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Judging the World Snow Awards - James Cove
Friday September 18, 2015 - Email this article to a friend

PlanetSKI has been on the jury to select the winners of the prestigious annual awards. We are often asked how it is judged; and here is the answer.

The e-mail arrives from the master of ceremonies, Tim Holmes (Telegraph  Ski & Snowboard), a week or so before Judgement Day.

There is all the information about the entrants and the various categories.

Organisations are required to submit a brief description of why they should win and we then consider the pros and cons.

The categories include:


Most improved European Resort
Most Improved North American Resort
Best Up and Coming Resort
Most Improved Family Resort

Clothing and equipment

Best Clothing Manufacturer
Best Technological Innovation
Best Safety Kit Manufacturer 
Best Goggle Manufacturer

The shortlist is whittled down from the many entrants by the Telegraph editorial team.

The Technical Innovation category alone had 27 entrants this year and we chose from a reduced shortlist of 11.

If they were not cut back we would be debating for days on end.

I always plan to go through the list in detail before we meet to decide the winners - the reality for me is I never find the time and read through it all the night before and on the way to the venue; a large conference room at the Telegraph building near Victoria.

The judging panel, 2015The judging panel, 2015













There is a hardcore of judges who have been involved since the outset in 2012; myself (PlanetSKI), Warren Smith (Warren Smith Ski Academy), Henry Druce (Telegraph Ski & Snowboard), Lynsey Devon (Heaven Publicity), Sally Barlett (Ski Bartlett), Martin Bell (ex GB Olympic skier) and Cat Weakley (Telegraph Ski & Snowboard).

Others have joined in recent years as some dropped out.

Now there is Frank McCusker (Ski Club of Great Britain), Joanna Yellowlees Bound (Erna Low) and Spencer Claridge (Snowboard Club UK).

This year we were joined by Dave Watts (Where to Ski & Snowboard) and Inga Taylor (Snow+Rock).

The new blood is very welcome and adds variety.

Joanna, James and Warren debateJoanna, James and Warren debate
















We are selected for our expertise across different aspects of snowsports.

We start sharp at 10 O'Clock with the aim to finish at 2 O'Clock. 

Each year we have ended bang on time thanks to the skills of Tim Holmes and Henry Druce who shut up the wafflers (usually me) and keep the pace up.

Tim and HenryTim and Henry
















We read through the entrants from each category in a silence which would do credit to the Reading Room at the British Library.

Then we debate each entry individually; 10 minutes maximum for each category.

We look at product photos and videos when required.

Video evidenceVideo evidence
















I am quite staggered by the expertise and experience round the table.

I know very little about clothing and fashion - step forward Sally, Cat and Inga who give us an honest appraisal of the runners and riders.

Spencer asks all the right questions.

The expertsThe experts
















To my mind there is much spin and hype in this category and it is useful to hear from the experts before casting my vote.

Are the new innovations to a Dragon goggle more significant to what Julbo has done?

Are the technical changes to jackets really new or just an exaggeration?

They help me make my decision.

Other judges have detailed knowledge about the ski resorts themselves as we visit dozens and dozens of ski areas each winter.

I managed 57 last winter alone and had 99 days on snow, but my knowledge pales into insignificance beside Dave who has forensic detail of the resorts across Europe and North America and the improvements they make.

He can cut through the PR guff within seconds.

We have some knowledge on whether a new run at Les2Alpes really is going to make a difference or not.

We have a genuine view based on evidence if a lift linking Park City and Canyons in Utah, USA, is significant.

Then there are those that know snowsports inside out; Warren, Lynsey and Joanna.

We have a few heated debates and the occasional disagreement - the rules of the judging process prevent me from going into detail Wink - but we get there in the end.

One year we were required to vote on the best tour operator but as none of us holiday much with tour operators we didn't feel sufficiently qualified to do so.

We abstained.

We are required to leave the room if we have direct commercial interests with any of the nominees.

Other categories are not chosen by us, and this is where you can join in.

Food and drink

Best Après Venue

Best Mountain Restaurant
Best Resort Restaurant


Best UK Chalet Company
Best UK Snow-sports Tour Operator
Best UK Specialist Travel Agent
Best Snowsports Insurance Provider


Best UK Snowsports Retailer


Best Ski
Best Women's Ski
Best Ski Manufacturer
Best Snowboard
Best Women's Snowboard
Best Snowboard Manufacturer

Public voting is now open until 5pm on October 14 - see here if you want to cast your vote.

The judging is an exhausting, yet interesting, process. 

Is it perfect? No.

Is it honest and open? Yes.

Once again we finished at exactly 2pm.

Phones are switched on and we all return to our day jobs.

The results will be released on the opening day of the London Ski and Snowboard Show on November 5th.

World Snow AwardsWorld Snow Awards
















And if you want to see the small print of the rules then here they are:

The Judging Day

  • Each judge carries one vote to be cast in the following way
  • I, as Chair of the jury, will introduce each category with a summary rationale
  • The shortlist will be read to the jury and we will then debate for a maximum of 10 minutes.
  • At the end of this period I will ask you to write down your vote, with your name and category, on a piece of paper which will be passed to me
  • I will place the votes in an individual category envelope for later collation
  • The envelopes and votes are kept in the Telegraph Ski and Snowboard archives, which can be referred to at a later date, if any issues arise. This process is repeated for all judging panel categories.
  • Most votes cast will identify a winner and highly commended winner. In the event of a tie we can award joint winners or the Chair of the judging panel can cast a deciding vote
  • Winners are to be announced on Thursday 5th November at the start of the Ski and Snowboard Show in London.

Please note:

  • The judging panel's responsibility is to debate and vote on the short listed companies only
  • The short-list cannot be changed on the day
  • The number of businesses on the short-list reflects the market and the quality of the entries and can vary in number from 2 upwards
  • If you or a company you are employed by or involved in (including group companies) are on a short-list you must leave the room for the debate and vote for that category
  • Chatham House Rules apply to aid a free and honest discussion.
  • As a judge you are invited, as our guest, to the Telegraph Ski and Snowboard Show on Thursday 5th November for an afternoon champagne reception along with all winners and short-listed companies.

Henry Druce. Editor, Telegraph Ski and Snowboard

For the spirit of the mountains

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