Ski makers invest a lot to determine what kinds of boards skiers want, so we ask them to provide us with their key models, the ones you'll most likely find on shop racks in shop nationwide. Then we educate our 25 testers about leaving any preconceptions behind: about brands, about previous models, about construction of skis, etc. We set testers loose on Snowbird on the test skis, about 150 models total, sorted by waist width and divided equally among the number of test days. Testers ski each model and evaluate and articulate its character, strengths, weaknesses, and ideal use and user. They also rate each model numerically according to nine different performance criteria. We crunch their numbers, consider those along with tester votes and opinions gathered during daily end-of-day debriefing sessions, come up with the top skis, and review them here and in Skiing's annual Gear Guide in the fall. The boot test works pretty much the same way, in Bachelor, Ore., so you know the drill. It's kind of like we're shooting an arrow with our test notes attached straight to you from the mountains. Kind of like that...
How We Test
During last spring alone, our testers logged roughly 5 million vertical feet in Snowbird's Gad Valley to evaluate 2012’s new skis and boots in one of the ski world’s few independent tests, so we have a pretty good idea about which boards are the best and why. We're back at Snowbird, cranking out test cards again as we ride next season's (2013) skis, and start putting together our gear reviews for next Fall. This is how we do it.