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The Making of SKI Magazine's Gear Guide

Behind the scenes of the 2020 SKI Test at Taos Ski Valley and Monarch Mountain.

After many years at the same test location, we switched things up for this year’s SKI Test and headed to Taos Ski Valley, N.M. We couldn’t have timed the move better. In good snow years—and boy, was it a good snow year—Taos is a skier’s playground, its sustained vertical, wide groomers, challenging expert terrain, and gorgeous views rival what’s available at the biggest ski resorts in the country. Beyond awesome snow and terrain that made our testers giggle (yes, giggle), the independently owned and operated Taos Ski Valley won the hearts of our testers for its unique down-home charm.  

Similarly, little indy resort Monarch Mountain in Colorado delivered in a big way when it came to testing this year’s lineup of deep snow skis. Those who have been lucky enough to ski Monarch’s Mirkwood Basin on a powder day know that it’s hard to find another area so well suited to testing pow planks. You can find the results for deep snow skis in this year’s December 2019 issue.

How We Test

Like every year, we called on best ski testers in the biz—ski instructors, ski shop owners, bootfitters, ex-racers, and freeride competitors—to test nearly 200 skis over the course of one week in March, 2019. We group the skis by categories according to waist width and intended application, so that on any given test day we’re comparing apples to apples. For the 2020 SKI Test, ski brands were encouraged to submit their best skis in the following categories: performance carving; frontside; all-mountain; all-mountain wide; and deep snow. Testers are then tasked with evaluating skis based on specific skills in each ski category:

  • Stability at speed
  • Quickness
  • Hard snow integrity
  • Crud performance
  • Flotation
  • Forgiveness
  • Playfulness
  • Versatility
  • Overall impression

To accurately evaluate each ski, testers put them through the wringer—they take each ski for multiple runs; play with them on groomers and force them into the chop, trees, bumps, and powder; they ski them hard and they ski them like an intermediate. When testers have made up their minds about the ski’s personality and traits, they tell us via scorecards, then we tell you. If a ski doesn’t make the grade, we leave it out, because if we have nothing nice to say, we say nothing at all.

While getting the chance to ski all day for a week on different skis may sound like fun, make no mistake—it’s … yeah, it’s pretty fun. We couldn’t show you these behind-the-scenes photos and make the argument that the week was all work and no play. 

A huge shout-out to our amazing ski testers, Taos Ski Valley, and the ski brand representatives who helped make SKI Test 2020 such a success. Lastly, we couldn’t pull off SKI Test without the help of our sponsors.

Behind the Scenes of SKI Test 2020

Kristi Brown Lovell, Taos SKI Test 2020
Photo credit: Keri Bascetta

Tester Kristi Brown Lovell has been part of SKI Tests for too many years to count. A former competitive racer, this mom of three knows how to shred. Like, really shred. 

SKI Test 2020 Taos
Photo credit: Keri Bascetta

Just a smattering of the 200 skis we tested over the course of SKI Test week. 

Tester Bob Gleason, SKI Test 2020
Photo credit: Keri Bascetta

Veteran SKI tester Bob Gleason decides which ski to hop on next in the All-Mountain Wide category.

Tester Matt Schiller Taos SKI Test 2020
Photo credit: Keri Bascetta

Matt Schiller finds a secret stash off Lift 4 at Taos while testing a pair of Nordicas. 

Tester Mark Syrovatka Taos SKI Test 2020
Photo credit: Keri Bascetta

Mark Syrovatka demonstrates that racers also know a thing or two about freeriding. 

SKI Test 2020 Taos
Photo credit: Keri Bascetta

The female testers hard at work during one of the daily debrief sessions, during which testers discuss the highs and lows of the day’s skis. 

SKI Test 2020 Taos
Photo credit: Keri Bascetta

But at the end, these meetings are about discussing skis, so again—not really hard work. 

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The male and female testers are separated from each other during debrief sessions, so that discussions about men’s skis don’t sway opinions about women’s skis by the same brands, and vise versa. 

Lynn Kennen, SKI Test 2020 Taos
Photo credit: Keri Bascetta

Tester Lynn Kennen explores the glades off Taos’ Lift 4

SKI Test 2020 Taos
Photo credit: Keri Bascetta

SKI has gone digital with score cards, but sometimes our phones can’t cope with cold conditions and service holes. 

SKI Test 2020 Taos
Photo credit: Keri Bascetta

Testers Jenny Wiegand, Cherise Robinson, and Renee Geary take a moment to smell the snow crystals on a beautiful March morning at Taos Ski Valley. 

SKI Test 2020 Taos
Photo credit: Keri Bascetta

With 200 skis to test, there’s no time to waste. Testers use the lift rides between runs to fill out their ski score cards. 

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Tester Matt Schiller sneaks in a quick snack on the lift between test runs. There’s no real rest for the weary during SKI Test. 

SKI Test 2020 Taos
Photo credit: Keri Bascetta

Kelli Gleason tests a pair of women’s all-mountain wide skis off-piste 

SKI Test 2020 Taos
Photo credit: Keri Bascetta

Testers Lynn Kennen, Cherise Robinson, Courtney Krause, and Mark Syrovatka enjoy well-deserved refreshments after getting through their day’s list of test skis

SKI Test 2020 Taos
Photo credit: Keri Bascetta

The 2020 SKI Test crew, a group of 30 rad skiers who spent the week frenetically testing skis to separate the best from the rest for the skiing public

SKI Test 2020 Taos
Photo credit: Keri Bascetta

Cherise Robinson boots up for another day of ski testing in Taos’ renovated Phoenix Grill at the base of Lift 4

SKI Test 2020 Monarch Powder Test
Photo credit: Keri Bascetta

SKI Test 2020 moved from Taos to Monarch Mountain for the powder ski test

SKI Test 2020 Monarch Mountain
Photo credit: Keri Bascetta

To accurately assess powder skis’ performance in deep snow, testers headed beyond Monarch’s ropes into Mirkwood Basin courtesy of Monarch’s snow cat

SKI Test 2020 Monarch Mountain
Photo credit: Keri Bascetta

SKI Test 2020 is a wrap! Testers drink to a phenomenal day of testing/playing on powder skis in Monarch’s Mirkwood Basin

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Monarch Basin, Monarch Mountain
Photo credit: Keri Bascetta