Ski Test 2013
Once our range of skis for the next season is decided, the testing takes on a different focus as we swap from selection to training. We move from purely looking for the best options and what seem like pieces of a giant jigsaw, to ensuring that frontline Ellis Brigham staff have first hand experience of all the selected skis.
Our way of doing this is organising a 5-day trip to Europe with a van load of skis, boxes of paperwork and plenty of other kit to try. This year saw a group of 18 head for Hintertux in the Austrian Tirol to catch some late season snow. As many resorts are finishing for the year, Hintertux is going strong thanks to its elevation and great snow record (with the glacier you can ski all year). In fact many would argue that spring skiing here is as good anything you'll get anytime in winter, as the snow is consistent and the sun blissfully strong.
We arrived a few days after a big snow storm, just in time for the first really warm days of spring. Weekends after Easter remain busy, especially when conditions were as good as we found, but because we were skiing midweek, there were never crowds on the pistes or lifts. This meant we could maximise our time on snow, riding from the first to the last lift. With a massive lift network, miles of near-empty perfectly prepared pistes and accessible off-piste all round, Hintertux was the ultimate ski test location.
We had 80 pairs of skis with us, 30+ pairs of boots, and numerous helmets and goggles. This kit was all taken up the hill and every day we set-up a test site, on the piste, next to Tuxer Fernerhaus. It's important that the position is by the slope because testing skis and having so many to get through really isn't a holiday – though it is a great way to work. The skis are grouped by category: piste, all mountain, freeride and freestyle. The testers have two different ways to work through them - either by doing the skis in each category together, or by doing the set performance levels together. Working to a system means that results are much easier to understand and differences in similar models are clearer to see.
Every skier aimed to do at least 10 pairs a day, skiing each model in the terrain it's designed for and in the style you would expect, but also pushing the skis limits in terms of performance and where it's used. This means a mix of turn shapes, speeds and terrain. In general, the same area of mountain is used all the time so comparable skis are tried in the same conditions. This means many runs up and down the same test run. No cruising the mountain here, looking for lunch spots or sunny cafes. After every run is completed, a test form is filled in with detailed notes made about what they're doing, it also gives every tester useful notes to come back to at any point the next season. Once the notes are written, it's time to select and set-up the next pair of skis, head for the lift and back down the test run. Then when weary legs catch-up with any tester and it's time for a break, there are the video reviews to record for the website (the results of which can be found on our Ski Test 2013 page and YouTube channel.
It's obvious that trying all the skis is of huge benefit when it comes to knowing the range, but there is another very useful way that testers increase understanding. Having 18 testers together in in cars, lifts, test-sites and hotels means there is much discussion and swapping experiences. This ongoing dialogue firms up opinions and reinforces ideas allowing the staff to gain total confidence in the week's results.
The ski day finished as the lifts close, but there was still work to be done with group seminars. Having staff from shops all around the country was too good an opportunity to miss so we got on with skills training and work on new technique and knowledge. To keep things interesting on the Wednesday we visited the Blizzard factory, to check on skis being made and have a meeting with sales and design staff which included a brief and feedback on 14/15 design.
As with every year it was a fantastic five days, both fun and very rewarding for everyone involved. But most importantly it means that Ellis Brigham have staff throughout the country who have first-hand experience of the skis and equipment we sell, meaning the advice they can provide is the best in the industry and based on real experiences.
We stayed at the wonderful Neu Hintertux hotel, which we would highly recommend for convenience, hospitality, quality, food, well... everything. Whether you're looking for early season skiing, some special winter skiing or want to prolong your ski-year with a late spring break, you couldn't go wrong with a trip to Hintertux and few nights at the Neu Hintertux. We've tested skis in many locations, and we've never found anywhere more welcoming or helpful than the resorts of the Tirol.
Many thanks to Hermann at the Tux Finkenburg tourist board – a beautiful place in summer as well as winter, Sarah at the Hintertux Glacier company, and Holger and Patricia at Tirol.