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Unbiased(?) Magazine Ski Reviews

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 
I rode up the lift the other day with a guy on next year's Rossi GS skis. Being curious I got to talking to him. He said he orders skis for sevral shops and that he was sponsored by Rossi (who also sponsored his son who is a collegiate racer). But what really got me was he said he had been testing skis for one of the popular magazines with a very short title. How many other testers are sponsored or paid by ski companies? (Now that I think about it, I bet it's quite a few). Can we expect them to be unbiased? Despite masking on the tops, many skis are easily discernible by their shape (like Atomics) or by dampening devices (like Nordica). They should disclose this information or use truly unbiased skiers. In the meantime, use the magazine reviews to rate the ski graphics and then demo (if possible) or use this site (but still excercise judgement) to help narrow the choices.<FONT size="1">

[This message has been edited by SnoWonder (edited March 20, 2001).]</FONT>
post #2 of 15
"Rate the ski graphics"? !!!

Does anybody really care about this?! Ok then.

Well, as to being unbiased - I'm going to repost an excellent piece by Seth Masia from a Professional skiers forum I belong to, where he recently talked about this:

Some years back I was responsible for creating and running the Ski Magazine
test program -- I did this for about 20 years. Then, as product manager at
K2, I supplied test skis to the test programs. And now, as a consumer, I
read them. Here is my informed opinion on magazine ski testing:

1. It's done in good faith. Ski test managers generally have a commission to
do the same kind of straightforward product reporting you'd read in, say,
Road & Track or Bicycling magazines.

2. It meets no tests for statistical validity. Magazines use a maximum of
ten or twelve testers per ski.

3. Range of conditions is limited. Tests are normally done over a six to ten
day period on whatever snow happens to be lying around at the test site. In
an attempt to get skis onto a broader range of snow conditions, Skiing has
from time to time conducted separate tests in New England and Colorado.

4. Despite conducting "blind" tests -- masking the identity of the ski from
the tester -- testers do bring specific prejudices to the process. With
today's emphasis on ski-top appliances it's tough not to know when you're on
an Atomic Beta or Salomon X-scream or K2 Mod or Rossi Bandit or -- you get
the idea.

5. Tester often have commercial ties to specific brands. In theory a
competitor or ski school director with a ski contract should recuse himself
or herself from reviewing that brand, but in practice there's a suspicion
that when an "gold" award is at stake, a skier with close ties to a major
brand might feel some subtle pressure to award better score to boutique
brands than to the competiting ski from another major factory.

6. Advertising pressure is much less important than it used to be. Ski
companies now buy less than 10% of a magazine's advertising (at one time it
might have been over 30%). On the other hand, there are personal
relationships between ski test managers and ski company managers. And in a
few cases they may have swapped jobs. Peter Keelty, who manages testing for
Inside Tracks, was once product manager for Salomon; Jackson Hogen, who
managed the Snow Country tests, started at Salomon and now is marketing
director for Head. I did my own little revolving door dance. There's
*always* the possibility that a ski tester might be offered a better paying
job at a ski company -- if he's regarded as a nice guy, of course.

7. There aren't many awful skis around nowadays. Hell, there aren't many
factories around. So you're not going to see many negative reviews. Read the
reviews to find out what skis work best in the kind of snow you like.

8. Ski tuning is still a big issue. 80% of a ski's performance feel lies in
the base and edges. Does the magazine test the ski right out of the box? Or
do they give all skis in the test an identical tune? If you want to test
ski shape and construction and not tune, it makes sense to run all the skis
over a grinder. But that's not fair to the factories that take factory
tuning seriously. And when a ski arrives at the test concave or wavy, does
the factory rep have a chance to fix it for the second day of testing?
These policies vary from site to site and year to year.

Bottom line: Ski testing is not a science, but the ski mags probably do as
good a job of product reporting as do most specialty publications. Think of
ski testing as wine tasting, and you'll be happier with the read.

There you go - from the mouth of one of the big guys in ski writing & testing.
post #3 of 15
Thanks Gravity, that was interesting.

Regarding the comment: "a skier with close ties to a major brand might feel some subtle pressure to award better score to boutique brands than to the competiting ski from another major factory" -- the only boutique just went out of business.

All of the people I know who test for the major magazines are sponsored by a ski manufacturer. I put NO stock in those reviews. I see better advise in this forum than anywhere else.<FONT size="1">

[This message has been edited by Freefall (edited March 19, 2001).]</FONT>
post #4 of 15
And what Seth hits on some - that I think makes all reviews pretty moot, is tuning. Very subtle tuning differences between skis can make more radical differences in the 'feel' than the construction itself! And even the best tuner in the world with the best equipment cannot tune two pairs of skis *exactly* the same. Therefore, ski tuning - being beholden to the laws of chaos as we all are, is a wild card. Then factor in the fact that different people have different minds, bodies, boots, desires . . . . and you can pretty much write off ALL reviews. And the more passionate somebody is about a brand ("Volants SUCK" . . . "Atomics are the BEST" . . . "Rossignols RULE") the more you can be sure all rationality has left the critical thought process.

Try before you buy, buy what feels good. Don't worry about what others think, buy a model of whatever brand that was built for what you primarily will do (fat ski, SL ski, GS ski etc). And be happy! For for gods sake - the last thing in the world that matters is the graphics!
post #5 of 15
When I first started posting on this site, I was one of the major critics of the ski magazine test reports - in fact, some may claim that I was THE most vocal critic. I have some different feelings about that now, even though I think there is some value in ALSO getting a read on the "average skier" reaction to a product. In my own experience, when I got a ski appropriate for someone of my own weight and ability, the magazine reports have not been so awfully far off the mark. However, likening the ski tests to "wine tasting" is a fairly decent modifier. Also, I note that the magazines [for me, since Snow Country is gone, that means Ski and Skiing] do not always agree with each other. Sometimes, a ski reported as being "some work in the moguls" works out really well for me, considering the way I, personally, ski the moguls. The skiing community may seem large, but in the USA, it's actually not - hence, the so-called "revolving door". While I do not feel that ski testers go out of their ways to favor the brands for whom they work, I also feel that the tests and reports could gain some further reader confidence if the ski company affiliations of each tester were revealed. There's no harm in being, and appearing to be, fully candid about this.
post #6 of 15
The "revolving door" aspect may actually lend more credibility to tests. Only because if someone worked for Rossi for a while, and praised up and down, then went to Salomon, it would be very hard for that person to run around screaming "Rossi Sucks". The more companies they work for, the more objective they would need to be.

I find that every ski company makes a good product. Especially at the high end. I'd bet that 80-90% of all ski purchases are made by way of brand loyalty, or marketing, or that someone they think is cool, skis on them.

I know, for me, being slightly associated with a manufacturer (mountain rep - no pay) just makes it a lot easier to decide what to ski on every year. There are a lot of choices out there, and I demo when I can, and I've never been upset that I work with the company that I do (never wanted someone else's product), even though they are not hugely popular here in the US, and don't have a lot of World Cuppers on them. They still make an amazing ski, albeit, not all that attractive.
post #7 of 15
Thread Starter 

Thanks. Your response was very enlightening and confirmed my suspicions. BTW I was being facetious on my comment of the ski graphics.
In many respects the reviews on this site are better. People are on the skis over a wider variety of conditions. And in many cases we know the brand bias of a poster and can factor that in - or use to our advantage because we know who knows the product line for a company.
post #8 of 15
Funny this topic should come up a few days before I leave to the Ski Canada Magazine tests. I'll be prepping the skis and setting the testers up (among other duties), not testing the gear. We have a number of advisors and sponsored testers this year again, and most of the other brands have testers on their gear. There are also many unattached skiers in the tester pool. What happens with Ski Canada is that all the testers ski on everyone's product, and rate the skis. The magazine then discards the scores of the tester's product, so that a Salomon skier's score does not get calculated in Salomon's skis (etc). This is not a fail safe method, since Brand X's skier might give Brand Y a low score just in spite, but for the most part it works. I don't know how the other magazines take out the bias. Ski Canada, when listing the testers' profiles, does include brand affiliation. <FONT size="1">

[This message has been edited by BetaRacer (edited March 20, 2001).]</FONT>
post #9 of 15
I originally found this forum while looking for reviews on a particular style of skis and have since come to realize that there is NO PLACE you will find reviews pertinent to your own tastes. It's way too subjective.

I once watched three world cup racers reviewing three different brand skis w/ built-in risers on OLN in the "gear guide" segment - not one of these three professionals could agree on any one of the characteristics they used as judging criteria which just reemphasized to me the fact that one person's candy will always be another person's sour milk.

Just like ski magazines, reviews given on this forum should be used with a great deal of latitude, no matter how much credibility you may think the reviewer has.

BR - The majority of Ski Canada's reviews last year put Head at the top of their lists as opposed to the Atomics which dominated US mags - why do you suppose that was?
post #10 of 15
I think Beta Racer makes some good points, and that's why I have been subscribing to Ski Canada mag for some years now. I think they do the best job. If they offend one of their advertisers because they don't praise their product, that's OK, because Ski Canada is far and away Canada's leading skiing publication and therefore if you want to advertise in Canada, Ski Canada Mag is it.

Therefore, it is easier for them to be objective.
post #11 of 15
Ski Canada Magazine does have excellent ski reviews and is otherwise equal to or better than other ski magazines. For anyone who skis in Canada their "Best of Canadian Sking" is a must read.
post #12 of 15
Hey - welcome to Barking Dano!

Looking at your profile, you've been skiing *full-time* for 27 years! Thats awesome man. Where at?
post #13 of 15

I've mostly skied at Sun Peaks, near Kamloops B.C.--Used to be called Tod Mountain, first opened in 1961 so it pre dates Whistler. When I first showed up there in the mid 70's they ran one chairlift mid week that covered the entire 2900 vertical foot mountain. With an up hill capacity of 360 people/hour a powder storm could not be skied off in one day even if every chair was filled. Since they used to average 30 to 50 skiers per day mid week, if it snowed on Monday we would get to ski fresh pow all week! Runs that today are mogul fields, in the 70's they were powder runs that we went to 4 or 5 days after a storm.

After 30 years of various under financed owners, Tod Mountain was purchased in the early 90's by Nippon Cable and renamed Sun Peaks. Development is well under way and Nippon Cable has very deep pockets. They own 5 ski areas in Japan as well as 40% of Doplemeir Lifts and 20% of Whistler/Blackcomb.

BTW today a 10 minute line up is considered long so it is still not very busy and they are soon expanding operations to adjacent mountains
post #14 of 15
well it looks like this is a similar problem the whole world over.

Seth's article is endemic of the problems faced in producing an unbiased test. And in this little (population) country finding enough knowledgable skiers whoa re prepared to give their time for free to perform the testing function is often the hard part. The one thing our local mags do is to list the testers sponsors. At least then you can understand the bias.

But in reality the best test is still done by yourself on some demo skis.

Thanks for the chance to off load.

waiting for snow
post #15 of 15
FYI -To check out SkiCanada Magazine it's at: http://www.skicanadamag.com

Another place to see consumer reviews is at: http://www.skireview.com

Personally, I like Epic Ski because here we have a wide range of respectable real ski opinons.
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