Pugski Ski Tester
- Nov 1, 2015
- Reno, eNVy
Evolution is safe, revolution is risk. Product managers are in a constant fight for balance and must determine when evolution is not enough and revolution is needed. But evolution can actually be riskier than revolution: brands can be so content with the sales and acceptance of a particular model that they leave the ski on the market too long, and revolution comes too late. These are the thoughts that keep product managers awake at night.
Ski designs run their course. The sales of even the most timeless eventually get stale, so we see evolutions beyond just NGT (New Graphics Technology). Then at some point, evolution is not enough, and it's time to reinvent things. The Völkl Mantra is a good example: evolution turned into one revolution and then another. The last revolution includes a possible evolution to a new model name in the M5, dropping the Mantra name altogether.
As a boutique ski company, Kästle really needs to watch this balance. Kästle’s original and oldest collection, the MX line, is still in the evolutionary stage as its most popular MX88 turned into the MX89. Where Kästle went revolutionary was with its FX collection. The current FX skis are a blend of the original Chris Davenport-influenced FX, which some billed as "MX Lite," and the entry-level BMX collection, which didn’t quite have the Kästle panache. The FX of today has a much clearer direction and personality.
This year we are seeing revolution in a series from Rossignol with its cornerstone collection. The Experience/Temptation line has become the all-new Experience/Experience W. The original Experiences were polarizing skis: they were either on or off, and while they were great carvers, they proved to be difficult in mixed conditions. Rossignol evolved the skis through the generations but they remained biased toward hard snow; even the wider Experience 100 didn’t excel off piste. Enter the new Experiences, with a more gradual tip profile and less pronounced flare in the tail. The new collection is eons better off piste, and with a slightly tighter turn radius on piste, groomer performance is not compromised too much.
There are countless other examples. Blizzard's reference Bonafide is still in its evolutionary stage; even though the current ski is "new," it is "safe" new. Another instance is K2 and its Luv skis. When the Luvs were released in the mid-2000s, they were THE women’s ski. After numerous generations, K2 felt the series had run its course and dropped the Luv name in favor of the Super-models: Superstitious, Superfree, etc. It was a Super marketing misstep, and sales plummeted. After a short time, K2 returned to the Luv name, hoping to regain the series' momentum.
My final example is Stöckli's Stormrider 88. Over the past half decade, the SR 88 was one of the reference skis in its class; last season, Stöckli evolved it with a lighter balsa core. Big mistake. Instead of finishing a typical two-year run to get its investment back, Stöckli cut its losses and changed the construction -- and the SR 88 has returned to its expected place in the hierarchy of premium skis.
So, what does all this mean to you? Well, how many times did you like a ski only to discover that the newest version just didn’t ring your bell? This could be why: even though the name is the same, it could be a completely different ski. Now, counter to that, maybe you owned or tried a ski that just didn’t work for you so you completely wrote that model off. Remember how we say, “There are no bad skis, just wrong skis”? Well, the ski that was the wrong one for you then might be the right one for you now. You need to have an open mind today more than ever. Sorry, I just made more work for you in your ski selection process, didn’t I? Actually, I am not sorry, I am K2 Luv-ing it.