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August 16, 2005

Gear Deals

I nominally have a day job. I hate to admit it and erase the mystique of being a "ski bum" so call me "ski marginally employed". I get progressively more useless during ski season because I start suffering from mysterious illnesses triggered by an acute reaction to weather conditions. Some refer to it as "Powder Fever". One of the worst symptoms occurs when I am exposed to sunlight without sunscreen and develop strange pigmentation patterns around my eyes.

Occasionally, my two lives intersect. Like some sort of Superhero with special powers who fights crime at night, my secret identity as a ski bum might intersect with my public identity of IT Consultant. I got a call last year to travel to a little company in San Jose last year to do some IT work. EBAY needed some consulting and I spent any free time I had while doing the consulting gig testing "system performance" by shopping for various items--many used by my secret identity. Imagine Batman buying his "wonderful toys" on Ebay and you get the picture.

Last year I bought four sets of skis. I bought some twin tip Atomics with an 88mm waste and 115 and 112 tips and tail respectively. Twin tips for the park and fat as all hell for the powder. I will explain more on that story when I write about Wolf Creek. Bought my wife some new Atomic cruisers. My son Jake a pair of Atomic race skis. And just recently bought him a pair of twin tip Salomons. Also bought several sets of bindings including three different Atomic bindings. Finally, I got a fat set of Nordica Beast boots for me and my son a pair of Nordica GTS boots.

If I paid retail, I would need to take out a second mortgage. Every bit of the gear was brand new and I spent under $1200 for all of it. That is what a high end pair of skis run now days retail. But I know a secret. EBAY. And most specifically, I have a couple of Ebay storefronts that I do most of my shopping on and Tom Ingve's Denver Wholesale Skis is my favorite. Almost half of the gear I bought last year was from Tom and the rest was from other deals that I found either through E-bay of through Google's search feature "Froogle".

Couple of tips--

  • Never buy boots without trying them on at a retailer. And often times if you have a price on gear, especially boots, from online, it is worth the extra $20-50 to haggle with a retailer to get them to come down on their price to make sure you get a good fit. If you try them on at your retailer and you like the fit, new boots bought online are going to fit the same.
  • Buy from online sellers with solid reputations. Read feedback and look at the number of sales that the person has done. Look for Power Sellers. You have better luck buying new gear from a power seller than used gear from someone that has hardly any feedback.
  • Ask your questions up front. If you have questions, ask before you guy, not after.
  • Check with regular retailers Online Store fronts. Check online at the end of season for leftovers. Last year at REI's Online Outlet Store I bought a pair of Nordica "The Beast" boots brand new in the box for $289.00 that normally retail for over $700.00. Bought them in April and REI had them to me next day.
  • Remember that most times you do not pay SALES TAX by buying online. This saves an additional 5-10% off the price and offsets most shipping charges.
  • Remember that the hottest gear is also going to be the least likely to be marked down. And a year old model will have a much larger markdown than the latest greatest. But also remember that 2005-06 skis are not so vastly superior to the exact same model's 2004-2005 ski as to warrant paying double for. Look for bargains and be somewhat flexible and you save even more.
  • Sometimes the folks at the E-bay Storefronts can custom order or find hard to find items. Not everything that they have for sale or can sell is listed in the store. Sometimes they have connections and can get you a specific product via their back channels with the manufacturers. It never hurts to ask and usually they can save you a ton on these items too.

Finally, never feel cheap about taking in skis that you bought online for half the price the local ski shop charges to the local ski shop to have work done on them. Just don't brag about all the money that you saved. Most folks are cool and understand that you are looking for the best deal, but they are in business to make a living too and you are taking food out of their kids' mouths by not paying their 100% markup. =)

BTW, went in to the local ski shop last week and bought my son his Salomon 1080s since things like kids' skis in a twin tip are harder to find than an adult all mountain cruiser from 2004. If I could ski on a 135, I would be beating him down and stealing the skis.

Posted by Justin at 04:19 PM

August 11, 2005

Road Trip to Park City

My oldest son is 8 and spent far more time away from school than he should have last year to ski with me. But how can you look in an 8 year old's eyes and have him ask, "Why can't I go with you?"

My usual answer is, "Because you have school tomorrow." He has learned an effective strategy to counter this argument and frequently employs the "But don't you have to work tomorrow" defense. I have learned a new countermeasure though that my mother in her ancient wisdom taught--"Because I said so." But sometimes it is far better to have some conversation during the ride up and someone to hang with than to worry about having a child that is literate and can do simple mathematics. When my other buddies actually have to work and cannot "telecommute" (Erich), then the ride from Phoenix gets kinda long. But enough about that though... the point is we are taking a pre-season roadie to Park City.

One of the key features of the 2002 Olympics (besides the whole bribery thing which was my favorite part) was the construction of several different venues that are open to the public. One such facility is the Freestyle/Aerials Splash Pool.

Jake and I are taking a three day road trip north to Park City to attend one of the Aerials clinics at the splash pool and check out what is happening up there. And when he asks, "But Dad, why do I have to go to Park City to learn new Aerials at an Olympic training venue" the answer is {SMACK} "Because I said so". Let's hope we don't have the conversation...

Posted by Justin at 10:39 AM | Comments (1)