Mountain and Outside have been testing skis together for a decade. A decade! That means our test predates Instagram, the iPad, and this certain rush of madness plaguing our country. Then again, there’s always been madness, hasn’t there? And while skis were fun in 2009, they’re even more fun these days. So in lieu of a soapbox soliloquy, we figured we’d preview this year’s test results with an inside look at how things have evolved.
After blazing years of hot laps off Snowbird’s Gadzoom chair, we moved our test to the home of Champagne Powder itself: Steamboat, Colorado. These days, the historic resort flashes Ikon Pass credentials. But its 2,965 skiable acres are as separate from the I-70 corridor (speaking of madness) and as varied as ever. In short, it’s an excellent testing venue. The near-record snowpack and fresh powder didn’t hurt, either.
In case you’ve missed the past nine years, here’s how we put the industry’s top products through the wringer. To start, we call in about 130 models of skis. With different sizes in the mix, that gives us some 200 pairs to test.
We divvy up the test into three categories of skis: All-Mountain Powder (100-110mm underfoot), All Mountain (90-100), and All Mountain Frontside (80-90). Like ski technology, the categories have been refined over the years to best match the gear we’re testing and best serve the skiers who read the results.
The ski landscape for 2020 reflects a few trends, some new and some familiar. Following the explosion of wider, rockered boats, things are pulling back. Some of our favorite skis this year feature new twists on classic builds. Wood cores, camber, and metal are paired with progressive, tapered shapes to create some of the most versatile skis ever. Narrow-ish is in again, with a lot of skiers outgrowing their wide-ski lust. Meanwhile new materials like carbon and flax are making the new tech lighter without compromising skiability.
The Mountain/Outside test has always focused on both men’s and women’s skis. This year, though, we hit an exciting benchmark. Of our roster of 18 testers, half were women. And with the industry offering most popular models in both mens’ and womens’ versions, often built with the same ingredients, they had plenty of products to put through the paces. In skiing today, some women will use men’s sticks, while plenty of men may opt for models billed as ladies’ models. That’s how good the tech has become.
Stay tuned for full test results, coming soon in the Early Winter issue of Mountain. Subscribe, and be the first to know which skis won Best in Test honors.