All aboard the Ajax Express: Behind the scenes of the most comprehensive ski test in the industry

All aboard the Ajax Express: Behind the scenes of the most comprehensive ski test in the industry

Year in and year out, FREESKIER hosts the most comprehensive ski test in the industry. And we’re damn proud of that. Our production has grown immensely from its inception back in 2003, and today we dedicate more time each winter to ski testing than any other media outlet in the biz. We employ 38 astonishingly talented ski testers; we evaluate over 300 pairs of skis annually, then rank and review the 100-plus top-performing planks of the bunch; and we administer our test at a ski area we deem to be, dare we say, perfect when it comes to offering diverse terrain: Aspen.

Aspen Mountain has played host to our test six years running. You see, selecting Aspen’s namesake ski hill for our testing grounds is a no-brainer. It’s a flawless setting to accurately assess the monstrous range of skis at our disposal, from the svelte carvers to the chubby powder hounds and swarms more.


Behold: Aspen in all its glory. Photo by Daniel Bayer

“Ajax,” as it’s known among locals, boasts 3,267 vertical feet of skiable terrain spread across 675 acres. No matter the size, shape or specialty of a ski, there’s a place to vet it. One ski tester might take a pair of wide, directional sticks down the steep, pristine slope of Walsh’s, making giant, arcing turns down its face towards the natural wind lip near the run’s exit. A backflip off of this feature is the preferred method of departure from the run. Perhaps another tester grabs a pair of medium-wide planks and hop-turns down one of a handful of the mountain’s hidden lines, such as the claustrophobic Black Mamba that plunges vertically through a towering commonwealth of conifers. Another might opt to snatch a skinnier, freestyle-oriented ski and slither their way through the Volkswagen Beetle-sized mogul fields that form the Face of Bell. Those looking to max out the speedometer may elect to bomb down the leg-burning groomers of Copper Bowl and Spar Gulch, which are more akin to race tracks than ski trails. And when the stars align and the mountain transforms into an ocean of deep pow, testers grab the big-bellied boards and rip through the golden aspen groves of The Dumps. There’s absolutely no shortage of testing options—Ajax doesn’t have a single green run on its slopes—allowing us to evaluate each ski based on the needs of expert skiers like you.

It’s an utter privilege to be entrusted with the analysis of the world’s finest skis; to do it on a mountain steeped in historical significance that possesses some of the most thrilling terrain in western North America is the icing on the cake.

The spoils of our 2016-17 ski test are chronicled in the links below: Click through and you’ll discover a bit more about how we test and rank the skis. You’ll find a guide to help you seek out your perfect match(es). You’ll learn the in’s and out’s of gear terminology. Then, you’ll come upon what you’re really after: the best frickin’ skis of 2017.

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