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 the Pontiff of Powder, I declare myself to be, now and forever after, a podcaster.
I’ll give you a moment to recover.
If you pop over to my podcast page, home to Jackson Illuminates Everything About Skiing, you’ll find that there are several themes already in play. You’ll discover the first two episodes of The Stump Chronicles, an indication that interviewing famous subjects will be part of the show. A couple of chapters from Snowbird Secrets provide depth and build character, and I kick off a season’s worth of ski reviews with the All-Mountain East category, broken into two segments to help mitigate the potential brain damage caused by listening to 17 ski profiles in one seance.
To demonstrate the possible synergies between my prose and my podcasting, I’ve posted my rendition of the top 10 reasons (12, actually) why U.S. ski sales have fallen far off their peak, the subject of a recent Revelation. I’ll roam the stacks of the Revelations library (which now totals 160 entries) for further podcast fodder.
As ski reviews are Realskiers.com’s lifeblood, expect that I shall span the multi-verse of the Alpine ski market, category by category. This will be something of a herculean effort, so please bear with me while I build my body of work in this arena.
The Ski Review Archives are Back!
One of Realskiers.com’s most cherished member benefits has been access to our ski review archives. Due to a software upgrade instituted over the summer, the members’ versions were swapped out for the public view, which are shorter and don’t include test data. That error has been rectified, which is of more than just academic concern. Last year’s skis are still very much on the current market, so the 2020 reviews are more pertinent than usual. And they include the ski test scores for all carryover models, data that won’t be found in the 2021 reviews.
Some of you have inquired about our pre-2015 reviews, as in, where are they? These vintage reviews are actually problematic for technical reasons I’m not qualified to explain, but we’re going to set our concerns aside and expose these ancient scrolls some time later this month. I’ll keep you posted on when they’ll be restored.
I’ve read dozens of anguished inquiries from Realskiers’ veteran subscribers about when the 2021 scores will materialize. Because this missing element has so vexed my Dear Readers, I want to take this moment to put this problem in perspective.
Our first interview subject is the legendary Greg Stump, creator of The Blizzard of Aahhh’s, widely regarded as the greatest ski film of all time with the most influential soundtrack in the history of this genre. There are already two episodes of The Stump Chronicles posted, with more to come in the weeks ahead.
The Seduction of Data
It is precisely because so many of my readers place a high value on the test scores that I elected not to show any data from this year’s testing. The field was simply too unlevel, both in terms of internal coherence and comparisons with prior years’ input. The data is already misleading (in a sense I will explain shortly); to have published this year’s numbers, such as they were, would have created more confusion than clarity.
I say the data is already misleading because any test card only records the data requested. If you want to know about mogul performance, for example, it has to have a home on the test card. I like the analogy to blood tests: they don’t tell you everything, they only answer the narrow questions asked.
There are many nuances to how a ski behaves that defy numeric calculation, more than can fit on a test card or in a tester’s consciousness over the course of a run. The numbers only provide an outline, a sketch that’s more a caricature than a portrait. The data informs the narrative, but it doesn’t supersede it.
As I wrote in Silver Linings last spring, the absence of published data perforce shifted emphasis to the narrative, which I declaimed should teach us all a lesson. The narrative is home to the backstory and to nuances that aren’t captured in a number. Because math can put us on the moon, we tend to give all numbers a power that don’t all deserve. As I’ve noted in this space before, ski test data has little or no statistical significance.
But even if we had an armada of trained professionals providing thousands of data points, we still would need narrative to put flesh on the numeric bones. An article in the Sunday New York Times of November 8 (back page of Sunday Review) by Phil Klay, titled Human Experience Can’t be Quantified, made this point succinctly: “Data alone is not knowledge, and it is certainly not wisdom. It rarely says as much as we think it does.”
Looked at from a slightly different angle, you could figure out how to score a ski based on a thorough narrative, but you’d be at pains to accurately describe all a ski can do if all you had to go on were a small set of numbers.
Silver Skier Selections
Our collaboration with SeniorsSkiing.com continues this year with the eminent site’s publication of the models I awarded a Silver Skiing Selection this year. As you read this, it’s easy to search a prior year’s Silver Skier award winners in the Realskiers Archives, but this facility isn’t yet enabled for this year’s Recommended models. We’ll try to get this filter strapped in place by Thanksgiving.
As I bid you adieu this week, Dear Readers, I want to reiterate my invitation to join the growing ranks of my Dear Listeners of Jackson Illuminates Everything About Skiing. I’m pleased to entertain your insightful suggestions for possible topics…