Revelations


Cascading Rivulets of Thought

  As the photo above attests, I’ve been composing my thoughts about skis and skiing for a long time. This week’s Revelation recaps the 2020/21 season as captured in the pages of Realskiers.com.  Oh, what a year it’s been.  The ski community has gone from despairing if the current season would ever appear to wondering if we would run out of skis to sell. Wherever skiers were allowed to ski, whether in-resort or in the backcountry, they didn’t just show up; they showed up in droves. About the only question left to ponder as the 20/21 season draws gradually to …Continue Reading

How Not to Buy Ski Boots

  Of all the nefarious practices in our little business, none is more inimical than a consumer shopping a website for price while extracting the vitally important technical expertise from a talented bootfitter.  It’s like eating a five-star meal, then walking out on the bill.   According to my totally unscientific survey of hundreds of ski boot customers, the most common tales told from the boot bench – in no particular order – can be summarized thusly: “My toes are touching the end pretty hard.” (This after informing each and every one of them that their toes will hit the front …Continue Reading

52 Weeks

Your Esteemed Editor en route to his next descent in the Wasatch backcountry. If you’re a skier, and you believe in the afterlife, this is where you wind up. (Provided you’ve been very, very good.)   We skiers are a resilient lot. One year ago, give or take a day or two, the ski world shut down.  Inns, restaurants, shops and lifts – all that makes a ski destination a resort – might as well have been condemned. While this may sound insignificant in the grand scheme of things – the ultra-rich lost access to their precious playgrounds, the poor …Continue Reading

Our Dear Readers Weigh In

At the Kalavrita Ski Center in Greece, $35 buys a lift ticket and a room for the night at a three-star hotel. One of the benefits of a Realskiers.com subscription is the ability to contact me directly with your questions and comments. I also periodically solicit reader feedback on what I perceive as important issues. Point being, I maintain a robust correspondence with my readership, much of which is of the “what ski should I get?” variety, but a lot of it includes information and opinions that extend well beyond the boundaries of equipment advice. I’ve culled ten such jewels …Continue Reading

Road Tripping

Among the many dissatisfactions of this most unusual season is that travel beyond one’s local environs has been roundly discouraged. Don’t get me wrong: I’m grateful down to my socks that we’re allowed to ski locally, and my version of same is pretty sweet. Pardon the plug, but between Alpine Meadows, Squaw Valley and Mt. Rose I have a smorgasbord of savory choices. But skiing close to home and skiing on the road are two different beasts. Nothing is the same, really, and therein lies a great deal of the road trip’s charms. To shed light on my premise, allow …Continue Reading

It’s About Nothing

In the last week of January,2009 I was able to spend a few days skiing in Little Cottonwood Canyon, which is always cathartic for my ravaged soul. The conditions were all over the map, the mountains having experienced a long, hot spell followed by rain, grapple, wet snow and finally dry snow driven by winds that could flense an adult walrus in a few minutes. Couldn’t have been better. I had been preparing for the trip for weeks, psychologically. Two back surgeries the previous winter had reduced my training regimen from semi-annual to non-existent. Scheduling conflicts such as work kept …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

Fit the Whole Skier

We bootfitters are naturally obsessed with feet, but the best bootfitters don’t just fit feet; they fit the whole skier. The “whole skier” includes more than just a quick survey of the lower leg and how it’s connected to the foot. It’s even more than all of the skier’s physical attributes, which include not only height and weight, but seated posture, stance, kinesthetic wiring, arch health and stiffness throughout the kinetic chain; the whole skier also includes his or her history with the sport and, most importantly, what sort of skier he or she wants to be. One of the …Continue Reading

The Things We Do for Love

Dear Readers who regularly devour my weekly Revelations know that I have already written at length on the subject of Why Skiers Are Better than Everyone Else. Last Friday I was reminded of my timeless prose as I spent 45 minutes traversing a very short stretch of road that connects I-80 to Route 89, my proscribed path to Alpine Meadows. As I voluntarily descended into this automotive miasma, I could make out the dim form of the interstate traffic snaking down from the west, two dense strands of tightly linked vehicles stretching beyond the horizon.

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

Just How Strange Will the 21/22 Ski Market Be?

To (temporarily) kowtow to the cult of brevity, the short answer is, “not very.” To elaborate, most major ski brands didn’t derail the introduction of new products that were in the works well before the pandemic dropped the hammer. There’s a rhythm to the product renewal cycle that shifts the spotlight every year to a different model family within any brand’s global collection; that rhythm was largely respected despite the unique obstacles imposed on the process this year. If most of the models appearing in 21/22 catalogs seem similar to what was offered this year, it’s because this is how …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

The Savvy Shopper: How to Buy Skis

Let’s begin with a recap of the fundamentals. Realskiers’ model selection methodology starts by dividing the Alpine ski market into seven categories, using waist width as the organizing principle for three excellent reasons: 1. This dimension is the single best indicator of the ski’s capabilities. 2. Waist width is a hard number, not a fuzzy concept like skier type. 3. Suppliers product lines align with this method, creating models in every category according a coherent pricing logic.

In Praise of the Wandering Mind

This subject has been percolating in the subterranean strata of my noggin for several months, searching for the connections that will lend it substance. The search for this topic’s handles has a wedding-cake’s worth layers: to depict the wandering mind requires its engagement, a self-cancelling concept that would oblige me to catch and release the idea in a Sisyphean quest to define its merits. The notion of expounding on this Möbius strip of an idea was, naturally, an example of the wandering mind in action. I might have been noodling on a question several of my Dear Readers have posed, …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

The Best Women’s Skis of 2020

Before getting down to the business of picking favorites, let’s re-examine the fundamental question, what makes a ski a women’s ski? Not to be flippant, but any ski its maker markets as a women’s model qualifies in that it will come in shorter lengths, which are scaled to match smaller people, a considerable percentage of which are women. To drive this point home, the women’s models will also be decorated in themes deemed – however correctly – to be more appealing to women.

The Best Skis of 2020

I’m of two minds when it comes to the “best of” business. I realize that many consumers appreciate this shortcut to any further research, take the gold medal as Gospel and act on it. From the designer’s perspective, even though I might make dozens of prototypes, I would still only manufacture one model. From where the ski review purveyor sits, for any given set of criteria, it stands to reason that the ski with highest aggregate score would be the best. The other side of the coin is that there is no best ski, nor can there be. Within the …Continue Reading

Resurrecting Realskiers Resources: The Revival of Ancient Review Archives & The Restoration of the Test Card App

One of the most popular features on Realskiers.com’s member site is our Ski Review Archive, where Recommended ski reviews dating back to 2015 can be easily exhumed and examined. Longtime site subscribers know that this is only a partial collection, that in fact our review archive reaches back to the turn of the millennium. We’ve been keeping these well-aged scrolls under wraps in part because, like actual ancient documents, the software they were written on (so to speak) has grown old and rickety. There are some serious downsides to continuing to operate obsolete platforms, but to a certain cadre of …Continue Reading

Is 3D Imaging a Fad or the Future?

Any serious attempt at bootfitting begins with an assessment of the customer’s feet and lower legs. This appraisal can be as superficial as measuring each foot for length or as detailed as a complete skier profile accompanied by a few basic biomechanical evaluations. Better bootfitters gather further information from a litany of details that lie outside the scope of the usual foot-measuring device, such as a Brannock. The veteran bootfitter watches how the customer walks, sits and assumes a skiing position, for starters. The savvy fitter can even spot limb-length differences and redistribute pressure around the foot in places no …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

Reader Comments on Why Ski Sales Have Shrunk

In this week’s Revelation, I posted my top ten (twelve, actually) reasons why skis sales have shrunk, along with the musings of two Dear Readers on the subject. Note that the topic’s focus was ski sales at retail, not skier or skier/rider participation rates, subjects that are certainly related but just as certainly not the same. Below are verbatim reader responses culled in the last 48 hours. I’ve corrected the odd typo, but otherwise left these contributions intact. My thanks to all who took the time to tell their tales. – J

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

The Making of a Skier, Part X: The Mechanics & Managers Workshop Tour

When I left Salomon in the spring of 1987, my motivations could be distilled into three principal components: • The parent company declared it was moving its Reno-based North American HQ back from whence it came. Neither I nor my family had the slightest desire to return to New England. • I felt I was spending more energy battling factions within my own company than I was out-flanking our competition. I’d worked more or less without a break since June of 1978. My thin veneer of patience cracked. • I wanted to write screenplays. Not that I had demonstrated any …Continue Reading

The Five Stages of Ski Finish Awareness

Don’t let the title fool you. Although it sounds like it, this Revelation isn’t about the degree to which skiing is top of mind among Helsinki society. The purpose of this exposé is to shine a light on a subject about which almost all skiers are woefully uninformed, namely the condition of their skis’ bases and edges. Just in case you don’t imagine this subject worthy of your attention, I hasten to point out that how well your skis are tuned and maintained isn’t just a factor, it is the factor that determines how well your skis perform. A properly …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

Why This Buyer’s Guide?

Don’t read the 2021 Masterfit Buyer’s Guide in Partnership with Realskiers.com for its 62 ski reviews. I should know. I wrote or edited all of them. Not that the ski reviews aren’t worth the read. But ski reviews on the web are as common as rice, while the Buyer’s Guide contains something no other publication, whether in digital, print or video format, can claim: the most respected, thorough and dependable boot reviews in the world. This isn’t mere puffery. The Masterfit Boot Test is so well regarded by the supplier community that nearly every brand not only sends its following …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

Realskiers 2021 Women’s Ski Test: A Series of Linked Recoveries

If you ever saw footage of early-1970’s mogul contests, you understand the expression, “linked recoveries.” This turn of phrase sums up my repeated attempts to capture coverage of the primary players in the 2021 women’s Alpine ski market. Before we learned coronavirus wasn’t street jargon for overindulging in imported beer, I had a plan in place. I’d paid handsomely to have my test card app refreshed just in time for the major western trade fairs at Mammoth Mountain, CA and Snow Basin, UT, which convened on overlapping dates.

Realskiers.com Recommends Top 2021 Models in Cornerstone Categories

When the ski world skidded to a stop last March, the Realskiers.com database had already logged hundreds of digital test cards, a very promising start to what turned out to be a dismal season.  There was just enough data to separate wheat from chaff, a winnowing process that revealed the top 70 unisex models spread across the four most popular genres: Frontside, All-Mountain East, All-Mountain West and Big Mountain. It seems like ages ago, but it was only Friday, March 13 that I skied Mt. Rose for the last time. I left the mountain that day brimming with blind optimism. …Continue Reading

The Brave New World of Bootfitting

During my time on this planet, the value of knowledge – specifically, the detailed understanding of accumulated facts about the past – has been steadily devalued.  The impact of the pandemic and the crater it’s left in the world economy has created an uncrossable chasm between now and then. The Firesign Theater once capriciously declaimed, “Everything you know is wrong.”  How right they’ve proved to be. One of the many casualties of our perilous times is that bootfitting as we knew it is over.  The last time anyone was able to practice this arcane skill, the best bootfitters would literally …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

A Skier’s Guide to Time Travel

[Dear Readers: Many of you already know that I am at heart a metaphysician, so I hope you’ll indulge me this diversion from technical subjects. I’ll return to the nuances of ski design and the travails of bootfitting next week, which according to this week’s Revelation, has already happened.] If you’re at all conversant with the consequences of Einstein’s theory of relativity, then you already know that time is not a constant. Among the discoveries along this train of thought is that the future is already over and done with. Not just yours and mine, but the future in general …Continue Reading

Who Needs New Ski Prep?

I could make this Revelation stunningly short and simply say, “everyone,” but that would leave unanswered a few subtleties such as “what the hell is ‘new ski prep?’” In order to dispel this sort of lingering doubt, allow me to illuminate the story behind a line item that appears on many a shop ticket without necessarily being well understood or appreciated. “New ski prep” is ski shop shorthand for a suite of services applied to the base and edges of a new pair of skis. Exactly what this includes may vary from shop to shop, but the basic premise is …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

The State of the Ski Market, Part II: The Pluses and Problems of Standards

In Part I of my 2020 State of the Ski Market Revelation, I describe how the influence of ski width, deep sidecuts, rockered baselines and tapered tips and tails have dumbed down skis to the point where skills development is treated as optional. The crowning achievement of the modern ski is that it has allowed the absence of technique to become a technique. This week’s sermon begins with a brief dissertation on a different way of dumbing down gear, one that makes it harder for the hapless, often ill-informed consumer to make a disastrous choice. Regardless of the quality of …Continue Reading

The State of the Ski Market: The Origins of Today’s Wacky World

Once upon a time, the Alpine ski market was relatively homogenous. Racing was the sole paradigm of excellence and race ski clones populated every product line. Everyone’s collection put race skis on a pedestal, made lower-cost spin-offs for the masses in the middle of the market and offered a huge menu of entry-level package skis. Today’s market could not look much more different. Entry-level package skis still exist, but their ranks have thinned considerably. The rest of the 2020 ski market has fragmented into a kaleidoscope of options. Race skis no longer have any influence on the vast majority of …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 Best Ski Test Team Ever

False modesty does not become me, so I’ll just say it: it was the best ski test, ever. Instead of running for barely a week, it churned non-stop for more than three weeks. But it wasn’t just long; it was also deep. Just the local talent pool was insane: Tamara McKinney, Wayne Wong, Eva Twardokens, Susan Chappell, Bill Hudson, Tina Vindum, Barry Thys, Erica Standteiner, Cameron Boyle, Kevin Andrews, Stu Campbell, Todd Kelly, Kristin Lignell, Franz Weber, Robbie Huntoon, Hansi Standteiner, Astrid Walti, Scott Kauf and Bob Ormsby all served as Snow Country Magazine ski testers. Two days before this shot was taken, …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

Your Equipment Isn’t Getting Any Younger

Aging is a bitch. Nothing and no one is immune from its predations. I mention this not to impress you with the depth of my insights (the likes of which are unavailable elsewhere), but because we humans have a tendency to hope some things will last forever, or if not forever, at least as long as we will. A corollary to this inescapable reality is that some of the stuff we own is quite a bit older than we imagine. For reasons science has yet to explain, this phenomenon is common among skiers. Ski salespeople are routinely told that a …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

Lessons in Empathy

Last Sunday I concluded another season of bootfitting at Bobo’s Ski and Board in Reno. As a city shop loosely associated with the local ski area, Mt. Rose, and closely aligned with Sky Tavern, a city-owned facility that tries to make skiing affordable for the less affluent, Bobo’s attends to the needs of the entire spectrum of skiers, from never-evers to skiing royalty. Inevitably, they will all end up sitting on the boot bench, some for the first time, many for the first time in over a decade, and all too many who are somewhere in the middle of a …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

Ski Test Primer

Ski testing closely resembles skiing, but it’s not the same. Ski testing requires discipline. The ski tester has to reign in the natural impulse to ski the mountain as an ever-changing amusement park, instead taking the same path over and over. On a free ski run, the same skier might drop the reins and let the skis find the fall line; when testing, low speeds and short turns also must be given their due. What the Snow Country ski test crew looked like, circa 1994. Test criteria – and outerwear – were both a lot different then. The ten performance …Continue Reading

Baselines Basics

You’re first attracted by a ski’s topskin, how it appears in the hand. But you live with the base, where the ski meets the snow. Of all the clues to performance that can be gleaned by examining a pair of new skis plucked off the ski shop wall, perhaps the most significant reside in the ski’s baseline. In the olden days – i.e., over ten years ago – there wasn’t a lot of discussion about baseline. All skis were cambered – arched tip to tail – to one degree or another. Then early rise tips appeared on some high performance …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

Lessons in Humility

Last season I introduced a Realskiers Test Card app, allowing both our regular cast of specialty shop personnel and citizens of all stripes to record their impressions of new skis and send them off to my database in one fell swoop. The app turned out to be a lifesaver, as test venue after test venue was wiped out by wind and weather, drastically shrinking the number of paper cards that would be submitted after regional trade fairs. The digitally submitted results filled what would have been a gaping hole in my data pipeline. After registering scores for ten criteria, a …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

It’s a Woman’s World: Part III

[For the last two weeks we’ve been investigating the women’s ski market. In this, our third and final installment, we look at two different directions open to advanced women who have outgrown what’s available in the women’s Frontside genre.] We open our closing rumination on women’s skis with a brief inspection of a category virtually invisible to the U.S. market yet important enough worldwide to merit women-specific constructions. The women’s Technical genre, like its unisex counterpart, is comprised of narrow (67mm-74mm waist), high-performance skis meant for skilled skiers (hence the title “Technical”) skiing on groomed runs. Skilled American women tend …Continue Reading

It’s a Woman’s World: Part II

[In the first part of our exploration of the current women’s market we cited the influence of the backcountry market and the Lighter is Better trend on women’s ski design in general and the Big Mountain genre in particular. This week we look at how a selection of major brands have addressed the women-specific market in the far more significant Frontside and All-Mountain East genres.] Before taking a deep dive into the details of how a few ski brands have addressed the women’s market, allow me to restate why the women’s market is concentrated in the Frontside and All-Mountain East …Continue Reading

It’s a Woman’s World: Part I

It seems like only yesterday, but it was, in fact, seven years ago that the tiny corner of the national sporting press devoted to alpine ski coverage revealed a tantalizing tidbit: Lindsey Vonn, the star of the U.S. team and reigning World Cup Overall champion, was switching to men’s skis! That a woman as big, strong and fearless as Lindsey would opt to compete on men’s skis seemed both brazenly audacious and entirely plausible. It was a great story that helped burnish Vonn’s reputation as skiing’s Wonder Woman. It would have been even more interesting if it were true. For …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

Fear of Fitting

Regular readers of these Revelations are aware that I routinely spend my winter weekends diagnosing and remedying multifarious bootfitting woes. Sessions with problematic feet may easily run over an hour, affording me the opportunity to hear countless confessions from afflicted skiers. Perhaps the most common remark volunteered by owners of ten-year-old boots that felt good for the first and last time the day they were purchased is something along the lines of, “I wonder why it took me so long to do something about a situation I knew wasn’t working.” Once burned by a bad bootfit, many skiers shun specialty …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

The Mail Bag

This week, I share some Realskiers.com subscriber perspectives I found instructive, on pedicures, gloves and proper ski size selection, with my responses appended. One word: pedicure! I may have “discovered” something that can benefit all skiers! There is no question for me as to the benefits of proper bootfitting. Yet in all I’ve read there hasn’t been a mention of good foot hygiene let alone the value of a pedicure. I think I am on to something that will improve the feel and comfort of my feet in my ski boots. You need a pro. A pro gets a near …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 Most about Your Boots

At the beginning of every new season it’s appropriate to revisit some fundamental issues that bedevil the ski equipment selection process. If there’s one point upon which all equipment gurus agree, it’s that the most critical piece of the equipment puzzle are one’s boots, so let’s start there. Part 1: The Primordial Importance of Boots You’ll never ski well if your boots aren’t a perfect match for your anatomy and skills. Many skiers with 20 ski seasons or more of experience base their associations with each boot brand on their personal history, despite the fact that this history is most likely …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

How to Judge a Boot Fit

Whenever a bootfitter slips what he or she knows to be the correct size onto a prospective customer’s foot, it’s standard procedure to intone, “You will feel your toes at the end of the boot; please try not to panic,” or some such admonition. This caveat applies in nearly every instance because the foot in an unbuckled boot will always seek the toe-bending end; only after buckling and flexing will the tootsies retreat into a less confining space. The bones in the green zone should be the focus of every fit. This “toes will touch” moment is, for many skiers, …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

What Makes a Great Ski Great?

These are but four recipes in the current Head ski cookbook. One bedrock principle of marketing is to draw public attention to your product’s differentiating feature that delivers a performance, comfort or convenience advantage over the competition. To reach the widest audience, the communication has to be compressed to the point where the “elevator pitch” better not take more than one floor to spit out. This all but obliges the savvy ski maker to draw the ski shopper’s attention to some readily identifiable detail to which can be attributed a succinct benefit.  In the current market, the feature that’s attracted …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

Is Your Gear Limiting Your Development?

Most Americans believe in self-improvement, that regardless of the chosen endeavor, one should strive to get better at it. As applied to skiing, this world-view implies that all skiers, from rank beginner to elite competitor, would like to ski better. Effective immediately, if possible. Skiers who’ve been engaged in the sport for a while know that better gear will allow them to ski better. To choose an obvious example, even average skiers understand that a wide ski with a turned-up tip and tail will make it easier for them to stay upright in powder. What many skiers fail to consider …Continue Reading

Are Skis Over-Priced? Part I

No question about it, alpine skis are pricey.  Middle-of-the-line models run for over $500, top-shelf All-Mountain skis routinely check out for around $700 or more, unmounted, and some exotics seem to reach second mortgage territory. One has every right to wonder, what am I paying for? Let’s begin the cost analysis with a look at all the stuff that goes into or onto a ski. Every part in a modern high-end ski—and there are lots of pieces—has most likely not been made by the ski manufacturer but has been acquired from a subcontractor or supplier.  There are a limited number …Continue Reading

Are Skis Overpriced? – Part II

[Continued from Are Skis Overpriced?] So if manufacturers, distributors and retailers are all laboring mightily just to make a living, why are skis so bloody expensive? Part of the problem has to be that the world market has shriveled over the last 30 years. The US market used to absorb close to 1.5 million new pairs of skis a year; Japan imported or made for their domestic market over 2 million pairs a year. Some estimates would suggest both regions now sell in about a third that many pairs (rental excluded). No emerging market evolved to pick up the enormous …Continue Reading

The Definition of “Fit”

It’s What’s Inside That Counts This week’s post is an exchange between a Realskiers subscriber (whom we call Kate) writing in response to a recent entry, Helpful Fictions, and myself. She found it so useful she suggested we pass it on to our readers. I concur and have here done so, with my remarks in italics.   Kate: It is much easier to try different skis than to ‘try’ different boots. I have been the recipient of many, “so how does that feel” questions by the guru’s ‘helping’ me. Problem is that I am not an expert to know how it should feel. …Continue Reading

How to Ski Better in One Hour

Nothing maximizes the fun factor like a perfect fit. The best hour you can devote to improving your skiing this year doesn’t involve taking a lesson, doing yoga exercises, watching an instructional video or even (stifled gasp) reading a riveting web site. You don’t have to wait for winter. You can even schedule the hour of your quantum leap in improvement in advance. All you have to do is show up and put yourself unreservedly in the hands of the master boot fitter who sits before you. Before you leap to the defense of your current ski footwear, declaiming that …Continue Reading

Buying on a Budget — Stretching Your Ski Equipment Dollar

The Pontiff Pontificates On Parsimony Skiing has many charms, but being cheap isn’t one of them. Only the likes of princes and pashas can indulge in the sport with a blind eye to its costs. Everyone else is faced with making choices, such as whether to buy a piece of new gear or a season’s pass, or if both, resigning oneself to a winter of living on ramen. The purpose of this piece is to help you make the right choices. First let’s suppose you have a family to both feed and take skiing. Let’s begin by outfitting the kids. …Continue Reading

The Five Fallacies

Most skiers who aren’t professionally involved with the sport cling to any number of misconceptions about equipment and technique.  Just how some of these fallacies came to be embedded in the skiing public’s zeitgeist is unclear, but friends and family are the usual culprits when it comes to cementing bad ideas in place. To help you shed the shackles of ignorance, we hereby expose five fallacies that hinder pursuit of the quality ski experience. 1.  Wax makes you go faster. True, but not entirely true. It’s the pattern in the base structure—tiny cuts in the polyethylene base imparted by a …Continue Reading