Our spider sense tingles when we hear the term “handmade” applied to skis, as the implication is that such slats will receive extraordinary care in manufacture no mass-produced ski can hope to receive. One reason we look sideways at the “handmade” adjective is that all quality skis are to some degree handmade and some processes – even at “handmade” plants – are best managed robotically. In fact, there’s no obligatory reason a “handmade” ski should be superior, and likewise a “mass produced” model can be exquisite. While the “handmade” handle hopes to convey scrupulous craftsmanship, it’s just as likely to be a euphemism for “outdated, inefficient production technology with slack quality control.”

Of all the brands that hang their hat on a handmade reputation, Stöckli represents the best of what we associate with the term and avoids all the potential pitfalls. Perhaps all we need to say is that it is Swiss to the core. If it is inefficient, it’s because it chooses to be; who else changes their production several times mid-season as new ideas are tested and adopted? Sure, other brands are also refining their products throughout the year, but they don’t usually make such midstream improvements available to the public. But if Stöckli concocts a faster race ski and their athletes confirm it, the next model it makes – whether for a racer or a consumer – will incorporate those improvements. If that sounds special, it is.

Stöckli doesn’t condescend to their buying public. It assumes if you want its race skis, you want the same race skis the amazing Tina Maze deploys, so that’s what you get. It doesn’t compromise on construction and the finishing steps applied to all Stöckli skis are state-of-the-art and beyond meticulous. Most companies would fire any engineer who recommended a method that took a week to produce a finished ski; at Stöckli, they’d probably promote him.

The only downside to Stöckli’s no-compromises approach is it has a habit of investing racing genes in every ski it makes. It doesn’t try to pamper the clueless but reward the highly evolved. Thankfully for all concerned, they’ve finally figured out that freeride, all-terrain skiers have other, legitimate needs besides fierce grip at rocket speeds. The subtle changes they’ve made, such as adding rocker and softening the extremities, have expanded what we might call the “comfort range” of the latest series of Stormriders.

You’ll notice one consequence of being Swiss and made with the care of a Rolex is that they cost about the same as a Rolex. And as with Rolex, with Stöckli you get what you pay for. Download Catalog