Take 12 Sugarbush/Green Mountain Valley School Ski Club racers, give them a fleet of the newest and coolest skis, throw in a day off from school, and what do you get? An enthusiastic group of workers.
The 2001 SKI Magazine Children's Ski Test Team comprised testers who ranged in age from 8 to 14, and who were chosen not only for their skiing talent (they all rip), but also their abilities to discern and communicate nuances in equipment. It also didn't hurt that their collective goal in life seems to be to ski every minute of every day until they die.
Of course, on Day 1 they all wanted to put on speed suits, grab the race boards and spend the day running timed super G. But there's more to life than racing, we reminded them, and a world of skis made for fun and forgiveness, not speed and precision.
The hardest part of the test was harnessing all the energy. A close second was trying to keep testers from talking to each other about the skis¿a strict no-no of testing. (They finally clammed up when threatened with duct tape.) They took the job seriously, yet managed to have fun tearing up the slopes of Sugarbush, which had just received a typical late-March dump. The testers worked their way through 28 models of skis, from the hottest race skis down to the gentlest beginner boards. And as they slowly abandoned their preconceptions, they were shocked at how well most skis performed¿even those considered "uncool" on the junior race circuit.
We grouped the skis in three categories¿Expert/Racer, All-Mountain Recreation and Value/Learner¿and with the help of three coaches we put them to the test. In the end, the testers discovered it isn't so much a matter of "winners" and "losers," but of subtle differences between good skis and great skis. Here's what we found.
Ed. Note: Former U.S. Ski Team downhiller Doug Lewis takes over as SKI Kids Test Director. Our special thanks to longtime director Christy Northrop, who stepped down after more than 20 years as SKI's expert on junior skiing.