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Outdoor Adventures

Outdoor Adventures: Taking those test drives

Skiers and snowboarders can try the latest products at a demo day.

Skiers and snowboarders can try the latest products at a demo day.

Try before you buy.

That’s the mantra for demonstration days, a time when skiers and snowboarders can test drive the latest in gear from rocker skis to goggles. It can be a day when tents and flags fly from various manufacturers or one when only one company gets the headlines.

The keys are doing homework, having a plan and coming not only with a credit card and identification (for security), but also an open mind.

“As far as a demo day when we are all here and you have a lot of great things to choose from, it’s a great opportunity for people to come out to get all different types of products to buy,” said Ramp rep Kristen Kilchenstein at Okemo Mountain Resort in Ludlow, Vt. “You can get a good idea of what you like, particularly if you are going to invest in skis, obviously a pretty sizable purchase.”

Manufacturers literally put their latest creations in the hands and on the heads – not to mention underfoot – of the skiing and riding public in hopes they’ll buy.

The public can sample cutting-edge goods.

“Generally get out of your comfort zone,” said Rick Randal, a rep for Faction. “There are so many different brands and different styles of skis that I think people need to have an open mind. Skis have changed a lot in the past couple of years, so someone might look at a rocker ski or a twin tip. Most people think that it is just a park ski, but it’s really not. There is a lot more that is going on in skis in terms of the non-traditional shapes and styles.”

Be honest with yourself, too. If you’re an intermediate corduroy cowboy hitting the hill five times a year and loving it, say so. By telling the rep you’re an expert may lead to a poor experience.

Read the magazines. Scan the internet. Visit a local ski shop. A smart consumer makes an informed decision.

“Always a good idea to come to these events educated,” Head rep Tom Fucini said. “Know what you are kind of looking for. The reps from the various manufacturers are pretty knowledgable about their products and can kind of prescribe a ski.”

And when you’re testing gear, keep it for about an hour. This isn’t a free day of rentals.

“Find a good open groomer to try and get a feel for a ski,” Randal said. “You want to take two or three runs. One run isn’t enough to know what’s going on with the ski because it is a lot different from what you’ve been on if you are going from one brand to another or different style of ski. Definitely find something that is user friendly.”

Go on familiar territory. Take it easy on the first run. Get a feel for the ski. Then push yourself further on the second and third runs.

“The best way to utilize your demo day time is to systematically try the same ski, the same style of skis,” Fucini said. “If you’re looking for a Head REV 85 size, try similar sized skis from the different manufacturers and try them on the same conditions and on the same trail.”

Nordica rep Keven Warnock says skiers should have an open mind and willingness to try something new.

“If they look at something at a certain price point and go to the next one up, they can progress as skiers and find a whole new dimension to the sport that they didn’t know about yet,” he said.

Pay attention to conditions and weather. That can impact a product like a goggle.

“There are a bunch of different frame styles,” Spy Goggles rep Travis Strunk said. “You want to choose a style that fits your face. The most important piece is the lens. Different conditions call for different lens colors.”

And test only one product at a time.

“Let’s say someone is testing ski boots and then testing skis,” Randal said. “They don’t know what it is going to feel like. They don’t know if it is the boots or the skis. I would do one product at a time. You want to focus on that one thing and not be distracted.”

And, of course, have fun.

“What’s really great about skiing and demo days in general is that people are really psyched to here,” Kilchenstein said. “It’s fun. It’s something that people are coming up for the weekend to do. They’ve got a lot of energy.”

(Marty Basch can be reached through

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