This is the moment you’ve all been waiting for.
Many months of eager anticipation end now, as you begin your journey through the 2019 FREESKIER Buyer’s Guide. Our annual crop of magazines always debuts with the Buyer’s Guide—our biggest, baddest issue—because we like to give the people what they want, and we know that you simply can’t get enough gear coverage. It’s the drug that you, ahem, make that we, just can’t kick.
Your seemingly unquenchable thirst for ski equipment is understandable, of course. The steady stream of new products that flood ski shop shelves and internet marketplaces each fall are the very tools you’ll rely on for your “best days ever” each winter.
We at FREESKIER have always hung our hats on our ability to advise readers about quality equipment. It’s what drove us to produce our very first Buyer’s Guide back in 2000 and what still invigorates us today as we continue to improve the breadth of information we provide in order to assist you in your purchasing decisions. To that end, we rely on our annual all-mountain ski test, which first debuted in Aspen, Colorado in 2003. In the 15 years since, it’s been the catalyst for the tens of thousands of ski reviews we’ve produced for eager readers. In 2011, we launched our inaugural Backcountry Issue, thus expanding our focus to products catering specifically to the out-of-bounds skier. And, we’ve provided daily product coverage via the World Wide Web to feed your 24/7 hunger. In fact, over half of FREESKIER’s total page views in 2017 stemmed from gear-specific articles.
If you think that’s as far as our gear obsession goes, you’re sorely mistaken. While our product coverage has always been extensive, we kicked it into overdrive for 2018-19, beginning with a trifecta of multi-day, organized equipment assessments. We began the product extravaganza with our aforementioned all-mountain ski test, held this year at Snowmass Mountain, CO. Luck, as it has been for many years, was on our side, and fresh snow coated the 3,332-acre resort at the test’s commencement. Five consecutive days of bell-to-bell skiing on the best all-mountain, big-mountain, powder and park skis ensued, and we proudly present our findings, 118 shred sticks, which you can see right here.
Two weeks later, we trekked into the backcountry of Colorado’s Clear Creek County with the guides from Powder Addiction to sniff out the best touring-specific skis of the year. We spent two days earning our turns amidst a classic Colorado spring snow storm on planks built by a handful of the industry’s most trusted manufacturers. By the end, we identified the cream of the crop, which you’ll discover here.
We followed this up with FREESKIER’s first annual outerwear test. At the end of March, we high-tailed it across the border to British Columbia’s Retallack Lodge, suitcases overflowing with brand new ski jackets, pants and midlayers. Over the course of three days, we dissected a mountain of outerwear kits amidst weather conditions ranging from a precipitous blizzard to clear skies and balmy sunshine, comprehensively examining the protective qualities of each garment, as well as fit, form and function. Our days at Retallack were some of the deepest any of us had ever experienced. The spoils of our labor can be found via our online gear guide.
On top of the massive undertaking of three separate equipment tests, our crew traveled the globe with next year’s provisions in hand, too. Members of our team toured and shredded on groundbreaking binding designs at Alta and Snowbasin, Utah; descended volcanoes on soon-to-be-released boots and planks in Kamchatka, Russia; sported fresh electrochromic goggles amidst the sunshine of Mammoth Mountain, California; analyzed the waterproofing of ’18-‘19 threads in shoulder-deep snow in Niseko, Japan; and tested head-to-toe kits made up of brand spankin’ new products across Canada’s Powder Highway. And that’s just a mere snapshot of our efforts.
We’re happy to provide you with the treasure chest of reviews you’ll find on the following pages, because, like you, we share a borderline unhealthy obsession with ski gear—our tools for our own best days ever. And so, on behalf of everyone at FREESKIER, I’m proud to unveil to you the 2019 Buyer’s Guide. Let this issue stand on the shoulders of Buyer’s Guides of the past, a culmination of 18 years of the best product coverage in skiing. Enjoy your stroll through the gear locker, we’ll see you on the other side.
— Donny O’Neill, Editor-In-Chief