With 80+ degree days becoming the norm on the Front Range and resort skiing all but coming to a close, when Skiing Magazine invited SI to spend an early April day with them we jumped at the chance.
We made the quick mid-week trip up I-70 to take in the Skiing Magazine Independent Ski Test at Arapahoe Basin. The test, now in its 3rd year, rounds up many of the industry’s independent ski makers and puts their products through the ringer. Assistant Editor, Kevin Luby explained why Skiing Mag thought it was so important to start including these upstart brands in the testing process, “It’s a very large part of the industry in the US. The ski industry just spawns this entrepreneurial spirit among tons of people who are passionate about the sport and the way a lot of these guys find their outlet is in ski building. Each individual brand may not sell a huge volume of skis but put all of these brands together and it’s a big chunk of the ski market.”
This year’s 3-day test included 20 independent ski makers from all over the United States (and one from Switzerland). While the actual testing is done very similarly to the process used for the larger brands, the event itself has a decidedly more laid-back feel. Staking out A-Basin’s primest “beach-front” real estate, the Skiing Mag and Skiing Business crew spun tunes and manned the grill, cooking up Boulder Sausage Co brats – Wisconsin-style. Cold Odells beers were a welcome thirst quencher after a full-day of testing. Indie brand founders and reps Pete Wagner of Wagner Custom Skis in Telluride; Matt Cudmore of Meier Skis from Grand Junction and Tim Haley of Rocky Mountain Underground (RMU) of Breckenridge, were all on-hand to take a few laps and soak in a little end of season fun.
While the Skiing Mag indie ski test offers smaller, boutique manufacturers big opportunities for exposure and the chance to get a leg-up on their peers in the increasingly competitive independent ski market—what we experienced was an entirely open and collaborative environment. “All the brands want each other to do well and they learn a lot from each other. Obviously they want their specific brand to do the best, but a healthy ski industry is good for everyone,” said Luby. “It’s definitely an event that we are interested in growing, it’s grown every year since have been doing it with more brands, more skis, more testers, more everything.”
While the 2011-12 ski season may have left much to be desired, the skis that these indie brands are bringing to market for the 2012-13 season give us much to be excited about.
Keep your eye out for the results of this year’s test in the November 2012 issue of Skiing magazine.