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Sneak ski-view

Matt Zalaznick
Melinda KruseTerry DelliQuadri (left), a coach for Team Summit, and Paul Hochman, ski test director for Ski Magazine, pick out their next set of skis to test for Ski Magazine Saturday in Beaver Creek.
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You might be on next season’s hot skis. Then again, you might be on a pair of 1979 Mach Six Marmot Missiles.”That’d be sick. If they slipped in a pair of Olin Mark 5s,” said Sun Valley ski coach Nicole Pelletier, one of dozens of ski experts who was testing next year’s models for Ski Magazine at Beaver Creek Saturday.”Some of the skis I’ve tested have felt like Olin Mark 5s,” Pelletier said. “We’ve already voted a few off the island.”But it’s an intense five days of ski testing and Pelletier and the other testers<who include Olympians and former members of the U.S. Ski Team<have 150 models to try out on Beaver Creek’s groomers, moguls, trees, crud and soft spring snow. The results are compiled by Ski Magazine, fed into a computer and published in next fall’s ski-buyers’ guide.”The literal answer is we’re getting on next years skis before next year,” said Paul Hochman, Ski Magazine’s ski test director. “The metaphysical answer is we’re getting a specific and general sense about what the greatest skis in the world are doing.”Then we write the buyers’ guide in the fall,” he said.The are several categories of skis, or skier types, being tested: all mountain expert, all mountain cruiser, free rider, the “player,” aspiring carver and racer. A little translation: a “player,” according to Hochman, is a skier who’s real athletic, picks things up quickly but isn’t a very good skier. “Aspiring” carver is a skier who’s just about ready to make the leap from advanced beginner and intermediate to expert skier.But, for the sake of objectivity, the testers don’t know exactly what model they’re trying out.”Knowing the model will tell you what the ski’s supposed to do,” Hochman said. “I don’t want to know what the ski’s supposed to do. I’ve already skied down a few times and said “Wow.’ Then I said “wow’ even louder when I looked at the bottom.”The reason testers can’t tell exactly what models they’re trying out is that the skis are wrapped in salami casings. Extremely aerodynamic salami casings.Just kidding. There was only salami in the salami casings. But we still didn’t know the brand of salami.Are you drunk?No. The truth is the top of the skis is masked by white tape. And what about throwing a real pair of duds into the mix, like the Marmot Missiles?”That’d be a waste of time,” Hochman said.”The differences between skis nowadays are so subtle,” said Mike Brown, a ski tester, Vail resident and former member of the U.S. Ski team. “If you slipped some old skis in they would stand out right away.”No Marmot Missles, then?”I’ve heard of the Marmot Missles,” Brown said.Hey, I just made that up.”Well, I’ve heard of lots skis like Marmot Missiles,” he said.(Note: the Mach Six Marmot Missiles were a clunky, unpopular and polka-dotted pair of downhill skis made in the late 70s by the now defunct Canadian Ski and Cummerbund Company. A pair was reportedly sold at last year’s Minturn Rummage Sale for $1.37.)So being a ski tester is really about being able to brag to your buddies next season that you’ve already ridden the next big thing?”It’s always nice to get special treatment,” Brown said. “Almost every single ski I’ve been on has had a few fantastic characteristics.”Pelletier, the ski coach, said being a tester has made her popular with the gearheads back in Idaho. In fact, her phone rings off the hook when she gets back from a ski test.”The folks in Sun Valley are all tech-weenies,” she said. “People find out you’re a product tester and they wanna find out everything.”Enough about ski testing. What’s the trick to skiing moguls?”Number one, slow down,” said Nelson Carmichael, a 1988 and 1992 Olympian who tested skis Saturday. “Make sure you’re getting your turns across the fall line, stay in the line and think more about the back side of mogul. The beginning of your turn is on the back side of the mogul so get your edges in.”Unfortunately, Carmichael’s not from Vail or Beaver Creek. He, of course, comes from a famous hill just north of Bond and McCoy called something like Paddleboat Park, or Paddlewheel Peak …”There’s a lot of skis in the middle in the road. The good ones stand out and the bad ones stand out too,” Carmichael said.Oh yeah. Steamboat Springs is the name of that hill over by Yampa.Ski testing’s pretty cerebral, right? So you’ve read Moby Dick, right?”Is that a book,” said Olympian ski tester Doug Lewis.Yeah. It’s got a big whale in it. But whales don’t ski. Name the last English major to win a downhill?Oh be quiet. Let’s hear some more about skiing from an Olympian.”Skiing is from your edge all the way to your brain. Skiing’s about feeling and people forget that,” said Lewis, who skied in the 1984 and 1988 Olympics and won a bronze medal in the World Championships in Italy in 1985.”They ski with their eyes and their muscles but you’ve got to use all your senses,” Lewis said.That’s Olympic talk.But ski testing has its benevolent side, Lewis said.”It’s a jungle out there. You’ve ever been to a ski shop? It’s pretty confusing,” he said. “Plus, when you’re ski testing you get to ski at the Beav and that’s really cool. I’ve spent $80 on lunch.”So any advice on how to pick out skis? Brown, the former racer from Vail, says stow the machismo.”You gotta be honest with where you are in your skiing ability. If you do that you’ve got a real good chance of matching up with a great ski,” he said. “If you’re not honest, you might wind up with a ski you’re not ready for.”Vail Daily report Matt Zalaznick, a unseasoned ski tester, preferred the Boarshead Salami to the Marmot Missiles. The salami was far nimbler in the moguls and trees.


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