Ski films, with their below zero orgy of eye-popping, cliff-hucking, deep powder slashing glory, are one of the three surest signs that winter is on the way. The second is the first blessed dusting of snow on your local hill. And the third, is all the latest ski test results in your favorite ski magazines, which you have almost assuredly received in the mail by now.
Personally, the annual ski test results are one of my favorite things to read each year. I love to see which brands have done the most to dial in their design, check the latest trends in shapes and construction, and preview which of the new boards I can expect to become ubiquitous on the slopes after being proudly proclaimed as, “Skis of the Year!’
As someone who has helped several ski magazines test skis for the past 16 years—including powder skis, frontside skis, all mountain skis, AT skis, telemark, and even a little bit of cross-country—I can tell you that the entire experience is tons of fun, like being the proverbial kid let loose in the snow-covered candy store.
It’s also a lot of work. And a lot of responsibility, because your opinion of what is good—and what is not so good—about any given ski, could have a significant impact on how well that product sells. Which is why every single skier I have ever tested with is dead serious about what they do. From first chair to last they make run after run on like-minded designs in the interest of comparing apples to apples, all while taking extensive notes to ensure they pass the best information possible on to you.
The more skis you test, the more the difference in quality becomes apparent as well. Some skis you want to ski on for the rest of the day, if not the entire season. A few others you want to leave at the top of the hill.
Overall, the majority are so well-built, and perform at such a high level, that for each tester it often comes down to some slight personal preference between dampness and liveliness, turn shape, camber, or the optimum amount of tip rocker that separates ‘great’ from ‘good’ in the final review.
Which is to say that just because a particular ski is voted ‘Best in the Test,’ does not mean that it is the best ski for you. Or to summarize what a designer for one ski brand once told me, “Nobody can build the perfect ski for everybody. There are just too many body types, varying abilities, and wildly different styles. The best you can do is try and design a ski with the widest appeal.”
Or you could design a ski just for yourself, the way the folks at Wagner Skis let you do. Is that a little bit of a sales pitch? For sure. But during all those years testing some of the best-selling skis in the world, I did always feel there was one more tweak that could improve whatever I was skiing on. If only to make it a better skiing ski for me, and the way I like to ride the slopes.
I’d be surprised if you didn’t feel that way as well. Like when you’re reading the test results of a ski you might like and keep trying to decipher whether it might be too long and too stiff—or too short and too soft—for what you like to do.
Want to take the doubt out of the process? Build a ski from scratch for you and you alone. Start by writing down all the attributes of all the best skis you’ve ever skied, and decide which of those qualities you would want to put into one single ski. I did that with Pete Wagner some six seasons ago and created a ski that I still absolutely love, and which the few friends I’ve loaned them to love as well.
After skiing them more than 120 days from Utah to Chile to Austria, I’m still amazed by how versatile they are. And how durable. I’ve burned through more than four other pairs of skis in that same time frame, and still grab my Wagners when I don’t know, or really care, what kind of snow I’m going to find when I get to the hill.
They’ve got the perfect amount of rocker for easy initiation in any off-piste conditions, have such great edge hold I can absolutely lay them over in hard snow, and are equally responsive whether I want to make turns that are big or small. As a bonus, the custom topsheet is so awesome that whenever these skis finally do run out of gas, I’ll probably mount them on my office wall.
The best part is I think they’re still better than almost any ski I could get at the store, which is something to think about when you’re poring over all the latest ratings and reviews. You know, how awesome it would be to finally build your own dream ski, made just for you. And how every single day when you click into your bindings, you can turn assured that you’re arcing on boards unlike any other skis in the world. That’s the beauty of Wagner Custom Skis.
Note: This journal was written by a longtime industry professional. In order to still able to hit the slopes during this year’s ski test, while also testing beer and tequila in the hot tub, they asked to remain unnamed. And we think that’s fair.
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