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How Objective Are We, Really?

post #1 of 19
Thread Starter 

Let's factor out the known problem that skis tested on different days on different terrain in different weather and snow conditions will elicit different responses from the same skier. Not to mention other variables, like whether the tester is getting along with the spouse (boppy Bobby Burns mogul ski gets the thumbs up) or is in the doghouse (nonstop take-no-prisoners strike on an FIS GS board produces the first smile of the day). We all know that this is an issue that has to be taken into account.

 

Even with these things pushed aside, many ski review posts here make a specific assumption that I'm not sure is valid, namely that the skier is broadly consistent over the months and years with regard to what s/he responds to in a ski. I have come to realize that I'm not. As my skills and experience grow, and as ski technology & design alter my expectations, my tastes in skis change, and those changes affect how I "objectively" describe a ski's strengths and weaknesses. Doh!

 

What about the rest of you? Do you like the same things now that you liked five years ago?

 

Case in point: Late last season I took a run or two on a very familiar trail in pretty typical spring morning conditions, which is to say the same conditions that virtually always apply at Sunday River: hard manmade boilerplate alternating with just enough granulated sugar piles to challenge your fore-aft stability forty or fifty times a run. For complicated reasons I can't remember now, I gave my skis to someone else to try, and put on a pair I'd always really liked and which I fully expected to be better suited to the surface anyway. I had bought them several years earlier, after demoing them TWICE on different days in different sizes and being as sure as I've ever been that they were the ones I wanted. For two or three seasons they were my go-to ski for mixed conditions and I was always totally happy with them. On this occasion, though, I had not been on them for two years because they'd been on long-term loan to my teen-ager. They were well tuned, albeit maybe with 1 degree less side edge than what I'd been on earlier in the morning. I took a few dozen turns on them and thought, "Yuck! What did I ever see in these? I don't really like anything about them." Then I took more turns, and consciously tried to dial things in. Experimented all the way to the lodge, but never changed my mind about the day's initial impression: Yuck. In this particular case I speculate that I'd been spending time on longer, edgier skis (including the ones I'd just taken off) and had simply gotten used to having more of a platform under me when rolling along at a clip. Still, I would have thought that I would have been able to find the old spark in there somewhere, with some probing. Nope. Nothing.

 

At the same time I have a pair of Blizzard race-carvers that will be going into their seventh season this year and they still thrill me every time I tip them, so I'm not without loyalty or consistency in some cases.

 

I guess my point is that when I try to use experiences on specific skis that I had three or six or nine years ago as reference points, I may be fooling myself into thinking I have an objectivity that I just don't. (Did I really sing the praises of those skis? Jeez, I hope no one actually listened!) I understand that the idea is to be able to talk a little bit about how a ski behaves in general terms that leave personal preference out of it. (This one likes short locked-edge turns. This one releases easily but has no rebound. Etc.) But I have to wonder about my ability to do even the most basic job of that after the experience described above. Five years from now I will have had skiing experiences that will make certain things that I think I know now seem naive. I sure hope I have those experiences, anyway. I'll have to try to remember that next time I tell y'all how I well I think some ski works!

post #2 of 19

It's also possible that those skis are different now than they were two years ago. I had a pair of Dynastar Contact 11s that I loved. Got 'em in November and skied 'em everyday. By February I just couldn't seem to get them to hold an edge. I tried a brand new pair and they were a totally different ski. After about 50 days that pair of skis was just cooked.

post #3 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by epic View Post
 

It's also possible that those skis are different now than they were two years ago. I had a pair of Dynastar Contact 11s that I loved. Got 'em in November and skied 'em everyday. By February I just couldn't seem to get them to hold an edge. I tried a brand new pair and they were a totally different ski. After about 50 days that pair of skis was just cooked.

Yes. I had some Blizzard Crushes that I loved to death. One day they were amazing, the next they were death traps. I had them tuned by the best, and it still didn't help. So I bought more skis and stopped taking them out except in soft snow, when they still were pretty fun. But I remembered (well, I thought I did) that they held quite well on hard snow! So then they get stolen, I try more skis, etc etc, still can't find what I want, and then end up buying an almost new pair of Crushes from a friend. And the magic was back. To whoever stole my skis, HA HA HA. They were dead. 

post #4 of 19

Totally agree q.  As my abilities have improved over time, I found the one-trick pony skis I used to own had to be sold.  GS cheater, for example......LOVED the zooooooom!  But then get into the bumps and soft stuff and I nearly hated them.  Also had a couple softer skis, more compliant, etc and then found I needed more stability as my skills improved and could handle more speed.  And so on.......


 

As skills change, so can the skis.  As preferences change, so can the skis.  Absolutely!

 

post #5 of 19
If I ski the same pair of skis for an extended period, switching to another pair always throws me for a while. The longer it's been the bigger the change of gears. The sweet spot is different, the edge change is different, etc. Which led me to the theory that demoing is likely to help you reinforce your existing style; whereas buying based on reviews, recommendations of others, etc. is likely to force you to learn something new. Might not be good, but it'll be different. Probably the explanation for a lot of ski "divorces". I have a friend who is always buying and selling skis. She hasn't learned to demo and doesn't choose to learn how to ski the new ski.
post #6 of 19

With the exception of Philpug and a few others, none of us have skied enough different skis often enough to give a useful answer to the question "What ------- ski should I buy?" For that kind of recommendation looking at the magazine and web site reviews (and understanding what kind of testers various reviews use) is probably a lot more useful. For the question " Ski Y vs Ski Y" (yeah, I know it's not really a question, but this isn't Jeopardy) the experience of those of us who have skied both is useful, although I wonder why people who have only skied one of them bother the post (I'm sure I've done it.) 

 

I do remember demoing a ski at the end of a long day of skiing heavy powder, mostly on KT, and loving it, so I bought it. Of course the first time I got it on anything firm I skidded hopelessly sideways. 

 

My approach has been to read the reviews, pick one or two (lately one) that seems like what I'm looking for, demo it if I can find it when the conditions are right, and if it seems to work, buying it. Last 2 pairs were bought based on reviews alone after I ruled out one contender after I demoed it--it's been hard to demo off piste skis around here for a few years. Love the Bones, we'll see about the Automatics. 

post #7 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by qcanoe View Post
 

Even with these things pushed aside, many ski review posts here make a specific assumption that I'm not sure is valid, namely that the skier is broadly consistent over the months and years with regard to what s/he responds to in a ski. I have come to realize that I'm not. As my skills and experience grow, and as ski technology & design alter my expectations, my tastes in skis change, and those changes affect how I "objectively" describe a ski's strengths and weaknesses. Doh!

 

 

Yep. Called "intraobserver error." Can be divided into accuracy and replicability components, meaning how close is your assessment to some gold standard, in this case a way better skier, and how close is your assessment at time 1 to your assessment at time 2? Think about all the variables that affect our take on a ski other than the ski, then non-randomize over two different trials quite a while apart. 

 

Then add to that "interobserver error," which is why ski tests in magazines are also a joke. Your intraobserver error ain't the same as mine. Who's right? 

Quote:
Originally Posted by epic View Post
 

It's also possible that those skis are different now than they were two years ago. I had a pair of Dynastar Contact 11s that I loved. Got 'em in November and skied 'em everyday. By February I just couldn't seem to get them to hold an edge. I tried a brand new pair and they were a totally different ski. After about 50 days that pair of skis was just cooked.

And yep. Called "instrumental error." Stuff wears, becomes less reliable, more error. Like my knees. Sigh. 

 

All of which means squat, unless we take ourselves and our reviews too seriously. I'd never do that. :D 

post #8 of 19
Q makes a good point - tastes constantly change and every year a lot of folks try something slightly different. Makes it fun to try stuff out and see how it works.

Sometimes the comment that "X ski is like a stiffer/firmer version of Y ski, so you might like it if you liked Y ski" is helpful. Otherwise, the standard comment might be; "Good ski. Demo it and see if you like it too."
post #9 of 19

I think of the skier-ski relationship as symbiotic.  Together they produce a new entity, and that entity morphs over time.  The skier is capable of changing in a positive way, of growth and advancement, while the ski is capable of performing in different ways depending on its anatomy and on what the skier does.  If the ski provides pleasure and the skier sticks with it, the skier may change over time in ways that encourage the ski to fully maximize its capabilities.    Together, they become one unit with each responding to the other as best they can.

 

When the ski degrades, which is inevitable, or the skier advances to new technical capabilities (or degrades :eek ), then the pair disconnect and go their separate ways.  The relationship is fraught with change.

post #10 of 19
I get to ski a bunch of skis. My preferences for my personal skiing has been pretty consistent over the past 15 years. I like damp. I like metal. There are certain uses for skis where I'll happily compromise. Years ago it was touring on AK Launchers (lawn chairs... production version was lightish, soft, and no metal. The ski the pros were on with the same graphic was a different beast all together) this year it may be an Nrgy 100 for touring or teley or alpine, or whatever the snow coverage dictates. I do like the Soul Rider for teley, but it's too little too light for my fixed heel tastes.

Three years ago I bought two pair of skis without demoing: a Rossi E98, and a Blizzard Bodacious. What I did have was a very similar taste in skis with our training director. It also helps that we're roughly the same size. The Bodacious was a flyer, but every 'big' ski I've really liked had two sheets of metal, wood core, and was reviewed as 'damp,stable, powerful'. The Big B is still my favorite wide ski ever (and the only ski with no camber that I've really liked) bar none. On the opposite end of the waist spectrum is the 27m FIS blizzy GSer that I picked up from Scotskier. Just a great ride. The only ski that I ride regularly that I'd say isn't as bomb proof solid as the others is the Head Titan. It's a different fish for a different plate, but still a fine meal. It'll be interesting to see how much time I spend on it this year with no exams to prep for.

In the end, the preference is probably driven by my ski style and size. If I were 30lbs lighter, I'm sure my tastes would change.
post #11 of 19
I go to several demo days every year and try as many different skis as I can. I don't read any reviews until after I have skied the skis.

As my skiing has evolved, I find that I my preferences are similar (love Nordica, Blizzard) don't like most Volkls, K2 but have found that I can make the skis do what I want even if they are not my preferred ski.

Scientific? Not. Fun? Yes.
post #12 of 19

The whole objectivity thing is a boondoggle anyway.  

Why in the world should I expect that having someone whittle away all shred of their emotional response to an object will improve my chances of building up an accurate picture of what *my* emotional response is likely to be?

 

Objectivity in ski reviews?   Freeze-dried sushi.

post #13 of 19
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by cantunamunch View Post
 

The whole objectivity thing is a boondoggle anyway.  

Why in the world should I expect that having someone whittle away all shred of their emotional response to an object will improve my chances of building up an accurate picture of what *my* emotional response is likely to be?

 

Objectivity in ski reviews?   Freeze-dried sushi.

 

You're missing the point. I think it's hard to argue against the idea that people like dawg and sierra jim can try a ski and describe it in a way that is actually very helpful to other people trying to narrow down their demo choices. I will never ski enough skis every year to be able to review skis at their level. However, as someone who's been skiing for a long time and does go through periods of trying multiple models and is reflective about gear and can sometimes put thoughts into words, I'd like to be offer some level of info that's useful to others. @FairToMiddlin has done a good job of this from a similar position. 

 

The whole "emotional response" piece is very real, but it can be directed into the correct (separate) channel effectively, I'm sure. I've long been able to do this with wine, for example. Can totally admire and respect as a fine achievement something that doesn't really speak to me personally. And can develop a minor crush on something that is really unremarkable, objectively speaking, but which I relate to in some personal way that I don't expect many others to do.

post #14 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by cantunamunch View Post
 

The whole objectivity thing is a boondoggle anyway.  

 

Objectivity in ski reviews?   Freeze-dried sushi.

Love the metaphor. They actually have freeze dried sushi, y'know, in Japan. Available from vending machines. But can't bring myself to simply dismiss objectivity. Knowing we have biases and error is not the same as saying, it's useless to try to be objective. Which is aspirational, like wanting to be a strong skier. 

 

Also agree with q that we are capable of sorting out what we are personally biased toward from what will work best for us (two different things), from what will work best for someone else (a really different thing). Although he dodges the Robert Parker effect. :eek

post #15 of 19

There are a couple of questions here and none to to with the title. I am not sure where the objectivity you mention in the title is addressed in the body of your post.

 

Yes, skis go out of favor...Skis that I thought were the cats meow not more than a season or two prior, after skiing them I wonder how did I ever ski that 2x4. Did anything happen to the ski to change it? No. So what changed? Did the other skis around it all get better and raised the bar? A lot of times yes. Did I get better as a skier? Sure, we all improve even marginally from season to season. Did our tastes change from then to now, this as much as anything. Now there are skis like the Bonafide that are once a decade skis that stand the test of time (others: Kastle MX88, Salomon Pocket Rocket, X-Scream, Volant PowerKarve, Rossi 4S, Olin Mark IV/IV Comp) that did't change and were just as good at 4 years old as when they first came out. 

post #16 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by beyond View Post
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by cantunamunch View Post
 

The whole objectivity thing is a boondoggle anyway.  

 

Objectivity in ski reviews?   Freeze-dried sushi.

Love the metaphor. They actually have freeze dried sushi, y'know, in Japan. Available from vending machines. 

 

You will perceive that we also have objective reviews :) as qcanoe points out.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by beyond View Post

 

Also agree with q that we are capable of sorting out what we are personally biased toward from what will work best for us (two different things), from what will work best for someone else (a really different thing). Although he dodges the Robert Parker effect:eek

 

:D:rotflmao::ROTF:beercheer:

post #17 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by qcanoe View Post
 

You're missing the point. I think it's hard to argue against the idea that people like dawg and sierra jim can try a ski and describe it in a way that is actually very helpful to other people trying to narrow down their demo choices.ctive

I really agree with q that being able to verbalize not only the "what" a ski does, but how the body interacts and reacts with it, is definitely an art that most of us don't have. We are lucky to have people such as Sierra Jim, Philpug, Dawg and others of you that are able to verbalize an accurate perspective to our choices in skis.

Dawgcatching really helps me because we are of similar size, which helps me with properly evaluating skis for myself. He also has a tendency to test and comment objectively on some skis that he doesn't carry in his store.

I have to struggle to give more than a "generic" description of the details of the performance of a ski that I prefer vs.one that I am not impressed with. (Am I being objective???)

As a former racer that spent 20+ years working in the ski industry, I still have a major love affair(read as addiction) with skis. I tend to study all of the gear reviews in the Mags even though I know that most do not really give me a true or accurate evaluation.I have found a few that were good.

Fischer Watea 101, Nordica Patron, Salomon Q96 Lumen, Stockli Stormrider XXL plus others.

I tend to try at least 5-10 new pair of skis every season, some by the erroneous process of buying to try(hence, I sell a lot of skis every year.)

And I do try to be "objective".........

As indicated by the discussion, it is a complicated process. But I really enjoy the "hunt" and look forward to it every new season!!

post #18 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by TrickySr. View Post
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by qcanoe View Post
 

You're missing the point. I think it's hard to argue against the idea that people like dawg and sierra jim can try a ski and describe it in a way that is actually very helpful to other people trying to narrow down their demo choices.ctive

I really agree with q that being able to verbalize not only the "what" a ski does, but how the body interacts and reacts with it, is definitely an art that most of us don't have. We are lucky to have people such as Sierra Jim, Philpug, Dawg and others of you that are able to verbalize an accurate perspective to our choices in skis.

Dawgcatching really helps me because we are of similar size, which helps me with properly evaluating skis for myself. He also has a tendency to test and comment objectively on some skis that he doesn't carry in his store.



See all of those markers? Every one of those markers would still be just as valid if we skipped 'objectivity' altogether and went directly to 'being able to visualise emotional reactions of a different target audience'.  

 

 That has nothing to do with objectivity.    It has everything to do with being able to transpose one's own subjectivity into a different subjectivity.  

 

 Please do not conflate subjectivity transposition and objectivity, they are completely different creatures.   (Directed to everyone in the thread, not just you).    Subjectivity transposition is something every human being is capable of (reserving the extreme psychopaths for separate consideration, of course).    We just call it empathy. 

Look at the last marker.   Instead of buying dried sushi, you are taking the trouble to know a chef who can provide satisfaction to you directly.    Objectivity not required.

Quote:
Originally Posted by TrickySr. View Post
I have to struggle to give more than a "generic" description of the details of the performance of a ski that I prefer vs.one that I am not impressed with. (Am I being objective???)
 

 

We don't really know if you're being objective or not.    My contention in this thread is that

 

a) if we know your reviews like you know dawg's, objectivity is _not_ required  and

 

b) just because you struggle doesn't mean you're not doing it.     For whatever it is worth.  

(And now I'm off to struggle to swim a 35 minute mile.)


Edited by cantunamunch - 10/23/14 at 1:33pm
post #19 of 19
Thread Starter 
I want tuna and beyond to know that I did notice the Parker thing, but really that requires a chairlift ride and a beer.
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