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RealSkiers: The Lessons of 2014

real skiersThe first week of spring seems a propitious moment to look back on the lessons we learned from our stewardship of realskiers.com over the past season. 2014 was a watershed year for realskiers, as the editor’s pen was passed from founder Peter Keelty to me.

Together we retooled the site and expanded its scope to include boot commentaries, a weekly blog here at SnoCountry.com, realskiers.tv, and model-specific links from all our reviewed skis and boots to a core collection of specialty retailers. Our visitors’ and members’ reactions to the site’s metamorphosis have provided us with a regular referendum on how we’re performing and where we can improve.

So before we bid a final adieu to the 2014 season, here are the top-line lessons we learned from our public that will help to shape our presentation for the season ahead.

The overwhelming importance of boot fitting.  No matter how many times it’s been said, it bears repeating: if your boots aren’t properly sized, fit and aligned, it really doesn’t matter what ski you use.

Skiing requires a stable foot with a controlled range of motion at the ankle.  It’s the foundation upon which skiing is built.

Skiers want more data. Over most of its 15 years, realskiers.com shared some raw data with its reviews.  Over a 30-year career in ski testing, your new editor had learned that skiers often misinterpret raw data, and so it was suppressed in favor of a rating system that seemed more actionable. Mea culpa. Members should prepare for a data dump on new models for 2015.

The Internet can provide a “service search” function instead of just peddling the lowest price.  Hundreds of skiers found the skis and boots they were seeking using realskiers’ “Find” links to some of America’s best specialty shops.

People crave authenticity and straight shooting but are flummoxed as to where to find it.  More skiers than ever use the Internet to research their equipment buys, but with an avalanche of information sources at their fingertips, they often end up more overwhelmed than illuminated. Our mission at realskiers is to help people cut through hype and confusion.

Skiers are as yet largely unaware of increased risk to the knee on wide skis.  You could say it’s been known since Euclid - the longer the lever, the greater the torque - and certainly the subject has come up in academic circles, but the general skiing public isn’t aware that skis wider than the knee expose the joint to a higher risk of injury.  They should be.  

The pendulum is swinging back to narrower skis, whose positive attributes have long been advocated on these pages. For 2015, we’ll devote more coverage to some superb, slim-silhouette skis we know won’t be covered elsewhere.

People tune in to video content. Despite our rudimentary stagecraft, people responded kindly to realskiers.tv. Our terrible snow year in the Sierras put a damper on our on-snow ambitions to date, so we’re taking our show on the road this spring. Stay tuned.

No matter how good a website is, you can’t explain your life by filling out a form. This is an area where humans outperform the digital world.  That’s why part of our mission at realskiers is to steer the Internet researcher into the refuge provided by specialty retailers who understand how all this expensive stuff can best be marshaled in the service of improving one’s ski day.
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