After 4 days at the SIA show (Snowsports Industry Association) in Denver last week I and 6 other employee buyer/testers headed to Copper Mountain for the ski demo. For the last 4 or 5 years we have gone to Winter Park to do the testing. It was a very pleasant change to test at Copper. It was a far superior place to test skis. There were many more appropriate runs for us to test skis on. The demo tents were much closer to the lifts and the lift lines were shorter due to multiple lifts at the base to choose from. This allowed us to test many more skis than previously years and test them better.
This event is where we see if the new ski models the manufacturers are raving about are really as good as they say. The way the event works is people in the Ski and Snowboard industry register and get a special pass to enter the demo area. There are two very large groups of tents, one for ski and one for snowboard. They are comprised of virtually every manufacturer in the industry spread over 2 rows with tents on both sides of the aisle about 300-400 feet long. You go to the tent for the brand you want to test and tell them what ski you want to try and in what length. Each manufacture would typically have anywhere from 3 to 20 sets of each ski model so getting the ski you want in the length you want was usually no problem. After giving them your boot sole length and DIN setting they adjust the binding and away you go.
Since I share the same boot sole length with two of my testers we would typically all go to one manufacturer and get 3 different widths of the same model ski or 3 similar skis from the same line. That would allow us to switch skis on the mountain and not have to go back down to the tents to change. We could compare the differences between the skis better and test many more skis this way. For example we tested the new Nrgy series from Nordica in a 80mm, 90mm and 100mm width all at the same time. Usually we would take 1-2 long runs on each ski. If we liked the ski we would usually take 2 different runs but if we didn’t we might only take one run in order to test more skis. We stayed on the same few runs in order to be sure we were testing the skis fairly and consistently.
On the chair lift rides we would compare opinions and then at the end of the day all 7 of us would get together over beers and share our likes and dislikes. This allows the buyers to then adjust their orders by increasing the number of units on the skis we loved and decreasing or eliminating the ones we did not. We also use this information to decide if we want to add a new brand to our offering next year.
We also use this opportunity to test the skis that we put into our On Snow Video Reviews. Next week we will bring over 30 testers for 3 days to another Demo event to test next year’s models. That is where we film most of these reviews and post them on Skis.com and Snowboards.com. We have produced and posted over 6000 of these On Snow Video Reviews over the last 5 years and expect to shoot over 1000 more reviews this year. No other web site does anything like this (just bragging a little).
FYI – If you look at our reviews and notice that very few skis get ratings from our testers below a 3 star rating (we rate them from 1-5 stars) it is because we typically eliminate those models from our order for next year. If we don’t believe in the ski we won’t sell it and we test most of the skis we sell.