11.6.09 Ski and Snowboard Show LA Convention Center

This past Saturday I checked out the local ski and snowboard show here in the Los Angeles area. The event, called SkiDazzle, takes place every year at the Los Angeles Convention Center, but this year it was extra early – it was scheduled on the Halloween weekend. I’ve visited the one in Portland, OR, and one in San Diego, but this was my first time to attend the Los Angeles event. I made new friends there, like Janellie, pictured above, who worked in the information area near the front entrance.

I usually like to go to these events because I can shop for new stuff and new gear and get the latest info from my favorite resorts all in one stop. Secondly, most everything you buy is discounted about 50% off, and thirdly, I get to discover local boardshops that I never knew existed. It’s a sweet deal, and, as it says in the literature, it’s a great way to kick off the ski season. Finally, you always leave with free swag, such as free/discounted lift tickets.

I overheard someone mention that 90% of the people who come to SkiDazzle are snowboarders, which I found interesting. At the one in Portland, the percentage of skiers is much bigger. My theory: the “surf and skate” lifestyle culture of Southern California definitely contributes to a more edgier, alternative mode that is likely to produce more snowboarders. Additionally, the small local ski areas, the fake snow, and the warmer weather, means less authentic skiing opportunites in general, but boarders have a certain type of craziness, disregard, persistence and dedication that makes them want to ride no matter what. In the Pacific Northwest, where there are big mountains everywhere, traditional skiing continues to be prevalent, based on my personal observation.

Interestingly, except for one retailer, I did not see any skiing gear being sold there.

Being my first time there I was somewhat disappointed. It was smaller than I had expected, and there were less people than I thought there would be. Maybe the lower attendance was due to the fact that the day I went was Oct. 31, Halloween Day. In fact the event closed extra early to allow attendees to attend to their night time festivities. There didn’t seem to be much going on there, may be because I’m comparing it to the ones I’ve been to in the past. There was a cooking demo, a tire chain contest, and several vert ramp demos. Then there were a selection of ski resorts present and local retailers. I saw a few contests to get people interested and engaged. Two classmates have told me that this year it was smaller than in years past, and another classmate says you can get better deals on the Internet. Except for the free Bear Mtn ticket and Mt High stickers, I came away with little free swag. The $12 parking and the $17 admission made it even less attractive.

The big advantage to going to these things are the great deals possible on new gear. Everywhere I went, everything was discounted. In one store, I found a Burton Custom 156 discounted at 50% off its store price of 529. The Custom is my number one pick for a snowboard and I would have bought it except that I have my gear already. It was last year’s model, which explains the big discount, but according to the sales guy, the construction is identical to the 09 model – just the graphics are slightly different.

In another store, called Val Surf, located, naturally, in the San Fernando Valley, I did pick up some new Burton Mission Doom bindings at a special Halloween Day-only deal of 60% off the list price of 219. (I admit, I’ve always been a little skeptical buying snowboard gear from a surf shop. I’d rather buy from a shop that specializes in snow and skate gear.) These were also last year’s model, which is OK with me. The Mission Doom was a one-year only limited production model and is identical to the Missions except that it uses the toe strap from the Cartel (a higher-end Burton binding) and Burton then renamed it Doom. The Missions are midlevel bindings that are ideal for all mountain freeriding which is mostly what I do. The Doom is all black in color, so the store discounted it 60% (instead of 50%) because it thought that the name “Doom” had a Halloween theme.

The current bindings I’ve been using are a basic level Burton binding and a Burton deck that has the cheaper extruded base, both of which I bought new back in 1999. The Burton boots I’ve been using were bought used a few years later, but also were from that era. My whole setup was of such good quality that there was no need to buy new. But after ten years, I thought it was time to update. Last year I bought a 2005 Burton Dragon with a sintered base and new DC boots from Zumiez, both of which I also hadn’t taken up to the hill yet. So with the purchase of these Mission Doom bindings, I now have an all new setup and I will have finally moved up to the 21st century of snowboarding technology. Wow.

There are pros and cons of going to these ski/snowboard events. While there are many great deals that can be found at these events, the sales floor can have lots of commotion, confusion, pressure and a feeling of rush and urgency as each sales person is constantly moving from one customer to the next. This is not an ideal situation when making decisions about spending your cash. You should have the time and space to contemplate your purchase especially if you’re going to make a long-term investment. At an individual store, the sales staff can take the time to answer your questions and help you make the right decisions on what’s best for you. But finding the best deals may mean driving around town and that takes time. At these events, it’s one-stop shopping under one roof. Of course the Internet also has great deals, but you can’t really see them in person or know how the gear would fit on you, whereas at these events, you can get your feet wet. Another disadvantage with these events is that the venders usually only have enough room for the more popular items, meaning they have a limited selection. So there are pros and cons.

Basically, I think these shows are a way for the retailers to offload items that didn’t sell well in the last season. They know most people aren’t going to buy old stuff in the spring and then have to wait all summer and fall to use it, so they save it in the warehouse until the fall, when more people are in the mood for buying ski gear. I think that’s part of the psychology behind this. My advice is to do your research before you go and get an idea on what you want to buy, and then if you see your item at the show, buy it and get out and ride!

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