How the Freeskier Buyer’s Guide is made (sort of)

Comments by Henrik Lampert/

For months, we’ve been in full-on Buyer’s Guide mode here at the office. What starts as a tidal wave of cardboard boxes coming through the front door turns to careful selection of gear—from hardgoods to softgoods, to gadgets—and later to consideration of the Editor’s Picks for each category of product. In these early stages, our office is littered with skis, outerwear, goggles, helmets, gloves and more. It’s a gear junky’s heaven.

Thankfully, in regards to the skis, we already know exactly which models we’ll be including in the Buyer’s Guide—this being determined following the conclusion of our ski tests at Aspen and Breckenridge—so, while we certainly have our hands full with more than 100 heavy boxes of skis, at least we don’t have to handle 1,000.

With heaps of gear strewn about the office, we ultimately shift gears into photography mode. A spacious conference room on the first floor is converted into our full-blown photo studio, where strobes pop for weeks on end. Models come and go. Photo arrangements are carefully constructed. RAW files begin to stack up.

Meanwhile, the sales team is hard at work, collaborating with our partners and finalizing advertising deals. Their success ultimately has a considerable impact on the magazine’s total page count. Sold a few more ads? Awesome—the magazine gets a few more pages for the editorial staff to fill. An expected sale fell through? Shit—there goes a few pages of edit. The page count, believe it or not, is in limbo right up until the week of the deadline. Worst comes to worst, a constructed page will be withheld, and saved for a later issue.

From the end of the season until deadline, keyboards are ablaze as the edit staff churns out gear reviews. Product specifications and MSRP’s are collected, and eventually, all of the technical information associated with each review is fact checked with brand representatives (time, and time again) to ensure we minimize the chance of misprinting the information (through our own mistakes, or from early samples or pre-sale catalogs).

As the deadline nears, photographs and text head to the design department (under the oh-so-capable leadership of Chris Hotz), where pages come to life, and the magazine’s layout takes shape. Drafts of each page are printed and passed from editor, to editor, to editor—each who stamps his/her seal of approval at the top of the pages, and suggests changes and/or points out errors, inconsistencies, etc. The Managing Editor (Damian Quigley) implements the changes before new drafts are printed, and passed from editor, to editor—all the way down the line. Again, changes are made, and yet another draft is printed. It’s not uncommon for this process to repeat five or six times before the final product goes to print. And to think the occasional typo still finds its way through the cracks!

In addition to the gear reviews, we’ll have the table of contents page to consider, introductions to the various segments of the magazine, stories about our ski tests, the Epics gallery, informational pages—ranging from infographics, to flow charts, to “How To’s”—the Brand Directory (special advertising section) and more. All in all—it’s one heck of a production.

Our deadline for Buyer’s Guide completion is July 31. Once it’s off to the printer, we’ll wait a few days before receiving a proof of the magazine to review. This proof—”Blue lines,” as it’s affectionately known—presents our absolute last chance to spot an error and to correct it before the Buyer’s Guide receives final approval for mass production and shipping. Making a change at this late stage is risky, however, so it’s best to have the product in tip-top shape prior to the deadline.

And that, my friends, is how you make a Buyer’s Guide (sort of).