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 a close, is whether the surge in demand will be sustained post-pandemic or whether skiing’s gains will recede like the melting snows of spring.

 To help put the 20/21 season in context, here are links to all the Revelations posted to Realskiers.com this season. As usual, the range of topics hop-scotches from the technical to the historical to the personal.  Taken as a whole, they provide a picture of how American ski culture has evolved this season and give a glimpse into the future.  I’m prefacing the 2020/21 collection of Revelations with the final entry from the 2019/20 season, Silver Linings, that set the table for the strange season that is just now wrapping up.

Silver Linings  The abrupt conclusion of the 2019/20 season due to the Covid outbreak derailed our ski test plans.  For 20/21, the description of each ski’s behavior would have to stand on its own, without supporting data. The silver lining was the renewed emphasis on narrative over data.

The Brave New World of Bootfitting The first Revelation of the 20/21 season outlined a new protocol for bootfitting that would become the de factor standard virtually overnight. As a testament to its efficacy, ski shops were able to stay open all winter.

Realskiers.com Recommends Top 2021 Models in Cornerstone Categories The primary mission of Realskiers.com is to help skiers find their perfect ski. Despite our travails with data collection, we were able to identify the best skis of the year in the most important categories.  

Realskiers 2021 Women’s Ski Test: A Series of Linked Recoveries Our plans for capturing women’s data were wiped out by the pandemic, so we enlisted the top testers from the major brands to tell us about their favorite skis.

The Ripple Effect Ski development plans were severely disrupted by the pandemic, but resourceful ski makers still found ways to bring models that were already in the R&D pipeline to completion.    

Why This Buyer’s Guide?  The Masterfit/Realskiers Buyer’s Guide is an invaluable resource for anyone researching the boot market.  It’s ski reviews are culled from the pages of Realskiers.com, and it’s boot coverage has set the standard in the field.  

The Making of a Skier, Part IX: The ASTM, Carl Ettlinger and I Part of my autobiographical Making of a Skier series, this chapter hones in on my work with the ASTM, in which I clashed with the inimitable Carl Ettlinger. Ettlinger was a unique individual who worked tirelessly to make skiing safer.  He is sorely missed.

The Road to Perdition Many skiers have been advised to get a softer flexing boot as it will be more comfortable, easier to get on and off and otherwise better for them than a stiffer one.  Not so fast…

From Fallible to Foolproof and Back Boot and binding standards enacted in the late 1970’s made all adult boots and bindings interchangeable. As backcountry skiing began to boom, boot/binding incompatibility reared its ugly head once again.

The Five Stages of Ski Finish Awareness If skiers only knew how much their skis’ base and edge finish affected performance, they’d take better care of their babies. If you and your skis aren’t getting along, treat them to some extra love.  

The Making of a Skier, Part X: The Mechanics & Managers Workshop Tour Once upon a time, a highly qualified faculty toured the country, dispensing priceless technical information about skis, boots, bindings and shop operations. Its days are over, and we are all a little poorer for it.  

Top Reasons U.S. Ski Sales Have Shrunk The surge in ski sales this season will surely buck what has been a persistent trend: ski sales have steadily declined since their peak.  What have been the principal drivers of this trend? 

Reader Comments on Why Ski Sales Have Shrunk Our Dear Readers chime in with their theories as to why ski sales have slumped.   

The Making of a Skier, Part XI: Desperate Measures  Desperate Measures, brainchild of Dave Bertoni and I, was the consummate retail salesperson training program. Detailed to a fault, it was doomed by market dynamics that killed off its target customers.  Its central tenets remain true to this day. 

Of Podcasts, Archives & Revelations I would classify this Revelation under the heading, “Housekeeping.” I alert my Dear Readers that I will henceforth be appealing to them to become Dear Listeners by dropping in on my weekly podcasts.  

Is 3D Imaging a Fad or the Future?  3D imaging has become more affordable and the general desire to limit person-to-person contact makes the technology attractive. Will it become the new normal, or will it remain a relatively esoteric bootfitting tool?

Resurrecting Realskiers Resources: The Revival of Ancient Review Archives & Restoration of the Test Card App  Longtime fans of Realskiers.com love to browse our ski review archives, which extend back to the turn of the millennium. This Revelation announced that the mustiest pile of old reviews have been dusted off and re-connected to the site, and the digital test card app was up and running, for both IOS and Android users.

The Best Skis of 2020 Instead of selecting a single ski, I pick my favorite three skis in each of the core categories.

The Best Women’s Skis of 2020 As I did with the men’s models, I pick the best three models in each of the main women’s categories. 

Yard Sale! When Going Big Goes Wrong Nothing provides more soul-satisfying fun than hearing about the misfortunes of others. I recount the tale of my most prodigious wipe-out and invite my Dear Readers to send me their confessions of same. My collection box is still open…

In Praise of the Wandering Mind I draw an extended metaphor between the benefits of a classical education and why skiers should occasionally practice doing a bit of everything.  Once you learn to ski upside down and backwards, you’re never in an unfamiliar position. 

The Savvy Shopper: How to Buy Skis I outline some simple shopping strategies for finding the best ski for you. I break down the total market, how pricing works and how to get the most for your money.

How Is It in The Bumps? Everyone wants to know how the ski they’re thinking of buying performs in the bumps. Sadly, buying a new ski won’t, by itself, make you a better bump skier. Coaching from the likes of John Clendenin will. 

Just How Strange Will the 21/22 Ski Market Be?  No question that the pandemic badly disrupted the R&D pipeline and the glut of skis in Europe remains a concern. But overall, next year’s offerings aren’t much different from what they would have been without the pandemic. 

Realskiers.com Trounces Field to Earn Second Stump-Bertoni Prize for Excellence  The proprietors of Realskiers.com again show their can-do attitude by soliciting the second consecutive Stump-Bertoni Prize for Excellence. If anyone else would care to create a prestigious award for ski-related journalism and ruminations, we would be more than happy to accept it, particularly if it includes a modest honorarium. 

The Things We Do for Love Going skiing can be a hassle in the best of times. When a tsunami of powder-starved skiers got the green light to head to the mountains, just getting to the hill would try the patience of a saint. We know all this, yet we go anyway. 

Fit the Whole Skier There’s a lot more to proper bootfitting than just finding the right size. To do their job right, bootfitters have to consider every aspect of the person they’re fitting.  They also must assess the skier’s needs over time, as boot ownership can easily last for 10 or 15 years.

The Making of a Skier, Part XII: Putting Words into the Mouth of God & Other Mid-Life Adventures  I’ve done a bit of everything in this crazy corner of the world; one of my better gigs was writing scripts for Warren Miller Entertainment. This did not delight one Warren Miller.

It’s About Nothing  Skiing isn’t about braggadocio. It’s as much a spiritual quest as a physical one, an internal affair that’s not easily quantified or dissected. Skiing won’t cure cancer or solve world hunger. At the end of the day, it’s about nothing, and that’s enough.

Road Tripping There’s a big difference between home games and away games. Unlike home games, away games are all about skiing and only skiing. In this Revelation, I test my Dear Readers affection by revealing just how fabulously I’m treated when at Snowbird. 

Our Dear Readers Weigh In One of the main benefits of membership in Realskiers.com is the right to communicate with me directly.  Most queries are about skis or boots, but my readers’ curiosity knows no bounds.  Herein, I share of smattering of correspondence.

52 Weeks  It was a year unlike any other, that gyrated between record losses and gains. I look back on the major developments of the last year. It turns out skiers are a resilient lot, and while many sectors of our business suffered – most notably restaurants and lodging – ski sales in the U.S. soared.  

How Not to Buy Ski Boots The Internet provides much that is good – like Realskiers.com, for instance – but there are certain tasks for which it is ill-suited.  Shopping for ski boots is one of them. The only way it can work is if skiers go to a shop to be fitted, then slink off to some online entity to buy. Anyone engaging in this practice – or encouraging it – will suffer eternal damnation. I have it on the best of sources…

This Revelation may prove to be the last of the 20/21 season. Podcasts are another matter. My counsel is to drop by Realskiers.com from time to time to check for recent episodes of Jackson Illuminates Everything About Skiing.