Testing times in Kühtai
The SIGB Ski Test returned once again to Kühtai in late February. Ski+board magazine assembled their crack team of testers to put next season’s equipment through its paces. The Ski Club’s Web Content Editor Chris Taine looks back at another testing week with the team.
On Sunday evening the test team assembled in Kühtai, a compact little resort that sits high above the Austrian Tirol. Arriving by train, plane and automobile, there are plenty of familiar faces, plus a bit of new blood too. A week testing all the latest and greatest ski kit does of course sounds like a dream job… and truth be told it is really, but there’s also a huge amount of work that goes on behind the scenes.
The SIGB Ski Test is coordinated by Snowsport Industries of Great Britain, who invite ski manufacturers to showcase their wares, and SIGB members – which mostly consists of UK retailers and media organisations – to test those same wares.
The Ski+board magazine test team is headed up by Mark Jones, who is a BASI trainer and demonstration team member as well as being director and coach with ICE in Val d’Isere. Many years of experience teaching and training the next generation of ski instructors means that Mark is more than qualified to coordinate the team’s testing.
Al Morgan, the Ski Club’s own gear guru and Head of Member Services, deals with the logistics of the test, making sure that everything runs smoothly. This is particularly important, as the SIGB is also an opportunity to produce important video content for Ski Club TV, as well as photography that is used in Ski+board, print marketing and online.
The test team itself consists primarily of British ski instructors, many of whom have achieved the ISTD qualification, are BASI examiners, or have other specific expertise. All the testers spend an incredible amount of time on skis, and also deal with skiers of all ability levels in their daily work, so it’s fair to say they’re ideally placed to judge which skis are the best of the best.
Ski Club TV’s Tom Dixon meets a few member of the test team.
Kühtai – a little gem of a resort that has proved ideal for ski testing over the last two years – once again turned on some stunning weather. Mild temperatures (though not so warm as to adversely affect the snow), blue skies and enough fresh snow beyond the main runs to make testing an absolute dream. Although the resort itself is relatively small, and not particularly well-known amongst British skiers, its high altitude (resort base over 2000m) makes it snowsure, its compact size makes it family friendly, and there is a huge amount of excellent ski touring terrain right at your fingertips.
Although the resort is small, most of the testing is done from just one single chairlift – the Hohemutbahn. The test centre, where all the manufacturers are set up, is at the bottom of the lift, with the Alpenrose Hotel (where the majority of media, retailers and ski reps stay – making for a rather social and lively atmosphere!) just footsteps away.
From the top of the Hohemutbahn it’s possible to descend on steep blacks or rollercoaster reds, gentle off piste amongst the trees or steeper freeride terrain. The chair even accesses some fun backcountry runs that require a short hike back out, or you can take a run through the snow park and halfpipe used for the 2012 Youth Winter Olympic Games!
Monday (the first day of testing) brought blue skies and perfectly groomed pistes, ideal for testing Piste Performance skis. On Tuesday the skis in the All Mountain category got a workout, mostly on the groomers but with a with a bit of ‘dabbling’ in the bumps and chop. Then on Wednesday afternoon it was onto Freeride skis – these take a bit longer to test as they require wide open terrain. Finally, on Friday morning, the testers had the opportunity to really let rip on some of the latest Big Mountain models.
While all of this was going on, pro photographer Ross Woodhall was busy doing his thing, making the most of the dramatic scenery and the talented skiers on hand. On top that this, Ski Club TV editor Tom Dixon was also filming ski test video profiles, which will be available on skiclub.co.uk and our YouTube channel soon.
The test team have a huge amount of fun trying out next season’s kit, giving up a week of their time (and therefore income) in order to test skis and pass on the best possible information to consumers (that’s you!). However the testing is also very rigourous and methodical, with testers carefully working through each category to determine which new models are the real standouts. At least three testers go on each pair of skis, with everybody getting equal input into which skis are awarded top of each category. It’s this comprehensive and unbiased approach that we think makes our ski test results the best that are out there. We won’t give away too much just yet, but needless to say there are some awesome new models hitting shelves next season – stay tuned!