The question most commonly asked by the new ski buyer, whether in person or via the Internet, is, to no one’s surprise, “What ski should I buy?” When this query is posed on line, the second most frequent question is, “Where should I buy it?”
We cannot overemphasize the significance of the answer to this second question. In today’s market, the Internet hosts the search for the lowest prices, which appear to occupy the paid top result slots in every search in any sports category. If you want to find the rock bottom price for any item, the Internet is your best tool.
The problem with the low-ball approach is that skiing is one of a few sports in which all component parts – including the skier – must meld into a functional unit. History tells us that skiers left to their own devices often have little idea how to optimize even one component of the ski/boot/binding/skier system. Assembling a coherent, skills-enhancing system from an online, item-by-item search for the lowest price is at best a quixotic quest and at worst a dangerous one.
This is not intended as some Luddite rant against the evils of the Internet, far from it. Right behind price searches and adult entertainment, the Internet’s most well-developed talent is for networking. Web sites can provide genuine expertise linked to practitioners who are able to deliver the optimal experience.
In other words, the Net is a great place to do your homework and elevate your understanding, but it’s not such a great place to seal the deal. Even if you’re a great researcher, you still need someone to check your work, to evaluate what you’ve assembled.
Moreover, even if you’re buying a ski that you know you like, and you bring it to a specialty shop to be mounted, you still will have eliminated one essential, critical criterion from your quest.
No one will have seen your feet.
Or knees, or hips, or how well (or not) you’ve actually assembled your system. One reason America is a nation of not-so-good skiers is that people are in boots that prevent them from progressing in ability. If no one who knows what he’s doing ever sees your tootsies (and all to which they’re connected), it won’t matter what ski you have cleverly selected since you won’t be able to steer it accurately anyway.
If there is a central mission that defines realskiers, it is to inform members of the public about the ski equipment market so that they can make better decisions. The most important of those decisions is not where the lowest price lurks; it’s where to find a bootfitter with passion for the craft, someone who can guide your gear acquisition process to a brilliant conclusion.
We’ve structured Realskiers to serve several real skiers’ needs.
Our first goal is to educate, so that skiers become better equipped to evaluate the market and determine where they fit in the grand scheme of things. Our second purpose is to evaluate the ski market model by model, selecting the best each genre of has to offer.
Then we do something you’ll seldom see elsewhere.
We answer the Second Most Commonly Asked Question by linking our Recommended Skireviews and boot commentaries to specialty shops who carry the referenced model(s), shops we know to have the expertise required to deliver both a great ski experience and a great shopping experience.
While we recommend all of our member shops unreservedly, we by no means yet have a complete list of America’s top ski shops. Our burgeoning network is smaller than ideal; we would like to have at least 50 more shops – including specialists from the U.S., Canada, Europe, Australia and New Zealand – on our roster.
You, Dear Reader, can help. If your favorite shop isn’t part of the realskiers network, the next time you’re in the store please tell the owner or manager why you like our site.
If your favorite shop already displays our Recommended Ski medallion, then you already know that you’re not merely among friends, but among friends who know what they’re doing. The true specialty shop knows that its livelihood depends on your trust.
Please support the shops that support our sport at the grass roots level. Where you shop makes all the difference in the world, for both your personal satisfaction and for the preservation of the sport we all share and love.