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, I tore my ACL to shreds.  But this was a photo-shoot day and I wasn’t going to miss it. The balloon is so I could be found in case of avalanche. Clockwise from bottom left: Kato McBride, Kristin Lignell, Kristi “Magic” Brown, Kim Vandeweghe and Tina Vindum form my security detail.

Not too shabby. But the New York Times Magazine Group that owned Snow Country Magazine wanted an unassailable crew, because we planned to break from editorial custom and list products by their order of finish. We were certain to be under fire from irate advertisers, so we needed a defensible methodology and impeccable skiers.

So I recruited Kim Reichhelm, Pam Fletcher, Kate McBride, Kristi Brown, Patti Sherman, Eric Schlopy, Harald Harb and Heidi Mellin. There were a smattering of mere mortals including my sidekick Rick Stalker, salt-of-the-eastern-earth Woody Jones, tuner extraordinaire Willi Wiltz, Corty Lawrence and myself.

Kristi Eve Brown celebrated her 26th birthday at the “Babe Condo” at Granlibakken, an epic blast, then went out the next morning with her cohort to rip Alpine Meadows to ribbons.

I’m going to cut the commentary at this point and let the captions tell the tale, knowing that mere words are pale competition for this incandescent cast. By the way, the women were not only spectacularly beautiful, but they wrote cards crammed with notations and laced with occasional profanities.

Tina Vindum became the avatar of The Athletic Skier in Warren Witherell’s epic instructional of the same name. Warren, as usual, was right about her talents. She went on to an innovative widely admired career in outdoor fitness.

The talent level on my team was off-the-charts. Here Wane Wong demonstrates that gravity has no hold over him.

We told Robbie we couldn’t use shots of him leaping over a cliff band. Robbie jumped anyway, proving you can’t keep a good man down.

Pam Fletcher was one of several Olympic skiers on our little team. Sweet as cherry pie and tough as nails, Fletch remains a dear friend. I’m proud to be one of her many wingmen.

Hansi Standteiner doesn’t need snow to demonstrate flawless technique. Former US Team member and Pro Skiing’s Rookie of the Year, Hansi is now married to Susan Chappell, another demonstration of winning style.

Lake Tahoe provides the perfect backdrop for a photo day. (L to R: Kauf, Reichhelm, Wong, Vandeweghe, Fletcher, Hudson, Vindum, Hogen, McBride, Sherman-Kauf, Chappell, Huntoon, Ormsby, Lawrence, Boyle.)

Hogen demonstrates his unique style of leadership by casually dropping into the void.

Two icons playing catch me if you can: McKinney and Wong out for a morning stroll.

Cameron Boyle makes everything look easy. Launching off a cornice is like stepping off the sidewalk to Mr. Boyle.

Susan Chappell became one of my first recruits when I went on a photo shoot with her, Stalker and Prosor and she crushed us all.

Kim Vandeweghe grew up a racer, switched to bumps and looked fabulous every step of the way. Wait til you see her ski…

Dr. Hogen, I presume?