Column, Mountain Journal

The demo ride: is testing key to new skis

By Tony Crespi

For many skiers, new skis lining the racks of our area mountain shops bring a distinct appeal. And, with the pandemic impacting skiing dramatically last winter, many of us deferred on new skis and boots. Still, new, sharp skis are enticing. The graphics are unmarred! Still, how can you find the ski which is best for your needs?


Consider a test ride.

“Many years ago I did lots of research and spent lots of money. What a failure! I had to live with that ski,” reflected one liftmate.

A demo ride can save aggravation!

Given the expense and the dramatic differences between skis a test ride is a key tool. The truth is that new skis are not all the same! Having tested many skis over the years the differences are often dramatic. Wider skis float in powder. Narrow skis can excel in racing. Some shine in the park.

Fortunately, area mountain shops on the access road here at Killington and at nearby Okemo can help. In fact, many shop personnel have tested many models. Still, are the differences real?

“I couldn’t believe the differences!” noted Keith Morris. Unfortunately, because there are so many different types of shapes and models, it can feel overwhelming.

Start by thinking about where you ski. How fast do you ski? What kind of turns do you most enjoy? Do you mostly ski groomers? Do you ski intermediate trails or steep pitches? Be honest! Someone who races will likely elect a different ski than one seeking moguls! And someone who prefers intermediate terrain may not seek a racing Firebird.

Look at the magazine ratings. Try to narrow your choices. Then, talk to a shop employee. Explain whether you prefer steeps, moguls, explain if you ski ski fast or faster, and tell the shop your favorite runs.

Take a test flight.

I typically ski the same run with different models. This helps provide an equal playing field for comparison. If you test more than three skis make a card. Glide? A, B, or C. Edge grip? A, B, or C. Ease in turning? A, B, or C. Fun?! A, B, or C.

Understand, the good news is that there are lots of great skis. But they vary! They vary in grip, fun, and width!

From Blizzard to Volkl and from Head to Rossignol there are many choices. Skiing front side? The Volkl Deacon or Blizzard Thunderbird offer great all-mountain fun. Head Supershape? Fischer RC? Test! They vary! On Blizzard two years ago I am enamored with the Firebird collection for hard snow, finding the traditional camber perfect. But while the Firebird Race Ti seems versatile the HRC is, well, more powerful. But I’m eager to test the new Thunderbird! From the Stockli Stormrider to Nordica Dobermann the options are wide. And width counts! Consider a test ride. Above all else, choose a pair which best meets your needs.

Be aware. Shop with care. Take a demo ride.

Tony Crespi has served as both a ski school supervisor and development team coach. A contributor to publications throughout snow country, his column is published throughout the season.

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