“You shoulda been here yesterday.”

We hear those words at the golf course and the beach, but nowhere do they hurt as much as at a ski area. I couldn’t get away early enough to ski, and I arrived at Bretton Woods late in the afternoon on a bright sunny day Tuesday. The event was the introduction of a new demo center concept with the ski resort and Dalbello/Elan. I was in time for the inside displays of the new boots and skis and the presentation by the reps, but instead of skiing in bright sunshine I would be skiing the next day under cloudy skies and the threat of rain. I heard plenty about how good the skiing was before I arrived.

Nevertheless, I was at the Mount Washington Hotel where the lobby and great entrance hall were fully decorated for Christmas – my first visit since the announcement of new ownership earlier this fall. A lot of us have been wondering what the change would mean. In the 15 years since Joel and Kathy Bedor rescued the hotel from the wrecking ball in 1991, the hotel has undergone extensive renovation and restoration and the various parts. The ski area has been expanded to become the largest in New Hampshire, and the resort has been growing steadily in popularity.

At the opening of the presentation, Pat Corso, CEO at the resort, was introduced to talk about the new demo center and some future plans for the resort.

The new owners and the resort management company have plenty of experience having worked with such resorts as Pinehurst in golf and Mont Ste. Anne in skiing. Corso told us the next few years would be a renaissance building the resort into one that covers all the bases.

In a project that could total a billion dollars, he spoke of a new spa, convention center and a village at the base of the ski area with 400-500 units, including shops and restaurants. Golf will be expanded to 36 holes, starting with a total restoration of the Donald Ross course, which will be closed next summer.

“We are what we are, a family ski area,” Corso said. To that end, the Hobbit Learning Center was doubled for this season and the emphasis on new skiers will continue.

The idea is to build a finely tuned machine where the guest experience is paramount. He sees the new demo center as part of the experience. And it was the demo center we were there to see, or at least what was going to be in it.

Unlike most demo centers, this one will be set up to work with some 140 retail dealers around New England. When a skier goes into a shop and expresses an interest in Elan skis, but wants to test drive them before buying, the shop can refer him to the demo center at Bretton Woods. The reference will allow the skier to try as many different models.

The entire line for 2007-08 was presented to us with explanations of who the skis were designed for. Glen Plake, the extreme skier with the towering blonde spiked Mohawk, explained his connection to the line, and his wife Kimberly explained the women’s models. The next generation of Dalbello boots were presented along with the new fitting systems from racing boots to ladies and junior models.

The classroom details are unimportant. Wednesday morning, we got to ski the new skis and those of us who got there when the lifts opened were able to get onto the key models before the rains came.

The new race skis were not available, but I can attest to the Elan Rip Stick’s qualities having tested them last winter. This is the current race model and it performs as expected, quick turning and stable cruising.

My first run was on the Speed Wave 14. Somewhat wider than traditional race skis at 70 mm, it was still quick edge to edge and carved long round turns with ease. A slightly softer version (one metal plate instead of two) the 12 is less demanding and still solid. I skied both at 176 cms.

A pleasant surprise was the MagFire 8, also in a 176. This is an intermediate ski with a 73 mm waist. I skied it on a run with Plake and as expected it was very easy into the turn. The surprise was how fast it could be skied.

Glen raved about the ski and how well it skied. On the way up the lift, he remarked how great it was to have such skis and have them available to the general skiing public. We both remember when the really good skis were reserved for the racers and those willing to spend top dollar.

Usually, when I attend a demo, I concentrate on high end skis because with all the brands represented I don’t have time to hit all the models. The trip to Bretton Woods was well worth the time, and this new type demo center should prove popular.

Dave Irons is a freelance writer who lives in Westbrook.


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