Manufacturers send 200 pairs of next year's skis to our staging area in Beaver Creek, Colo. (Race skis were tested in Stowe, Vt.) In most cases, the skis have already been tuned, mounted and snow-tested by manufacturer representatives.
Skis are masked and put in a test corral at Beaver Creek resort each morning, arranged by Skier Type.
Testers take a pair of masked skis into the binding corral, where a binding technician adjusts the bindings to fit the tester's boot.
Each tester takes one or two runs on a ski, which among 40 testers amounts to about 30,000 vertical feet of powder, bumps, corduroy, crud and ice for each pair tested.
Testers fill out test cards created for the ski test, with both quantitative and qualitative feedback sections.
Testers meet in the afternoon (after a full category is completed) to debrief and to discuss the merits of individual skis.
More than 1,750 cards are completed and brought back to the SKI offices in Boulder, Colo., where Edith Thys makes sure the information is meticulously entered in a customized FileMaker Pro spreadsheet. The software allows us to apply standard deviation to scores and isolate variables (such as hard snow edge grip) that we consider important.
Medals are awarded to the skis we love. This year, just 60 skis received medals. It's an exclusive group.