Updated 11/24/96 - click here for a second look at the Sled Dogs K-9's.
Here are a couple of pictures of my Sled Dogs K-9's. I bought them at Galyan's for about $300, and I tried them out at Wild Mountain Ski Area on Saturday, November 9. (They only had four runs open, so it wasn't the most thrilling snow skating day out there, but it was fun.)
These skates have the "phat" bases. The other kind of bases are just as wide at the front, but get narrower in the back -- they're the "V" bases. This photo also shows off my stylish couch.
Here's one of the skates with the base unmounted from the skate. The bottom is textured so you can walk around in it (for example, walking in the chalet or in the parking lot) without hacking up the bases.
By now, you've probably seen the infomercial with Dave Kollasch being chased up a ski lift by an angry, slobbering dog while talking to a guy who claims to have a titanium leg. The Sled Dogs infomercial makes the new K9's look like the greatest thing since sliced bread. Well, are they? I tried them out, and I'd have to say yes -- but with a couple of issues.
I've owned a pair of Sled Dogs SD150's for two winters now. I thought about upgrading to the SD250's, but I wanted to see what the next generation of the product was like. I wasn't disappointed -- the K9's combine a more flexible, snowboard-like boot with a larger base. These improvements make the skates more comfortable (mostly) and give you increased surface area on the snow, which translates into being able to take on a wider variety of snow types. Slushy spring-like conditions or powder shouldn't be a concern with the new K9's.
Unfortunately, I ran into a snag. The removable bases have a threaded bolt (circled in green) that fits into a hole (circled in blue) on the boot. The idea is that if you want additional security, you can drill a hole through the boot and permanently bolt the boot to the base. You lose the ability to change the base, but you never have to worry about them falling off. They also have a small nylon strap with a buckle that provides an additional measure of security and satisfies ski area requirements for a retention device. The problem I had was that when walking around in snow, the hole in the boot would fill up with snow. Then, when the base was clamped on, the snow in the hole got compacted to ice. After repeating this cycle a few times, I was having trouble clamping the bases on, until I got smart and cleared out the hole before attaching the base. Unfortunately, the buckle started to get bent out of shape in this process. Worse yet, the base actually came off after I got off the lift, and the small buckle on the safety leash broke off one of the tabs -- so the leash was no longer functional. The final straw came when I was going down a run and bailed out. The base came off, and without a leash it kept going downhill and into the hands of someone from the ski patrol. She questioned the design of the skates, and I told her about the problems I was having. She didn't give me too much trouble (since I was embarrassed enough already), but she did question whether the ski area manager would consider the safety leash to be adequate.
The story has a happy ending, though: I talked to the folks at Sled Dogs about this problem, and they agreed to replace the skates. They knew about this problem, and the bases are no longer made with the threaded bolt (circled in green) that fits into the hole. The person I talked to also suggested that I get the V-base instead, so I'd have additional stability and so it would be easier to carve turns. This addresses another issue I had with the K9's: they were a little hard to control and felt a little squirrely at times. I'll be picking the replacements up later this week, and I'll update this review when I try them out.
If you have the skates with the stud coming out of the base, your best bet is to clear out the hole in the boot with a small screwdriver before putting the bases back on. I'd also suggest that they make a sturdier buckle on the safety leash, so ski area managers don't get a bad impression of the K9's. Otherwise, I like my K9's, and I'm looking forward to doing new tricks on them that I wasn't able to master on the SD150's.
I picked up my new Sled Dogs with the V-bases that no longer have the threaded bolt (circled in green in the picture above), and I got a chance to try them out at Buck Hill on November 22 and Afton Alps on November 23. I'm happy to report that all of the problems I had were solved -- the bases buckle on solidly and I had absolutely no problems with them. The V-shaped bases also make it easier to turn and to control my direction than the phat bases did. Overall, I'm really thrilled with my K9's now -- they're a real improvement over the SD150's, and they're even more fun to use now. I think they deserve some kind of product design award, but I'm not sure who gives them out.
(The only thing that ruined my fun was a malfunctioning chair lift at Afton Alps. I was about two-thirds of the way up the lift when it came to an abrupt stop. I thought it was because some bozo fell off the lift when trying to get on, but it was stuck for much longer than that. It started moving, then stopped about ten feet later. I, and everyone else on the lift, ended up being stuck for about half an hour until they switched to backup power or something. I complained to management, and they apologized, told me that it was a rare occurrence, and gave me a complimentary pass for next time.)