IT’S WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 3, 2014, AND A CYCLE OF YEAR-LONG SKI TESTING HAS BEGUN.
I’m perched on a chairlift. I look down and smirk. Swinging to and fro beneath me is a pair of 2016-edition prototype skis. There’s only a handful of this model currently in existence and I’m among the first to take this particular sample for a rip. “What some people would give to be in my boots,” I think to myself.
Each December, the FREESKIER squad joins representatives of the world’s foremost ski manufacturers for a weeklong Colorado shred sesh. Between laps, the brands’ product-design gurus provide us with in-depth explanations of the latest technological advances pertaining to their respective goods. In turn, we issue our candid feedback, which in some cases alters the course of a production run. It’s a valuable venture for all parties, and it marks the beginning of our hands-on analysis of a new batch of equipment, almost one full year before the products are available to the public.
Fast-forward from that Rocky Mountain rendezvous, to late January, and you’ll find our crew parading around Denver’s Colorado Convention Center, amid the annual SnowSports Industries America (SIA) Snow Show—the biggest tradeshow in the biz. Over four consecutive days, we get up close and personal with a smorgasbord of gear, still eight months before the offerings make their official ski-shop debut. Spread across the convention center’s 2.2 million square-feet are countless new skis, boots, bindings, jackets, goggles, helmets, backcountry tools, etc. Collectively, we investigate more than 1,000 new products. And immediately following the conclusion of the Snow Show, we spend yet another few days sampling an array of hardgoods via the popular On-Snow Demo, hosted by SIA at Copper Mountain.
Come springtime, our testing exploits yield hard data via our all-mountain ski test at Aspen Snowmass, and our park-specific test at Breckenridge Ski Resort. We dedicate more time and resources to ski testing than any other media outlet. Our efforts allow us to fill this Buyer’s Guide with the top skis of the year—ranked and reviewed—for all of your on-mountain needs, from the biggest, burliest lines to non-stop groomers and endless rounds in the terrain park.
“The 2016 Buyer’s Guide is officially here. Packed with more than 300 top-notch new products, plus the 101 best skis of 2016—ranked and reviewed.”
Of course, in between these structured happenings, we’re putting gear to the test in our spare time. This past season, FREESKIER staffers ventured from Colorado resorts to the Wyoming backcountry; from the Canadian Rockies to the farthest reaches of Sweden; from Alaska to France, and beyond—always with new schwag in tow. During our travels, it’s not uncommon for us to pay visits to the various manufacturers’ headquarters and factories, as well, for additional insights into production processes. We’re fortunate to have established deep relationships with the folks who are responsible for creating all your favorite equipment; these individuals’ perspectives, combined with our own first-hand experience and savvy, provide the foundation for our gear guide.
Inside of the 2016 Buyer’s Guide, you’ll find reviews of the best skiing products of the year, designated as such by our editors. After using and abusing hundreds of items over the course of 2015, we cite the highlights of the gear in layman’s terms. No fluff. Additionally, to ensure you’re making informed purchasing decisions, we supply in-depth explanations of pertinent technologies and construction elements for a range of product categories—just look to the segments titled “GearWise.”
By now, you’re surely itching to get your hands on some shiny new merchandise, of that I’m certain. Yet to us, the products that will soon grace ski hills the world over are hardly “new.” So much for enjoying the now, but that’s the nature of the trade. Of course, we’re happy to share our discernments. With any luck, you’ll be whisked away by a chairlift in the coming months, and you’ll look down and smirk. Swinging to and fro beneath you will be a brand spankin’ new pair of skis, rounding out your fresh-to-death, head-to-toe kit. “What some people would give to be in my boots,” you’ll think to yourself…
Get the 2016 Buyer’s Guide:
– The 2016 Buyer’s Guide is available on newsstands through October 31, 2015 ($5.99)
– Download the digital edition today via iTunes ($2.99)
– Download the digital edition today via Amazon ($2.99)
– Browse 2016’s top products for free, via freeskier.com/gear
Note: Congratulations to shredder Sean Pettit and photographer Blake Jorgenson on bagging this stellar cover shot in Courmayeur, Italy. Jorgenson says about the image, “The snow was challenging last year in Whistler, BC, so we took a leap of faith [and traveled] to Courmayeur, Italy, after hearing rumors of fresh powder. Upon arriving with Sean and the Super Proof crew, it was apparent that there was no fresh pow waiting for us, so we spent the week sun-tanning and eating great food. Then, on our final day, we were blessed with a foot of the highest quality fresh snow. We made one long run down the backside of Courmayeur and got some great shots that saved our trip and maybe our sanity. We shot everything we possibly could in one run, and this hit featuring Sean floating his signature 360 stood out. None of us had worked so hard [in such a short timespan], and it was so worth it.”