Ski Testing: Dream Job?

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SKIING Magazine regularly gets calls from diehard skiers who want to know how they can get onto our test squad. We generally dismiss such offers as one would the pesterings of a telemarketer calling at dinnertime. This year, we had a guy who was so keen to test skis, he offered to drive 1,340 miles from Oregon to Colorado. A 20-hour trip. On his own dime. We told him to forget it, but he kept calling. We couldn't refuse such persistence.

Who wouldn't want to test skis? Think of it. You get to ski all day and play around on all the sweet new gear. There's also the fancy "Test Team" jacket. Not to mention the unlimited supply of free pencils! To top it off, you get your picture in the magazine and you get paid. (Not much, mind you, but money does change hands.) Sounds ever so glamorous, doesn't it? Well, we're here to tell you, it's really not.

Ask tester Pam Fletcher (shown here biffing righteously over an ill-placed fallen log) -- ski testing can be downright painful. Sometimes humiliating. Over the years, our testers have endured several broken collarbones, a smashed kneecap, dislocated shoulders, even a broken pinky.

Then there's the weather. Sure, ski testing on a sunny spring day can be blissful, but there's nothing appealing about logging 40,000 vertical in a full-on downpour at Stowe, Vermont. Ditto in a freezing blizzard at Copper, Colorado. And if the conditions aren't primo -- say the bumps are hard as turtle shells or the snowcat terrain turns out to be a soup of chicken heads and breakable crust -- you can't just cut your losses and call it Miller Time. You've got a job to do.

And at the end of the eight-hour nonstop test day, when most snow-sliders are soaking in a hot tub somewhere, ski testers are hauling and loading some 20 pairs of skis onto a truck.

So, what then of our intrepid tester from Oregon, who, by the way, slept on a couch and made dinner for the testers? He's been calling again. Next year, though, he wants us to fly him in.