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 day after I posted On Altitude, I decamped for a five-day busman’s holiday at Snowbird, certainly an excusable absence for someone in the ski trade. I wouldn’t be much of a ski equipment advisor if I didn’t indulge in the occasional ski vacation, and no place on earth recharges my batteries as brilliantly as this relentless mountain.
I realize that acknowledging my hosts is of scant interest to most of my Dear Readers, but if I could depend on your kind indulgence for a moment, I need to thank Dave Fields, a model of how to run a resort; The Dude, for providing the best base of operations imaginable; Rickus Dickus, my wingman these past 40 seasons; my co-author “Guru” Dave Powers, who skis this mountain six days a week, every week; and my tolerant early-A.M. guiding team of Ed Chauner and Craig Spooner. The kind access they grant me to this spiritual playground has been, and continues to be, one of the great privileges of my life.
After navigating the rushing gravity streams of Snowbird for nearly a week, I had barely a day to rinse out my undies before driving seven and a half hours to Sun Valley, Idaho, to witness the induction of one Greg Stump into the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame. My involvement could be traced to a day a few seasons ago when Stump mused aloud that, while Glen Plake and Scot Schmidt were both in the Hall, why, oh why, wasn’t he? I told Stumpy I’d take care of it, and set in motion the events that led to the landslide vote that swept him into induction.
I promise I’ll deliver a raft of perspicacious commentary shortly if only you’ll grant me one more chorus of gratitude for those who made my brutal round trip more than worth its toll. To keep your attention, I’ll start with Scot Schmidt and his infinitely charming bride Patti, worth the price of admission right there. Future inductee Mike Hattrup also materialized, a class act throughout his long and deep career, as did Bruce Benedict, the premier ski cinematographer of his day, who cradled in his arms Fleppy, the original Maltese Flamingo.
I can’t conclude this capsule of my trip without thanking Carol Swig for allowing me to stay at her stunning home and Scott Brooksbank – finally recognized by the Hall for his extraordinary talent – who awarded me a set of crystal glassware “for all the years of your unending passion in this great sport of skiing.” Wow, I did not see that coming. I’m humbled, which my intimates know is no mean feat.
By the time I rolled back into Reno, I had to redouble my efforts to capture ski test data, which meant gathering skis from disparate locations and trying to coax others into skiing and scoring them. That sentence was a lot easier to write than its contents were to execute. Two weeks later, I’m still chasing test scores. Today I hope to herd a contingent of ski test conscripts to the ski school trailer on the Slide side of Mt. Rose, who has graciously allowed us to stash around 40 pairs of skis on the premises. There’s nowhere else in the Tahoe area where we can operate in such close proximity to a main lift that also happens to serve ideal testing terrain. I can’t thank all concerned enough.
My travails in culling test results – never a walk in the park – have been exponentially compounded by a severe staffing shortage that has affected every specialty shop in Christendom. I suspect every shop owner in America had to man the barricades for most of this past season, which doesn’t exactly leave a manpower surplus able to trot off to a trade fair.
The Road Ahead
My methods for capturing skier feedback may not be succeeding to the degree I would like, but at least I’m trying. Most arms of mainstream media that choose to pose as ski experts no longer possess even a patina of credibility. To name two particularly odious examples of advertising posing as editorial, Men’s Journal published a top-10 “Most Versatile Skis of 2022” that was wall-to-wall bullshit, assembled purely to incite a direct sale from the supplier. Whatever quality might be shared by their ten selections, “versatility” isn’t even a remote possibility. I could vilify each selection for its exceptional inappropriateness, but instead I’ll just mention that the “writer” admitted that their tenth selection hadn’t even been skied by whatever panel of nitwits they assembled to manufacture this fraud.
The second slice of inanity that deserves your contempt is a ruse by Popular Mechanics titled, The 8 Best Ski Boots for Shredding Any Slope. Despite a long prelude about boot selection and how they “tested,” intended to establish a tone of credibility, when they finally got around to picking boots, the editors responsible for this transparent hoax cobbled together an incoherent jumble with but one goal: based on their nothing-burger of a review, the reader is expected to buy his or her boots online, preferably on Amazon.
It’s hard to think of a worse disservice to the ski-boot buying public than this inane exercise.
At least that’s what I thought until I was invited to peruse The Ski Girl. I can’t say how desperately incompetent all the advice dispensed on this site is, but I can assure you the people assigned to write about skis are the opposite of experts. I’ll let this one example stand as indictment of the whole shebang: someone so well-known she goes simply by the moniker “Christine,” selected as the best ski for an intermediate (woman, one presumes) none other than the ultra-wide Blizzard Rustler 11.
It would be hard to make a completely random choice and do worse. There is NOTHING about this model that is right for an intermediate. Period. It’s not merely wrong, it’s dangerous, for reasons that I’m certain would elude “Christine.” On top of it all, she has the witless gall to add, “Every ski review here comes recommended, so you really can’t go wrong.”
This is emblematic of everything that’s wrong about what remains of ski journalism. A gross incompetent merrily goes about dispensing advice unblushingly, so the site can collect a commission on a direct sale THAT SHOULD NEVER HAPPEN.
Please note that The Ski Girl hasn’t taken down its moronic buying suggestions, suggesting a smug certainty that there will be no serious consequences for its gross negligence. Such is ski journalism today.
While the spread of ski “journalism” without a shred of credibility continues unabated, authentic voices have been sidelined, silenced or shuttered. Editors who really knew the sport and the language were once abundant: John Fry, Al Greenberg, Doug Pfeiffer, Sven Coomer, Dick Needham, Seth Masia, Bard Glenne, Neil Stebbins and Steve Casimiro (now at the excellent Adventure Journal) understood the responsibility that came with the “expert” mantle. That sensibility today is as archaic as a phone booth.
Skiing has plenty of other problems, of course. More and more major ski brands are selling their stuff directly to skiers, weakening the already wobbling foundations of specialty retailing. If you’re middle class or just in the middle of life and taking on new responsibilities, you probably can’t afford to ski. The bonds that used to connect the disparate elements of the ski trade are weakening. The West is bone dry and getting drier.
Not to mitigate the severity of these problems, but the loss of authentic, reliable voices is of the same order of magnitude. When everyone’s opinion carries equal weight, any choice is a good one. Eeny, meeny, miny, mo. Prospective ski buyers will be inundated by charlatans posing as curators anxious to peel a few percentage points off whatever you’re conned into buying. Who cares what you get?
No one, that’s who.
[Note to my Dear Readers: In all likelihood, this will be my final Revelation of the 21/22 season. I’ll be spending the next few months composing reviews and stockpiling podcasts for next fall. Of course, I shall continue to answer members queries that elude Outlook’s plan to toss them into Junk, but otherwise will maintain radio silence until I emerge from my chrysalis in September.]