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. ( 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 ( In addition they are the organization behind America’s Best Bootfitters ( 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
(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
(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?

 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!”. 
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! 

Will it be a GODZILLA El Nino?

Every year there are lot’s of forecasts for the upcoming winter. As a ski shop owner I tend to want to scan all the various predictions until I find the ones I like. Every year SOMEBODY thinks it will be a good snow year. Sometimes it is the National Weather Service, other times it is the Farmers Almanac. Some years it could even just be Tim from Alameda who has a hunch it will snow a lot.

  This year tall the forecasts seem to be similar- “HUGE EL NINO!” they are shouting. One newscaster last week even called it a “Godzilla” El Nino. I wasn’t sure how a huge Japanese monster had anything to do with yearly precipitation, but I am thinking Godzilla might be fun to ski with?

Anyway, it is hard to argue with the science behind it as I simply do not do my own ocean temperature monitoring. I just have to trust people that do it for a living. It is looking right now that it could be one of the strongest El Nino’s since 1950. That could be very very good news for us powder starved skiers here in the sunshine state! We were talking today about how much we have used our race skis the last few years as we mainly had firm snow to ski on. It would be nice to spend more time on the fat skis this year!

You can read more about El Nino’s if you are inclined here:

Whatever happens we will be here to help you have a great ski season. Boxes of goods are arriving every day. We open them, geek out at how cool it all is, and put it away for you to check out when you come in. We are currently getting ready for our big Fall Sale which starts on the 29th of August and runs through September 13. All the gear left from last year is at closeout “just get rid of it!” prices, and the 2015/16 stuff is on sale too with all of it’s shiny newness! Come on down and check it out. Gear up for a Godzilla year!

We should be having fun now!

We should be having fun right about now up in the Sierra.

But we aren’t unless we are up high or at a few select resorts.
Many of the Sierra resorts have closed and a few more probably should. Carson Pass is said to have a few pockets of good snow but not much is good in the back country either it seems.

There are a few exceptions that we keep hearing about:
Mt. Rose is way up high and still skiing well this spring.
Mt. Batchelor has had it’s own weather system all year and is holding snow well into the spring.
Alta has considerably more snow than any of the other Salt Lake resorts and is good to go for spring skiing.
Brians Head in Southern Utah is having a better than average year.
When on the phone to Fischer skis back in New Hampshire I actually heard “I am so sick of winter! It’s snowing again today!” To which I replied that I was going to golf tomorrow. I’m not really going to golf but I knew that would make him jealous. It was all I had in response to the snowpack in New England.

So it is not dry everywhere at least.

So will you find the time and make one last trip?

It is not seeming that anyone is still enthused here at the shop…

We are having what may be the biggest markdown sale in the history of the business and we only had a few sales today. We spent all day ordering shop supplies for summer maintenance and to be ready for next year.

Which we better start preparing for now because the forecasts are coming in!

Here are two:

ECMWF:  December looks wet, and we all will certainly be crossing our fingers that this verifies. California is in the midst of a truly devastating and historic drought. January and February looks warm. February could be wetter than average for northern California.

Farmers Almanac:  a warmer than average winter, although not by too much.
January is slightly on the wet side. 

Fingers crossed! I may try to ski one more time. Then I golf, cycle, fish, etc.

If you are not busy and want to save some serious money come on by before April 12th. All skis are 40-60% off. Everything else is cheap too. We would be happy to see you!

Travelling to snow on the cheap

We have been selling a lot of bags lately. It seems that the customers are willing to travel to find good snow. And traveling to Tahoe has not gotten the job done lately. So our customers are flying all over. Employees too. John just spent 5 days at Jackson Hole and Erik was at Copper Mountain in Colorado this week.
Basically people want to follow the snow. So how much would it cost to go out of state to ski?
I thought I would do some research…
Where is the snow? Utah has some good snow, and I have gone there enough to know it is pretty cheap and easy.
I like to ski at both Deer valley and Squaw Valley. Both are great. Utah is
more exotic and Deer Valley has won the award as best resort in North America 3
of the last 5 years in Ski Magazine. Plus Utah has had better snow this year.
Actually it almost always has better snow- it is right on the License plates-
they say “greatest snow on earth”!
So exactly how much
more would it cost to go to ski Deer Valley for a day? I Picked March 18th as a
good day because I have that day off and I looked it up.
Deer Valley
Southwest Airlines leaves Oakland at 6am on 3/18/15 and arrives at
8:45 for just $49
Southwest leaves for home at 8:10pm so I can have dinner
before I leave. It arrives at 9:05 for $59
All Resorts Express charges $90 round trip to take you to
the resort of your choice.
Lift ticket is Free with a boarding pass from the same
day through or go to
Total ski cost $0
Total transportation cost $198
Total cost is $198
Squaw Valley
Leave at  6am and
it is a three hour drive covering 183 miles each way.
Eat Dinner and leave Squaw at 6:00pm and you are home at
 At 20 miles per
gallon it is 18.3 gallons of gas. Assuming $3 per gallon that runs $54.90 for
(Using Federal Guidelines of .575 per mile reimbursement
cost it is $210.45)
Lift Ticket bought with at least a two day advance is $95
($24 savings from “at the window”)
Total cost is $149.90 with just gas at $3 per gallon)
So you can see it is not that much more to go skiing in
And you leave and arrive home at about the same time depending upon where you live.
I looked up Lodging and the Yarrow hotel is $139 in Park
City Utah. Squaw Valley lodge starts at $159
So a second day is not too much more either!
Something to think
about… and if you have other travel tips or ideas let us know so we can pass them on!
Diect link to the free pass at Deer Valley:
All Resorts Transportation_
Squaw tickets and lodging-

Jackson has such nice legs!

This last week has been eventful. We were very busy at the shop over the weekend. We have four new hires running around looking confused but interested. We have had multiple product clinics including Dynafit, Fischer, Stockli, Toko…the list goes on.  Then on Monday the shop sent a crew up to Masterfit University boot training in Reno. We do boot training on a regular basis through a variety of different groups that have things they can teach us. This is the one that is the biggest (and the closest) however and I always enjoy it. So this year I went along for the two day class as well.
Three of us were in the “Dark Arts” group which is the most experienced group of fitters. It is always so great to be able to get deep into boot fitting with people that have so much experience. Greg Hoffman, Jack Rafferty, and Jim Schaffner were the instructors for this years session. All three are legends in the world of ski boot fitters and are all very good instructors to boot!
Jackson Hogan’s stance is being scrutinized by Greg Hoffman. I think Greg is saying “nice superior extensor retinaculum!” I love this place!

Also in the Dark Arts group were Corty Lawrence, Jackson Hogan, a Canadian or two, some folks from Viking Ski in Chicago (always good boot folks over the years) and a number of other people that I really enjoyed spending time with. It is just not that often that we get to spend time with our peers like this. Most of the time we are working hard to keep your feet happy in our own little world without too much of a chance to come up for air. I always feel very lucky that I get to work with a group of bootfitters as talented as the ones here at the shop. We have gotten to know each other as fitters so well over time, however, that we love to get out and freshen it up with some other boot geeks!
It is also great to be able to talk business with people that I respect very much in the industry. While we are on one level “competitors”, we are also all in this together and only wish the best for each other. Also interesting is getting to chat with the many ski shop folks taking the more basic classes from shops all over the place. Sports Basement had some folks there. SSV employees from Any Mountain and Northstar were well represented too. Everyone seemed to be learning a lot, having a great time, and very passionate about selling boots.
There is also a great social vibe and we spent a dinner downtown with Phil Pugliese (Start Haus)and his wife Trish ( Trish also works at True North at Northstar and her co-worker came along too. Lots of Chinese food was consumed and a good time was had by all. I went back and turned in early but a few of the younger (or at least feeling younger) boys and girls came back and headed right for the casino floor.
So now it is back to the shop to compare notes from the different classes and breakout sessions. And we will start full time hours this week too. Boreal opened today. It is all happening. I love it. Winter is coming!

Vacuum once a year if you need it or not…

I think I may “vacuum” my boots more than I vacuum at home!
A few years ago, I was lucky enough to be one of the first “civilians” to get a pair of Fischer Vacuum boots made for me. I flew to Salt Lake City and the Fischer Race support guru molded my boots. He had been fitting the revolutionarry new boots to all the Fisacher World Cup race athletes and was excited to fit his first potential dealer.
The process started by heating some boot shells in an oven. Then he put my foot into the liner and laced it up with shoe laces. When the plastic boot was heated up enough, he put my foot in it and put some big bags around the boots. I was placed on a machine that held me in one place. Then the bags were pumped up to a high pressure which pushed the boot against my foot and leg. When the process was over my boots were “molded” to my foot shape! I skied them the next day and was sold on the concept. I knew after 30 yards that they were the best boots I had ever skied.
That winter we partnered with Fischer as one of a dozen or so shops in the country to carry the new boot the following season. Our initial order was for about 60 pairs. I skied the boot that spring and was overwhelmed with the great fit and performance. Before the shipment date we upped the order to over 250 pairs!
Since then we have made the vacuum process a big part of our program. The vacuum boots have become our best selling models. They also have the lowest percentage of “comebacks” for modifications. This is great for the customers. Everybody prefers to get a pair of boots and just ski them happily from the very first day.
As we have worked with the boots I have been the guinea pig for a variety of upgrades and experimental processes. First I worked with a liner company to develop a warmer liner as the initial models were a bit on the cold side. I remolded my shells a few times to help sort that out. Then I molded them to my Intuition brand liners from my old boots to compare the fit to the newly developed warmer liners. After that I worked with a company that makes a “foam injection” liner and they molded my shells with the injected liners (in Salt Lake City again). That was a wild one- Vacuum bags getting pumped up to pressure while the foam was injected into the liner at the same time! After skiing that liner for the best part of last year I got Fischer to send me a pair of their 2014/15 liners and I remolded the shells again. My plan was to ski this excellent liner for the 14/15 season.
Now we have obtained a new piece of hardware available from Fischer to help mold the boots even more effectively and quickly. We can now control the fit of the front half of the boot separately from the back half.  Guess who got to be the crash test dummy on the new device? Right – ME!
But it is all in good fun, and I need to learn with my staff. Somebody has to to get up there on the machine and give input. So at this point I can probably say I have more experience from the “consumer” side of the process than about anyone. I have had numerous liners and have molded them at a wide variety of pressures and stances. If I do the process just as we have developed our shop protocols, they come out spectacular every time. I simply love these boots!
And for anyone that thinks the vacuum boots don’t mold and change A LOT to each customer as needed, check out the photo above. The left boot is mine and the right boot is a stock boot of the same size and model. Apparently I pronate quite a bit and I also seem to have chubby heels…but you know that your feet always look heavier in photos right?

To see a video of the Vacuum process go to:

To see the Vacuum part of Fischers web site:


Let’s get this party started!

Martin is getting ready. He has his party hat on. We are all busy as beavers getting the store ready for the ski season. We have made lots of changes and getting things dialed. Staff training season is here too so the company representatives are coming in to do their educational training. and on top of that the customer traffic flow has been higher than ever before during the early season.
It feels like go time.
But it is not- it is “get ready for go time“.
Go time is another level altogether!
But for now this is exciting and keeps us very busy.
In the last few weeks we have:
-Doubled our rental department in size (Lot’s more alpine gear plus we added back country skis and boots for men and women)
-added about 240 feet of new boot shelving
-eliminated all clothing items from the store. Mens, womens, and kids. We still have accessories…
-expanded our ski and back country areas
-built and installed two new boot fitting stations to accommodate four customers
-launched a new social media campaign on Facebook etc. (I do not know much about all that but trust my staff when they say that this is happening?)
-Brought in three new employees
Sponsored a back country movie last week
-committed to Snowbomb the week end of 11/10 and 11/11
– Committed to a back country mixer the night of 11/16
-Filmed a segment for Kevin Tinto of on what is new in boots, plus a segment on skis and one on gloves.
So. Now we need to put the finishing touches on a number of these things. And by then I suspect…
It will be Go Time!