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2013 Test Skis: The Field is Set

Ski Mag is ready to head for Snowbird for our annual five-day ski test. Here’s what manufacturers have entered. May the best skis win.

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With just days before our ski tests commence at Snowbird, Utah, we’re buttoning up final plans. That means a hundred details, but the most important one is finalizing the list of skis we’ll test.

For the first time, we’re sharing that list (below) with readers. It’s a long list—about 150 skis, which is the most we can effectively handle in five days of testing. But you’ll notice that they’re divided into categories according to their intended use—this is how we make sure we’re testing “apples to apples” on a given day.

As regular readers will recall, we group the skis by the snow-type they’re best designed for, which comes down to waist widths:

– Hard Snow, up to 85 mm, for speedy frontside cruising on groomers.

– Mixed Snow East, 85-95 mm, for everyday use in typical Eastern conditions.

– Mixed Snow West, 95-105 mm, for everyday use in typical Western conditions.

– Deep Snow, 105 mm and up, for powder days.

The remaining category is Value, where manufacturers may enter a ski of any waist width provided it costs not more than $699 (Minimum Advertised Price, which is typically about $200 less than the MSRP).

We’ll test one category each day, waiting till the last possible moment to announce the category in case there is (or isn’t) snowfall in the forecast, so that we can match the conditions to the category as best as possible.

You’ll notice that some companies get more skis than others. It’s a controversial approach among the manufacturers who get fewer entries, but we do it for the reader. The number of skis allowed each brand is based on two factors: market share and performance in last year’s test. By factoring in market share, we reflect what’s actually out there in the shops. (No use giving a ski a Gold Medal if you can’t find it for sale anywhere.) By factoring in past-year’s performance, we reward companies, however small, for doing well in the test—because we want to focus on the good skis and waste less time on the dogs. In the end, doing well in the test is the quickest way for a brand to get more skis in next year’s test, which should in turn help them to sell more skis and gain larger market share. Makes sense to us.

You know the rest: Every tester tests every ski. Debriefs/discussions are held daily at the end of testing. Test-card data is entered in our customized Filemaker Pro program, adjusted for standard deviation among testers, and sorted according Average Overall Score (scale of 0-5). Then we publish the data, so that readers can see exactly how every winning ski ranked in relation to the field according to our team of seasoned testers. (No other publication does this, but we think it’s worth the heat we take from manufacturers in order to give you the straight scoop.) Oh, and it should go without saying, but we have to say it anyway: Manufacturers are not charged money to participate in the test, and any quick comparison between advertising pages and test results will show no correlation.

So here’s the list.* Remember, we don’t write about skis that don’t medal in our Buyer’s Guide, so this will be the last you hear from us about roughly half these skis. And bear in mind that these are the skis each company thinks have the best chance of medaling in our test; even if they don’t medal, they’re probably still better than the average ski.

Now we’ll go back to watching the Snowbird weather report and looking forward to five days of testing the latest stuff on the awesome GadZoom terrain. Watch this space for testing updates.

* At the time of this post, we had not received final entries from Armada and Elan.