The manufacturers hate this category. If they had their way, the SKI Magazine test would focus only on the flashy new stuff—top-of-the-line skis with the latest tech, which are also the highest-priced skis and the ones with the “longest margins” for their retail partners (the difference between what a retailer buys and sells it for). Skis for the Value category can be any shape or flavor—we test them blind against the high-priced models in the appropriate categories. The only rule is that they cost no more than $650 MSRP (or $800 if a binding is included). And remember, MSRP is a bit of a fiction: Except in resort shops and other high-rent locations, dealers sell skis for a “street price” that’s typically about $100 less than MSRP. The brands whine, sometimes yell, about how they can’t make a decent product at a Value-category price. But we insist, and testers keep finding fun, spirited skis they could easily spend all season on. Which makes the Value category one of our favorites.