So I know everyone says you can get faster skis if someone who knows what they're doing (Zach) goes to the factory and picks them rather than just taking what gets sent to the local shops. But I've also been hearing over the last several years that quality control is getting much better, which suggests that the variation should presumably be getting less. Does Zach or anyone else have anything to say about how much better hand-picked skis are these days? Or is it still just buy them and believe? I've never been lucky enough to be in the right place at the right to be able to try out demo skis. What did you think of them?
If you want to talk about the construction and nuances of skis, Zach is the right person. Very much into the minutia of the details important to World Cup and Olympic skiing. Clearly beyond my need. I think his rapport with the factories ensures he will get the high quality end of the production mix. As for the rest? I think they have gotten more consistent quality throughout the production runs, but I certainly can't tell you who does it best.
I tried the Fischer Speedmax Cold and the Madshus Redline Cold. I definitely liked the Fischers better, great snow contact. I could feel the ripples in the hardpack surface as they went under my feet and they held the downhill turns very well. The Madshus were better than my stiff old Peltonens, but not enough to drop many hundred bucks. Both of the demos had Vauhti LF Green and mine had Swix LF 5.
Will I buy the Fischers? They run about $750 which is pretty stiff!
off season might get them 1/2 off.
I am a Fischer man
we finally have decent snow here, but our snowmobile puked out again. so have to travel for good grooming.
I see you have about 10 hours in so far this winter!
keep it going!!
So Charlie that's partly why I'm asking. In the old days the skis left over to the end of the season would be the worst of the lot. Nowadays if quality control is really better and consistency is happening, then... maybe the differences are small enough to make 1/2 off a really good deal?
I generally snoop around ebay and a few other sites where you can find a mix of new skis at clearance prices as well as used skis from hot shots who got them either from the factory or from someone who got them from the factory. I've bought some dogs this way but also some that were incredibly fast, especially the used ones from national team folks. You do take your chances, but I feel a lot less sad when I break a ski that I didn't pay retail for. (Ski-o is incredibly hard on equipment.)
It largely depends what you want the ski for. If most of your skiing is going to be training, or on crappy grooming, or it just doesn't matter too much how fast you go, then you certainly don't need a $750 pair of skis. And if you go with one of the more consistent brands (Fischer, Madshus, come to mind - I would stay away from Atomic or Salomon for race skis) you can get a lower-end ski and be very happy with it.
The most important thing is that the ski is flexed well for you. Fischer does a very good job with consistent flex, especially on classic skis. I don't know the quality of Fischer skis as you go below the RCS/SCS level, but to there they are very good. If your budget allows you to have more than one pair of skate skis, it would be good to have a slightly stiffer pair, for hardpack/icy days, and a softer pair, for fresh snow or slush. The right flex will make your experience much better. You don't want truck springs for skis, so if you're holding them base-to-base, make sure you can flex back the tips and tails a bit - that'll make the ski feel a lot smoother as it runs over the snow.
The next-most important factor in speed is the grind or rill. For my skiers, who are all racing and most are trying to reach the top in their age groups, we suggest that they get a ski with a fairly cold/neutral structure, such as the "cold" base that comes from the factory for most brands. Then on race day, we apply the appropriate hand structure, with a riller. We may have the Porsche of rillers, but you can get by with the little Toko one.
The final factor is wax, both the temperature/hardness and the amount of fluorocarbons. For races, more fluoro is generally more better. My club uses a lot of Toko, because we have a sweet deal with them, and the system is very simple, and I have to say I recommend it.
But back to whether it's a good idea to buy the late-season half-off deals - I would hesitate if these are skis you want to race on. But if you only race 1-2 times a year, then it's probably fine. Or if your races are ski-o, it really doesn't matter, because the amount of time you spend double poling in the off-season way outweighs your ski speed.
As for whether it matters to have Zach picking skis - all my skiers go through Zach, which gets us really good service because we may be his largest customer. And all my skiers come from a very affluent area of the country, so cost is not so much of a barrier. I would say that if you're doing 8+ ski races each winter, it's worth it to buy skis from Zach, because it is super fun to ski on really good skis.