(Here's OnTheSnow.com's irrepressible Associate Editor Jill Adler's final report to you from the On-Snow Demos of new skis for 2009-10. She checks in with you now from Snowbasin, Utah were OnTheSnow.com's crew of six top ski instructors have been testing more than 400 skis. Look for details here soon.)
We did it. Nearly 400 skis skied and rated. As we patted ourselves on the back and clinked beer mugs at the Shooting Star Saloon, I admired the stack of survey cards in front of me. This is what three days of skiing one ski per run from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. looks like. By the end of the third and final day, our experiences of each ski are a blur. I was overwhelmed, tired and sore. I began to question whether I actually knew anything about skis as I overheard others gossiping about their favorites.
Some people loved the Rossi Avenger; others thought it did nothing for them. Some loved the Scott Crusade; others thought it was a senior St. Bernard. You're hoping for some sort of census to validate whether you can truly call a ski great. Despite the buzz about next season's skis being fat and rockered, the skis of choice this week were mid-fat all mountains and carvers. That's what the conditions dictated.
I'm sorry but no matter how much a ski company raves about their rockered or reverse camber skis and how they can handle any conditions, you do not want it as your only ski. This is a number two ski, not a number one. It's like you're skiing a big fat Snowblade on hardpack trails. The best turns are made by wiggling or gigantic swoops where it's all about the edge under your foot. Because most guys/gals grabbing a rocker don't know how to put a ski (especially one this fat) up on a clean edge, it just isn't as much fun as a traditional cambered ski.
We tried them anyway just to test the theory. The comments were the same- I'm sure this ski is fantastic in powder. To be fair, I will have to organize a big pow test day after next week's storms roll through to get a more clinical approach to those skis.
The weather started to turn by the last of our three days. Flat gray replaced the deep blue, but at least the air was warm. In fact, we were sweating. The energy surrounding the tents had dropped some and there were fewer people out to test. Must have been the weather. At about noon, reps started talking about packing it in early and we realized we better bust a move for the next two hours or we'd be skunked.
This was boutique ski day. I directed Mark, Greg, Rachael, and Ralph to get on the fatter skis from Line, Moment, Armada, 4Frnt, and Vist. With Ralph and Mark's racing backgrounds, they had already crushed the carvers. The feedback wasn't surprising. They loved the skis they had tried. These smaller brands that make a limited number of skis for the season have come on strong by addressing the needs of young aggressive skiers. There are no huge corporate hoops to jump through to approve design. They take advice from pro athletes and buddies and throw them in a ski. If everyone likes how they feel, it's a go.
Wish Head had gotten grassroots advice on the graphics for their women's skis. Their top big mountain ladies ski, the Sweet One (which I loved last year) had sketches of naked yoga-type chicks all over it. Even the reps were grumbling. Some said buyers were calling it offensive. The final graphics will change and take on a version of the graphics in the Woodstock (formerly Mojo) line. I feel terrible for them though, as now they'll have to play catch up with buyers who've already moved on to other brands because they didn't like what they initially saw.
The Sweet One (now called the Janis as in Joplin) is still an awesome ski if you get it in the right length. As a 120 pound athletic female I need a 170-175cm. I got on a 156cm and couldn't wait to dock it back at the tent. FYI, many of the manufacturers have gone back to the ‘shrink it and pink it' mentality of ladies skis. They take a men's ski, make it in shorter lengths and change the topsheet. For a strong female skier, that's pretty much all we need. But it for your average woman, technology being employed by Volkl and some of the others actually do work. The Volkl Aura in particular wowed just about every woman.
As the day grew colder and grayer, it was perfect timing to finally get out of our boots give everyone a big hug and shove off. We were beat. It's not easy skiing laps on ‘surprise' skis - ones where you had no idea how they'd behave under your foot. At times we soared, other times we clenched out teeth, fists, and toes. For now, we could relax and be satisfied with three days of solid testing and a stack of cards to predict the future; the future of skiing for 2009-10. The real work, however, is just beginning. The office techs will compile the data, crunch numbers, and then we'll find an easy-to-read formula so you can find your ideal new ski. Check back in a few months. You may be surprised too! Checking out from Snowbasin -- Jill