STEVE: Hello. Welcome to another podcast for Summit Sports, skis.com and snowboards.com. I'm Steve and across from me today is a colleague here at the office who goes by Adam. He also works at Don Thomas Sporthaus. That's correct, right?
ADAM: Yep. That's correct.
STEVE: All right, and why are you sitting here with us today?
ADAM: Well, I've got a lot of ski information. I've been working in ski shops now, I'm getting ready to work my seventeenth season working in shops and I've been a custom boot fitter for the past 10 years and an avid ski tester for easily the last twelve years so…
S: How long have you been skiing for?
A: Let's see here, I think this is going to be my 28th season that I've been skiing for.
S: Just 28 seasons.
S: How many times do you get to ski per year?
A: I usually do anywhere between 35 and 40 days per year depending on when and where I get to travel and how often I get a chance to get out but I try ski as much as possible; anywhere and everywhere I can.
S: What are a couple of your favorite places?
A: Usually I am at Atla Ski Resort in Little Cottonwood Canyon or up visiting some friends up in Big Sky so...two big places that are hard to pass up so…
S: Big Sky is nice.
A: Yeah, it's a lot of fun there.
S: Okay, so every year up at a place Boyne Highlands (*Mountain) is something called Test Fest. What's Test Fest?
A: Test Fest is our annual Midwest on-snow demo where we have every ski manufacturer that has a rep in the Midwest and we get up there, test as many skis as we can and try to hammer them out and provide some good video reviews for everybody there who is looking on our website.
S: That's right so if you go to skis.com you can go to the on-snow reviews and you'll be able to see Adam and a bunch of our other testers as they give their about-a-minute-review on the skis and what they thought about it. How many skis are we talking?
A: Per tester or for that are up there?
S: Well how many did you test and I guess how many are up there.
A: I think this year, I think I only tested around 35 skis this year which is actually down from years past. I've had one year where I tested 75 pairs of skis.
S: Over how many days?
A: Three days.
S: So you did about 35 this year?
A: Yep, I like to burn through them and ski as many different skis as possible.
S: Now out of those 35, how many of them to put it lightly, are complete garbage?
A: Actually there isn't really a ski that's garbage, there's a ski out there for everybody. Every manufacturer makes a ski that is for someone. But, you know, when you've been testing skis for as long as I have you can really start to feel, you know, if you blindfolded me you can say “okay, this one feels like a Volkl” or “this one kind of feels like Atomic or a Nordica” but basically every manufacturer has a ski that's out there for everybody. There's a very, very few skis out there that ski like garbage.
S: Okay, well that's good to know. Let's talk about some of your top favorites but, I guess before we do that, what type of skier are you?
A: I like to ski big, fast turns when I'm on-piste. When I'm off-piste, ya know, soft and deep snow and steep and light is my favorite kind of things to ski and when you travel around you definitely get to sample as many different snow conditions as possible too and it's been kind of some funky winters depending on where you've been the last few years so there's a ski out there for every condition too.
S: Yeah. All right, so let's talk top 5 or so, I guess, let's go. Name one and we'll ask questions about it.
A: My favorite ski that I ski the majority amount of days on-piste is the Nordica Hell and Back. It's 98 at the waist with a solid woodcore. It's got a nice snappy feel to it. I pretty much use that as my daily, every day ski. I've owned quite a few pairs of Nordica skis and that's really one that I like to have. Ya know, in the past I've really preferred skis with metal but maybe I'm getting a little older and I like something that's a little more lively versus something that's a little more damp and powerful. So, if you're really looking for a nice lively ski that can tackle the powder and the bumps and still be a great on-piste ski, that Hell and Back would definitely be a good choice for a lot of people that like a ski that's going to be stable at speeds and quick to engage turns and be able to tackle it all.
S: All right, real quick, on-piste, that is on the frontside of the mountain…
A: Yep, that's on the frontside or the groomers as a lot of people call them.
S: Basically, a chairlift will get you there as opposed to off-piste where you might have to do a little bit of traveling on your own.
A: Yep, off-piste is nothing that a groomer will be able to smooth out for you. You want to get into some powder or some bumps or trees or rocks, ya know all those little tight places that a groomer can't get into.
S: Okay, so Nordica Hell and Backs, we had Steve, the owner of Summit Sports, he raved about it. What else did you like this year?
A: Well they have the Vagabond as well which has the same construction as the Hell and Back but it gets a little bit wider. It goes from 98 at the waist to 107, I believe, and it still has that same feel to it towards a little bit poppier, it's a little bit snappier than skis that do have metal so I just kind of really like the way those skis felt this year but essentially they're kind of like that same type of ski – that one ski does it all. The reason I didn't get the Vagabond as, you know, I like to get into something that's a little bit wider, I like 115 or even wider than that at the waist.
S: And that's usually very good for the powder.
A: Yeah, definitely the wider you get the more float you get in the pow. Definitely when you get into the wider skis, if you're looking for pow, turning and smear turns, you definitely want something that's going to actually be a little bit softer and just kind of float through the snow a little bit better. Something like the Armada JJ.
S: Let's go on to third.
A: I just spoke about it. The Armada JJ was definitely a ski that I've had a weird relationship with in the past. I'd skied it on the trail and didn't really care for it then had a chance to get out to Utah and had about 90 inches in 4-5 days so every turn was shoulder deep and I was skiing on a pair of JJ's and it made me fall in love with that ski just because it's got the perfect amount of rocker. It's got the perfect waist width where you can still get into the snow but still float through it. It was really, really maneuverable through the trees. So it was a ski I never really liked in the past and then just really skiing it out there made me fall in love with it in those conditions.
A: Right and again that's very important – depending on the conditions – because here in the Midwest, probably not going to get 90 inches.
S: No, it doesn't happen too often.
A: So, you don't really need those deep powder skis. What was that Armada JJ waist width?
A: 115. It didn't have metal? Or it did?
S: No metal.
A: So, non-metal tends to float better?
A: Yes, because you want that ski to bend and flex so it brings you up to the top of the snow. If you get into skis that are too stiff for that type of powder, you either have to be really hauling ass to get it to plane up to the snow or it's going to tend to torpedo down a little bit and make it a little bit harder for you to manage.
S: Okay. Let's go on to the next pair.
A: Blizzard Bonafide has been best-selling ski for like the past two seasons since it's been out. I really like that but it wasn't one I would own, per se, just ‘cause I like the little bit snappier feel to it but, again, we got 98 at the waist, 2.5 sheets of metal. It's unshakable at speed so if you really want to hawk out some big turns and have a one-ski-does-it-all kind of thing too, that's a solid choice just because it is ultra-stable.
S: Okay. Final one – before I ask you what you say is your fifth of the final five, I was told, and this may be it, Line Sick Day.
A: Line Sick Day was a pretty unreal ski. It was definitely a different flavor for them. It kind of, ya know, I felt like their Prophet series got old and stale and I was a Prophet skier long ago when they had those skis when they first came out. The Sick Day just has like a whole new construction to it with its wood and rocker profile. That it was really fun to ski both on-piste and off. That 110 could really take on a lot of quick edgy turns and still be maneuverable on-piste and then, off-piste when you get 110 underfoot, that's pretty solid and be able to do everything. If you live at a resort that gives more than 300 inches of snow a year and you're going to spend a lot of days on the hill, that 110 would be a great ski for you. With the 95, it kind of falls into that same type category as the Hell and Back or the Bonafide, ya know, that sub-100 waisted ski that can kind of do it all. I was really surprise on how stable that thing was. Really easy to turn. I definitely took that on a few bump lines when we were out testing skis and had a lot of fun with that there.
S: Okay. And then, all right, so if the Line Sick Day…that wasn't in your top 5?
A: That was not in my top 5 but it was a great ski. Ya know, you ski so many skis that it's really hard to select just a few winners. Again, every manufacturer makes a great ski.
S: What would be your fifth one then since I didn't call it correctly?
A: Fifth one, the one that there's price is not an object, is the Volkl Katana vWerks. That thing it felt like it was ready to cut through anything that you could bring at it. Really, really maneuverable especially for how stiff it was and it had a really low swing weight just made it really easy; you could carve turns on it, you could pivot turns on it and there's rocker in the tail so you could really kind of smear some turns when you got into some deep snow too.
S: But that sounds mostly Midwest kind of ski?
A: No, that's actually a 111 underfoot I believe and it's got the vWerks construction that has a little bit of carbon fiber in the tip and the tail and it was a pretty impressive ski.
S: All right. Well, Adam, thank you very much for joining me today. Check out Adam's as well as a lot of our other tester's on-snow reviews at skis.com and snowboards.com. This has been another Summit Sports podcast and thank you for listening.