How the 2022 Testing Shook Out ... You Know … Due to Covid

Yes, the long-awaited 2022 SkiTalk Reviews are up, about 200 skis in total. In the past year, ski testing took on a new dimension, due to Covid. It was announced early on that there would not be any on-snow industry demo shows, the usual manner in which we test skis. No on-snow demo in Colorado after the Outdoor Retailer trade show -- in fact, there was no Outdoor Retailer trade show. No on-snow in Snowbasin in February, a common stop and show where we would get on a variety of skis on different terrain. And finally, no on-snow in Mammoth, which is a short 3 hr from SkiTalk’s HQ. So how in the world were we to pass along the hot new gear for our readers, who can commonly be heard saying, “Those skis sound great. Take my money!!”

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Access to Gear

The plan was to work with local reps and test skis from their demo fleet. At first, we were not sure that would sit well with us. We have retail and rep backgrounds, so we understand that the responsibility of ski reps is to service their customers, aka the retailers. We didn’t want to take them away from their main clients; we wanted to be respectful of that relationship. However, most reps were very accommodating and made skis available to us. We focused on new skis and skis that had undergone significant changes, and decided to rely on our previous experiences (aka last year’s reviews) for carryover skis. Not our choice, but again, due to Covid, desperate times call for desperate measures. So for a good part of the season, every Wednesday and Thursday we were at the Far West lift at Squaw Valley testing skis with any and all reps who showed up.

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Good News/Bad News

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Good news! In early January it was announced that there would be a regional demo!!! Bad news! It was to be held on the other side of the country, at Waterville Valley, NH. That left us with one option, fly to New Hampshire. Fun fact, even though I grew up skiing in the East, I never skied New Hampshire! Ok, back to our story. Tricia and I packed our boot bags and headed to New Hampshire to be met by two new SkiTalk testers, @elemmac and @Erik Timmerman. While the East can always be a crapshoot for weather, this year was fantastic and actually gave us the best conditions of the season -- and this was just coming off our trip to Sun Valley and Big Sky with a slew of Hall of Famers.

Waterville Valley was a total success as far as getting on product. Many product and brand managers were surprised to see us, and asked, “We thought you were in Tahoe. What are you doing here???” We replied, “This is the only demo in the country; it is our job to be here.” (Boyne, MI, did pull off a demo right after.) We got some good one-on-one time with factory folks like Barclay Rappaport from Völkl, who drove down from the Waitsfield, VT, area; she said, “If you are willing to come 2500 mi to get on our skis, the least I could do is drive 112 mi to ski with you.”

We continued to seize every opportunity to meet with brand managers to go through the line and get on their new offerings, including a trip to cover the World Pro Ski Tour in Steamboat Springs, where a Liberty Skis rep brought a truckload of skis to put through the paces. Making our way back to Tahoe, we stopped off at Deer Valley to meet up with Dynastar and Rossignol on two separate days. Their crews brought out some incredibly prepped skis for us and two of our testers, giving us a chance to get on all their new offerings in a variety of sizes. Later in the season, we met up with the Blossom distributor at Mt. Bachelor. These trips gave us a unique opportunity to have in-depth chairlift conversations about the thought process that went into the new designs. The ability to have one-on-ones with national product and brand managers like this is one of the positives that emerged from this past season. I believe such meetings will continue in the future.

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From this point until the end of the season, getting product to review was interesting. It was not uncommon to get a 150-lb burrito bag of skis at our door. We met up with various testers at various mountains to have them try skis and pick their brains. Whatever we missed last year, we will try to fill in as soon as we can get on snow in November and add those reviews. So stay tuned; the reviews will keep coming.

SkiTalk’s Tester’s Choice: The Cream Does Rise to the Top

We have been asked what it takes for a ski to achieve SkiTalk.com's prestigious “Tester’s Choice” award. There is absolutely a level of subjectivity when it comes to such an award. But there are no scorecards kept, no ballots submitted, or, most important, no wads of cash exchanged behind the lift shack. We consider every ski based on its design and purpose and then evaluate how it differentiates itself from the pack. One ski makes the cut because it has a broad appeal, while another does one thing so remarkably well that it cannot be ignored. There have been times that just one person made a case for a ski, and that was enough. More than a few times we have been asked, “I never even heard of that ski, how did you find it?”

Please also note that being awarded the Tester’s Choice has nothing to do with brands that pay for advertising. While many other review publications will not review a ski unless the brand advertises with them -- or worse, require payment for a review -- SkiTalk.com is not what we call “pay to play.” We feel that it is best for our readers that we review everything we can get our hands on.