Skiing is like farming. When the weather cooperates and snow is abundant, skiers and the businesses that comprise the industry are happier. They feel taller, smarter, and better looking. Such was the case at our annual ski test, which took place last week in Snowbird, Utah. We’ve been testing ski gear for almost five decades, but we’ve never had the weather and conditions match the types of skis as perfectly as they did last week.
Weather and Conditions: Monday provided consistently firm, grippy snow from the top of our Gad Valley test run to the bottom, ideal for the narrow-waisted carving skis. Though temps were in the 40s, a storm blew in fast and furious that evening, draping Snowbird with a thick duvet of powder, perfect for the wide-waisted powder skis scheduled for Tuesday.
Snowbird reported eight inches early Tuesday morning, but the snow, a fast-skiing mix of graupel and powder, drifted much higher than that in Gad’s nooks and crannies. And it just kept nuking all day long.
On Wednesday, as the testers unloaded from Snowbird’s Gadzoom Express quad chair with wider all-mountain skis on their feet, they were greeted with soft, fuzzy, day-after-storm powder—“cool whip,” as tester Dan Withey called it. We continued testing this large and popular category on Thursday.
Friday brought firmer, chalky snow, which fit the narrower all-mountain skis just perfectly.
Tech: Every year, as brands learn from one another and ski designs improve, testing becomes more and more a matter of recognizing subtle nuances within a host of well-engineered skis.
This year’s crop featured a few noteworthy trends: even more refined blends of rocker and camber; a move away from mega-fat (wider than 130 mm in the waist) powder boards; a re-embrace of svelte-waisted, carve-optimized all-mountain boards; and clearer segmentation between directional (flat-tailed) and bi-directional (twin-tip) all- and big-mountain skis. There are probably a few more, too, but we need to spend a few months poring over tester evaluation forms to tease them out.
Finally, while we may have skied out all the powder from Tuesday’s storm, Snowbird’s base is still plenty thick and we can count on some big spring dumps in the coming weeks. To visit and ski the terrain we test on, go to snowbird.com. For ski reviews, check back in on SkiingMag.com in late summer and subscribe now to receive Skiing’s 2015 Gear Guide and other jaw-dropping issues this fall.