With record snowpack and a close proximity to Southern California, Mammoth Mountain was an easy choice for spring proving grounds when the Quiksilver snowboard management wanted to test its new Arcane step-in boots and bindings. The company grabbed fourteen retailers, pros, reps, and employees, rented a house, and hit the slopes to see just what people thought about the new step-in.
“The trip really served two purposes,” says Roger Neiley, Quiksilver director of wintersports R&D and product development. “Half of it was testing new product and half was confirmation of the ’98 production models that would be delivered to shops in September. It gave us a last chance to sign off on the boots, particularly because we changed the two-density lower on the boots.”
For the three-day getaway, Mammoth served up a complete range of conditions, including one day of hardpacked snow, one of spring conditions, and one with sixteen inches of powder.
John Vance, Quiksilver’s vice president of wintersports sales and marketing, became a victim of the conditions when he lost balance while riding, stuck his arm deep into some snow and ended up breaking it. He’s quick to point out the injury had nothing to do with equipment failure.
In fact, everyone agreed that the equipment worked well in all the conditions. Testing wasn’t limited to just the step-in, says Vance. Boarders were asked to try riding with a regular strap boot and binding on one foot and the step-in on the other to directly compare the differences.
“We brought some ‘core retailers along who didn’t want to ride step-ins, and after the second day they said they would definitely ride the system next season,” says Vance.
Riding wasn’t these testers only job. Vance and Neiley had a list of 36 different things the riders needed to consider when trying the product. They were also required to fill out evaluation forms and make suggestions for possible changes in the system as well.
Because of the late-season timing of the trip, the town was pretty dead. But the trip wasn’t dull. Besides the great powder day, one morning a baby bear wandered into the garage of the house the group was staying in. Quiksilver pro Tommy Brunner wanted to capture it, but wisely gave up the idea after seeing the creature up close and realizing just how big it really was.