This ski rails like a soggy zucchini. PHOTO: Reuben Krabbe
This ski rails like a soggy zucchini. PHOTO: Reuben Krabbe

How To Write Ski Reviews That Don’t Suck

In a world with too many good skis, writing about them has become the greatest challenge

Dear 2017-18 Ski Testers,

We have overcome many obstacles over the years: hangovers, hardpack, malfunctioning keg taps, confusing marketing lingo, too many dudes in the hot tub. But we now face the greatest challenge yet to writing ski reviews: The skis are too good.

As ski reviewers, our job is to test the nuances of devices with no moving parts, and then write something compelling that's shaped by the snow that day, the tune, how much bacon you had for breakfast, and potential exterior stressors like your significant other 'lapping outside the ropes,' if you know what I mean. The whole thing is already challenging, and now we've got the added conundrum of discovering that most new skis don't suck. The industry has refined the ski down to a few functional configurations and figured out the best constructions, and there you have it.

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That wasn't always the case, of course. Twenty years ago, we had a surplus of crap skis. Well-established, reputable companies would, while being fully capable of building good skis, unveil new models made of beer-cooler foam and Barbie Dream House plastic that came with gigantic knee-wrenching binding plates, or worse, integrated bindings.

Every ski company had at least one model that was just terrible—something that skied like a shopping cart or shattered like glass. And the crap skis came in every variety—stiff and hooky, soft and skittery, supple and chattery.

"This syphilitic excuse for a powder ski sinks to the bottom and stays there, listlessly fumbling about like a dying sea slug."

Then the indie companies stepped up and did their part, occasionally using so much rocker I forgot how to ski. Many (though not all) promised cutting-edge tech that Rossi used back in 1977, except with concave bases and delam issues. For a while, the flood of crap skis was so powerful that skiers would hoard the uncrappy ones. Skis like the Völkl Explorer, the Nordica FF/W105, or the first-generation Dynastar Legends were the equivalent of prison cigarettes.

It was a glorious time for ski reviews.

But that era is over. Savage marketplace competition has basically eradicated crap skis. Of course, all the big companies still make expensive carving skis that are objectively awful for anything but groomers, and might rip your leg right off if you try to leave the piste or skid a turn.

All in all, in 2017, any halfway decent skier should be able to shred around on 95 percent of the new skis out there and have fun. When I don't like a test-ski now, it's pretty much guaranteed that it just needs a tune. Or my skiing does.

This all-around level of Ski Quality is great for the consumer, but it's become almost impossible to write an interesting ski review. My God, if I have to read that a wide ski is "surprisingly good on hard snow" one more time…

Instead, I would love to just savage some skis, really rip them a new one, such as:

"The new Supershredder 9500 is a ski in name only, and would be more useful in some other application, such as landfill debris."

"This syphilitic excuse for a powder ski sinks to the bottom and stays there, listlessly fumbling about like a dying sea slug."

"The ZX2200 redefines poor edge hold, flexes like a garden hose, and smells like cheap booze and regret."

"Whoever designed this ski should be sentenced to ski on them for the rest of his or her natural life."

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But there simply aren't a lot of opportunities to sneer that a ski handles like a queen-size futon, or has the stability of a Hollywood child star with a coke problem, or write, as one proud reviewer did in the 1990s, of an innovative new board (the Kästle B-52), "When the apocalypse comes and the furies of hell swoop down to take our souls for Satan, they will be on this ski."

Now, skis just pretty much work, and we are less enlightened for it. So it's probably a bit much to ask for squid tentacles or the screeching demons of hell astride terminally unstable Kästles, but for 2018, let's at least try to find some crappy skis and keep the "surprisingly good on hard snow" to a minimum.

Sincerely,

The Jaded Local