Want to know what its like being a ski tester for Ski Magazine?

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Since the last time I wrote from my post at the base of Solitude in the heart of Utah’s Wasatch mountains I’ve skied on about 90 different pairs of skis. It’s mind boggling, I know. The only category we have left to test is the Carving category, which will consist of roughly 20 more pairs of skis – the narrow underfoot rippers.
For todays’s test, we’ll try to ski as many skis as we can before the sun heats up the snow too much and it becomes soft. A harder snow surface is really the best type of surface to feel what a carving ski is like and the more scientific the approach – the more factors we can keep the same – the better job we can do assessing different qualities each ski has, or in some cases doesn’t have.
I like to keep my approach pretty tight and that approach varies depending on what type of ski we are testing that day. For example, it’s nice to asses the tune of the ski, meaning how the base of the ski is running across the snow and also what the edges feel like when you turn the ski. So, in the first few turns of the run I make sure I know what I’m dealing with – are the edges too sharp for the snow that day? That would make the ski feel too grabby and twitchy. What’s the base bevel feel like – flat or a little looser? The base bevel really affects how quickly the ski moves into the turn – it’s just nice to know what to expect. Assessing the tune helps set expectations for the rest of the run – if the tune feels off I need to factor that in and not factor it in as a quality of the ski I’m on. Sometimes, if the tune of the ski feels really off we let the brand reps know and they adjust it.
After figuring the tune out, I make a bunch of different kinds of turns – tight radius but light on the edges, then slightly bigger turns. Once I feel like I know what the ski is going to do I lay it over on edge more – carving big and small turns. Does the ski want to ski one radius or can I vary the size of the turn easily? How well does it hold and what does the flex feel like in each turn type. Is it torsionally stiff? What happens if I ski it in the beach seat? Is it forgiving when my technique is off? As you can see, there is a lot to assess in a short amount of time!
Skiing groomed runs is one thing, but we also take the skis off into chopped up moguls, gnarlier steep terrain and  – when we’re lucky – fresh powder. At Solitude there’s some awesome terrain to get into. Up off the top lift is a headwall with steep tree skiing. It faces north so the snow has stayed cold and dry all week despite the sunny skies and warm temperatures. I like testing the skis there because although I know the majority of people are not going to charge down a run like that it tells me a lot about the ski. Do I trust it? Do I feel confident enough to ski the run like I can or is the ski holding me back? Can it do what I want it to do? Can I move where and when and how I want? The best skis allow me to ski how I want to. The best ones allow me to either forget about them or – in the best cases – push the limits of my own skiing even further.

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