Best Selling Ski Equipment for 2019

Every year the Snowsports Industries of America works with NPD to determine the bestselling ski equipment for the past year.  So, if you are in the market for skis, boots or bindings this list is a good place to start - after all, millions of people can’t be wrong - can they?

Here is the list:

  • Marker Griffon ID Binding

  • Salomon XPRO, 100, Men’s Boot

  • Blizzard Black Pearl 88 Skis, Women

  • Marker Squire 11 ID Binding

  • Nordica Enforcer 100

  • Salomon XPRO, 120, Men’s Boot (Powder Magazine 2019 Boot of the Year)

  • Marker Griffon Binding

  • Nordica Speedmachine 110 Boot

  • Nordica Enforcer 93 (Powder Magazine 2019 Ski of the Year)

  • Volkl Mantra M5 Ski (Freeskier Magazine 2019 2nd place ski of the Year)

Here are my impressions of the list.

Bindings

  • The Marker ID bindings can accommodate alpine and touring boots which may be a reason why it landed on the top of the list.

  • I find it Interesting the only binding company represented as Marker, especially since there are two Salomon boots on the list

  • Strange that bindings are top of the list, folks must be putting bindings on previously drilled skis.

  • Look bindings are highly reviewed by all the magazines, popular with the park crowd and sold with many of the indie skis, but didn’t make the list.

Skis

  • Shocking that he Blizzard Black Pearl was third overall on the list 

  • Surprising that the Blizzard Black Pearl was the best selling women’s ski., I would have guessed the Nordica Santa Ana, considering that the Enforcer landed on the list twice.

  • Surprised there are no Head skis on the list since they are a favorite among the World Cup racers and the Head Kore 99 is highly rated.

  • No skis fatter than 100 cm, even though the magazines lead you to believe everyone is skiing on skis fat skis.

  • No specialized skis (e.g., powder, race or touring) are on the list

  • No indie skis cracked the top 10 (e.g., Shaggy’s, JSKI, etc.), which is not a surprise

  • All Mountain skis rule the list with rocker/camber/rocker profiles - which leads me to believe most people are a one ski quiver skier.

Boots

  • Best selling boot has a flex of only 100 and there were no boots on the list with a flex of 130

My final comment, is it doesn’t appear all the buyer guides from Powder, Freeskier and SKI magazines have much influence on what people buy since seven of the ten items on the list did not were not on their “best of” lists.

Mont Sainte Anne Review

Mont Sainte Anne is in Beaupré, Quebec, which is approximately 25 miles northeast of the provincial capital of Quebec City.  The mountain is part of the Laurentian mountain chain and has a summit elevation 2,625 ft above sea level with a vertical drop of 2,051 ft.  For comparison the vertical drop is similar to Mad River Glen, Okemo, Jay Peak and is 65 feet less than the more well traveled Mont Tremblant.  Mont Ste. Anne has 71 trails that are dispersed over three sides of the mountain with 19 of the trails available for night skiing. The trail count is similar to Bolton Valley, Attitash and Smuggler’s Notch, although none of those areas offer night skiing.  The trails are 23% beginner, 18% intermediate, 45% advanced and 14% expert with over 80% of the mountain covered by snowmaking that supplements the areas average 190 inches of natural snow. Additionally, the mountain offers mind boggling panoramas of the St. Lawrence River from the summit of the mountain.

The resort boasts enough difficult terrain that it has held numerous World Cup alpine races, with the last one being held in 1989.  At that race Gunther Mader of Austria, who is one of only five men to have won the World Cup races in all five alpine disciplines, won the giant slalom.  Thomas Stangassinger, 1994 Olympic slalom gold medalist, won the slalom. Five-time overall World Cup winner Marc Giradelli came in third.

The area is owned by Resorts of the Canadian Rockies, which also owns Nakiska, Fernie, Kimberly Alpine, Kicking Horse and Stoneham Mountain.  Stoneham is located 1.5 hours from Mont Sainte Anne.

The Trip

We took advantage of Mont Saint Anne’s “Happy Parents” offer, during Presidents’ Day Week (US).  Booking during the President’s Week, for a trip to Quebec avoids all the cluster of crowds in the US, since the Canadian kids do not have that week off from school.  In a nutshell, the Happy Parent Parents offer is, for a minimum stay of three days, kids (up to 17) ski free! On top of that, the deal includes a Ski Québec+ Charlevoix multi-ski area ticket, which means you can ski at Mont Sainte Anne, Stoneham, and Le Massif de Charlevoix (see review here).  This deal, combined with a favorable exchange rate, made for a very reasonably priced ski vacation.

Places to Stay

We stayed at the Chateau Mont Sainte Anne which is a ski-in/ski-out property located at the base of the L’Etoile Filante gondola, which serves up the most difficult terrain on the mountain.  My family of four chose in a Nordik Studio room which had been recently renovated with two queen beds, a fully furnished small kitchenette and a small table for four. We used the kitchenette only for breakfast and ate lunch on the mountain and dinner in the local restaurants. The Chateau has an amazing lobby that was a hub of après ski activity. There is a restaurant, Bistro Nordik, with a bar located just off the lobby and every evening there was an extremely talented individual that would sing and play guitar, while taking requests.  Additionally, there is a two-tiered hot tub out back that was popular with the adults and kids that provided relief to sore muscles.

Chateau Mont-Sainte-Anne.jpg
Chilling in the hot tub!

Chilling in the hot tub!

If you choose not to stay at one of the hotels at Mont Ste Anne, there is a very unique alternative in Quebec City, called the Hôtel de Glace!  The Hôtel de Glace is a work of art and architecture that is entirely built of snow and ice. Every winter, this unique hotel is completely redesigned and rebuilt, offering an unforgettable experience in the only hotel of its kind in North America.  Each room is a cave of ice where you sleep on a block of ice. I am not sure how well you would sleep, but it would be an unbelievable and probably romantic experience.

The Skiing

During our time at Mont Ste Anne the resort received approximately a foot of snow over the three days, so needless to say the conditions were incredible.  However, it was observed that the resort was not eager to groom the powder into neat rows of corduroy, which I applaud, but I did hear gripes from other skiers, especially when skiing on some of the easier slopes.  For the experienced skier there are two trails worth mentioning. The first is the double black diamond La S, it is located off of the gondola and is the steepest trail on the mountain, in fact it is one of only three trails in Quebec that has a sustained pitch over 30 degrees, the others are Alexander Dispatie at Mont Chantecler and the infamous La Dynamite at Mont Tremblant, so it puts La S in good company.  The other trail worth mentioning is La Crete.

La S is an FIS approved race trail, however the only racing you’ll be doing on this steep trail is moguls.  The trail is generally ungroomed and full of “bosses”, the French term for moguls. Given Quebec’s penchant for cranking out world class mogul skiers the bosses on this hill may very well be the skiers. La S has a sustained pitch (steepest section over 300 ft) of 30.38 degrees with a vertical drop of 1154 feet, this is very similar to Sunday River’s signature run, White Heat.  However, White Heat is a very wide trail at 220 feet, where La S is a constricted 64 feet, meaning between the bumps and narrowness of the trail you will be unable to shop for turns.

While La S is the steeper more difficult run, the signature run of the mountain is La Crete.  The piste is a single black diamond, that is accessed via the gondola and then by traversing across the mountain where you will pass a series of very tempting double black diamonds.  This is a flat traverse, so a helpful tip is to wax your skis prior to your trip. Once the traverse ends you will find yourself on an exposed ridge with 2,000 vertical feet in front of you with a jaw dropping panorama of the mighty St. Lawrence River in front of you.  By river, I mean a ten mile wide, super tanker traveling waterway that is littered with mini icebergs. La Crete, which is featured in Patrick Thorne’s book, “Powder: The Greatest Ski Runs on the Planet”, is generally a groomed FIS approved race trail that is free of moguls, which means you can put your boards on edge and head to Trenchtown in a hurry. 

If you want to ski black diamonds, then Mont Sainte Anne has you covered!

If you want to ski black diamonds, then Mont Sainte Anne has you covered!

Beaupre, Quebec

The town of Beaupre is not a particularly scenic town, nor a typical ski town.  However, you will be able to find pizza joints and other restaurants that serve up typical Quebec favorites such as smoked meat sandwiches, poutine and cheese curds.  Additionally, for any Catholics visiting the area on a Sunday the town has the beautiful Basilica of Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré.

Basilica_of_Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupre_in_Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupre,_Quebec,_Canada.jpg

PROS

  • Family friendly mountain that offers terrain for all levels and offer cost savings deals coupled with the favorable exchange rate that makes it wallet friendly.

  • Less crowded than its more well known  counterpart

  • Can ski Stoneham, Le Massif and Mont Ste Anne on one lift ticket

  • Multiple options for slopeside lodging

  • The UNESCO World Heritage site of “Old Quebec” is only 25 miles away.

  • Views from the top of the mountain

CONS

  • Slopeside restaurants are few and far between

  • Winds can be strong coming off the St. Lawrence

  • Beaupre is not a vibrant ski town

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DPS Phantom 2.0 Benefits and Summary of Reviews

DPS Phantom 2.0 Benefits and Summary of Reviews

Over the summer of 2019, I purchased a new pair of Black Crows Orb at a ski store going out of business for the ridiculous price of $200.  Since I had a new pair of skis I began toying with the idea of applying DPS Phantom to the bases, so I never have to wax again or be the last one poling across the flats.  But, even though I only paid $200 for the skis I wanted to do some research on the magic elixir to see if the hype of the product was true. Before I get to my findings here are the benefits of DPS Phantom that I found on their webpage.

20 Powder Day Excuses

20 Powder Day Excuses

With winter storm Jayden bearing down on the East Coast and ready to dump up to 14” of snow, it is time to choose your Powder Day excuse.  Here is a list to help get your creative juices flowing – some are convincing, some are creative and some we just advise against, if staying employed is also part of the plan

Who is Buying Jay Peak?`

Who is Buying Jay Peak?

Jay Peak located in the Northeast Kingdom (err...boondocks) of Northern Vermont, is know for four things which are:

  • Prodigious amounts of snow

  • Hardcore Skiing

  • Investment Fraud

Jay Peak, is located in an area of northern Vermont known as the Northeast Kingdom and is a short 15-minute drive from the Canadian border.   Jay Peak is synonymous with snow, hardcore skiing and investment fraud. Let’s look at each separately.

Magic Mountain - Road to Ruin - Chinese Downhill

Anyone who skied and grew up in the 80’s has watched Hot Dog – The Movie (probably more than once).  How this movie never won an Oscar is beyond me, but I digress.  One of the most famous lines in the movie and probably any ski movie is when Kendo leans into to Squirrel and says, “What is da f*%k is a Chinese Downhill”.  For those of you who haven’t seen the movie, you should, a Chinese Downhill is first man to the bottom wins and the rules to this race, there are no rules. 

Hot Dog - The Movie (1984) - Chinese Downhill…Kendo putting a drop kick on a competitor!

Hot Dog - The Movie (1984) - Chinese Downhill…Kendo putting a drop kick on a competitor!


Magic Mountain, VT is bringing their own flavor to this epic event with a race called the Road to Ruin – Mad Dash Downhill.  This is nothing like you would see on the World Cup.  There are no gates, no blue lines marking the course, no water injected courses and probably no timing devices.  Instead, this is a “balls to the wall” first the bottom wins.   Although, something tells me that spiked pole baskets, helmet mounted smoke screens and spiked gloves will not be permitted. 

road to ruin.png

While the course will not be launching off a cornice into an open bowl with people skiing through lodges, plate glass windows and through skiers eating on an outdoor deck, the course does consist of two double black diamond trails, Witch and Black Line.  The race begins at the intersection of Witch and Redline. After plunging down Witch for xx feet you will be stomping on your left foot to make a hard right onto Black Line.  Now make no mistake, Black Line isn’t as narrow and rocky as its big brother Black Magic, but it also isn’t a joke.  There are a couple areas where you have the potential to take big air, which mean you have the potential of star fishing upon landing.  You will continue to haul ass until the finish banner located at the intersection of Black Line and Hocus Pocus. 

Besides becoming a legend, at least in your own mind, what do you win?  The top three overall finishers take home cash, with the overall winner taking home a Grover Cleveland ($1000).  If this sounds like an entertaining Saturday afternoon, hurry up and register, the race is limited to the first hundred entries.  The entry fee is $40 and a discounted lift ticket of $40 will need to be purchased – total cost $80.  Day of registration on February 2nd will be allowed if there is room at $50, but must be done by 10am. A Road to Ruin t-shirt is included for each competitor.  Registration/bib pick up is from 9am to 11 am at the ticket office.  

If you do enter this race at Magic, you may want to consider having the magic of Ullr on your side.  Ullr (pronounced like ruler but without the r) is the mythical Norse God of Winter, who was unbeatable on skis, never losing a race. In fact, some believe the Aurora Borealis is the snow flying off the tail of his skis. Ullr is also known for protecting skiers from harm while in the mountains.

Lastly, if you do enter, I’d love to hear about your experience.

Mont Tremblant Review

Village of Mont Tremblant, as seen from the Cabriolet lift that goes over the village to the base of the mountain.

Village of Mont Tremblant, as seen from the Cabriolet lift that goes over the village to the base of the mountain.

Located approximately 80 miles north west of the cosmopolitan city of Montreal, in the Mont Tremblant National Park lies the year-round resort of Mont Tremblant.  In the winter, the resort is a popular destination for many skiers on both sides of the border.  In the summer, the area is popular for boating, golfing and IRONMAN triathlons.  Tremblant, as it is commonly referred to, is diminutive even by Laurentian Mountain standards, at only 2871 feet, it isn’t in the top 35 highest peaks of the mountain range and almost a full 1000 feet smaller than Mont Raoul Blancher which is the highest peak, although not a ski area, in the Laurentains.  However, good things come in small packages because Mont Tremblant offers up a few surprisingly challenging runs along with a distinctive village of shops, restaurants, bars and condos.

The skiing at Tremblant is done off all sides of the mountain, known as Versant Sud (South Side), Versant Nord (North Side) and Le Edge. The south side, is the side seen from the village, and has a mix of easy, intermediate and expert trails.  The expert trails are generally wide-open GS rippers that have been groomed for maximum speed. The best of these trails was Erik Guay, which is named after the Canadian speed merchant who won the World Cup season title in super-G in 2010 and was the world champion in downhill in 2011, as well as in the super-G in 2017. Guay grew up racing with the Mont Tremblant race club. However, Quebec is not really known for producing great ski racers, instead the province is a proverbial factory of mogul skiers, currently 10 of the 11 mogul skiers on the Canadian World Cup Team are from the province of Quebec, including the “Michael Jordan of Moguls” Mikael Kingsbury.  With that said, you would expect some trails littered with “bosses” (the term for moguls in French) and you wouldn’t be disappointed.  On the South Side the two places to get your bumpin’ on are Vertige and Zig Zag.  Vertige is an appropriately named trail, the appears to drop away from the top of Erik Guay at a dizzying rate into sea of moguls, however the trail in reality isn’t as steep as it appears.  The trail next to Vertige is Zig Zag which has a gentler pitch, but just as many moguls – you won’t be disappoint with either trail.

Vertige on the Versant Sud Side of Tremblant - photo by Robert Rousseau

Vertige on the Versant Sud Side of Tremblant - photo by Robert Rousseau

However, if true double black diamond skiing is what you are looking for then head to Versant Nord and ride the Expo Express and you’ll find yourself with access to three very good trails, they are Cossack, Expo and Dynamite.  Cossack and Expo are run of the mill double black diamond trails, but Dynamite isn’t run of the mill.  La Dynamite is infamous terrain for countless skiers in the United States and Canada. The trail is situated on the Nord side of Tremblant and can be accessed via the Expo Express Chair.  Dynamite is the crown jewel of all Quebec steep skiing – the trail has the steepest sustained pitch of any inbounds trail in the 527,079 sq. miles of Quebec.  It is one of only three trails in Quebec that have sustained pitches over 30 degrees, the others are Alexander Dispatie at Mont Chantecler and La S at Mont St. Anne.  Dynamite can be divided into two segments the upper half is a “simple” double black diamond mogul run, the lower half of the trail is as difficult as they come on the East coast, to say it is a valid double black diamond is not an exaggeration. The lower segment of Dynamite, carries a pucker factor that will put butterflies in the stomach, of all but the most skilled skiers.   To make matters worse, if you get past the headwall (err…frozen waterfall) you will still have mogul after mogul to deal with before the trail ends at the intersection of Expo.  Dynamite is very similar to Rumor at Gore Mountain in NY.  They both have very steep headwalls followed by a mogul field, although Dynamite is 25 feet narrower than Rumor.  The trail is appropriately named – Dynamite will unleash an explosion of demolition if you don’t have your “A” game. However, if you ski it, really ski it – you will be quoting Jimmy Walker from Good Times (if you are younger than 45 you may need to Google that reference)!

The headwall of Dynamite encountered half way down the slope.

The headwall of Dynamite encountered half way down the slope.

USA citizens frequently state that when they go to Tremblant it is like going back to the old country, since it has a very European feel to it, although the colorful buildings resemble Reykjavik, Iceland more than the buildings of Chamonix, due to the various colors of all the buildings. Some say Interwest went too “Disney” when the village was created, but I’m not in the camp.  When I’m on ski vacation I want many après ski options and Tremblant fits the bill with various  restaurants, shops, night clubs and activities for the kids such as the water park (more a pool with a rope swing), ice skating and tubing.  If you plan on staying at Tremblant for at least a night it is highly recommended that you make reservations at La Savoie.  La Savoie is a fondue/raclette restaurant, and while a bit pricey, is fun to do with the family or a date.  The raclette (a Swiss cheese dish) is served at your table via a half of a wheel of cheese that you melt onto bread with various meats and veggies.  It is delicious, although you will leave the restaurant smelling like a wheel of cheese. 

Raclette!

Raclette!

If you are in your twenties or early thirties and looking for something a little more exciting then P’tit Caribou is where you should head.  The bar has been voted by Ski Canada and Freeskier magazines as the best après ski destination in North American and Men’s Journal and Forbes both listed it as one of the top 10 après ski destinations in the world!  In the write up by Men’s Journal it says, “P’tit Caribou lures in skiers early with a dirt cheap 2 p.m. happy hour that escalates in price until 4:30 p.m. After that, things get…wild. The crowd doubles by the time the lifts close, and by nightfall, the once rocking après-ski bar has transformed into a full-on club, replete with visiting house DJs, cage dancing, and patrons dressed to the nines. Just how did all this happen in the span of an afternoon? No one really knows, least of all the guys still dancing in their ski boots at 3 a.m.” The drinking age in Quebec is 18, so the crowds at P’tit Caribou can skew to young.  Lastly, you can’t leave Tremblant without trying the maple syrup taffy sticks at Cabane à sucre de la Montagne, located by the base of the Cabriolet lift.  Heated Maple syrup is poured on snow and after waiting 45 seconds you roll it up onto a popsicle stick for a delicious, teeth rotting treat.

The start of maple syrup taffy. Next step is to roll it up on a popsicle stick and then eat.

The start of maple syrup taffy. Next step is to roll it up on a popsicle stick and then eat.

There you have it, Tremblant offers up skiing for all abilities and night life choices for all.  For anyone who lives south of the border and wants a genuine European flavor for a ski weekend, this is the place to go.

PROS

  • European flair in a francophone town

  • Plenty of condos available in and around the village

  • Varied terrain for all abilities in your group

CONS

  • Can be expensive, even with the exchange rate

  • Gets crowded, go during the week if possible

  • Can be “Canada Cold” bring toe and hand warmers

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Naming Trails After Athletes

Throughout the research of my book, “Experts Only! The History and Ranking of Eastern North America’s Hardest Trails”, I have observed Quebec ski areas routinely recognizing local athletes that have achieved the pinnacle of their sport by naming a trail in their honor.  This seems like an appropriate honor since many of these skiers and riders have spent tireless hours training at the mountain that has named a trail after them.  For example, in Quebec the following athletes have trails named after them:

  • JP Auclair (legend) - Stoneham
  • Nicolas Fontaine (3x Olympian) – Mont Orford
  • Lloyd Langlois (Bronze Medalist 1994 Olympics) – Mont Orford
  • Erik Guay (3x Olympian) - Tremblant
  • Jasey Jay Anderson (Gold Medalist 2010 Olympics) – Tremblant
  • Alexandre Despatie (2x Olympic Silver Medalist in diving!)– Ski Chantecler

Why don’t we have trails on the east coast after our successful athletes?  Just off the top of my head the following athletes should have trails named after them.

  • Seth Westcott  (2x Gold Medalist Olympics) - Sugarloaf
  • Bode Miller (6x Olympic Medalist/Legend) - Cannon
  • Andrew Weibrect (2x Olympic Medalist) - Whiteface
  • Kelly Clark (3x Olympic Medalist/Pioneer) - Mount Snow
  • Donna Weinbrecht (Gold Medalist/Pioneer) - Killington

Should Avalanche be renamed Bode Miller, Upper Skyward renamed to Andrew Weibrect, Outer Limits renamed to Donna Weinbrecht?

What are your thoughts, should the mountains south of the border recognize athletes that have reached the pinnacle of the sport?