When it comes to skiing, the acquisition of gear is on a continuum for me rather than a once a year cycle. I know a lot of people buy gear once a year or maybe less frequently, whether it works or not. I tend to think you have to try a lot of stuff before you get it just right, but everyone has a different mindset, that's just me. Here are a few different ski gear buying personas, any resemblance to actual person living or dead, purely intentional:
This person reads all the reviews in the magazines (uh, magazine?), and scrolls down through all the user-generated product reviews on backcountry.com. They consume so much information about what gear to get, they start to double back, get lost in their own research. Self-doubt sets in. By mid-March, they still don't know what gear to get, then ultimately decide to wait and see what comes out next season, victimized by analysis paralysis.
This type of person will go to their same local shop, talk to their favorite bro on the floor, and take recommendations. The shop sales person should seize the moment and like a good sommelier, serve the wine that is appropriate to the meal, not just the most expensive bottle in the cellar. The Shopper tends to be loyal to their favorite specialty shop, because they know the service and advice they get is an intangible, something that can't be downloaded or bought online with any Bro Code.
Once a year, this person hits the swaps with a pocket full of cash, looking to seize the day and score a sweet deal on someone else's last year's gear. I'm not speaking from experience here. It's been a long time since I've been to one of the big swaps. I've never bought anything, and I've never sold anything. Frankly, I hate the flea market mentality, and have a hard time believing that there really are any deals out there, except for maybe kids stuff. Correct me if I'm wrong. I just know there are a lot of Swappers, because the parking lots are always full on swap night.
The Holy Grailer
If only there was a boot that fit my foot like "X", was as stiff as "Y", and with the sole and walk-mode of "Z", now that would be the Holy Grail. The Holy Grailer is always on a quest for perfection in a less than perfect world. If he/she were a product manager at a major ski company, the entire line of products would be purpose built for him/her, the rest of the skiing public can just deal with it or go ski another brand's crap. Unfortunately, it's a solo quest. The Holy Grailer is doomed to roam the earth looking for something that doesn't exist, and usually finds something to complain about the moment they get on snow the first day of the year. It's really a curse.
I am sure there are many more personas, who did I miss?
Being part Holy Grailer and part Shopper, I recently made a mid-season switch on alpine touring (AT) boots recently. Since my previous choice in alpine touring boots never worked well for me in fit and function, I decided to go to one of my favorite local shops, Colesport, and get an opinion on what boot would fit my low volume, bony bird feet. The Holy Grailer in me wanted to have one boot to rule them all; stiff and supportive enough to ski 75% of my days at the resorts, but nimble enough (translate: walk mode) to tackle the rest of my days in the slackcountry. It just wasn't working out for me.
Brian at Colesport checked out my feet, and recommended I'd be a good candidate for the Dalbello Virus Tour. If you want to know more about this boot, then maybe you should watch this video from the guy who helped design it:
A quick shell fit confirmed this model caters well to low-volume feet, and the heat moldable Intuition liner was baked to perfection. I won't be using them for the rest of my 75% resort day ratio, as the soles are not DIN Alpine Norm compatible (translate: won't work with just about every alpine ski binding out there), but at least I feel confident they will serve me well for my out-of-bounds days for years to come. These are currently paired with Rossignol S3 skis, mounted with Fritschi Freeride Pro bindings. For the rest of my resort days, I'll be sticking with my Magic Skis. Rossignol S7s, for those of you who do not believe in magic.
What about you? What's working this year? What's not working?