This is all new. A new ski-shop owner trying out new next-year’s skis at Snowbasin Utah, a ski area that’s new to me. New and yet oddly familiar in an alternate universe sort of way. Snow Basin is owned by the same group that owns and operates Sun Valley in Idaho. Sun Valley is known; familiar stomping /skiing grounds. I’ve been going there for decades, usually staying with friends Chris and Kathy, now along with me for the ski demo. The Snowbasin lodges are modeled on, or perhaps cloned from, those at Sun Valley. The same big blond log construction, the same cushy carpets, way-better-than-at-my-house furniture, giant fireplaces and brass-everywhere, sheik-worthy bathrooms in the basement. Even the best-sk- lunch-ever baked potato with chili and tasty fat (sour cream, bacon, cheese, the list goes on). It’s like we’ve taken a left instead of a right somewhere, gone down a run we’ve bothered to take before and wound up at in a part of Sun Valley we never knew existed.
The whole big demo thing is centered just outside the base lodge where there are an unimaginably large number of tents lining each side of a ski-through gauntlet. Chris, Kathy and I let out a collective “Wohhhhhhh!” as we first ski into it. There’s a tent for every vendor ProSki carries and dozens that we don’t. We can demo skis, boots, poles, touring gear, snowboards, goggles, socks, pizza, coffee, small farm animals and more. It’s overwhelming. We decide to stick with skis.
It’s so easy. Just ski up, talk about what’s new, what’s not for next year, choose a ski, tell the tech your boot sole length and DIN and seconds later you’re skiing. It’s Christmas mixed with Ground Hogs Day (the movie, not the day). We’re given new, perfectly tuned skis, we take a run or two on them and then head back to the tents to try something else, looking for perfection. I work to change my normal ski mindset and focus not on whether a ski works for me, me, me and all my 58 year-old skier peculiarities but on what it does well and what kind of skier might like it.
Day 1 is a good day for testing what I’d come in wanting us to test: all mountain skis up to about 102 under foot. There’s good snow and OK snow and very bad snow. It’s nicely soft groomers and crud/bumps up high transitioning to crunchy roughness near the base. The soft groomed is great for testing turning radius, the soft-snow bumps for quickness, the crunchy groomed for stability and the refrozen hard bumps for our tolerance of refrozen hard bumps.
It turns out to be so much fun to finally get on all these skis we’d read about, talked about, lusted for, but never actually skied. “That was the best ski ever,” is generally, a run later, followed by “no, that was the best ski ever. Must have a pair, stat!” We become full on gear head ski nerds during the gondola rides blabbering on about what was good or not so good with each ski, taking notes on our phones and planning what to ski next. As an old dog who normally skis a narrower ski (around 80 under foot) when there’s no new snow, I find myself becoming a slobberingly happy, roll on my back and rub my belly puppy on all kinds of 90 to 105 wide skis. Maybe it was the kid in the candy store effect the whole demo thing had on me, but I loved a lot of these skis and could happily picture skiing on them every day.
See what gear vendors were @ Snowbasin: