There’s no such thing as a free (heel) lunch…

Sometimes I feel that I need to write on this blog page to keep it current and I have to think a bit to come up with something interesting to write about. This time of year there is so much going on that I have to decide what not to write about. This time of year I think to myself (with some guilt) that I should have made more entries in the last month. Because there truly are a lot of interesting things happening in a ski shop in the middle of winter. At least this one…

So lets high-lite some things I COULD have written about and then I will write some about just one topic. Although the blog is called rambling from CalSkiCo for good reason so I make no promises…

I COULD do a whole blog about how great my staff is. That would make about 10 people really happy around here at least. But it might not be the most interesting thing for you other readers, so I will pass on that.

I COULD write about my experience at the recent national trade show in Denver. That is always interesting, but I do that most years. If you want to read about that just go into the archives and look at entries from late January or early February. Let’s just say that there is a bunch of very cool new stuff for next year!

I COULD write about how there has been only one single little snow storm since mid November or so. How the industry is in a bad state because of it. How many dealers and company sales reps are freaking out. How storefronts will close. How Reps will leave the industry to find consistent paychecks selling widgets or toilet paper. All the doom and gloom stuff. But that is simply depressing stuff, and any regular skier already knows it has not been a good snow year. Plus I just wrote about that the day after Christmas so you could simply re-read that entry if you want to get depressed… 

I COULD write about how we are currently throwing a massive store wide SALE unlike any we have ever had this time of year. All skis are 30-50% off. Clothing is all at least 30% off. Helmets, gloves, goggles and the like are all 20% off etc. But this blog is not about store promotion (although it just crept in right there!).

I COULD write about how we are now on Facebook and even have a twitter account. How I have wanted to do this for a while and finally it is happening due to my great and creative staff. How they have been doing interesting and creative entries and videos to post. How you should all check it out.

But instead of all that let’s talk a bit about backcountry skiing. Yes, I said backcountry skiing. What does that actually mean you may be asking? Backcountry skiing basically refers to two things in my mind. One aspect is simply alternative bindings to conventional alpine set-ups that allow one to also go uphill on skis instead of just going down. The second aspect is the “backcountry” part meaning no lift tickets, no crowds, and a more pure mountain experience.

Backcountry ski shops typically cater to what we might categorize as cross country, telemark, and randonee skiing. If you don’t know what that stuff means look it up. Or just type in “backcountry skiing” into your search engine and explore. If you are familiar with these terms then you may know that for the last 15 years or so the backcountry skiing has been the stronghold of Marmot Mountain Works here in Berkeley. They have been specializing in this aspect of our sport as well as climbing and camping gear and doing a good job of it. We have done lot’s of binding mounts and worked on lot’s of boots meant for this aspect of skiing that were sold by Marmot over the years. CalSkiCo and Marmot have had a great symbiotic relationship. Many are the times that customers have asked if we were going to start doing backcountry gear. My stock answer has always been that it is a small niche market and that Marmot was representing it well already. If we competed with them there would then be two entities right in the same town serving the entire bay area for this niche market and it was better to allow Marmot to take all the business and do it right.

Well Marmot is closing down this month. They have a second store in Washington state and the owner has decided to close the Berkeley location. It is a sad thing for many who enjoy this aspect of the sport. Marmot has taken care of the needs of thousands of enthusiasts over the years. Now the closest real backcountry shop for them is ‘The Backcountry Store” in Truckee. Sunrise in Livermore has some stuff. Gary down at Helm in San Mateo dabbles a bit with a boot line to compliment his alpine boots. But as far as I know that’s it. And someone has to take up the slack. Should it be California Ski Company?

I have thought about this a lot over the last decade. We have always been a true specialty shop. No snowboards. No summer business model. Just alpine skiing. Sticking to our core competency. But as time has gone on, the line between alpine and backcountry has become blurred a bit. Mainstream alpine companies are now getting involved with backcountry, and it has crept into our store all on its own. Marker Duke bindings came out as a crossover alternative to established randonee bindings and are hanging on our wall. Fischer Watea skis are so light that they are desirable as backcountry skis and we have sold many pairs for this use. They are even notched for mounting climbing skins from the factory like true backcountry specific skis are. We have sold Stockli “touring” skis as alpine models because they worked well for that purpose. We even stocked the Dalbello Virus backcountry boot for a season. The shop mounts enough backcountry bindings that we have mounting jigs for the more popular brands. We are very familiar with the whole world of backcountry.

Now both Salomon and Tyrolia have new backcountry bindings that will be marketed under the brand names of Salomon, Atomic, Head, Fischer, and Elan. And all of those brands have plans to continue to develop this aspect of their offering. The truth is that while backcountry still only represents about 2% of the industry sales, it is the fastest growing market segment for the last number of years. It has grown to the point that the “Big Boys” have taken notice. They have decided to compete against the small backcountry specialty brands. Now they will advertise it and drive the backcountry scene even more. You will see more and more articles in Ski, Skiing, and Powder magazines. Mens journal and Outdoor magazine will do backcountry gear expose’s.

And I have the resources to give it a go. Steve and Gabe are serious about their backcountry skiing. Steve even teaches backcountry skills classes while working here too. I have a great realtionship with Rich Meyer who is the guru of backcountry skiing here in the Bay Area, and have done some backcountry skiing with him up on Mt. Shasta. Some of the staff at Marmot have even contacted me and want to meet to discuss being part of integrating their niche expertise into California Ski Company. If we are going to expand our offering, backcountry seems the logical way to do it. It is not selling out or compromising like snowboard sales would be in my eyes; it is certainly skiing. It is not a second seperate summer business which would limit my time off in the summer (selfish?-YES!). And the market and industry is making it easier each year to see why it would make sense. The staff is very into it, but it is not there money so they just think it would be fun. I have to look at it from a business standpoint. My argument against it has always been that Marmot already did a great job and satisfied the needs of the greater Bay Area for a core backcountry shop. Splitting that business between us might make for two decent options instead of one really good one. But the market is changing. Backcountry is growing. And Marmot is gone…

What do you think? I think that if we don’t do it somebody else will. Actually I know that is the case. If not this year then soon. I think that we are already spatially challenged but have always found a way to cram more into this funky cool retail space. I think that this is NOT the year to make a big move from a financial standpoint due to a down sales year. But I think now is the time to strike if I have the desire and the nerve to take a bit of a gamble on next years weather. No risk, no reward, right? And as they say “There’s no such thing as a free (heel) lunch”.

Again I ask- what do YOU think? As customers your input is of the utmost value to us. email me at, write a comment on the blog, or give us a call. If you have an opinion we would like to hear it…

And pray for snow. “Thinking snow” doesn’t seem to be getting it done this year!

Staring at the horizon…

Well now it is official. We are in “snow drought” conditions. As snow farmers we simply need snow to make money on our products. And we have not had any snow. And it doesn’t look promising for this week either. Crap.

So now what? Well, we keep waiting. And hoping. And praying. But at this point one must make some adjustments to the game plan too. We are down 28% for December as of Christmas eve. That means about $70,000 less money coming in for the month. Being down in an early or late season month is bad. Being down in December really hurts as it is the biggest sales month of the year for us. We are lucky to have had a strong year leading up to December and were up 30% going into the month. Now we are up only 8% for the season to date. Our big fall numbers have been off-set for the most part, and the rest of our cushion will be gone soon too, as January is our second biggest month. So I forced to deal with some cause and effects right now. We have staffed up big time due to our strong early sales. With good snowfall we expected to be UP quite a bit for December so I set staff levels to handle it. I have not cut back on hours yet as my staff depends on paychecks that were promised to them. So I have absorbed the hit myself so far. I have tried to keep them busy but there is only so much work to do. Mostly we need customers to come in and generate the need for work to be done. Tuning, restocking, selling etc. don’t happen without customer flow. But now I will have to cut hours until it snows. Same sales plus higher payroll is not good business. I hate that and the other employees hate it more!

Also to be considered is sell through.  That is to say that we have stock that needs to be sold. If it is not sold in a timely manner it devalues (can you say close outs?). Not just here in these walls but all over there are shops that will be worrying about selling through their inventories of skis, boots, clothing, and, well, everything. So many of them will start to discount earlier than they normally would. Human nature plus nervous owners plus bills to be paid will make certain this happens in some stores. Which makes everyone’s stock worth a bit less. It is a vicious phenomenon that must be managed properly form store to store across the land.

None of this lack of snow stuff and how it effects our business is a secret to anyone. KNBC news came and spent most of a day here doing interviews with staff and customers last week and filming for a ten minute spot on the evening news. It was my day off and I did not see the telecast but I understand that Martin may be up for an Emmy award. They say any press is good press…

The good news is that I am still sane and happy to be going in every day. Some of the sales reps have told me that they dread calling on certain accounts as the owners are either very depressed or very cranky. I just don’t see the use in that. The weather is beyond our ability to control, so what good does it do to freak out or mope? But the fact is that some shops may not make it through the winter in a year like this. If you are not financially sound, a lack of snow can sink your ship. And it would indeed be depressing to think you were in that situation. That’s why I try to keep some nuts stored up from the previous year to rely on if need be. So I think we will be ok, but I may have to stick with my Kirkland brand jeans for another year. And that’s ok.

More important is that fact that the skiing is not great right now. Not great for me. Not great for you either. My daughter Rebecca bought a Squaw/Alpine pass this year and is on Winter Break from school. She is really bumming! She may change her New Years eve plans from Tahoe to San Diego! I think I convinced her that man made snow is still better than sand, but still she is not a happy camper. And all those Christmas ski vacations our customers planned that are less fun or cancelled? Not a happy thing.

So I just try to keep in mind that it WILL snow. And it will probably snow a lot. It is just going to be a few weeks later than we had hoped this year. Most people quit skiing well before the resorts close. If you feel like you need to get in a specific number of days to pay off that pass or make your ski lease worthwhile, just know that there will still be plenty of skiing available. Don’t give up on old man winter- he’s just a bit late to the party! And it is not like there is no skiing you know. It has been cold and the resorts have been making snow like crazy. I have only had one day on the slopes (I know, I know- I will catch up!) but it was great and I owe that to man made snow.

And if I can only get my Eskimo to stop looking at the weather every day and freaking out about all this, I should be able to hold it together on my end. You do the same out there too- ok? Just make sure you are ready when it happens. Because it will happen. And it will be great. In the meantime thank goodness for snow making machines!

Do a little dance

Martin is wearing his snow hat (above). In the shop. While he tunes your skis. A customer emailed me and said he was doing his snow dance three times a day, in his head, because he had school. He was worried that the lack of recent snow fall was his fault. A customer flew down from Seattle for Vacuum boots yesterday and told us about the great snow at Crystal Basin, his home resort. Thanks for that report I guess. My former employee and friend Dan who lives in Jackson Wyoming now sends me videos of him skiing deep powder in the backcountry there. Uh, thanks Dan. Many parts of the country have great snow conditions now. But not California. And not this upcoming week either. The weather reports show
…and more sun for the next week. I wore shorts to work last week when it was 72 degrees.

So what is going on? Why hasn’t it snowed in a while? Is this going to continue? What can we do? Well I don’t know the answers to these questions. I figure we pissed the snow God Ullr off somehow, but I don’t know how. I also know that every year is different. Lastly I know that it snows. It always snows. Some years are great (think, ahhh…last year?). Others are average. Some are below average. But every year there is snow. And skiing. And we don’t know how a year is going to shape up overall until it’s in the rear view mirror.

So is there anything to do about it? Probably not. But still I am doing three things:
–I dance naked under the moon in circles with garlic rubbed over my body chanting to Ullr.
–I worry a lot
–I lose a lot of sleep
Well I don’t really do that dance thing, or at least I haven’t for a few years, but I do the other two!

Nothing good comes from worrying or losing sleep. I simply can’t help it. Other people fret over a lack of snowfall because they want to ski. I do too. But I have the added burden of snowfall being important to my livelihood. If it doesn’t snow, I can’t feed myself or my employees! And that is what causes one to lose sleep!

So business had been booming this year in the early part of the season before it mattered if it had snowed yet. At that point we are selling dreams and expectations more than anything else. The customers come in the doors with expectations and high hopes. Now it is different. Most have not gone skiing yet as the resorts are open but the conditions are marginal. They still have high hopes but you can feel a bit of trepidation. Because the reality is nobody really knows. The long range weather scientists are calling for higher than average precipitation this winter but we haven’t seen it yet. And there are no guarantees.

Last week we actually started to feel it at the shop. Customer flow was down from what we had become used to. The staff levels are high now. The store set up is dialed. We are ready. And…a bit overstaffed. I had people dusting light fixtures to keep busy. Employees that asked to go home early or take an extra day off were met with a smile. I got caught up on paperwork.

But the register kept ringing. It seemed slow to me but we were still having $5,000 days. With Christmas and vacations upcoming, customers were still coming in and still buying gear. Then Thursday we did $8,000. Yesterday it was very busy. Seven Fischer Vacuum boots went out the door. We did $18,500! Wow. That’s a big day.

So I will try to relax and get more sleep (last night I got 4 hours). But like you, I want to ski! This next Tuesday and Wednesday I am off. Will I ski? No. I made other plans. Not happy about not skiing but I will just have to be patient. I mounted my new skis. My vacuum boots will get new intuition liners. We hope these new liners will be a great hop up kit to make the best boot out there even better (warmer, stiffer, lighter) and have been working with the importer to develop them. But I will wait to ski them. I want my first day to be great.

So we wait. And we pray. And we do our dances. They probably won’t help. But they might! And either way don’t dispel that notion to Martin. He looks adorable in that hat!

The boots are vacuumed but the floor isn’t!

Well the Fischer Vacuum boot is a big hit. We have sold dozens of them and the results have been great. The process is quick and the final product is as advertised. Other boots have been selling well too. As have skis, clothing, seasonal rentals and, well, just everything! So far this looks to be another very busy year. It has been quite a bit busier than last year. And that’s saying a lot.

We started as usual with our kick off Parking Lot Sale in late August and into September. The numbers were outstanding. Then it usually goes quiet as we are only open weekends for a while. But this year it was busy every weekend. It became a situation where we would have occasional four to five thousand dollar days during the week when we were in just to deal with incoming shipments and to do paperwork. Any day I came in to do bookwork upstairs the phone was ringing all day and customers were knocking on the closed door asking if they could come in. So I let them in and helped them out. Early in the month I realized I needed to be open more days. So we changed to Thursday through Sunday. The sales stayed big and still I was getting behind on my bill paying and the like as every “off”day I would come in to work the phone kept ringing and the door knocking kept coming.

I said to John that I thought it was peculiar and a bit frustrating as I was having trouble keeping up with the books, receiving goods into the computer, bill paying, emails and the like. Plus the store is messy and disorganized compared to where I think it should be, I said.  I am usually on top of that stuff. “Well it’s been busy!” he replied. So we checked the sales month to month. October was more than double last years sales numbers! Same with September. I hadn’t actually looked (I am ashamed to admit- but as I said I was behind!). Wow. So I have spent the past two weeks beefing up the schedule to get things done. We need to be ready when it hits the actual busy season!

So we added staff to the days roster to help get some stuff done and low and behold…still behind! The vacuum boots have been active but not the Hoover. Quite a few times someone would start to vacuum the floors at opening which we can typically do during the “slow” season, and then have to stop to help a customer. At the end of the day I have put the vacuum away a number of times realizing that only a small portion of the store has been vacuumed. The customer flow just keeps ramping up. Finally, at the end of last week we went to full staff. Seven employees every day plus a few more on weekends. Now the to do list is getting shorter. The displays are getting finalized. I am feeling more in control. I also added a few new employees. You may get to meet Derek, JB, or Jenny when you come in. An ex lawyer, an ex pro baseball player, and a recent graduate waiting to take the CPA exam. Good hard working talented folks. I am very greateful to have them on board!

So we are just about ready for the snow to hit. The store is prepped. We sent four people to Masterfit University this fall. Three got their Masters degrees. John went along to hang out in the Dark Arts class and pick up a few tidbits as well as network with other boot fitters. He loves to do that more than just about anything other than take on a difficult foot! Everyone is schooled up to work on bindings. The reps have come and given us their knowledge. Our new custom insoles have arrived built to our specs and we like them very much. Almost all the new product is in the store and set out for your perusal.

Now I just have to stress out until it snows a bit more and we really get rolling. When it does I don’t know what to expect. If we have been doing double the numbers every month so far from last year, December may be wild! Every day will look like a frat party is going on at the store! And to that end I will have about 30% more staff on hand to try to keep the customer service top notch. If you need boots, come now, as there will be lines on the weekends in mid December. If you just need skis or a helmet, we should have plenty of staff on hand to help!

If the snow hits hard, it could be a wild ride!

A special thanks to Chris Fellows of NASTC. Regulars to the store have probably heard about this organization. They do adventure instruction in Tahoe, across the nation, and also across the globe. I have participated in their courses and can recommend them highly. Chris is a co-founder and has a new book out called Total Skiing. He stopped by Saturday after work for a small group of about twenty interested customers hastily assembled for a wine and cheese meet and greet. Chris put on a great presentation. Check out NASTC at They have an event December 7-10 at Squaw Valley that is designed to jump start your ski year. If you want a great start to the season, there may still be openings. Check it out!

 Another happy customer! We have her decked out in a POC Synapasis 2.0 helmet and Uvex Ultra goggles. That’s one happy labby mix! Ready to hit the slopes!

Getting an Eskimo a new coat

The ski jacket is a tough cookie. Each year styles change. As a consumer, you need to buy a new jacket from time to time. Many people have jackets that last for ten or more years. Others buy new parkas every year. When it is time to choose one, the perfect jacket can prove to be elusive. I know an Eskimo that is having a hard time finding her perfect parka right now.
Some people want to know the technical specifications to determine their new jacket. Waterproof and breath ability numbers, material specifications, and the like. Others want a particular cut, pockets in all the right places, or a certain type of hood (or lack of one). Fashion is foremost to others. One thing almost everyone wants is to think they look good on the slopes. Or at least create the image they want to convey.
So the search begins. Looking at colors and styles. Deciding if new pants are part of the purchase too. And will the pants be black (easy), or color coordinated to go with an entire outfit (much harder). Clothing racks are perused. Catalogues consulted. Possibly many, many stores visited.
And the search can go on, and on. One jacket looks great but doesn’t fit well. The orange and white jacket from Marker looks great but is the wrong shade to go with the orange Orage pants that look so good. Arrgh!
So the search continues…
People can look for months to find the perfect coat. The search goes through the new jackets in the fall locally. Nothing quite right. Spreads to resorts and towns visited during the ski season. Still not finding it. Summer closeout racks are scoured. No success. And then an influx of catalogs, ski magazines, and new apparel arriving at the local stores again the next fall. With renewed vigor the skier begins the search anew. 
Now is the prime time to find the perfect ensemble. Stores are filling up with new stock. All sizes are in stock (remember that one jacket at that one place last February that was perfect but they didn’t have your size?). Mannequins across the land are beckoning with the latest fashions. Hope is restored!
Come on y and check out our latest jackets. My daughters do most of the clothing these days and by all accounts it is much more dynamic than what I would bring in! Every Eskimo needs a new coat from time to time. I hope you find yours. I hope my Eskimo finds hers.

C’mon winter!

I would like to start today’s blog entry by saying “thanks!” to all of our customers! We had our biggest Fall Parking Lot Sale ever this year. More people, more sales, more dollars taken in. This makes 9 of the last 10 years that the sale has grown in revenues. It makes me very proud to see my business continue to grow and prosper. I have my customers and staff to thank for that. I love them both!  Yeah staff! Yeah customers!
So the sale is over, and we find ourselves sitting around and waiting for winter to start again. We are open Weekend days from 10-6 but closed during the week.  I go through this every year. After the shop opens I find myself eager for the first snow. So the conscious effort to be patient and prepare logically is put into action.It is a three pronged plan.
1. Use persoal time wisely: Fishing trip planned for this week. Yurting in a few weeks. Annual “Last chance” staff camping and mountain biking trip in the planing process. Ski training (including cycling, wii workouts, and hiking) in place. check!
2. Staff training optimized before AHBL (all hell breaks loose) day around December 1st: In store clinics and training by me and sales reps being scheduled for mid to late October. Masterfit University boot training November 7-8 in Reno (   Ski tuning and binding certification camps in November too if I am not mistaken. Check!
3. Store prepared and ready to run smoothly after AHBL day. Well this one is a work in progress. We have most of our forms, materials, and supplies ready. Store layout is being worked on. Clothing isn’t in until October so we can’t finalize displays yet. All I know about this years set up is that even more than ever before we are short on space. A storage unit may very well be in my future! So I cannot chek this part off yet but will soon!
In he meantime, please feel free to stop by to gear up for this upcoming winter You all need to have your plans organized and use your time wisely too. Now is a great time to buy boots or skis. Getting your gear tuned and ready before AHBL day makes sense too. Come on by, we look forward to pining for winter with you!

It will be good to see you all!

Well it’s been a good summer. I bicycled for nine weeks and 3000 miles. Ended up on Jackson Hole Wyoming. Came home from there before getting across the country but needed to get home. Stuff going on at home, work, and I missed people here and at the shop. So now the last three weeks have been back at the shop.Just a bit at first and then ramping up to full time. It seems like only yesterday that last season ended and now we are about to start our year with the annual Fall Parking Lot Sale. It is all good. I am excited with the new gear. Particularly the Vacuum boots from Fischer. We got the vacuum station this week and Erik Andersen, the VP of Alpine Ski for North America came in yesterday to go through the system with us. The boot is awesome and the technology is game changing for sure! Anybody looking to improve their boot situation simply has to consider them as the best option…
So now in two days the register starts ringing again, and I will back on my knees fitting boots. I cannot wait. The annual kickoff always has the regulars stopping by to say “hi” which I always enjoy. And after this weekend ski fever will start to build until the snow flies! So every day since the 1st of August new gear has been arriving. Skis, boots, everything! Just like Christmas! To top it off, today I got an extra special shipment.Today the Fischer skis I built at the factory in Austria arrived. I signed my name under the clear top sheet so I guess they are the same ones! I can’t wait! They are from a prototype mold. Basically the same construction as a Watea model done in a 105mm wide prototype mold with a bit of extra beef added compared to a normal Watea. Cause I like the beef!
So the shop is starting to look like a ski shop again at last and I feel that we are fully ready for the sale. The staff is ready, and lot’s of company reps will be around to help out too. The hope is always to top last years sales numbers. If we do that it will be crowded, busy, fun, and everyone will be smiling as they pick up new toys for this season. A great time will be had by all!
Then it is time to wait for the snow… 
I am happy to be back at it. I am super excited for the upcoming ski season. I hope you are too. It will be good to see you all!

Making skis and making turns…

 I was driving along between the Napa and Sonoma valleys over a favorite road. It was a great little two day road trip and I was having a great time. Life is pretty good at moments like these and I had been reflecting on just that thought.

 Then my phone rang. Being ever worried about the shop burning down while I am away, I picked up the call. It was Erik Anderson.

 Erik is the VP of Fischer Skis who runs the show in North America. I assumed he wanted to discuss my vacuum boot order, which we had been trying to finalize. “Hey do you want to go to Austria?” Erik asked? “What??” I asked back?
“I called to invite you on a trip to Austria with some other dealers” Erik explained.

 And there it was. An invitation to go to Austria, tour the Fischer factory and ski in the Alps for a few days. I accepted the invitation…

 Well there are road trips. And then there was the 2011 Fischer dealer trip to Austria. All the fun gods got together and conspired to help us all let the good times roll. The crew consisted of six dealers, a few sales reps from around the country, four magazine writers/editors, and Erik Anderson and Matt Berkowitz from Fischer USA. No other dealers from west of Sun Valley and a sure east coast feel to the group. All super fun people, and I could tell a story about each one easily after knowing them for just a few days.

 We got to tour the entire Fischer manufacturing facility (except the race room) including the opportunity to build our own skis (see photo above), have lunch with the staff in their lunchroom, and discuss the next few years products and the company’s direction beyond that with the product managers. Fischer is indeed a very impressive company. After seeing smaller ski companies like moment, the Fischer tour was overwhelming. This is a very clean and organized operation. The level of what happens here is simply a few notches above anything that a smaller builder could emulate. This is serious ski making! I walked away with a new found respect for the brand- and they were already one of my favorites. I was very impressed.

 To top it all off there were two glorious days of skiing in the Alps. After weeks of no snow on the Alp, we got lucky. We ended up skiing one powder day and one bluebird groomer day. I got to ski (as is often the case) with some really, really good skiers. I was skiing in the Alps. I was skiing in mid April with great conditions. Not a bad gig! Now after 27 hours of travel, I am back in the Bay Area. Just a few weeks now until I am planted firmly onto the leather seat of a bicycle for three months on another great adventure. I would love to take a few days to digest the experience I just had but I cannot. There is no time. One thought keeps running through my head though- I am a seriously lucky man!

 I probably will not get a chance to add another entry before fall, so have a great summer! I will miss you all and be damn glad to see you in the fall!

 PS_Nicole already has an online story up in freeskier:

It’s all about your smiles per hour!

How is your ski year going so far? Mine is going well, thank you- much better than it had looked a few months ago. I had personally about written off my ski year as a bust. I had only skied one day before January 20th. That put me about 12-15 days behind a normal year to that point. It was just so busy at the shop that I could not take a day off. As a seasonal business owner having a fantastic season, I really could not complain about that.
But it was still a bummer! Typically if I have a slow start to the season, it means I catch up later. I had promised myself at least 40 ski days per year when I bought the business. Most years that comes easily. Some years are tougher. One year it took a week at Mammoth in mid May to get to 39 days and then a June Shasta trip to get it done.
In mid January it was looking as if I was to be doomed to failure on my 40 ski days plan. I was way behind schedule and catching up would probably be impossible. The main reason was that on May 1st I take off on a three month 4600 mile bicycle tour. That means no May skiing for sure. The annual spring staff ski trip will be without me this time too. That could have been at least three and up to ten days of skiing.
Skiing in March and April had to yield minimal ski days too. By then, skiing should have given way to training on the bike so that I am prepared for my trip. Not a bad reason to not hit my ski days I guess, but still… Then I started to get some days in. I got six Demo days in late January and early February. Then there were a couple of two day Tahoe trips. This was followed by a fantastic trip to Utah (where I got my new vacuum boots). Then a one day trip to Homewood that was magical. I was hooked! What a great sport! I wanted to ski all the time! It had suddenly become late March and my bike was still in the garage…
Now it is late March. We have been getting hammered with a series of winter storms! When will spring come for good? I need to train on my bike and pass on the skiing, but the weather is simply not cooperating. Too rainy to ride, and too snowy not to ski. Oh well, what is a poor boy to do but enjoy it!
For April I have another Utah trip and then off to Austria courtesy of Fischer Skis to tour the factory, eat sausages, drink Schnapps, and ski Alps. I leave in about four weeks and three of them will be spent skiing! I am going to be a bit short on the bike training but I will get my skiing in!
Speaking of enjoying it… This is typically the time of the ski year for fun and frivolity. Festivals and fun events abound. Do you have plans to have some fun this spring? I hope you do! While skiing for many of our customers is serious business, for others it is simply fun. I am with the latter group. I like to ski hard, I like to ski fast. I like to work on my technical abilities. I like to say that ones skiing should not be judged by miles per hour but by smiles per hour. And this means having fun above all else.
Spring is maybe the best time for low key but fun sliding down mountains on sticks. So get psyched for spring skiing. Put on your neon and go up for an 80’s ski day. Do a long board day where any ski under 200cm is frowned upon. Go pond skimming. Or just rock a day in shorts and sunglasses. After a huge powder year like this one, you owe it to yourself to let down your hair and relax in the sun. Keep in mind that we may get a few more killer storms with insane powder available. So if your spring ski day turns into a powder day don’t be disappointed. Just roll with it. Sunny spring days are around the corner.
The season will be long this year. Squaw has announced that they will be open through the end of May. As we go into the last eight weeks of the season, look to enjoy it with style and conviction. Ski hard. Wear weird clothes if you want. Rock your vintage shades and enjoy. Unless you are off to the Southern Hemisphere it will be your last chance for a while!
Me- I’m heading for Northstar this weekend. Got my Vuarnets in my bag and I am ready to slide around in the sun. I will ride my bike all summer. That can wait. Why not see how close I can come to 40 ski days this year?

You are gonna love your boots that suck!

Every now and then something comes along that changes things in a big way. Fire and the wheel come to mind as big changers. In skiing, metal edges, PTex bases, plastic boots, and shaped skis are a few of these things. What will be the next big thing in skiing? I think I know. It is an easier way to achieve comfortable boots for all, and it starts next year. You can thank Fischer now. You certainly will at some point if I am not wrong about this.
At the Denver industry trade show Fischer announced a revolutionary new boot. Called the Vacuum Boot, it features a shell that is molded to your foot. As those of you that have purchased boots from us already know, we feel that matching the shape of the boot to the shape of your foot is the key to a great ski boot. Heat molded liners are great, and we have embraced them, but we do not rely on them. We first shape the boot to your foot before we mold the liner.
To do this we use expensive tools to modify the shell. We mark it where we want to make the changes and then we use heat and pressure to effect the shells shape and try to match it to the architecture of your foot and lower leg. We are pretty good at it.
Unfortunately, there are typically some irregularities left over that don’t exactly match perfectly. In most cases that is OK. The liner can help even things out and after a bit of “break in” most customers are very happy with the outcome.
But what if the shell matched your body exactly? Oh yeah! That would be the ultimate! So Fischer figured out a way to do it!
Yes, the Fischer boot shell is heated and becomes pliable. Then a machine is used to vacuum fit it to your foot and leg. It accommodates bowed legs, adjusts to the forward lean desired and is an exact replica of your lower leg and foot. I saw it done at the product unveiling in Denver. It seemed awesome, but there are always doubts. I was extremely interested in being involved in the vacuum boot project but had one reservation. I needed to experience the process and the results for myself. There is only one machine in the USA right now so I flew to Salt Lake City and had a pair made for me.
It was very cool! Chris is the race boot tech for Fischer in the USA, He fit me in between two athletes that flew in from the World Championships to get their new vacuum boots. I felt very special! After about an hour Q & A session with Chris, he formed my boots. Quite an experience. A half hour later I had molded boots that were ready to ski. The next day I skied with Peter Keelty from and a friend of ours at Deer Valley. Dang! A half hour boot fitting yielded a boot that was as comfortable as my current Dalbellos! Keep in mind that I am a hard to fit foot and my current boots had a number of ski days and about seven hours of work done to them to get them perfect. The Fischer vacuum technology achieved it on the first day!
I will tell you all more about the boot at a later time but suffice it to say that I am elated to be one of a very few dealers to be able to sell the Vacuum boot nationally next season. This will be very good for our revenues next year as people will be coming from all over to get the boots. If you are in the market for a new boot next year, it could be very good for you too! In the end the technology may spread to all ski boots sold and make ski ski boot pain a thing of the past. Get ready for boots that suck!