On Monday, all the gear manufacturers moved their wares from the giant confines of the Colorado Convention Center to the base of Winter Park for the first of two demo days. All show attendees got unlimited demos of skis, snowboards, boots, and accessories.
I'm a telemark skier, which limits my options on demos, but there was plenty for me to check out, including the New Telemark Norm setup, which I did play on. I also demoed some boots from Scarpa and Black Diamond and skis from Icelantic and Moment.
The boutique skis were awesome. Moment's twin-tip Tahoe model skied like a dream in bumps and groomers, and I found myself skiing switch for the first time, and having a blast doing it. The new Icelantic women's ski, the Oracle, was also amazing, and I'm looking forward to playing with it more.
Props go out to Scarpa for rescuing me from a potential boot disaster when one of the ratchet straps on my T2 boots broke. They called around and found a shop in Fraser, Ice Box Mountain Sports, who had replacement parts for me.
Demoing product is a great way to learn about new gear and find out whether the latest and greatest is something that will help you ski better or is really just a case of gear lust. Having said that, allow me to suggest a few strategies for demoing product, based on my experiences today.
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When demoing, eliminate all variables but one. Taking out a full new set of gear, including boots, bindings, and skis, will make it hard for you to figure out what gear is making the most difference. Spend a day demoing only boots, using your current setup. Spend a day demoing only skis using your current boots. That way, you'll have much more accurate feedback on what works and what doesn't.
Near the end of the day, an uphill/downhill race was held, starting in the aisles and heading up towards the Sunspot Lodge. Racers then skied a marked course down Balch, a bump run on the front side of Winter Park. Prizes were awarded to top finishers, and after the lifts shut down at four, a live concert ensued at the stage setup by the demo booths.