Freeskier’s 2014 Microbrew Ski Test kicked off today on Aspen’s Snowmass Mountain. The first in a trio of Freeskier ski tests—the All-Mountain Ski Test will be hosted next week on Aspen’s Ajax Mountain and the Park Ski Test goes down at Breckenridge Resort later this spring—the Microbrew Test gives us a chance to experience the fruits of the labors of skiing’s indie brands. The Microbrew* manufacturers.
Today’s launch of the 2014 Ski Tests—collectively regarded as #FreeskierFest—is the culmination of much hard work and collaboration. You see, organizing and executing a major ski test ain’t all fun and games. For starters, a location and venue must be arranged. We’ve been fortunate to host our tests at Aspen/Snowmass for the past few years, and—despite our relentless antics—they graciously agreed to host us once again. Next, dates must be agreed upon. Aspen Ski Co. wouldn’t exactly be comfortable with our motley crüe mobbing around the hill in the midst of Spring Break—scaring off the general public—so scheduling is of utmost importance. In fact, we had our dates locked down more than six months ago. With the dates set, it’s time to invite skiing’s best brands. Countless emails are exchanged with brand reps detailing the number of skis to be tested, shipping of the products and other logistics. With a rough count of skis to be tested, we’re then able to invite and hire an appropriate number of ski testers. From there it’s on to lodging (big thanks to the Wildwood Hotel in Snowmass Village for having us this week), food, lift tickets, arrangements with Ski Patrol and Mountain Ops to make them aware of our presence, and to secure a base on the hill where we can store skis, and so on. Much to be done, indeed.
After months of preparation, one can imagine how great it felt to kick off our 2014 Ski Tests amid eight inches of new snow (those eight inches skied more like 15). Monday marked the first of three days allotted to the Microbrew Test; the fresh pow provided us ideal conditions to test many of the fattest skis on hand. No additional snow is forecast in the coming days, so we anticipate rocking some of the skinnier boards in leftover stashes, on packed powder and groomers, too. Snowmass is home to world class terrain—the Cirque, Hanging Valley Headwall, Rock Island, Big Burn and Sam’s Knob, to name a few—ensuring our testers will be able to put the skis (hundreds of them, mind you) through the ringer, and then some.
New this year, we’ve built a microsite for our testers to streamline the scoring/rating process (goodbye paper test-forms of old!). It works as follows: Each tester creates an account. Once logged in—and after having taken a run on one particular pair of skis—testers are able to browse the brands on site via dropdown menu. After selecting a manufacturer, they can highlight one of that brand’s skis in another dropdown. Next, they’re able to specify length of ski and rate the product (on a scale of 1-5) in categories including versatility, carving, playfulness, stability, float/powder and overall stoke. Additionally, testers can fill out specific comments about each ski. As the testers submit their forms, we’re able to monitor which skis are being tested often and which may need some extra lovin’. This allows us to ensure each ski receives an adequate amount of reviews, thereby providing an accurate test result. The hundreds of scores and reviews we collect later serve as the basis for selection of our Editor’s Picks in the 2014 Buyer’s Guide.
Stay tuned this week as we’ll continue to bring you coverage of the test. For up-to-the-hour action, and to catch a glimpse of the shenanigans behind the scenes, keep a close eye on the #FreeskierFest hashtag on Instagram and Twitter.
*Ski manufacturers fall into Freeskier’s Microbrew designation based on SIA reports. The twenty biggest ski manufacturers—based on dollars/units sold annually—are invited to the All-Mountain Ski Test. The remainder fall into the Microbrew category.