Online Skialper version available in English, WildSnow discount code “wildsnow2018” (without quotes) gets you 10% off — but whatever the case prices are reasonable for this massive bible of gear.
I’m supposed to review this tome, but I like it before even seeing it. Is that weird? Or biased?
In any case, okay, I’ll go look at it and get back. “It” being the digital (English language) version of Skialper magazine’s massive annual buyer’s guide — easily our favorite ski touring gear compendium…
…I’m back. Refreshing. Instead of the online Skialper version being a tiresome statement of slow loading Flash or otherwise kludgy source technology, as is common with ski industry websites, Skialper opted for a fairly basic and reasonably efficient content management system (apparently WordPress layered with Woo Commerce). Skialper of course had to succumb to design slavery at least to some extent (after all, they’re Italian). For example the site uses a “tile” type presentation reminiscent of something Microsoft tried a while ago, requiring extra scrolling and load time. But we’ll let that go. After all, we don’t want to see a shattering of Italy’s deserved leadership in the creative world. Basic text is so 1970s!
Overall, I’m happy to report that Skialper retains their top position in providing the most complete ski touring gear compendium in the industry. The awards are there, along with 140 ski reviews, 33 binding takes, and 63 boot “sheets.” Climbing skins are covered as well. Numerous stories flesh out the content, such as a take on “One Kilo” skis. Everything is fully rated after field and bench testing.
For us Anglophones, heart of the matter is the English translation. Skialper magazines of the past have clearly been challenged by the language conversion process, resulting in a sort of ItalEnglish prose that sometimes lacked clear meaning. Let’s check out this year’s binding reviews as an example.
Skialper Version — Atomic Tour
This binding is the twin of Salomon MTN + Brake (the two companies are part of the same group and work in synergy in some cases). It is particularly stable with regards to the stresses imparted by strong skiers and fat, structured skis, and it is also material-rich in the parts exposed to tear and wear. The good-sized tower especially supports the contrast to torsion of the U-spring, which controls the openings on two axed, and are firmly planted on wide base with the adjustment plate. The latter slides for a 30 mm in the dovetail parts, immediately offering stability, and then guarantees with regards to the formation of leeway over time. The toe piece contains a widened hole to better distribute forces thanks to the fixing on a wider area. The crampon slot fits in with the standard original Dynafit model. The front stop for the boot tip is adjustable, allowing a safe and fast centring as well as a step-in effect. In addition to this version with a stopper, you may also find a version weighing 70 gr less, “leash”. The binding is simple, but not trivial, it is reliable and durable.
Lou’s translation of the Italenglish — Atomic Tour This binding is the twin of Salomon MTN version (the two companies are part of the same group and work somewhat together on these sorts of projects). It is particularly stable with regards to the stresses imparted by strong skiers and fat skis, and is built with strong materials at wear points. The sturdy rear unit is firmly attached to the boot length adjustment plate, and has an interesting feature in that the heel lifters do not rotate when you position the U-spring pins for touring or downhill modes. This prevents any chance of “auto rotation” in touring mode. Toe unit has a wide screw pattern. Crampon slot is Dynafit compatible. Boot locating stops on the toe unit help locate the ski boot during entry as well as providing somewhat of a step-in effect. Available versions: with brake, without brake, and possibly a lightweight without boot length adjustment. The binding provides a gratifying combination of durability, performance and simplicity.
By way of another example, check out this text from the G3 ION review:
“…though with two additional possible preload values on the springs. ION 10 remains with a more universal use because it adopts the range between 5 and 10, and each spring works around intermediate values, in this case those 7/8 which are used by most of the skiers paying attention to safety, deriving from the release in case of a fall.”
I have no idea what the above means.
I read through quite a bit of the online English material. In my opinion Skialper has improved their translation somewhat over past years, but as with the above examples I still found it slow going — with some phrasing remaining obtuse and best simply skipped so as not to spend inordinate amounts of time with each product description. The capsule reviews vary in length and quality. Some are fairly robust, while others say little. On the plus side, the Skialper website gear sort system is for the most part intuitive and works well, and the overall inclusion of so much ski touring product in one place is as always exceptional.
In my view one of the most important Skialper takes is their awards. All but the binding kudos are easily accessed by clicking “Stories” on the main nave menu, then scrolling down and clicking the “Awards” tile. I’ll not give away the farm, other than to say “Ski of the Year” in the “Ski Touring” category is the Armada 88, with the Scott Superguide 88 and Wayback 88 as runners up (promise, I did not know this when I included both of the latter skis in our Ultimate Quiver for 2018. Wider overall winner is Black Crows Orb Freebird at 90 millimeters. While an overview of binding awards is not included, Skialper did award various bindings, for example Fritschi Tecton receives “Binding of the Year — Free Touring.”
The numerous skis mentioned in the Skalper Awards sections makes up for the otherwise brief individual reviews. Fine by me. As soon as a publication shows their hand in terms of “favorites” they by default are stating that other products are not, favorites. Brief reviews combined with the Skialper rating system and specifications allow you to read between the lines.
Conclusion:The essential take from the Skialper’s ItalEnglish can indeed be gleaned. Thus the English version is worth what I feel is a reasonable price, but due to translation challenges this is not a quick read. Strength is in the shear number of products covered in reasonable detail, as well as awards that appear to be founded in real world testing. While the overall site design is okay, I found myself longing for simplified text based clickable product lists, perhaps annotated with important details such as awards, ski widths and so forth. For example, the 33 bindings could be easily presented as a list that fit above the fold in nearly any browser. But then, that’s how my mind works, not everyone’s. Mainly, if you need information for shopping, or you are simply curious, recommended.
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.