Golden-ticket-bearing retailers flew to Jackson Hole, Wyoming for new product demos.

More than 60 retailers from around the country came to Jackson Hole, Wyoming January 16¿19 for a Rossignol Snowboards product launch, and although powder slashes were few and far between, there was plenty of good snow and keg beer to be had.

Rossignol Snowboard Division Manager Dane Hjort unleashed a strong 2001/02 line on the lucky group of invited retailers, who may have looked a little rough around the edges from the previous night’s kick-off party, but were by no means regretting their chance to ride Jackson Hole on next year’s equipment. All in all, the retailers had three core constructions and twenty board models to choose from. According to Hjort, Rossignol didn’t want to exclude any style of rider with its 2001/02 line: “This is a complete range for all types of riding.”

Hjort also emphasized the much improved performance of the mid-range boards, a claim that was thoroughly backed up by those who got to try them out¿the most common favorite board for the retailers was the mid-range Vintage with a Microcell and wood-composite core.

In regard to the specialty models, including the 185 cm swallowtail board dubbed the Undertaker and an ultrastiff, boardercross-specific model, Hjort says that while these boards may not represent Rossignol’s volume sales, there is still a demand for them: “We don’t want to leave anyone out in the cold.”

After the initial line introduction, a two-day shred-a-thon ensued in which retailers tried out the new equipment, and pretty much everyone found something they really liked riding. Teamrider Jeremy Jones was there to show people around the mountain and make sure everyone realized how out of shape and unacclimated to the elevation they were by taking them on hikes into the backcountry.

Most of the retailers were duly impressed by Rossi’s traditionally performance-oriented boards that are now backed by input from a stronger-than-ever freestyle team. “Andrew Crawford and J.F. Pelchat basically designed the Premier for this year,” says Rossignol Snowboards Marketing Manager Christine McConnell, “and they’re both very animated about what graphics they want.” Pelchat and Crawford’s skills were also on display with the rest of the team in a preview of the Rossi team video.

In a marketing presentation on the final morning of the trip, Rossignol Vice President Of Sales And Marketing Steve Dudley outlined plans to step up the company’s advertising campaign with a twenty-percent-bigger budget, ads supporting the boot and binding program, and the development of a strong B team. But according to Dudley, Rossignol will remain a performance-driven brand that focuses on team input and quality. “We’re confident that in the end, product performance will be more important than hype,” he says.

It seems the company may be right in this assumption, as many of the East Coast retailers at the launch reported their Rossignol boards were ranking in the third or fourth top-selling brands. “Rossignol is selling well,” says Nick Santora from Willi’s in Pennsylvania. “It’s right up there behind Burton and Salomon in our shop.”

Although the brand isn’t as well represented outside of its Eastern stronghold, a solid half of the retailer invitees at the launch were from Western states, including fourteen from California. Yasha Sadiqui from ZJ Boarding House in Santa Monica, California says he hasn’t carried Rossignol in the past, but he’s seriously considering how well the brand might sell to his high-end clientele. “Our customers are definitely more informed than your average consumer,” says Sadiqui. “A lot of them are yuppies with computer jobs, and the hype doesn’t fly with them. They spend all day researching boards on the Internet, and when they buy something, they buy the best.”

With a strong commitment to honing its team-oriented marketing plan now backed by a seven-figure budgett; boasting profits in excess of 40 percent at the end of the fiscal year; and launching a new line of kick-ass snowboards, boots, and bindings; it seems Rossignol is really stepping up to bat for the 2001/02 season.

¿Jennifer M. Sherowski