. - Ski and snowboard equipment demos are regular events at ski areas across the country but none are like Wachusett Mountain's annual "Ride 'Em & Rank 'Em!"
Since the inception of "Ride 'Em & Rank 'Em" six years ago, it has become established as one of the premier consumer demos in the Northeast, if not the nation. The brainchild of Wachusett's Mike Vlass, manager of Mountainside Ski & Sports Shop, "Ride 'Em & Rank 'Em" was created to give his customers a chance to ski or ride on next year's equipment and to give him and his staff a chance to preview which models will be best suited for the shop come next fall.
No other equipment preview is available for the general public. As Vlass points out, "Ride 'Em & Rank 'Em" combines the magazine ski testing with the annual New England Ski Reps "On-snow" Trade Fair. "It refines our purchasing decisions," he noted, "and it provides our staff with invaluable insight on the floor next season!"
"Ride 'Em & Rank 'Em" participants are designated by invitation only or by submitting a request via the Wachusett Mountain website
on, as Vlass notes: "Why we can't do this event without them!" This year the unique demo attracted 65 locals to the mountain on March 14 including a mix of skiers and riders from lower intermediate through advanced levels. Throughout the day-long demo, each participant must complete a form ranking the skis or boards on edge hold, stability at speed, quickness, versatility, overall performance plus positive and negative qualities. "We wanted to create a magazine-style test for locals," said Vlass. Each tester is assigned up to 7 different models to test drive.
This year's "Ride 'Em & Rank 'Em" featured 12 manufacturers offering 84 different ski models and 45 boards - all 2008-2009 versions! With its unique location near the Boston market and its strong relationship with manufacturers, "Ride 'Em & Rank 'Em" attracted all the top brands - Atomic, Fischer, Head, K2, Rossignol, Nordica, Salomon, Volkl on the ski side and Burton, Rossignol, Salomon and Ride on the board side.
"This is the only demo of the year that I will not miss," said Salomon's Bruce Diehl. "We get a real feel for what the consumer trends are. This is valuable for product managers to be at to see what's going on."