People who get uptight about things like calendars will tell you the new year doesn't start until the first of January. But skiers know better. For many of us, the corks start popping around the time the first flakes begin to settle on our favorite hills. For others, the celebration begins when the ticket-window shutters bang open and the high-speed quads crank to life. And then there are those of us who've been known to hoist a glass, embrace strangers and spontaneously burst into song the day those impressive next-generation skis and shiny new boots hit the racks down at our local ski shop. Well, hoist a glass, anyway.
This issue is something of a departure for SKI, in that it's a true Buyers Guide—all gear, all the time. But it's more than just an encyclopedia of the latest and greatest. It's also, in some sense, a tribute to the central role that equipment plays in our sport. Skiers and their gear enjoy a relationship that may be unique in the world of athletics. After all, "they don't call fishing 'rodding,'"as Jackson Hogen writes in "Why Gear Matters" (below).
The right equipment can unlock the gates to a world of new satisfaction and unprecedented mastery. Skis and bindings, in particular, continue to evolve with blinding speed. If, like many of us, you've allowed your attention to wander of late, see Paul Hochman's "The State of the Arc" (below), for a look at where we are, how we got here and where we're going. And speaking of where we've been, have you ever marveled at some ancient, cable-festooned plank nailed to the wall of a ski bar and wondered, "How in the name of Killy did people ski on that stuff?" Thanks to gear loaned by the Colorado Ski Museum, we found out ("Antiques Roadtest," below). Let's just say it wasn't pretty.
And then, of course, there's the gear. SKI's test team is the best on the planet—expert, experienced, conscientious, authoritative and more than a little obsessive. This year's Gold Medal skis and boots are the cream of a very large crop. Reviews start on page 82. Read further for expert evaluations of new bindings, junior gear, outerwear, poles, helmets, goggles, gloves, glasses and more. Then, if you're so inclined, break out the champagne and pour yourself a glass. It looks like it's going to be a very good year.