Move over magazines, wipe your chins mouth breathing gear bloggers, bow down WildSnow.com. We are all humbled. We should take up winter golfing in Arizona and get a job writing kitchen recipe apps.
The art and science of the published “gear guide” for backcountry ski touring has now been taken to a level that is patently ridiculous — in a good way. I’ve got a PDF copy of this season’s Skialper Buyer’s Guide, and I’m sitting here as stunned as if I’d just done a belly flop cliff dive. You want the ultimate chart of weight vs running surface? Look no farther. You want authentic photos of each boot, with laser generated measurements of the interior? That dream is realized. And so much more.
Yes, information like that has been available in the past (including from Skialper), but in various western European languages. Italians are rightly proud of their amazingly expressive lingua. But this time around the content creators at Skialper have put in the effort (and no doubt expense) of publishing their guide in BOTH Italian and ENGLISH. Yes, they want to sell it. So what. Just get out your credit card and buy ALL the information. No more sifting around through various websites that let you read for free and attempt to pay their expenses with horrible nefarious sidebar advertising!
Be it known that some publications actually charge companies to be in their gear reviews. I guess they’re essentially selling it as advertising. Skialper told me they, first, do not “charge” companies to participate in their reviews, but they also make a huge effort to separate their advertising from their editorial. I believe them, though one of course should be diligent when reading pop content in any magazine, or website (including WildSnow.com) for that matter. When you look at the mag you’ll see their attitude about gear review doesn’t seem to affect the amount of advertising they can sell. More power to them. Clearly, the advertising revenue plays a huge part in making this thing possible. Their online guide to the guide:
“We ask manufacturers to give us skis, boots, boards, bindings and skins. Taking part in the test is free and no company pays a penny to feature in the Buyer’s Guide. The gear reaching us has to be new, identical to the one you’ll find in a shop…”
This is supposed to be a review, so can I think of any cons? The cost (7.50 euros for paper, seems reasonable for more than 300 pages, albeit with many pages being advertising). Note this is the price in Europe, shipping will be added if you want a paper copy overseas — that sort of postage can be expensive. As for a quantity of information that might seem a bit extreme: it’s a gear guide, so the more geeked out the better. Though readers seeking a more “soulful” and less data oriented style of reviewing might want to look elsewhere. Regarding the English, Skialper’s translation is what I’d term “grade B,” meaning in many cases the English could have used a final touch from a native speaker/writer as it’s a bit stilted — sometimes to the extent of needing interpretation by the reader or perhaps a quick trip to Google Translate. The usual effort is made to divide uphill skiing into categories. In this case: Skimo; Fitness Touring (big vert); Uphilling at resorts; Ski Touring (the big catch-all); Elite (near as I can tell, more the alpinist side); Steep (extreme skiing); Freetouring (heavier gear, emphasis on descent); Freeride (highly aggressive, heavy gear, might use mechanized access). For the purpose of a gear buyer’s guide these are probably useful, but could perhaps be a little less nuanced.
My top picks for amazing positivity? Skialper used the same binding on all skis (ATK but of course, since it’s Italian), and tuned all the skis. These two things are huge. I mean, how in the world can you really run a ski test when you just throw skis on the snow with various bindings and iffy factory tunes (or sometimes a beater edge and base from previous testing)? Perhaps that’s why the beer seems to be as important as the skis in some magazine reviews; because the beer is more reliable than the base tunes. Let’s call B.S. on that.
I might sound like a worshiper or something, but I’ll go on with this. These crazy Italian gear freaks rate the gear with a “Ski of the Year” and more. That is bold, as the advertisers sometimes get quite agro about being left out. So good on Skialper. I give you a hint. For the top Skimo race ski they picked Movement Rise Pro X. Aha. Then we have the “Ski of the Year” for classic ski touring. Sorry, no spoiler on that, you’ll have to read the mag.
Check out a few teaser shots from the digital edition.
Okay, so how does one acquire this treasure chest of informational jewelry? Browse to http://www.skialper.it and start shopping.
WildSnow.com publisher emeritus and founder Lou (Louis Dawson) has a 50+ years career in climbing, backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering. He was the first person in history to ski down all 54 Colorado 14,000-foot peaks, has authored numerous books about about backcountry skiing, and has skied from the summit of Denali in Alaska, North America’s highest mountain.