2017 On-Snow Test at Copper: Missed Opportunities

During the on-snow test at Copper Mountain, what became quickly evident was not so much what was at the test but what was not, and what was there but not ready for prime time. When we come to these industry tests, we bring all sizes of skiers, small to extra large and everything in between. At least a dozen times, our testers were turned away from a tent because a size or model was unavailable; sometimes it was being used by another tester, but too often it was not even at the show.

We understand how skis are built and tested. The core sizes, usually the two middle ones, are done first, then the “bookends,” the smallest and largest sizes, come off the presses last. But what we found disconcerting was the number of core sizes and models that were not available for review. At more than one tent, we were told, “Sorry, we didn’t bring that model or size to the test.” And we aren’t talking package skis for chain stores but halo models and even complete collections. Isn’t the intent of this event to help buyers decide which skis to stock for next season? We heard replies like, “We need them for the East Coast test,” or “There is only one pair in the country.” Occasionally that is the case, but it is rare — especially when the model is carrying over from last season.

As a review site, we want to be able to review products fairly and against the other options in that category. We want to give every one of your skis its time in the sun — this is how the cream rises to the top, and how the sleepers are discovered. We want to be able to compare your skis against specific counterparts from your competitors. Unlike some other sites or even magazines that limit what you can have reviewed, we want to ski and showcase everything.

The job of getting the skis prepped for the show, a project in itself, is always a concern. We understand that it is difficult to get skis ready to be demoed; time, product, and manpower are limited. We understand that some skis do not arrive until the day before, and that manufacturers are struggling to prep the skis while still having to build tent city. This year was no different, with skis that were either poorly tuned or otherwise just not ready to be on snow because they were raw (not completely cured). I will say that I am very proud of our reviewers’ ability to discern a bad ski from a bad tune; unfortunately, they were put to the test again this year.

In one instance, as a buyer walked away from one tent, we overheard, “I guess that guy couldn’t ski because he didn’t like the ski.” I then got on the same ski, and the tune was scary. Unless the ski was in a pure carve, the tail would not release and could not be “worked” to change turn shape. This was not a sub-70mm race ski or Eurocarver but a mainstream all-mountain ski with a hard-snow bias. That poorly tuned ski and the rep’s attitude by not clarifying what the buyer didn’t like about the ski could have cost not only a sale of that model but, if that buyer didn’t already stock that brand and was considering carrying it, possibly the loss of a five-figure order. Surprisingly, such experiences are not isolated and have happened at almost every demo.

In the end, our job is to help promote and create product awareness. When we return to a tent and tell you a ski has a bad tune, it is to help you. We are not trying to be superior; we understand that that your techs were up until 3 a.m. and just could not prep one …more … ski. We want to help you sell skis to your retailers and shops, who might not realize that the poor performance of a ski they are considering is the tune, not the ski.