On Sunday 4th March 2012, a team of nine Snow+Rock employees boarded a plane bound for Austria. Their mission – to select next seasons’ range of skis!
Each year the UK’s ski industry comes together to test next season’s equipment. Equipment manufacturers drive samples of their new product ranges out to resort for UK retailers to come and test over the course of 5 days. Retailers will base their buying decisions on how they think skis fared during the week. This year there were 17 brands with hundreds of skis and it’s a physical challenge to test every ski on the list!
Equipment Buyer Ross McCloy, and his trusty assistant Phil Gordon, led the Snow+Rock Test Team to the small but beautiful resort of Kuhtai. The rest of the team consisted of:
John Jennings (Chertsey store Assistant Manager)
Simon Penfold (Bristol store Assistant Manager)
Nigel Heathershaw (Mail Order Manager)
Rick Hutchings (Head of Training)
Gavin Patterson (Port Solent store Equipment Supervisor)
Claire Collins (Marketing & PR Manager)
Hannah Sheridan (Finance Manager)
Here Claire Collins gives you a run down of her test week:
Day One: Start by testing the Piste and All-mountain category skis. The hero skis definitely shone through in difficult flat light snowy conditions. The day was finished by a backcountry session testing the new Salomon Guardian touring binding with Mountain Guide Nigel Shepherd. Even in bad light conditions, and deep snow, the ease to switch to touring mode was unanimously agreed upon.
Day Two: Spent finishing off All-mountain skis, a very large category to get through. Brighter light made a difference and we could whip through the skis on the short list. The team meeting in the evening is an open forum to discuss our favourite skis from the day and formulate our Piste and All-mountain range. We all agree on the bulk of the range with a few ‘curve balls’ creating deeper conversations.
Day Three: Moving onto the Freeride category means we’re in search of some side-country powder. Some amazing skis makes chopping this category into a manageable range almost impossible so we’re discussing the pros and cons of each ski on every lift. A last lift team backcountry touring expedition opens up a wide expanse of untouched powder providing amazing skiing and wide smiles on all our faces. The rewards of touring definitely justify the effort!
Day Four: Another flat light day with heaps of snow. The remaining Freeride and Big Mountain skis are perfect for the conditions and we don’t have to work too hard to get the most out of each ski. An in depth meeting in the evening helps to finalise our range choices and provides a list of skis to go back to and compare tomorrow morning.
Day Five: Only a morning left and probably the best conditions of the week. Overnight snow provides soft pistes and amazing off-piste. The morning is used as a ski-off session, directly comparing similar skis to decide once and for all, which are in and which are out. The morning is intense and throws up some difficult decisions in the peach perfect conditions.
It’s been an intense week of hard skiing, but we’ve come away from Austria with range more or less decided. We’re looking forward to seeing the new range on the ski rack next season and the new Demo Pool will be available to test from late summer. We think you’ll be blown away with our team’s selection!