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There was a time before the 1s and 0s of the digital age that skiers had to wait until fall when the new buyers' guide arrived in the mail. It was almost an inch thick, a true skier's bible; it made me feel like a kid on Christmas morning. I would wash my hands first, so I wouldn't get the pages dirty, and then I would check who got the coveted back page ad. The first go-round was to page through quickly and make mental notes of certain ads I wanted to read, which is what I did in Round 2. Which crazy ad did Scott do? Which of my favorite freestylers did K2 feature with Phil and Steve? Did Hotfingers have another girl getting her butt squeezed? (and how did that guy get so lucky?) There was a level of comfort looking at the ads, even the small ones in the back from shops like Scandinavian Ski in Manhattan.

But the third time through the magazine was the charm. I would read the articles and, particularly, the reviews. Even though all the skis were more similar than they are now, I still memorized all the dimensions and sizes, pages and pages of info, not just a few select skis that manufacturers wanted to focus on but every model seemed to get some time in the spotlight. Carl Ettlinger's articles described each binding and how they worked, complete with drawings. Bindings are rarely even discussed in today's magazines, much less analyzed.

Fast forward to today. The buyers' guides are maybe a quarter-inch thick with reviews that feel more like well-placed ads. In 1985 when Egon in Ghostbusters said "print is dead," he might have been premature -- but think about how you are getting your skiing information today. On the internet at sites like Pugski, TGR, Epic, and Newschoolers. Your reviews come from Pugski, Blister, and Realskiers. When are you getting them? Eight months before a magazine hits your hand! I have reps coming up to me all proud saying, “Did you see we made the magazine?” My reply, “Yeah we started discussing that ski eight months ago and have already created a buzz and preorders and in some cases helped you sell out already ... the magazine is just validating what we already said."

So what happens after ski testing, ie, what does a magazine do with the information? Well, since a magazine is static, all it can really do is rank the skis using some sort of numbering system. Once the skis are ranked, how do they rate? We see the top 10 results, let's say one ski gets a 8.16 and another a 7.91, but what does that quarter point mean? It means the 7.91 might as well be put on the discount rack now because it won’t sell, its fate has been sealed. Why? It could be any reason, maybe it wasn't tuned well or had the wrong wax on it. Maybe the testers, all PSIA Level XI, ex-NCAA racers, or manufacturer-paid athletes, over-skied a ski that was designed for mortals. No matter why, a ski that could very well be a better ski for a multitude of skiers will never make it onto their feet. How would that skier even know? Can they ask the reviewers? No, because they are either skiing some glacier in Austria or running a clinic in Portillo. How can skiers who do not know what they need decipher information that they don’t understand? Simple, they go to the ski that has the highest rating because it must be the best. But is it the best for them? Chances are, no.

This is where Pugski’s reviews and discussion are different. As much as numbers like sidecut, turn radius, rocker, and even length can be deceiving, for the reasons I have stated in other articles, ranking skis is even more confusing. This is why we want to help readers decide who a ski is for. Sure, we have our favorites and own biases, but we try to look past them to help you find what will be best for you. That's why we don’t rank skis or pick one over the other in the Cage Matches, where both skis are winners; the important thing is which one is the winner for you. Still not sure? Ask us. If you aren't sure after a magazine review? Well, just try asking their testers ....

*This article was originally published November 2016
About author
I started skiing in the mid-70s in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania; from then on, I found myself entrenched in the industry. I have worked in various ski shops from suburban to ski town to resort, giving me a well-rounded perspective on what skiers want from their gear. That experience was parlayed into my time as a Gear Review Editor and also consulting with manufacturers as a product tester. Along with being a Masterfit-trained bootfitter I am a fully certified self proclaimed Gear Guru. Not only do I keep up with the cutting edge of ski gear technology, but I am an avid gear collector and have an extensive array of bindings as well as many vintage skis.


I just received the latest "Gear Guide". There were 13 skis rated in the "Frontside Category", three of them have waists over 90mm. How can a 94mm wide ski be categorized as a frontside ski?
Thought the same thing. There was a performance carving section last year that wasn't there this year. To me, anything over mid 80's is more all mountain than carver. I think a lot of gear guides will be less complete because the season ended so abruptly. I get the magazines out of habit mostly I guess. I like to see what's out there, even if I have no need. Still have to demo to know.
Rumors of Powder Magazine operations being suspended at the end of November. Boom. Boom. Boom. Another one bites the dust.

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Outside, Inc, announcing that they are shutting down Ski Magazine.

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