3 minutes reading time (509 words)

RealSkiers: Are We Over-Serving America?

Different skis for different folksThe process of evaluating next season’s crop of new models begins in earnest this month, inspiring this rumination.

It’s axiomatic that if you don’t know how to ski it really doesn’t matter what model ski you use as long as it’s sized properly. This helps explain the popularity of rental skis, for which the principal design criterion is the ability to withstand sustained, intensive abuse.

Another enduring fact of ski life is that skiers tend to over-state their ability by associating their technical skills with the classification of trail they can get down with self-esteem intact. Suffice it to say, surviving a double black diamond descent doth not an expert make.

So if most skiers are skills-deficient, and could get by with almost any ski (as many do), why should they fuss and bother over every performance nuance of skis made for highly skilled skiers? Almost every reviewed ski is an expensive, top-of-its-category model targeted at someone of well-polished ability. Is the average American skier being over-served?

In a word: probably.

The large percentage of skiers who somehow get down the hill in poorly fit over-sized boots - which includes the entire population of rental skiers - definitely aren’t getting the most out of whatever ski is under them. They need new, properly fit boots far more than they need a fresh pair of skis.

But let’s suppose boots aren’t the problem. Should we really be steering intermediate skiers onto made-for-expert skis?

That depends on their ambitions, athleticism and associates. If they want to get better sooner, have the kinesthetic awareness to develop quickly and friends who will make sure they ski often, they should get the best ski they can afford.

But that doesn’t mean just any ski will do, which brings us to the business of how to test and evaluate skis for a less-than-expert audience while at the same time being faithful to the genuine experts for whom these skis were ostensibly targeted.

A good ski tester knows what the legion of intermediates do not, which is how the ski will perform both during the intermediates’ pupa stage as skills are forming and once they emerge fully developed into the bright light of expertise.

In every genre of skis, some top-shelf models assist skills development and some insist on elite technique as a prerequisite. Some behave brilliantly only at high speed, while others excel at the other end of the speed/energy spectrum.

One of the main purposes of the whole ski test enterprise ought to be to distinguish between skis that are easily accessible to lower skill skiers and those that are not.

At realskiers.com we grade skis both for their “Power” attributes, such as stability at speed, and their “Finesse” properties, like forgiveness and slow-speed turning ease.

The raison d’être of any ski test ought to be assisting skiers of all abilities to find their ideal match, but there is, of course, another motivation at work: ski testers are junkies for whom the only fix is yet another run on a fresh pair of unknown skis.

What a delightful, incurable addiction.

Photo: Different skis for different folks? (realskiers.com)
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