Rossignol is among a few equipment manufacturers taking a renewed focus on improving equipment technology and design as a solution for turning more beginners into lifelong skiers and snowboarders; and ski area operators are taking note.
This season Rossi endeavored to implement and operate Experience Centers at 25 ski areas across the country, including installations at The Canyons and Deer Valley where I recently caught up with Thor Verdonk, Rossignol ski designer and tester.
The Experience Centers offer skiers and snowboarders equipment demos and even lesson options. At The Canyons, skiers and snowboarders can try up to two pairs of skis, or two snowboards per day for a nominal fee. Up to three day’s worth of demo fees can then be applied to the purchase of equipment. At Deer Valley, Rossi has a designated yurt set up at the Empire Lodge where guests can test equipment for two hours free of charge.
Verdonk says the central technology currently featured at the demo centers is Rossi’s Auto Turn Rocker. The company recognizes five skier ability levels including beginner, intermediate, advanced, expert, and pro/athlete as well as five disciplines, including all-mountain, on-trail, free-ride, twin tip, and race. Verdonk says Auto Turn Rocker is incorporated throughout the product suite “to help first-time beginners to all-mountain experts quickly become better, stronger, more confident skiers.” The technology is being heralded by ski instructors nationwide.
Like Rossi, more ski makers are zeroing in on the way a ski performs and reacts depending on various speeds. At higher speeds, Auto Turn Rocker allows the portion of the ski edges closest to the tip and tail to engage with the snow, creating the carve ability and grip that define the modern shaped ski. When the ski is used at slower speeds, the addition of rocker construction means that a shorter length of the edge comes in contact with the snow, resulting in easier turning and steering.
“Auto Turn Rocker allows beginners to progress more quickly due to the shortened running surface of the ski at low-edge angles, this makes twisting and turning easy for beginners, allowing more control and confidence,” Verdonk says.
As pioneering as this new technology may be, Verdonk says the conversation on how to make it even better already began several months ago. It takes about a year and a half for the average ski to evolve from a concept to reality, with an additional six months of fine-tuning. At Rossi about 10 people, including marketers and research and development engineers, have influence on the final product that we see on display at the retail stores.
“Generally speaking, we’re making products more user-friendly than ever before,” Verdonk says. “The use of lighter weight materials is helping reduce fatigue, while adjusting and perfecting the blends of rocker, sidecut, and overall construction is resulting in products that perform at each skier level and preferred usage.”
In the end, new ski and snowboard technologies coupled with better access to test and learn about the new gear are helping guests tap into an experience they will crave for years to come.