Let’s begin with a recap of the fundamentals.

Realskiers’ model selection methodology starts by dividing the Alpine ski market into seven categories, using waist width as the organizing principle for three excellent reasons:

  1. This dimension is the single best indicator of the ski’s capabilities.
  2. Waist width is a hard number, not a fuzzy concept like skier type.
  3. Suppliers product lines align with this method, creating models in every category according a coherent pricing logic.

The Pricing Picture

While the performance range of the Alpine ski market is indeed immense, the price range is actually quite restricted.  The basement price is $400 (which includes a binding), and the top floor for a non-race ski is $850.  At $50 intervals, that’s only ten price points. (There are a couple of penthouse brands, but if you’re looking at them, you’re not concerned about pricing’s finer points.)

It bears mention that the prices alluded to here aren’t MSRP’s, but the de facto street price at most retail and online locations. Even on a ski supplier’s own site the street price often is the one quoted, which makes one wonder for whom a Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price applies, if not the manufacturer? Pardon the interruption.  

The de facto price range for most adult skiers is even smaller.  First of all, there’s little point in buying a $400 package as you can rent something of the same quality for a lot less and when you do buy for the first time, at least move to the second floor. At $550, we find a better cost/value relationship in models like the Nordica Navigator 85 Ti, the new Völkl Blaze 94 and Salomon’s QST 92. 

At $600 and $650 one has many more options, particularly in the vital All-Mountain East genre. We’ve already moved into the realm of truly exceptional skis, like this genre’s star products, the Völkl Kendo 88, Nordica Enforcer 88 and Head Kore 93. 

We’ve also moved to within $50 of the next crowded floor in our price structure.  Just one story up, at $700-$750, lives the most talented and versatile cast of all-terrain tools, the All-Mountain West category. Hidden within this elite company are a couple of cost/value nuggets, the Atomic Vantage 97 C and the unexpected polyvalence of Dynastar’s Menace 98, both $200 below the genre norm of $700.

Moving up to the added buoyancy of a Big Mountain model will set you back roughly $50 – $100 more than an All-Mountain West ski. Any Big Mountain ski on the low end of this tight spectrum will usually be softer flexing than the $800 options that set the ceiling.

The widest genre, Powder skis, run from $700 to $850.  While Powder skis provide the most ski for your dollar, they aren’t the priciest genre. That distinction goes to skinny Non-FIS Race skis, that tend to be over $1000, although this price usually includes a binding.  Anyone making a decision at least partly governed by price considerations probably shouldn’t be looking at race skis in the first place.

The $50 Rule

Chances are, you’re going to own your next pair of skis for a long time. Considering all you’ll spend on skiing over that span, $50 doesn’t amount to diddley. You shouldn’t let it influence your buying decision. If you’re open to spending $600 on a ski, spend $650, or $700.  It’s a paltry upcharge compared to what it stands to deliver in pleasure per mile skied.

If you want to save big coin on a great ski, shop the secondary market. If you know what you’re looking for – a big “if” – the used-ski market is a bargain-hunter’s bonanza.  But if you want to bask in the enhanced self-esteem that only new-ski buying can deliver, follow these simple steps:

  1. Visit Realskiers.com to soak up the knowledge necessary to decide which ski category makes the most sense for where and how you like to ski.
  2. Apply the $50 Rule, so you get a little better ski that will enhance your ski experience for years to come.
  3. Buy your new skis from a specialty shop that can also offer the additional products and services that make Alpine skiing the best sport on heaven and earth.

If you’d like to absorb the unparalleled wisdom of this Revelation via podcast, your esteemed Editor has thoughtfully reiterated its message orally.  Pop over to my Podcast, Jackson Illuminates Everything About Skiing, where you’ll find it nestled among my other auditory output.