about 11:30 added Tequila to the group fun. Somewhere along the way I literally bumped into Doug Yeggy. He is one of my closest friends and lives in Chico. Doug was more than happy to join the fun. After a number of rounds of shots we headed up to John and my room for a final session of war stories. At about 2:15 the final hangers on gave in. All except Alvie. He went to have breakfast before bed. What a great group of people there are in the ski industry! A special thanks to Alvie for taking so much abuse about all things French the entire evening. All in good fun of coarse!
Tuesday night was all work as John helped me make the tough decisions. A few tweaks will be made over the next month or so, but I now have a picture of the product mix for next year and it will be stronger than ever before. Now there are o few days of work at the shop and then Todd, his father, myself and both my daughters will be ripping up the slopes of the state with the greatest snow on Earth! Hopefully I will get in a few turns with Peter Keelty from Realskiers.com and Tony Hedgecock who is the Western sales manager of Head. Appropriately we will be skiing a Head Mojo 94 (me), a Head iM88 (Todd), a Head iM78 (Todds dad), a Head Wild Thang (daughter Rebecca), and a Fischer Vision Vapor (daughter Jennifer). At least Tony will know that we are comitted to his brand! I’ll let you know how it went when I get back.

Time to buy!

So in this wacked out industry it’s time to buy for next year. I leave for Reno for three days tomorrow and by the end I will have turned in my orders for next years inventory. Yes, a month ago I first saw it, a few weeks ago I tried the skis, and tomorrow I go to place my orders for next year. I think it is appropriate that the show is in Reno since I will basically be rolling the dice. Two big question marks: 1)It has been sunny and warm for a few weeks now. Will winter return with a vengence and clean out lot’s of inventory, or will March be warm and sunny and pretty much end the sales season? and 2) How will the economy/weather treat me next year?
On both points you can guess what I would like to have happen. The real question is “do I feel lucky”? If I go conservative on the buy I am safe but risk losing sales because I will run out of inventory items. If I go for it and commit to more product I can reap the benefits of a huge year (That’s exactly what happened this year) but I could also end the year with too much carry over and no cash. That means boiled potatoes all next summer instead of steak (or at least hamburger)! A few years of bad choices in a row and I could be the next independant retailer to disapear. That would suck for me and I believe for you and indeed for all of America too. Therefore, if you have any inside information regarding the rest of this season or next years weather, please let me know. Untill I hear from you I will simply be driving up the hill, putting down my money, and hoping for a blackjack. Wish me luck!

Post Demo days thoughts

Well I had four days last week to decide what is what with next years skis. I didn’t get to ski everything I would have liked to, but I got to ski a lot of skis! We covered all our current brands models as well as heavy time on Blizzard, and some models from Scott, Movement, Amplid, Hart, Rossi, K2, Salomon, Atomic, Line and others. What a great event and a super fun experience. Thanks to Will Lachenaur and the rest of the WWSRA delegates as well as the WWSRA employees for putting it on.

What I cannot figure out is why more dealers don’t show up. It is amazing to me that dealers order skis without skiing them! The sales reps do all they can to make these events fun and easy but still the turnout is probably less than half what it should be. Why anyone would skip a few days of skiing on the products you will be selling next year, going to free parties with all the food and beer you want, a chance to talk shop with your peers, and then ski with Ingrid Backstrom, Jessica Sobolowski, and other “celebrity” skiers is beyond me. It’s one of those things that make you go hmmmm…

Anyway, we skied lot’s. About ten testers from Calskico filled out test cards for everything they skied. The test cards will be put into an excel spreadsheet for my use (thanks David B) and then sent off to Realskiers.com for inclusion in their ski test database. I think we covered about a hundred skis. Most models have multiple cards. Brian at Mammoth and Christian at Kirkwood share my boot legnth, so that is who I typically skied with. That way we could do a few runs and then trade skis without readjusting the bindings. At Mammoth we skied in packs of 4-6 so we could really get a lot of testing done. At Kirkwood we broke off more into ski catagories and did personal comparisons. Christian and I took Ladies skis and 95-100mm waist models.

Highlights of the Demo:

Stockli XXL, Palmer carving ski, Head iM78 chip, Fisher Watea line, Fischer Vision lineup, Elan 777, the Basque Dinner with the Fischer Crew in Garnerville NV, Showing the local hotshots how to play foosball with my Dalbello/Elan rep Will Lachenauer at the watchtower bar, Amplid C7 carving ski, the new Scot Schmidt model from Stockli (Please don’t soften the tip if you are listening Scot).

It was nice to talk with and ski with other dealers as well. I don’t think it is a coincidence that I did see Jim from The Starthaus, Christian Denis from Elite Feet, the Footloose gang and other representation from what I consider to be the better shops. Christian and I always seem to find we have similar viewpoints on matters having to do with sliding down hills on sticks. I only wish I could ski like him! It must suck to be on the slope at squaw a few hours every day!

Special thanks to Robin Barnes from Heavenly, Blake Yeamans and Guy for their input on the test.

Overall I was VERY pleased with our lines for next season. I’ll post our test results when they are compiled.

Days of Bliss

Tomorrow after work I head out for four days of bliss. It’s demo time! Two days at Mammoth followed by two days at Kirkwood skiing all next years gear. This year the Ski Rep association has decided to do seperate Norcal and Socal events so if you go to both you get four days to ski the new models. This is great news as we need to check things out as thouroughly as possible. Brian, Todd, Becky and myself will do Mammoth. Becky stays on and Christian, Heather and others will make it to Kirkwood for the second session. Whoo Hoo!! Looking forward to trying all our current lines plus Hart, Palmer, Line, 4Front and a variety of “possibles”. Also looking at the competition. The Rossi’s look interesting and we always have to check out the Chinese skis (K2) as that is what we will be selling against in our area. Wish me luck in finding magic for our customers!

Trying to test some skis

Wednesday was great. I Skied the Stockli Scot Schmidt vs. the Scott Mission vs. the Head iM 88 in the morning. The Schmidt is magical. Afternoon was the Head iM78 vs. the Fisxher Race SC. Since the Race SC is my personal ski I really enjoyed a half day on them. We had a great time skiing everything thet Sugar Bowl had to offer. Brian joined NASTC for the secong half of the day for some backcountry training, He was impressed with the instruction and went back Thursday for more fun with NASTC including drop runs down to Donner Lake. All in all it was SUPER FUN!

Next week, however, the testing becomes serious. Next week we test the 2008/09 crop of skis and have to make some serious decisions. Testing is split between Nortern and Southern California this year. Southern is in Mammoth followed by Northern at Kirkwood. I will do both. Monday through Thursday next week will be the time to make decisions that will dictate next years ski wall- and with it my economic future. No stress… yeah right!

Brian, Becky and myself will go to Mammoth. Christian. Heather, Becky, Todd and others will join us at Kirkwood. John is out of the loop with a bad knee. Otherwise almost everyone will have some input. In addition, our regimin for testing will change a bit as we will be filling out cards for the Realskiers.com reviews. Peter has a slightly different testing scorecard setup, but we should easily assimilate.

A few weeks after the Demo I go to Reno and put in the orders for skis. The skis show up in August and we have our big kick-off sale. Then we see what skis sell well throughout the season. That is our business cycle, and the next week will point me towards decisicons that will have a big impact on my life. In the end all I know how to do it is to ski the skis, choose what will work best in the various catagories, and buy them.

Wish me luck!