How to shop a ski swap.

Anyone who’s been to a ski swap knows it can be overwhelming.  There’s gear everywhere, loads of people are crowded into a small space, and most likely your children aren’t on their best behavior.  Add to that the uncertainty of not knowing if the equipment you are buying is a good value or the right fit, and it can be a downright nightmare.  Since swap season is upon us, I thought I’d pass along a few tips to help ease the stress and ensure a positive shopping experience.

Skis – The #1 question I get while working a swap relates to sizing.  Luckily, it’s pretty simple: for children, we are fitting beginners anywhere from the base of the neck to the chin, meaning the ski tip should fall into this range when the tail end is placed on the ground next to a standing child. Any taller, and the skis will be too hard for them to control and learning to develop a feel for turns will be more difficult. Intermediate / advanced youth skiers are usually sized from the chin to the forehead. When shopping for adults, beginners should look for a ski length that falls somewhere around the chin. Intermediates are sized around the nose to eyebrows in length, and advanced skiers will want to stick around the forehead and up. Remember these recommendations are just that – recommendations. If you are an advanced skier looking for a quick turning, easy to ride ski, cheating down to a shorter size is totally fine. The only thing we urge parents not to do is get their children into gear that is too big in the hopes it will last a year or two longer. More times than not, the child will not enjoy their introduction to skiing due to the difficulty they face with skis that are too long or boots that are too big.

Another thing to remember to check when purchasing used skis are the bindings. You’ll want to ensure the they aren’t just too old. Each season, our shop receives a list of bindings we are legally allowed to work on. Once a binding reaches a certain age, it’s considered non-indemnified. What is non-indemnification? In short, it means the manufacturer no longer supports or recommends shop technicians working on those bindings because of age. Why do you care if a binding non-indemnified? Because if you buy skis with non-indemnified bindings, you probably won’t find a shop willing to adjust them for you (ours included). Most swaps will have a list floating around, so don’t hesitate to ask.

Snowboards – Boards are usually sized by weight, so it’s a good idea to check manufacture’s recommendations for yourself / children prior to visiting a swap. If that’s not something you have time to do, a very general rule of thumb is to fit a board between the chin and the nose with the tail end of the board on the sitting on the ground. Beginner youth sizing is a bit shorter, with the tip of the board usually somewhere in the neck area. Again, I stress this estimate is just a starting point. Ability, terrain, and boarding preference all play into which board is the best choice. And for those with size 11 feet or larger, it’s a good idea to look for “wide” board versions to give you a bit more width underfoot. This reduces the chance of hitting the tips of your boots in the snow during your toe-side turns.

At swaps, most boards include a binding in the total purchase price. Bindings are available in several sizes designed to fit a range of boot sizes, so it’s important to ensure the boots you’re buying fit into the bindings. To do this, simply open both straps and slide the boot into the binding. If the boot is too wide to slide all the way to the back of the binding or too small allowing side to side movement once in the binding, the fit is no good.

Boots – Like skis, sizing is the one thing people need the most help with. Fortunately, like sizing skis, fit is actually pretty easy to determine. With ski boots, there are two ways to do it. The first is the quicker of the two, but it’s not 100% accurate. And while we also wouldn’t recommended for fitting children’s boots, it works if you’re in a hurry. To do it, place your foot into the boot and close the top buckle only. Forcefully flex your shin forward towards the front of the boot several times. This helps set the heal back into the rear of the boot. Once this is done, you can fasten the remaining buckles. When you feel happy with the tension of all the buckles, stand with your feet shoulder width apart. With your knees locked backwards in an upright position, you should be able to feel a slight pressure on the tip of your big toe from the front of the boot. With knees bent forward towards the front of the boot (the position you would be in while skiing), the toe pressure should go away. If fitting a youth boot this way, it’s best if they don’t feel the toe at the front of the boot to ensure a little room for foot growth. Just be sure to check overall fit and make sure the boot can’t be pulled off the foot while buckled.

The second way to fit boots is called shell fitting. While a bit more time consuming, it’s the only way to ensure a proper boot fit, and is highly recommended for children. To do this, start by removing the liner from the boot shell as shown below.

Then, place the foot into the shell of the boot and slide the foot forward until the toe just touches the front of the shell. Next, measure the distance from the back of the heel to the back of the shell with your fingers. Adults should have one and one-half to two finger widths, children should be around three to allow for foot growth. For a more performance fit with adults, cheat down to about one finger width behind the heel. Remember that while a proper fitting boot will feel too snug at first, the volume of a new boot will increase during the first few times up to the hill. Also, a boot fit like a comfortable sneaker will increase the risk of blisters and discomfort while decreasing your ability to control your skis.

The overall fit for a snowboard fit is very similar to that of a ski boot – there should be a little pressure on the toe while standing with the knee locked backwards. Once the knee is bent forward, this pressure will go away. With all boots, it’s important to note that if you feel any pain or pressure while trying them on, try other models and brands. Most of the time, this discomfort will not go away after wearing the boots a few times and will make for a long, painful day on the slopes. Also if you feel any heel lift inside the boot while walking in them, keep looking for something better. This too could lead to discomfort, increased fatigue, and loss of performance.

Poles – Poles are easy. Just flip it upside down, grab the pole so the basket is resting on top of your hand, and place the handle on the ground. With your elbow at your side, your arm should be making a 90° angle. Simple as that.

Lastly, make sure to check the condition of the gear you are buying. Not sure what to look for? Check out my recent blog post. It will tell you all you need to know about damage, wear and tear, and caring for you new gear.

Swaps are a great place to find deals as long as you know what you are looking for. Be sure to research ahead of time and only buy equipment that fits both you and your ability level. A great deal on a pair of race skis will only end in disappointment if you are a beginner looking to hit the slopes for the first time this year!

Nordica’s Natural Foot Stance (NFS)

This week, our Nordica rep Nick stopped by the shop for a short informational clinic on all the new ski gear.  I have to say the skis and boots look fantastic, and I wanted to take a minute to pass along one really cool feature with Nordica’s ski boots.  Called Natural Foot Stance (NFS), the fit design places the user’s foot at a slight toe out stance, making it easier for users to initiate turns, experience better edge control, and have a more natural feel to the stance while in the boot.  This is one of those ideas that just makes sense, and will reward skiers of all ability levels with a better ski experience.  Very cool!

If you’re in the market for a new pair of ski boots, now is a wonderful time to stop in.  We have a great selection of boots in stock to fit skiers of all ability levels.


Time to check your gear!

With the winter season approaching, now is a great time to check your snow sports gear for possible condition issues, damage, and repair needs.  While basic yearly tuning is crucial to keeping your equipment performing at it’s best, often conditions arise which require a bit more attention.  Below, I’ll walk you through some very common issues our repair shop sees on a regular basis.  Most problems are easily repaired for not a lot of money, and if done in a timely manner, will ensure years of worry-free enjoyment from your gear.

Base Condition

Hands down, the most common issue we encounter with downhill skis, snowboards, and cross country equipment relates to the condition of the base (the side that meets the snow). Without regular waxing, bases will dry out. Not only does this result in poor ski / board performance, it could lead to irreparable damage to the base itself. How can you tell if your base needs wax? Easy. Look at the picture below.

When bases begin to dry out, they turn a lighter gray shade and will often have a slight fuzzy feel. Sometimes, you can scrape your fingernail across the bottom and actually scrape off a thin film.  Sound familiar? Don’t worry – 9 times of out 10, a simple tune is all it takes to get your skis or board running like new. And to help prevent this, a yearly tune involving a stone grind, wax, and edge sharpen will keep your equipment performing at it’s best.

Another common problem our ski tech sees is base damage – scratches, gouges, deep cuts.  Luckily, these are easy to spot as shown here:

Most of the time, these happen through no fault of the user. Rocks are hit, skis bang into each other during a fall, or kids try to ski across the driveway in June. But like dried out bases, most base damage can be repaired for a relatively small fee. Not only does this repair help the performance of your gear, it prevents any damage to the core of the ski or board by sealing out moisture. If you discover any base damage, it’s best to get in into our shop as soon as possible.

While not as common, damage can occur to the edges of your gear. This too happens from inadvertently running over debris, other skis, etc, and is often a fairly simply fix. If the damage is too severe, as in the example below, the ski or board may not be 100% fixable. Still, our repair shop will inspect and fix the issue to the best of our ability to ensure safety and performance standards.

Top sheet Damage

Don’t forget about the top of your skis or board. Like the bases, top sheets are easily damaged and can lead to permanent damage if not promptly repaired. While these issues are fairly easy to spot as shown below, regular inspection of your gear is highly recommended.


We see de-lamination with skis and boards that frequent the parks, and it’s often a result of blunt force to the tip / tail of the equipment.  While this damage often means the end of your ski or board, catching the problem early might save the day.  If not severe, our shop tech is able to repair this damage and hopefully extend the life of your gear.

Boots and Bindings

Just like your favorite sneakers, with time, ski / snowboard boots simply wear out. While they may still fit like a dream, continued use on worn out gear is not only risky, it’s downright unsafe. Here’s what to look for:

1. Worn or damaged ski boot bases. This either occurs from years of clipping in and out of bindings, as well as years of walking through parking lots, around ski resorts, and through the snack bar. When the tip and tail of your bases become worn and rounded, your bindings are unable to securely hold your boots in place while skiing. This can result in untimely and surely unwanted releases from your binding while skiing, and can also result in injury.

2. Broken buckles. It just happens. The good news is we are usually able to fix snowboard bindings in store while you wait. The not so good news is that downhill boots are often a bit more difficult to repair. Still, if you find yourself with a broken boot, bring it in for us to have a look. We’ll do our best to get your gear fixed up and back on the slopes as fast as possible.

3.  Damaged or bent bindings.  By comparing your left binding to the right and vice versa, you should be able to spot any damaged or bent parts.  Further, if one binding is behaving differently then the other (engaging with less or more force, releasing early, or not holding the boot firmly), it’s time to have us take a look.  Remember that we are only legally allowed to work on bindings that are of a certain age or newer, so if you purchased your skis and bindings when Abba’s “Dancing Queen” was topping the Top 40 charts, it might be time for an upgrade.

If you do discover any problems and have questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us (715-845-5432) or bring your gear in.  We offer free shop estimates / inspections, and will do our best to get your gear returned to you as fast as possible.  Also, be sure to ask one of our team members about preventative maintenance as well – often, most of the conditions mentioned above can be easily avoided with minimal yearly maintenance.

2012 Bike BLOWOUT at Shep’s!

On now is a deal you will not want to miss. We’re blowing out 2012 Diamondback Sorrentos (for men) and Lustre 2s (for women). Retail prices on these bikes are $330, and they’re worth every penny. But NOW at Shep’s, pick up one of these brand new 2012 models for $199.99. 

Women’s Diamondback Lustre 2. SALE PRICE: $199.99!
Men’s Diamondback Sorrento. SALE PRICE: $199.99!

Below are the technical features you want to know about. Come to the shop to take one for a spin & leave with the best bargain of the summer.

Frame: DB 6061-T6 heat-treated / butted aluminum w/ gusset, replaceable hanger
Fork: Trail XC w/Alloy crown 60mm travel
Headset: Threadless Ahead 1 1/8″
Front Derailleur: Shimano Tourney
Rear Derailleur: Shimano Altus 7spd
Shifters: Shimano EF-51 Easyfire 7spd
Rims: 32h Weinmann XC260 Doublewall
Brakes: Tektro Alloy Linear
Color: Black

Sorry online store friends, this bike sale is currently only available for purchase in our Downtown Wausau store.