Revelations


What My Murky Crystal Ball Reveals

As I pen this piece in the middle of February, 2024, the outlines of the 2025 American ski market are coming into ever sharper focus.  Every important brand has not only pitched its next collection to its retail partners, most initial orders have already been written, setting the stage for what should be a very consumer-friendly spring as far as ski sales are concerned. There are two key components that drive this looming shopping bonanza: the first, and most important, element is a slow-sales year that has a lot of the skis ordered preseason last year still on the shelves.  …Continue Reading

Better Write than Wrong

Of all the many splendid reasons for becoming a Realskiers.com subscriber, none is more unique – nor more valuable – than the opportunity membership confers to contact me directly with your queries. There are no forms to fill out, no arcane methodology to adhere to; just send me a profile of your ski background, the nature of your current conundrum and hoped-for outcomes, that sort of thing. I’ll do my best to sort through your options and point you in the right direction. We continue the dialog until we reach an actionable resolution. The Internet is awash with self-appointed mavens …Continue Reading

The Most Popular Ski of All Time?

Last week in this space I bid a fond farewell to a trio of outstanding skis that have ruled their slice of the market for the better part of a decade. No sooner had I sent the text off into the ether than my wandering mind dusted off some fuzzy memories that prompted me to wonder, what was the most popular ski ever sold on this continent? It couldn’t be a recent model, if for no other reason than the current ski market is wildly diverse and fragmented compared to the relatively homogenous ski world prior to the ascension of …Continue Reading

The Twilight of the Idols

Rest assured, Dear Readers, that this Revelation is not a discourse on Nietzsche’s sermon about the end of religion; the idols to which I refer aren’t gods, but a coterie of iconic ski models that have consistently exhibited “best in class” qualities over the course of the last decade and are finally approaching their sell-by date.   I’m not privy to any hard facts about which of the retiring models actually sold the most, so I can’t say with any degree of certainty which of the flagships now sailing into their final sunset can boast about having been the most …Continue Reading

Snow Can’t Get Here Soon Enough

Yesterday, I vacuumed my lawn. In the interests of full disclosure, “lawn” is too glorious a term for the stray bits of greenery that dot the patch of open ground on the south side of my home in Reno. Most of what had once been a robust example of an English greensward has lost its footing in its native soil under a barrage of pine waste that perpetually attempts – with considerable success – to bury it.   The principal problem of pine waste removal is that a lot of it is round, small and easily merges with its surroundings.  …Continue Reading

A Real Skier’s Holiday Gift-Giving Guide

It’s my understanding that a great many of my fellow citizens do their gift shopping well in advance of the due date. While I appreciate this preparedness in principle, I find it very difficult to put into personal practice. Like Santa himself, who doesn’t even begin to distribute gifts until the last possible moment, I find procrastination built into the fabric of the holidays. My point being, it’s not too late to surprise a skier or two on your holiday hit list with an impressively thoughtful gift. I’m not suggesting anything of stratospheric expense, but I am encouraging you to …Continue Reading

From Where I Sit

As I’ve been telling you since I first ascending this pulpit, there is nothing you can do to help your skiing more than procuring a properly fit ski boot. There is no way to compensate for its absence, no alternative that makes the choice of boot immaterial. It is, in a word, essential. Given the primordial importance of the bootfitting enterprise, I thought it might be instructive if you, Dear Reader, experienced a typical bootfitting interaction from the bootfitter’s point of view.  Let’s suppose introductions are over and you’re now seated before me, eager to get the process underway. Before …Continue Reading

Checking in on the 2024 Women’s Market

Every few years I take a deep dive into the women’s ski market, partly to re-visit the latest trends in the overall women’s field and partly to identify brands that have done the most to differentiate their women’s models from their unisex counterparts. This week’s Revelation isn’t a soup-to-nuts slog through every brand’s women’s collection, but a snapshot of the big picture and details about the brands that have done the most to integrate uniquely female features in their 2024 women’s models.  I’ve included in this monograph a few links (below) to prior Revelations where I go into deeper detail.  …Continue Reading

Re-Thinking the Fundamentals

What if you had the chance to start over with a clean slate, not with something as monumental as a relationship – normally too complex to even contemplate – but something with more definable behavioral boundaries, like a ski test card, to choose a random example.   As with the stickier wicket of relationships, the hazards of institutional change to a ski test card are subtle but potentially profound. When the Test Guru discards or re-defines a test criterion for whatever reason, it’s a pebble tossed into the pond of continuity. At least one behavior can no longer be directly …Continue Reading

Advice for Silver Skiers & Other Tidbits

This week’s Revelation is an amalgam of important messages for any skiers looking for new skis and/or boots this year.  Its recommendations are tilted in favor of the silver skier set, if only because one new product in particular is heaven-sent for this constituency.  The Revelation you’re currently consuming will also provide some background for the subjects of the next two podcasts of Realskiers with Jackson Hogen, which are required listening for skiers of every stripe. My guest on Realskiers with Jackson Hogen on Thanksgiving Day will be Jim Schaffner, the erstwhile owner of Start Haus (in Truckee, California), a …Continue Reading

Snowbird Secrets: On Traverses

Traverses, as the name denotes, cut across the grain of gravity. They are the access points – access bands, actually – to the three giant spirals that radiate from Hidden Peak. They are the paths to adventure, the roads that skirt the edge of the event horizon.  Most of the traverses on Snowbird have the good manners to flow downhill, but a few extract a small effort tax to hew to the track.  All of them must be endured, even honored, for just beyond their mundane, battle-scarred trenches lie rivulets of white essence, the rapids that rationalize the deferred gratification …Continue Reading

The Making of a Skier:  Hand-Me Downs

I was the fifth of five children.  While I naturally lacked the capacity to appreciate my circumstances in my childhood, the fact that I was an unwelcome accident would cast a shadow across my early youth that only the passage of time and an adult’s awareness have illuminated. We were a skiing family, which meant that I would go to Big Bromley along with my siblings on many a winter weekend, but I wasn’t invited to ski with them. The extent of family support for my early ski days was limited to equipping me with gear that had barely survived …Continue Reading

Hiatus

To My Dear Readers and Dear Listeners:  No sooner had I posted my (wonderful) podcast with Kim Reichhelm, than I started to feel queasy.  In short order I was felled by a respiratory infection that got me in its grip and refused to let go.  I won’t regale you with my abundant symptoms (the photo above bears silent witness to my body’s gift for effluvial production); suffice it to say, I was reduced to total helplessness that persisted for days.  I’m on the mend now, thank the Lord, but not yet up to par. With your kind indulgence, I’m going …Continue Reading

The Boot-Buying Decision Tree

At the risk of reiterating an axiom with which all skiers should be familiar, your choice of boots is infinitely more important than your choice of skis. Yet most skiers have only the foggiest notion of how to select their ideal boot from the myriad choices available.  Even if someone liked their old boots and just wanted a new pair of the same, the “same” most likely was dropped from the product line years ago. A recent tour of some of the Internet’s most absurd ski-vending sites revealed that the latest crop of new and returning skiers is as lost …Continue Reading

Price Is No Object

This Revelation should have been titled, “Price Isn’t the Primary Criterion Anymore,” but that’s not as catchy as “Price Is No Object.” Apologies for any attendant confusion. As consumers, we are trained to shop for the lowest price. The unfettered free-for-all that is e-commerce drives this point home with every search, by helpfully displaying the low-ball leaders prominently on the front page. I realize that despite what I am about to say, skiers will continue to root around the Internet for the lowest price as that’s what the online bazaar does best. The point of today’s focused pensée is that …Continue Reading

The Con is On!

Earlier this year, I alerted by Dear Readers and Listeners that online advice was about to go from merely shoddy to downright malicious. (See ChatGPT AI Has Ski Patter Down Cold in the Revelations archive on Realskiers.com.) This week, I decided to check in on how well AI was doing at imitating the copy produced by the current generation of ski scribes. My little exercise, which I will divulge the details of momentarily, led to one inescapable conclusion: Be afraid. Be very afraid. It turns out that the key to generating manipulative copy is to ask the GPT program, not …Continue Reading

Boots Matter Most

My central message this week is so primordial, so foundational, that it applies to every skier and every shop that hopes to serve them: boots matter most. Anyone remotely interested in skiing safely and comfortably should spend the time and resources to be properly fit. Nothing else you can do, buy or rent can overcome the handicaps imposed by bad boot selection and/or shoddy bootfitting. As an industry, we try to get this message across by focusing the rental bootfitting experience on speed instead of accuracy. (This isn’t anyone’s fault; custom fitting and mass rental don’t happily co-exist.)  Rental boots …Continue Reading

Why on Earth am I Doing This?

Why, I do it for you, my Dear Readers and Dear Listeners, so that you might find refuge in the miasma of misinformation that is the Internet, an oasis where experience, knowledge and some measure of sanity prevail. Once upon a time, the mavens of ski media cared deeply about the sport, men like Ski Hall of Fame members John Fry and Doug Pfeiffer, and many others of their ilk, who relished their role as guardians of the truth.  Skiing editor Al Greenberg actually chaired an ASTM sub-committee, for heaven’s sake, an act of sacrifice I can’t imagine any of …Continue Reading

All That’s New in 23/24

The ski gear season that lies just ahead of us will, at least superficially, look a lot like the season that just concluded. As I alerted my Dear Readers at this time last year in The Golden Age of Incrementalism, the pace of new ski development is slowing to a trot.  While there were six product families of new or improved skis folded into the market mix across the vast landscape of the Frontside, All-Mountain East, All-Mountain West and Big Mountain categories, most of these were second-tier offerings within their own brands, and a couple of new model clans failed …Continue Reading

The 2022/23 Season in Retrospect

It snowed again in Reno last Monday night, an unnecessary reminder that this season might never end. But while skiing in these parts continues unabated, it’s time for Realskiers to wrap up the current year with a recap of all the Revelations and podcasts I’ve recently created for the collective edification of my Dear Readers and Listeners. In the lyrics of the Grateful Dead, what a long, strange trip it’s been. Half the country got no snow to speak of, while the other half experienced what it’s like to get too much snow; in some instances, way too much snow. …Continue Reading

Groundhog Year

So much snow has fallen this season at places like Snowbird and Mammoth, it’s quite possible these resorts (and others in the American West) could remain open until the calendar rolls right into the 23/24 season, without missing a day.  While I doubt this will actually happen, the two ski seasons will be nearly indistinguishable when it comes to what Alpine ski models line the walls at American shops. Only a handful of new models will infiltrate the ranks of what’s available, and some of what’s new will be in genres that American skiers generally shun, intensifying the overall impression …Continue Reading

The Things We Do for Love

My longtime ski buddy, Rick Stalker, was given the nickname Rickus-Dickus by fellow Snow Country Magazine ski tester Tina Vindum, an honorific that instantly adhered and has remained intact ever since it was bestowed. (If you ever met the ever-radiant Tina, you would instantly understand why her nicknames have the power and permanence of a Constitutional amendment.)  Over the course of the last three decades, Dickus and I have conspired to take a road trip to Snowbird, usually aiming at dates in March. This season’s impending episode evoked all the tasty anticipation of past adventures, interlaced with obstacles that constantly …Continue Reading

Ski Luminaries Explain Why You Should Listen to Jackson

The American ski market has never seen so many new and returning skiers in need of good information, yet this critical commodity is currently in short supply. The dearth of authentic print titles leaves skiers to the tender mercies of the Internet, a no-holds-barred war zone where truth is the first casualty. For the last decade, I’ve been doing what I can to correct this woeful imbalance between what skiers need to know and what they’re able to find out. This is essentially the mission of Realskiers.com, and has been since its inception. My tireless quest for a broader readership …Continue Reading

The Bottom of the Barrel

While prowling the underbelly of the Internet, I’ve come across all manner of idiotic “Top Ten” gear recommendations, dooming whoever dares believe them to irredeemable misery. Every one of them seems to make its selections by lottery, for they all end up with a mishmash of models with only one thing in common: they can be bought on Amazon. After a few years of scanning this sort of tripe, I thought I’d seen it all. Hah! I didn’t count on the ingenuity of Apple News to find someone capable of recommending absolutely the worst boots POSSIBLE and labelling them, the …Continue Reading

ChatGPT AI Has Ski Patter Down Cold

If you thought that the quality of ski journalism – in particular the branch devoted to the world of in-resort, Alpine skiing – was already in a tailspin, you’d better take another Xanax and tighten your seat belt. You’re about to be fed force-fed hogwash by the bucket.  The Era of AI is upon us, and one of its first casualties will be online “journalism.”  A free program called ChatGPT – https://openai.com/blog/chatgpt/ – can create a ski review on demand that seems indistinguishable from the usual brochure copy that decorates the pages of every supplier’s catalog. Lest you think I’m …Continue Reading

Stymied

We skiers are a resilient lot. We have to be. The sport that feels embedded in the most elemental fibers of our being requires winter. I realize that last statement isn’t entirely true, but anyone who mistakes indoor skiing or sliding on sand or grass or nylon filaments for the real deal is in a deep state of denial. The essence of skiing is inseparable from mountains and snow, bringing powerful forces to bear on any and all who dare to brave both. One of skiing’s baked-in ironies is that the skiing is best when you can’t get to it. …Continue Reading

Seven Skis That Transcend Their Genres

Ever since Doug Pfeiffer and Sven Coomer orchestrated Skiing magazine’s first on-snow ski test, how to usefully categorize the pile of models under review has been an on-going debate.  For many years, SKI magazine defined each category according to skier type rather than ski model traits; to find the right ski, you first picked the skier-personality profile that best described you. In an earlier era when all skis were derivative of some sort of race model, every ski was defined by its relationship to a race archetype, hence genres such as “All-terrain Slalom.” Many of today’s online ski reviews are …Continue Reading

Are You Ready?

It snowed in Reno last night. There’s nothing like waking to a fresh blanket of snow draped over every inch of the landscape to kick-start the dormant machinery that monitors one’s skiing life. You probably took care of the season pass issue so long ago it seems disconnected from the rest of the process, but everything else on the to-do list merits your attention. Let’s take a look at what you should be doing soon – as in, before the holidays – if you want a clean start out of the gate when it’s finally time to put skis on …Continue Reading

Fear of Flying

What’s wrong with this picture of the Peruvian lift at Snowbird, gateway to idyllic terrain? Not a damn thing, unless, like your esteemed Editor, you suffer from FOHL.  Photo by “Guru” Dave Powers. I don’t remember the first time I felt it, at least while I was awake.  It could have been on the Peruvian chair at Snowbird, or perhaps the old Little Cloud chair on the same mountain.  I distinctly recall the first time I felt something like it, for it was the centerpiece of several exceptionally vivid dreams in which the already skinny supply of slats beneath my …Continue Reading

2023 Ski Market Preview: The Golden Age of Incrementalism

  Labor Day marks the beginning of ski season in America.  This wall at Bobo’s displays a profusion of carryover, 2022 models. An equal allotment of new models overflow a small armada of ski racks elsewhere under the tent.   Viewed in its totality, the 2023 American Alpine ski market still strives to innovate, but almost all of what is touted as new is an extension of an existing technology or product family, or perhaps embodies a slight construction tweak that doesn’t quite merit the “all-new!” hyperbole. I’m not alleging that minor changes can’t result in palpable upticks in performance, and …Continue Reading

Where I’ve Been & Where We’re Heading

Your Esteemed Editor in the company of Scot Schmidt, Greg Stump, Bruce Benedict and Fleppy the Flamingo shortly before Stump’s induction into the U.S. Ski & Snowboard Hall of Fame in Sun Valley, ID last month.  Mea culpa, Dear Readers, for I have strayed. My last published Revelation and attendant podcast issued on March 15, nearly one month ago.  If my audience were a house plant, it would have died of neglect by now. So, I owe you all an apology for my unexplained absence, which I will deliver in the guise of a truncated travelogue of my peregrinations. The …Continue Reading

Everything That Goes into a Ski Matters: Innovation in An Age of Incrementalism

Everything that goes into a ski affects how the final product behaves on snow. Any change in any part, either in what it’s made of or how it’s assembled, affects the whole. Construction shown here is used by Head for its Supershape collection of exceptional carvers.  Every Alpine ski brand is under pressure to introduce new models every year, a process that rotates through the entire line over the course of several seasons. In any given year, either a new model family or a refresh of an existing clan will give each brand something new to promote to a public …Continue Reading

The Skiers Who Changed Skiing

Walter Amstutz led the transition from free-heel to locked-heel skiing. In 1928, he pioneered a spring to control heel-lift, soon known as the “Amstutz spring.” Reduced heel-lift helped spark the parallel turn revolution. Photo courtesy Ivan Wagner, Swiss Academic Ski Club When present-day skiers ponder which skiers have had the most influence on Alpine skiing as it’s practiced today, they may conjure up images of Stein Eriksen, Jean-Claude Killy or Shane McConkey, each icons of recent epochs in the evolution of our sport. If you’re an equipment buff, you might mention Bob Lange, Howard Head or Sven Coomer, a tireless …Continue Reading

Ski Buying Tips for Parents

Parents usually want the best for their children, but when it comes to ski gear for the littlest skiers, there really isn’t much to differentiate one ski, boot or binding from another.  We’re all hard-wired to protect children. As near as I can tell, the “we” in the last sentence applies to all living things, but for the purposes of this pensée, let’s presume it at least applies to most mammals. When movie-makers want to rivet the audience’s attention, they put a toddler in peril. When we observe how non-human animals dote on their offspring, we feel the tug of …Continue Reading

The Story Behind Jackson’s List

Jan’s in Park City, UT has maintained an impeccable reputation for customer service since it first opened its doors under founder Jan Peterson.    In this week’s Revelation, I share the backstory behind Jackson’s List, a new feature on Realskiers.com.  Jackson’s List is, as the name implies, a list, in this case a searchable list of U.S. specialty ski shops that represent the best America has to offer. I call it Jackson’s List because it is solely my creation; I am the final arbiter of who is on the list and who is not. My interest in identifying America’s best …Continue Reading

Will the Next Generation of Skiers Be the Last?

The future of Alpine skiing as we know it is very much in doubt. These little tykes may very well be part of the last generation of skiers.    Ski resorts generally do what they can to lower barriers to kids’ participation, like discounts for kids’ tickets and value-priced programs designed to develop their skills in a variety of disciplines.  But kids grow up, and when they age-out of junior programs, the pressures to stop skiing intensify, such that the chances of raising a skier to adulthood today are roughly equal to the odds of a newborn turtle making it …Continue Reading

The Making of a Skier, Part XIV: My Illustrious Nordic Career

No, this is not your intrepid Pontiff sailing high over the Alps, but an actual Nordic jumper possessing all the skill and talent your blessed Chief Prelate lacks.  This is the posture I imagined I was in when I slammed nose-first into a Vermont hillside.  I have a very powerful sense of self-delusion.  I was raised in a bygone era marked by a barbarism that would shock the delicate sensibilities of the current generation. Among the degradations endured was the commingling of Nordic and Alpine ski events, apparently honoring some great amateur athletic ideal of the all-around skier. As I …Continue Reading

The All-Resort Skier

The all-Resort skier would just as soon take a picture of an elk as ski a fourth day at Jackson Hole. What is the world coming to?  While I earned my keep as an equipment maven during my tenure at Snow Country Magazine, towards the end of the relationship they let me try my hand at resort reviews. I’ll never forget the opening paragraph of my first submission because it was unambiguously rejected by my editor, Kathleen James, who currently edits Skiing History, for whom it has also been my privilege to write. Ms. James was right; my opening was …Continue Reading

The Skis Americans Don’t See, Part Two

This is the condition Powder skis were made for. If only we could use them every day…   As I was dismounting my soapbox last week, I was on the brink of revealing a major reason why mainstream ski suppliers have a hard time making a nickel in the Powder genre (skis over 113mm in waist width). To review, the first problem threatening the commercial viability of these super-fat models is that it only takes a couple of low-snow years to stop the flow of inventory. As a second or third pair of skis, Powder skis tend to sit idle …Continue Reading

The Skis Americans Don’t See, Part One

When I took the editorial reins at Realskiers.com roughly a decade ago, I instituted a classification system that divided the Alpine ski market into seven segments.  Rather than depend on fuzzy skier types, I chose carefully selected bundles bounded strictly by waist width measurement. Nothing has happened in the last ten years to tamper with the essential accuracy and fairness of this method. Of the seven genres identified in the Realskiers.com methodology – Non-FIS Race, Technical, Frontside, All-Mountain East, All-Mountain West, Big Mountain and Powder – three are all but invisible on the U.S. market. In this first installment of …Continue Reading

The 2021/22 Women’s Ski Market

The pandemic tore every plan I ever had for women’s ski coverage to shreds.  Undaunted, I’ve provided a full slate of  reviews of 21/22 women’s models.  In this Revelation, I divulge how Realskiers.com pulled off this unlikely coup.  Once upon a time, not so very long ago, there was no women’s ski market.  In the 1970’s, a couple of women’s models popped up here and there, but there wasn’t enough of a product nucleus to be considered a market.  More like a curiosity, like the ski Bogner – hardly a credible ski maker – created as a fashion accessory for …Continue Reading

The Making of a Skier, Chapter XII: Putting Words into the Mouth of God & Other Mid-Life Adventures

When I was cut adrift by Head on June 13, 2001, my once glowing prospects dimmed considerably. The date is etched in memory because I hosted a small soirée that evening in honor of my darling wife’s 50th birthday. One of the attendees was Paul Hochman, who would play several roles in my life as I wandered in the wilderness of unemployment during what were supposed to be my peak earning years. During the gaping hole in my career that spanned 2001-2011, I would eventually spend every cent of my inheritance, plus most of what I’d saved from earlier bouts …Continue Reading

Realskiers.com Trounces Field to Earn Second Stump-Bertoni Prize for Excellence

In a stunning upset that in retrospect appears inevitable, Realskiers.com has been awarded The Stump-Bertoni Prize for Excellence for the second year in a row. For those cave-dwellers who snoozed through Realskiers.com’s first triumph in this gilded competition, permit me to bring you up to speed. Then as now, the battle for this cherished trophy (metaphorically speaking – the S-BP lacks sufficient funds for a memento commensurate with its prestige) was fierce, extending both of its eponymous founders to previously unknown limits. The final ballot was determined by leg wrestling over Stump’s furious protest; he cogently argued that this sort …Continue Reading

“How Is It in The Bumps?”

This question is one of the last objections a ski buyer tosses into the flow of the sale just as the salesperson has guided it to the brink of consummation. To keep the impending close on course, the suave salesperson will hedge the issue with some bland reassurance without raising the obvious retort, that no ski can overcome all the many and curious ills that plague the untalented mogul skier. A great skier can manage bumps no matter what ski he or she is on. That doesn’t mean experts don’t have favorite skis for this spine-rattling condition, but they don’t …Continue Reading

Yard Sale! When Going Big Goes Wrong

If you’ve been a lifelong skier, you’ve not only experienced failure; most likely you’ve survived at least one miscalculation so soul-scarring, its time capsule is enshrined in the halls of memory alongside weddings and funerals. As inspiration and prod to memory, allow me to recount a vignette from my days as a freestyle competitor. The location is Keystone, Colorado, the event, The Chicken of the Sea Freestyle Classic, a sponsorship coup that couldn’t have been too tough to land as Ralston Purina owned both the resort and the tuna. I qualified via a preliminary aerial competition, taking a conservative tack …Continue Reading

Of Podcasts, Archives & Revelations

According to my tight-knit circle of advisors, idolaters, sycophants and astrologers, I was made for this medium. Of course, any garden-variety sycophant will whisper words of inspirational twaddle, but the faint note of sincerity I detect in the smarm-storm of platitudes meant to buck me up has proven sufficient to spur me to action. I quickly acquired a very professional looking microphone and a pop filter to knock down my fierce sibilants. To preserve my objectivity, I opted not to take any lessons, follow any tutorials or otherwise prepare myself for this venture. By the powers vested in me as …Continue Reading

The Making of a Skier, Chapter XI: Desperate Measures

When Head humanely, if rather brusquely, terminated my tenure in 2001, the ski business in the U.S. was already facing stiff headwinds, a brewing storm that would turn into a full-on debacle when 9/11 disrupted all commerce. I became unemployed just in time for the job market to implode. I don’t handle inactivity well. I started writing a very long, very dreadful novel, composed a handful of scripts for Warren Miller – and later, Jeremy Bloom – to recite and scribbled batches of brochure copy and white papers for industries as diverse as accounting software, instrumented football helmets that registered …Continue Reading

Top Reasons U.S. Ski Sales Have Shrunk

[As I wrapped up an earlier Revelation, I proposed to my beloved readership that they share their list of the top ten reasons U.S. ski sales have shrunk. I elicited only two written responses, so I’ll reproduce both here in their entirety, along with my musings on the subject. Consider these submissions tinder to light a fire under you, Dear Reader, to submit a list of your own.] From Rick Pasturczak 1. Snowboarding- I’ve noticed most snowboarders are 12 to 20 years old and once they become an adult, almost all stop. While I noticed most skiers continue on. 2. …Continue Reading

From Fallible to Foolproof and Back

In the 1970’s, prior to the adoption of the first ski boot sole standard, boot makers were free to concoct any sort of sole they might imagine. Many skiers still used leather boots with laminated soles, even after the industry largely moved on to injected plastic, which enabled shapes and sole patterns leather couldn’t duplicate. This incoherent jumble of boot designs showed no lack of imagination, but little consideration for how they might interact with a binding. Bindings were likewise free from any standards that might have limited the creativity of their designs, many of which were crafted specifically to …Continue Reading

The Road to Perdition

The road to hell is said to be paved with good intentions. In my experience, the friends and relatives of prospective boot buyers are a wellspring of wretched advice wrapped in bright ribbons of sincerity and concern. (Let us pause a moment and prayerfully acknowledge the gratitude of bootfitters everywhere that the new, pandemic-driven bootfit protocol discourages the presence of a bootfit entourage composed of family, moral supporters and consiglieri.) Back to the subject at hand, the particular nugget of advice I’m leery of is the customary admonition to avoid too stiff a boot as it will hurt, you’ll hate …Continue Reading

The Making of a Skier, Part IX: The ASTM, Carl Ettlinger and I

One of the many hats I wore as North American binding product manager for Salomon in the early 1980’s was that of delegate to the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM). I believe the first meeting of F8.14 – the sub-committee on ski safety – that I attended was in Pennsylvania. I was flying under the wings of Salomon’s seer of all standards and patents, Gilbert Delouche, and the binding product manager for the North American zone at that time (and my mentor), Joe Campisi. I was a babe in the woods, but I soon caught on to the …Continue Reading

The Ripple Effect

As I’ve observed in this space before, product managers spend most of their time in the future; the present for them is two years away for the rest of us. So when the coronavirus shut down the 19/20 ski season, it triggered an automatic response in the R&D lobes lodged deep in my noggin: what impact will this have two years down the road? If I knew the answer to this question with any certainty, I should be running a hedge fund, not scribbling about skiing. But after checking with several of the bellwether players in U.S. market, I have …Continue Reading

Silver Linings

A little over a week ago, I was skiing. A little over a week ago, I was recruiting Mt. Rose instructors for a women’s test that would have rolled out yesterday. A little over a week ago, I was pulling together a dream team of Non-FIS Race ski testers, to convene the second week of April. Then it all cratered. With a few, swift strokes, all possible venues shuttered, all potential testers pre-emptively sidelined. I know, a First World problem if ever there was one. It is, however, a preoccupying concern for this correspondent, as evaluating the current crop of …Continue Reading

It Wouldn’t Hurt to Take a Lesson

It’s my business to sell the promise that a new pair of skis will bring joy and a sense of completion that life would lack without them. It grieves me to no end to inform you that while new skis may indeed augment your happiness and boost your self-esteem, the evidence suggests that they will not, in fact, make you a better skier. Before I build up a head of steam, allow me to excuse all of you who have spent decades polishing your skills so you flow over any terrain with grace and artistry. The fulminations that follow are …Continue Reading

The Big Squeeze: Why it Pays to Understand the Brand

We live in difficult times. I’m not referring to the messes mankind is making on every macro level, but the state of affairs within the tiny, cloistered domain of the ski maker. In a financial marketplace that demands growth as the measure of success, squeezing more money out of an ever-shrinking world ski market requires constant innovation just to maintain sales volume. The need to shave R&D costs has shrunk the product development cycle down to eighteen months, partly due to advances in computer-assisted design and prototype creation. The force fueling this frenetic pace of model turnover is, of course, …Continue Reading

The Making of a Skier, Part VII: The Snow Country Years

I quit my dream job because of a dream. I was staying at the Hotel Lenado in Aspen, escorted by my lovely bride Stephanie, over a March weekend in 1987. The occasion was the men’s FIS downhill, which happened to tuck neatly into the calendar just before the annual SIA show in Las Vegas. My wingmen that weekend were Scooter Libby, George Benkendorf – a retired airline pilot and gifted sybarite – and my dear friend and incorrigible reprobate Mike Wood, aka Stinky. When I awoke Sunday morning, a feature-length, noir mystery was still mostly intact deep inside my tequila-marinated …Continue Reading

The Making of a Skier, Part VI: Salomon Office Daze

A rock impresario who happens to be a dear friend of mine ascribes the secret of success to “timing and lighting.” That’s an apt aphorism for my office career at Salomon in the early 1980’s: I was in the right place at the right time, for nothing creates opportunity like chaos. Just as I was settling into my new duties as Educational Services Administrator, the lowest possible clerical rung on the ladder to success, the ski market went into one of its periodic paroxysms. (Later on, as a product manager, it would be one of my myriad duties to calculate …Continue Reading

When Should You Replace Your Boot Liners?

Once a skier finds a great fitting boot, it can be very hard to let it go. I’ve seen boots manufactured during the Reagan administration tenderly pulled from their neon (and somehow still pristine) boot bag by their besotted owner in the hope that I can somehow breathe life back into them. Somewhere during the history lesson that often accompanies this moment, the suggestion is made that perhaps replacing the liners will extend their useful life? With the delicacy of mortician, I am forced to explain that the boots before us expired some time ago. The fact they are still …Continue Reading

Realskiers.com Wins First Stump-Bertoni Prize

Realskiers.com Receives Prestigious Award! Realskiers.com Wins First Stump-Bertoni Prize In a stunning upset that has shaken the very foundations of the sports media world, Realskiers.com has been awarded the first Stump-Bertoni Prize for Excellence. The precise nature of the excellence being recognized is deliberately vague, according to award co-creator David Bertoni, which he claims both reflects the quantum nature of human experience and allows the scope of the Stump-Bertoni Prize to inflate as necessary to cover the extreme, ever-expanding excellence that Realskiers.com fairly reeks of. The Supreme Prelate masters his turbulent emotions after receiving the Stump-Bertoni Prize. In the unlikely …Continue Reading

The State of the Women’s Ski Market II

In 1993, there were 25 models of reputedly made-for-women skis entered in the Snow Country Magazine ski test. They were classified as “recreational,” but a more accurate adjective would have been “dreadful.” Not a single brand of the 18 represented was aiming at anyone above average ability. Our elite test crew regarded them with unvarnished contempt. The reason no one tried to concoct a decent women’s model was the prevailing attitude among ski makers that making a model specifically for good women skiers was a misbegotten enterprise. The men who designed skis were, of course, skiers themselves, and the women …Continue Reading

The State of the Women’s Ski Market

Much as I loathe the idea of contributing to the demise of my native tongue, I hereby bow before the Zeitgeist of brevity. For those whose reading habits consist of a diet of small doses, behold the conclusions of my two-part examination of the current women’s ski market, delivered in the modern idiom of the bullet-point list: The wider the ski, the fewer the distinctions between a men’s model a women’s model. The women’s models that are the least like any in the corresponding men’s collection tend to be the products of extensive field testing. In the U.S., the Women’s …Continue Reading

The Making of a Skier, Part V: Salomon Field Days, Part Deux

My first winter season as a Salomon rep was winding down when our Binding Product Manager, Joe Campisi, asked me to script a promotional video for use on the following year’s certification circuit. I promptly produced a draft that Campisi passed along to John Creel, head of Salomon’s ad agency. Word came back that the draft would need a little work, but not to worry, I’d have plenty of time on the flight to Geneva to fine tune it. Overnight, my career at Salomon veered onto a new tack. I hadn’t spoken much French since leaving Yale seven years earlier, …Continue Reading

The Making of a Skier, Part IV: Salomon Field Days

I was an experiment. Clay Freeman, Salomon’s Western Sales Manager, and Tom Corlett, the Colorado Front Range rep who would soon assume Freeman’s mantle, met me in the United Airlines lounge at Stapleton Airport to offer the newly created position of Service Representative. I was hired, at the princely sum of $9600 per annum, to support three sales territories by performing all their binding certification clinics, thereby freeing the associated salesmen to extract yet another round of orders from Salomon’s vast dealer network. In those sepia-tinged days, binding certification took four hours, including a written exam and lab session. I …Continue Reading

Why Wide Skis Aren’t Good for Your Knees

In his introduction to an overview of current research on the effects of wide skis, Prof. John Seifert of Montana State University explains two fundamental ways that wide skis expose the knee to injury. (We’ll get into the mysteries of just how wide is “wide” and other variables in a minute.) The first of the Big Fundamentals is that wide skis force skiers to adopt a more upright stance. Less bend at the knee means the muscles that support the joint are no longer in their optimal position to exert force. This means the knee is more vulnerable just when …Continue Reading

Mixed Media Messages

Regular readers of my Revelations know that my primary communication vehicle is the printed word, which I try to conjure and arrange as artfully as I can with the entwined intent of entertaining and educating. While my goals remain the same as ever, the teaching this week shall be delivered by the most popular of modern media, video. In the furnace of my imagination, the few emails I received that wondered whither my video content last year were embers I fanned into a crackling inferno of widespread public demand. And so I offer these four video essay-ettes as a service …Continue Reading

The Movie in Your Mind

A pivotal moment in any ski or boot sale comes when the customer provides a thumbnail portrait of his or her abilities and ambitions. This self-appraisal determines the direction the salesperson is going to take to zero in on the customer’s perfect ski (or boot). The clearer the picture the prospective buyer can paint, the more accurately the sales advisor can match skier to ski. If only life were so simple. The problem is that a very large percentage of self-assessments, particularly those proffered by men, are, shall we say, optimistic. I used to believe that many men were naturally …Continue Reading

The Making of a Skier Part III: The Breckenridge Years

When I graduated from Yale in June of 1972, I had little idea of who I was and no idea whatsoever how I was supposed to spend the remainder of my time on earth. My degree was in Philosophy, where I sought to untie the knottiest problems. This no doubt enriched my life in many ways, but it was not what I would describe as a fast track to related employment. As trained philosophers should, I took dispassionate stock of my situation. What could I actually do? Hints were dropped that given my talent for argument I would make a …Continue Reading

The Making of a Skier, Part II: Shorties and Other Tales

[In fond memory of many joyful Christmas vacations in the home my parents built in the mountains, where they were happiest. Merry Christmas to all my Dear Readers at Realskiers.]  It’s no longer regarded as insightful to observe that memories are not only fallible, but often constructed from scratch by the recollector’s imagination. Memory is further distorted when the distant events are culled from fragments originally recorded by a 7-year old mind trying to decipher a world filtered by all but useless eyes. Among the snapshots that flutter out of the shaken box of memory is one of my immediate …Continue Reading

The Making of a Skier, Part I

Dear Readers: I subscribe to exactly one blogger, Bob Lefsetz, whose passion is the music scene, but his restless mind and flowing prose are by no means confined to this subject. Lefsetz’s second love is skiing, a topic to which he often strays in winter months. In a blog post dated November 28 – he frequently posts several times a week – he wrote a burst of sentences that caught my eye: “And Killington got hit. But I know the further south you go, you get rain, but at Bromley, my home mountain, where I grew up, they literally got …Continue Reading

On Genius

[After writing Snowbird Secrets, I composed a series of meditations that attempted to dissect its origins. On Genius is from this series. I realize its relevance to skiing is oblique; I offer it here to keep your minds engaged while I research a few of the technical articles I’m composing for your future delectation. This piece is for all the angels who have helped me give voice to my thoughts.] We have a tendency, in our daily usage, to cheapen the value of words. We choose them carelessly, tossing them out pell-mell, as if sheer volume were a substitute for …Continue Reading

Power vs. Finesse

Skiers are not a homogenous lot. The ski community includes Nordic jumpers, runners and biathletes alongside pipe and park denizens, co-mingled with backcountry enthusiasts, some of whom race up the mountain instead of down it. All of these activities require highly specialized gear. This brief treatise isn’t about any of these sub-cultures, but a primordial schism within the ranks of Alpine, resort-based skiers. My daily encounters with the ski-seeking public – both online and in person – reveal that a wildly diverse population all self-describe as “expert.” There are experts who’ve skied every winter for 50 years and experts who …Continue Reading

On Patience

I composed this piece several years ago in the wake of writing Snowbird Secrets. I’m publishing it now for the first time to bolster the spirits of all those skiers whose patience has been sorely tested while waiting for snowfalls that never come.   Patience is perhaps the most invisible virtue. We know we own it completely when we don’t feel it at all. The instant we are aware of it we are in danger of losing it.   Patience contains its own contradiction: to feel its tug is to know its stock is dwindling, perhaps to nothingness. Patience places its heaviest …Continue Reading

Where Are Rear-Entry Boots Now that We Need Them?

According to the recently released SIA Market Intelligence Report, the Key Insight to be gleaned from the Alpine Ski Participant Age Trends is, “As a percentage of Alpine Skiers, the 45-54 and 55-64 age groups grew.” Actually, so did the 65+ age group, although to a considerably lesser degree, which suggests that some concatenation of factors causes senior participation to fall off after what we were raised to believe was “retirement age.” Why would senior skiers, by and large an affluent lot, with more leisure time available than at any earlier period in their lives, choose to ski less just …Continue Reading

The Vanishing Ski Bum

The ecology that allows the ski bum to flourish has always been delicate. In order to survive, the ski bum often is forced to live in communal households with half-crazed roommates (which is better than it sounds) with dubious hygiene (worse than it sounds). In his most primitive state, diet consists largely of free bar food and what nutrients can be culled from uncleared lunch trays. Improving on these conditions requires working, which interferes with the Primary Mission, to ski as much as humanly possible. There are a few highly prized jobs that require one’s presence only at night, but …Continue Reading

Deceptively Fast

I can already feel the headwinds of protest this pensée is likely to engender, so to mitigate their ferocity, allow me to open with these caveats: I’m not against people taking electronic gadgetry to the slopes. On the contrary, I’ve created an app for ski testers to record their results, a gadget if there ever was one. I’m all for apps that help people extract more enjoyment from their ski day or serve some safety function. I’m not trying to rate or evaluate the existing apps that, among many other functions, try to measure the skier’s maximum and average speed. …Continue Reading

Why Test Ski Boots?

At Realskiers.com, we consider it axiomatic that skiers should entrust boot model selection to a competent boot fitter, rather than trying to negotiate the labyrinth of the current market in hopes of unearthing the magic slipper that will provide the elusive perfect fit. The hunt for the ideal boot is analogous to the search for health care; the skier who wants the best care should be looking for the right doctor, instead of researching prescription medicines that may or may not be curative for one’s condition. Stretching this comparison a bit further, the autodidact who seeks to self-diagnose must depend …Continue Reading

So You Want to Test Skis?

Everybody loves to demo new skis. When most skiers try out a new model, they just go skiing and see if they like it. They may lack the vocabulary to describe precisely what they prefer and what they loathe, but they can easily distinguish between being happy and being miserable. Realskiers.com readers tend to be more analytical, striving to think their way to an optimal solution. They want to understand all they can about the behavioral bundle somehow encapsulated in the static object they can only flex and caress when pulled off a ski shop rack. Now all demo devotees, …Continue Reading

Flipping the Pyramid

When I was cutting my teeth in the ski trade in the late ‘70’s, the market was built like a classic pyramid: the broad base was composed of a large population of entry-level skis, sold mostly in packages; the next level of intermediate/advanced products didn’t add up to as many units but remained a relatively large percentage of the total; capped by a small contingent of mostly race models for experts, instructors and actual racers. The product pyramid circa 1978. Over the next 40 years, the ski world shifted so dramatically off-axis that today the product pyramid is completely upside …Continue Reading

Women’s LIB

“Lighter is better” (LIB) has been the dominant theme in consumer products over the past several years, so it’s no surprise that ski makers have adopted this mantra as their own. What is somewhat of a surprise is that the LIB philosophy has permeated all recreational ski categories, affecting both men’s and women’s models. The global emphasis on weight reduction across the gender divide has had the net effect of making men’s models more similar to women’s models than has been the case since the long-ago era before there wasn’t any such thing as a “women’s ski.” The fabulous Tina …Continue Reading

Silver Skier Reflections and Selections

Aging isn’t for the faint of heart. It takes fortitude to slide out of bed when every sinew seems to have ossified overnight. The silver-haired who continue to ski into their dotage manage to do so not because they’ve found the Fountain of Youth, but because they’re able to suppress or ignore the body’s daily attempts to signal for a time out. It’s as if your skiing self were a dim-witted game show contestant who doesn’t realize he’s lost; your body – the exasperated but ever gracious emcee – keeps repeating: “Thanks for playing! Time to go now! Take up …Continue Reading

The First Five Minutes

Last week’s Revelation, “Take the Leap of Faith” inspired some thoughtful critiques among the Realskiers faithful, both on our Facebook page and in one-on-one correspondence with yours truly.   One perspicuous soul correctly observed that said essay was superficial, while another waxed eloquent on why the ski industry should adopt saner, customer-centric practices that mimicked regular shoe buying. In my meandering reply to this critic, I noted that if the customer takes charge of the sale, then the person who has the least idea what he or she is doing is now running the show. This is rarely a formula for …Continue Reading

Understand the Brand

When considering which ski is right for you, don’t just compare thumbnail model descriptions, helpful though they might be. Don’t put all your faith in numbers either, even though statistics exude the aroma of science. Take stock in the advice of family and friends, if you must, but I wouldn’t invest too heavily in the opinion of those whose experience has been largely limited to one ski. Before you take the final plunge, learn what you can about the brands behind the models that intrigue you. While in general it’s true every major ski manufacturer attempts to cover all bases, …Continue Reading

Why Your Ski Boots Hurt

An alarming number of skiers assume that ski boots hurt, period. Every boot they ever put on, beginning with rental boots, then their first pair of boots bought as part of an entry-level package and even the next pair of supposedly better boots, all hurt like hell. This “understanding” is what fuels the average boot buyer to be more circumspect about his or her next purchase, vowing to take charge of the sale and not putting up with less than ethereal comfort. This is a terrible idea. While I empathize with the plight of skiers fed up with incessant discomfort, …Continue Reading

What Matters and What Doesn’t – Skis

In another sentence or two, we’re going to inform you that what ski brand you buy isn’t very important. We want to caution you in advance that this statement isn’t entirely true. It does indeed matter what brand you buy; it just doesn’t matter as much as a few other factors that need to be settled first. To help explain why brand considerations are tertiary territory, let us present a brief summary of how major manufacturers organize their product lines. Every important manufacturer, without exception, organizes its product line around skier archetypes. Not every ski supplier attempts to service every …Continue Reading

Expand Your Sphere of Awareness, Please!

Expert skiers don’t worry about falling. But they do worry about collision. A lot. As in, all the time. Collisions hurt. Falling down a steep mogul slope, while terrifying at the time, mostly injures one’s pride; colliding with another speeding skier will dislocate every bone in the body. The modern panacea for collision mitigation is the helmet. For puttering-along impacts, the modern ski helmet does a fine job of protecting the surface it covers. As for collision avoidance – vastly preferable to mitigation – this observer of the ski scene finds that the virtual omnipresence of helmets has done nothing …Continue Reading

A Brief Explanation of Why Skiers are Better Than Everyone Else

Skiers are among the finest human beings on our precious planet, which this short essay makes abundantly clear. I composed this meditation on why skiers are better than everyone else several years ago. If you’re reading this, please know that I appreciate your support to the bottom of my heart and hope you enjoy the best runs of your life in the year ahead. Happy New Year! Skiers suffer. We endure countless indignities just to engage in the activity that allows us to say the hallowed words, “I’m a skier.”  We travel ungodly miles through weather that would force a Sherpa …Continue Reading