There are trade shows before the SIGB ski test, which the Ski Club attends. This allows us to narrow down key models of skis to test so we know the skis we report on will be available to skiers to buy in the UK. At the SIGB ski test there are over 700 skis available to test and this is why it is important that we know the game plan before we get there.
Each season the Ski Club and Mark Jones put together a team of 10-14 testers, made up of highly qualified and experienced BASI instructors, ex-Team GB racers and Ski Club staff, and sometimes we even get current Team GB members testing with us. The testers need to be able to pick out the minute differences that can separate skis, as well as knowing the needs of different levels of skiers and their wants/needs. It is equally as important that the testers can isolate the differences in skis caused by variations in snow conditions, servicing of the skis etc - after all we are testing the skis and not the snow or the service teams.
Each member of our test team puts around 40 models of ski through their paces in a week, and for a ski to get into our final test it has to have at least three members of our team test it - that's around 500 runs on the pool of skis we are testing over the 4 1/2 days of testing.
We test in groups of three or four within our team, and each group tests certain models from each category of skis (ie all-mountain, freeride, piste performance etc) and each group decides on a category winner (or winners). Then another group gets to ski the top few models and as one team we decide on the winner for each category - the winners then get an award in Ski+board and on skiclub.co.uk - we give two types of award; Top Performance and Top Value.
- Top Performer: This is awarded to the outstanding ski in their category, a ski that the team would confidently recommend, which we know would give skiers a superb time skiing – no hidden surprises, a ski without any real weaknesses. As we are testing the question often comes up, ‘If you had to recommend one ski to people from this category, or if you had to buy a pair of these skis, which would it be?’ Theses skis in the top performer category are these ones!
- Top Value: This is awarded to skis the test team consider to offer outstanding performance for the price they cost. This is no way is a budget model compromising on performance - some of the Top Value winners may perform easily as well as Top Performance, but they can have the added benefit of being fantastic value.
Sometimes there'll be more than one ski with the same award in one group. This simply reflects our honest opinions; often there's no clear winner - just superb skis with a different slant on interacting with the mountain. Use our skier-ability chart next to each ski to ensure the model tested is within your range.
While testing we continually discuss the skis so we get a true and full picture of the different skis and technology and how this will translate to the people that buy the skis - this is the best way of ensuring that you get a true and full test of the kit you are interested in.
The arduous task of compiling the results and writing the tests up is done by Mark Jones. Ski Club members get to see some results of our test in Ski+board magazine while the full range of skis we test appears in the Ski Test pages online.