On the Slopes: Demos are perfect way to try before you buyDemos are perfect way to try before you buy

Sam Bauman/For the Nevada AppealJoe Shecher, ski tech at Bobo's Ski shop in Reno, holds two examples of the new rocker type skis; the K2 Pontoon is already a solid seller and the Rossignal Barrar7 is another popular rocket ski.

Sam Bauman/For the Nevada AppealJoe Shecher, ski tech at Bobo's Ski shop in Reno, holds two examples of the new rocker type skis; the K2 Pontoon is already a solid seller and the Rossignal Barrar7 is another popular rocket ski.

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We've discussed shopping for new ski boots and looking at the kind of ski that is right for your skiing interests and abilities. We hit on side cut radius (the smaller the number on the tail of the ski the more that ski will want to make short radius turns) and touched on taper, which is the difference between the width of the tip and the tail. If a ski has a 10 to 15 mm difference it will exit turns more easily. More taper and the ski tails will not be as effective.

But we haven't yet taken a look at the newest thing on the hill - rocker skis.

So we made a trip to Reno to Bobo's ski shop on Moana Lane. There Joe Shecher hauled out a couple of pairs of rockers which pretty much showed what the new style is all about. K2 offers the Pontoon Rocker in lengths of 168 to 198 cm. Rossignol has the Barras S7 in varied lengths. Both have the look of "fat boy" of yore skis but have significantly turned up tips and tails.

The Rossi has a turn radius of 17.5 meters, rebound tips and rubber between the edges for shock absorption, wood core and four mounting marks for bindings depending on how you ski. Retail, without bindings, at more than $600.

Shecher said the Pontoon, probably the best known and most popular, is deigned for skiing 95 per cent of the time on powder. No turn radius is given. Binding position is flat (no lifter under the binding) and it features the 20/40 rocker design. Pontoon retails for $500 without bindings.

That's just a sample of two popular rocker skis. The shop is loaded with variations on these, and it quickly becomes clear that if you're going to buy a rocker wait until the is some power (6-8 inches, says Shecher) and go for a demo.

Bobo's will be at Mt. Rose for demos when the season is really under way with rocker and more traditional shaped skis. But if you want to demo a rocker, get there early because that's what everyone will want to do. It's worth a trip to a ski shop before a demo so you can get some tech talk from the sales team. K2's catalog is 72 pages long and it covers everything from helmets to ski poles.

Ski shop literature has very good descriptions of rocker skis as well as more contemporary shaped skis, so check it out. Also the Internet has files of information about new skis and gear.

As for poles, remember the traditional length measurement: hold the pole upside down and grab it just about the basket. Your arm should be parallel with the ground.

And for bindings, now days they all seem to do the job of release in crises. Just remember not to set the DIN too high as that makes bindings slower to release ? OK for racers but not for the recreational skier.

Incidentally, all-mountains skis with 63 to 76 mm waist width will support good turning performance. And almost all mountain skis need binding lifters to make edging more effective, and that's what the shaped skis are all about. (Happily, the Elan term "parabolic" for shaped skis has fallen by the wayside.).

Right now I'm sticking with my X9 Rossi all mountain skis. No the best for moguls or racing or double blacks, but just fine for me.

Also Vail Associates, which owns Heavenly as well as Colorado mountain venues, is requiring all employees when they are on the clock to wear helmets on the hill.

Helmets are the standard issue list for serious skiers; we've had two occasions when a helmet made a big difference during a fall or during a close call with the trees.


Heavenly, Squaw and Northstar-at-Tahoe will all open up their slopes this weekend. We're expected to get some snow this weekend so there may be some decent runs out there.

Heavenly Mountain Resort reports it will open for skiing and snowboarding today weather permitting. Annually the official kick-off of the Lake Tahoe snowsports season, Heavenly will open this morning with more than 20 acres of available terrain accessed by the Heavenly Gondola and Tamarack Express Chairlift.

"Thanks to our incredible snowmaking crew and system, Heavenly will offer mid-winter conditions on the trails we open," said Heavenly's COO and co-president of Vail Resorts' Mountain Division, Blaise Carrig .

For the season, Heavenly's snowmaking system has operated for more than 180 hours. The resort will open with California Trail available for skiing and snowboarding. The resort plans to follow with more terrain as weather conditions permit. Heavenly asks that skiers and riders observe all posted signs and warnings, especially during the early season. Closed trails may contain hazards due to early snow coverage.

Heavenly will operate for skiing and snowboarding, weekends from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., and weekdays from 9 to 4 ; Gondola sightseeing and on-mountain dining also are open.

With the West Coast's largest snowmaking system creating excellent early-season conditions, there still is time to purchase the $369 Heavenly season pass. Heavenly is also offering its "Refer a Friend" program (www.skiheavenly.com/friend), open to all adult Heavenly Pass holders, as well as Heavenly College Pass holders. It offers $20 in "mountain money" redeemable at all on-mountain dining and retail establishments for each referred friend who purchases a Heavenly Pass , Heavenly College Pass or Epic Pass. And everyone benefits: The referred friends receive a $20 discount on the $369 Heavenly Pass , reducing the price to just $349. Pass holders can refer as many friends as they want, and will be paid for each successful purchase in a one-time payout, sometime in mid-January. Referred friends cannot have owned a Heavenly Pass in the last two years (2007-08 or 2008-09).

Northstar to open Saturday

Thanks to early season snowfall, consistently cold temperatures for snowmaking, and a lot more snow forecast for this Friday skiers and riders can look forward to some of the best early season skiing and riding conditions at Northstar Resort since the winter 1994-95 season.

The resort will open from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Cost is $45 for ages 13-69, $19 for ages 5-12 and over 70. Kids 4 and younger are free.

Visit www.northstarattahoe.com for more information

Squaw Valley ready for 2009-10 season

Five inches of fresh snow blanketed Squaw Valley this week - a precursor to Opening Day as the resort is gearing up for a historic 60th Anniversary Celebration on Opening Day on Saturday. Anchoring the 60th anniversary season opening day ceremonies is a BASE jump from the top of the resort's Cable Car. Visit Visit www.squaw.com.


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