If you’ve been thinking of thinning the quiver, this is the season to do it. The used market is going to be much hotter than usual. When the pandemic broke out in 2020, brands were too far gone with production to make many changes to the ’20-’21 lineups, but they were able to make big adjustments to their ’21-’22 strategy. These changes impact the amount of new-but-on-sale inventory on the market right now. And if the bargain-hunter, budget-conscious crowds can’t get what they need on the clearance rack, it’s going to increase the competitiveness for used gear.
To explain why this year is unique, first let’s breakdown what normal looks like. Most brands put out a unique ski every year. It may have the same construction as the previous year, but the graphics are unique and stores don’t mix inventory. All stores price the skis the same for most of the season because brands have a “MAP” (minimum advertised price) policy, which basically says they’ll stop doing business with them if they advertise cheaper prices. Around March 1, the policies expire, and stores can price however they want. Most start with a modest discount, cut further in April / May when lifts stop spinning. They might take temporary or permanent reductions on 4th of July, Labor Day, and Black Friday. Most old inventory is cleared out once the lifts start spinning the next season.
A few brands will buck the annual cycle and put out a 2-year topsheet. They’ll have the same MAP policy, it ends in March, and shops tend to take smaller discounts. A few may be really heavy on inventory, or physical shops might have to clear out space to transition to summer gear, like if they double as a camping, golf, or tennis shop. Shops have already forecasted how much inventory they’ll carry into the next season, and they adjust their 2nd season orders accordingly. They don’t need to make aggressive price cuts to right-size their inventory. In mid- to late-summer, the MAP policies go back in place and the shops relabel them as the next year’s model.
On a normal year, about 10-15% of mainstream skis have carry over graphics. Black Crows, Salomon, Blizzard, and Rossignol would pepper in repeat topsheets sporadically. The pandemic dramatically changed that. This year, 43% of women’s skis from Evo and 45% of men’s have carry-over graphics. This let both shops and brands manage their risks and give them an out strategy if last year’s sales really bombed.
However, this means 85-90% of the market isn’t on deep markdown. About a third of the skis on the market are back up to regular pricing instead going on a progressive markdown. So the spring and summer bargain hunter got funneled into fewer models. Once those are cleared out, the only way to get a bargain is to shop used. Likewise, this year, powerhouse skis like the Black Pearls, Sheevas, and Camox Birdies aren’t getting new graphics, so resellers are the only way to buy for less than MSRP pricing.
I’m seeing this play out when I help people find gear. A lot of my favorite recommendations are out of stock. Pricing feels inflated compared to years past. And I had a few emails and messages from last fall that confirmed what I suspected. The Atomic Vantage 97 C was $399 this year vs $300 last year. The ski is being completely discontinued, and usually skis see a more aggressive discount schedule when they’re no longer in production (or have major construction changes). Mindbender 90 C runs $399 ($370 last year). And the Santa Ana 110s in a 169 are going for $640, a huge increase over the $499 I paid in 2019. The only exception I’ve found was a two year topsheet headed into its second season: the Salomon Lux 92.
But not all skis are impacted equally. I’m seeing the biggest opportunity in mid-fat 50/50 skis. A friend thought she’d have to replace her 164 Backland 102s in May, and what should have been a conversation about Pandoras, Mindbenders, Kores and Traces was reduced down to the Volkl Blaze 106. Same for an east coast transplant friend shopping for a 50/50 Washington ski. I’d expect a majority of skis in that subset to be available in most or all sizes, and for pricing to be at a 25% discount.
Sale stock is a little more normal in metal laminate all-mountain skis, with the Santa Anas and Mindbenders getting new graphics. And the Armada Victas, Atomic Vantage 90 Ti, and Volkl Secret 92 have all made their final appearance. Thus, the discounting is a little more pronounced and sale prices deeper than 25% off are more common.
Before you list your skis this fall, there are a few other ways to get the best bang for your buck:
- Collect info on your skis & bindings: You’ll have better luck if you include the brand, model, year, and size for your skis. Some people omit information on the bindings, but with the rise in GripWalk boot soles, many shoppers will need to know to check compatibility. They’ll also want to check if the bindings are indemnified if they get service from a shop (so even better if you have that info too). List the BSL (boot sole length) that the skis were mounted for and their adjustment range forward and back. Include whether the skis have prior mounts. Even better? Find a retailer’s original web listing. (Bonus points if it’s a site with a lot of positive reviews).
- Fix the visible damage: Send skis in for any needed base repairs or edge repairs. For broken bindings, see whether broken parts can be replaced (very common for touring binding manufacturers to sell or warranty individual parts. For inbounds, it’s mainly just the brakes).
- Address the visible signs of neglect: A seasoned used gear shopper will look for signs of poor upkeep, like white and cloudy bases and rusted edges. The cloudiness is from oxidized bases, where the skis weren’t waxed often enough and dried out. Rusted edges come from wet storage or exposure to road salt. Both are easy to fix – stone grind for the bases, gummy stone for the edges. Tune them up and no one will ever know that you never put storage wax on over the summers.
- Brag if you baby them: Good storage means keeping your skis in a cool spot with relatively consistent year-round temperatures. Keep them in a dark space, or at least out of UV light (it compromises the plastic in your bindings over time). And ventilation works in your favor, since it reduces the odds of them staying wet in storage. If you’re doing any of these things, take credit for it. Even if a shopper doesn’t know much about gear maintenance, it sends the signal that your setup is well taken care of and will be worth their investment.
- Add all the buzzwords to your listing: Google algorithms have figured out that “backcountry,” “touring,” and “randonee” all mean similar things, but Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace aren’t that sophisticated. Include all the relevant synonyms.