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Gear

Gear Test 2013: “Chargers” and “Friendlies”

Next year’s gear is better than ever. Now to crunch the numbers.

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The 2013 ski test is a wrap. Snowbird remains, in our opinion, the best place to test skis: efficient lifts, awesome terrain and centralized lodging. More important, judging from our annual gear test, consumers can expect better skis than ever next season.

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Early results and debrief sessions showed more evidence of a trend that’s been emerging over the past couple years—namely, wide skis (with waist widths of about 90 mm or more) are repeatedly cleaved into two groups. The first included what testers started calling the Chargers—edgy, powderful, carvy, “directional” skis that, despite their width, loved to set an edge and hook up in a carve.

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We’ve never tested so many skis before. On one day alone (the Mixed Snow/West category), the male testers had 23 models to try, which amounted to more than 30,000 vert on Snowbird’s Gadzoom lift.

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But while it was a lot work—OK, enjoyable work, hammering the Snowbird terrain run after run on next year’s skis. Testers did have their share of fun.

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Testers hit Salt Lake City one night for dinner and tasty beers at Squatter’s Pub. On other nights they dined like the beautiful people back at Snowbird, at the Iron Blosam’s Wildflower, the Lodge Bistro and the Aerie atop the Cliff Lodge. The Tram Club became ground zero for after-dinner fun. (Great to see Lake Placid Mike still behind the bar.)

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Portillo hosted a get-together for brand reps and the testers. We’ve developed a new appreciation for Pisco Sours. (We’ve always had an appreciation for the serious skiing high in the Andes at Portillo.)

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So which skis were the best of the test?

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There was clear consensus again among testers in the debrief sessions, but the data still needs to be crunched and the numbers run before we’ll be ready to publish the winners.

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Results will go up on skimag.com this summer from the industry biggest, and longest-running, truly independent ski test.

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The other group comprised the “Friendlies”—surfy, loose, smeary rides that were built to make the most of soft snow conditions and stay home when the snow is hard. Which skis better? It’s a matter of opinion, and testers routinely had examples of both in their top fives scores.

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More shameless plugs to our sponsors…Deuter packs were the perfect carrying case for test cards, extra layers, water bottles, etc. It has two ski-carrying options, plus an option to carry a snowboard. But our favorite feature was the whistle on the buckle, perfect for lift props to testers ripping Snowbird’s Get Serious Chutes.

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Scott’s new LCG (lens change goggle) was a big hit. Easy to swap without ever having to touch the lens itself. $185, includes two extra lenses and a portable case.

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Yes, we admit, the new Columbia outerwear made us look cool, with its bright colors and flattering cuts. Omniheat technology kept us warm enough to ski all week with only a baselayer underneath. And Chaos hats? Cute!

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Testers loved their new Smartwool baselayers. Soft merino wool that never gets stinky—even after five days of bell-to-bell sweating. And pretty new colors, too.

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Black Diamond  makes awesome gloves. Durable leather, articulated fingers, cool colors, comfortable fit. And super warm.

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Thanks to Motive Pure for keeping us hydrated and replenishing electrolytes lost on the hill—and in the bar the night before. It’s like Gatorade, if Gatorade were, you know, good for you. And thanks, Beyond Coastal, whose all-natural sunscreen kept our goggle tans in check.