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TESTING TIMES - James Cove, Ischgl
Monday May 1, 2017 - Email this article to a friend

Next season will see a new range of skis on the market and PlanetSKI will be posting a comprehensive review of them in the Autumn in conjunction with our great friends over at Ellis Brigham.

The PlanetSKI editor, James Cove, and senior news reporter, Katie Bamber, have been putting them through their paces.

And having the best fun possible.

We blogged about it every day and below we reproduce it in full, in chronological order with previously unseen photos, vidoes and reviews.

Sit back and enjoy as we go behind the scenes of the Ellis Brigham ski tests...

MONDAY 24th April

Regular PlanetSKI readers will know from my weekend blog that this was a last minute decision even by my standards.

I got an email last Thursday from Ellis Brigham asking if PlanetSKI wanted to come out at the weekend to be involved in the week long ski tests.

I changed my diary, roped in our senior news reporter, Katie Bamber, and now here we are.

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In my book life is all about being spontaneous and seizing every opportunity that presents itself.

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I was in the front row for the opening talk high at Idalp (2,320m) on how the test would run.

We had 70 or so different pairs of skis from around a dozen manufacturers to get through.

It is a complex and exhaustive process and the testers have to meet certain criteria and judge the skis on a number of factors.

There are advanced race skis through to beginner and intermediate ones.

They are broken into 6 catergories: Piste, All Mountain Carve, All Mountain Ski, Freeride Ski, Powder Ski and All Terrain Freeride.

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And with that it was into the piste skis.

I was going to split my testing into piste skiing, all mountain skiing and, with up to 50cm of snow forecast for Thursday, the end of the week was the time to go powder skiing.

First up was the Nordica Doberman Spitfire Pro Evo.

I'm afraid I didn't get on with it as it felt stiff and unresponsive.

It was described as "more ready to catch the unawares out. Suits a good technical skier". 

I lapped the main lift at few times and things didn't get any better.

Maybe it was me.

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I changed my plan of the day and opted for more of a freeride ski and selected the Atomic Vantage X 77 C.

I even changed my poles too - I like old and colourful poles.

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It was a revelation as I could feel the flex of the ski and it was far more responsive to my demands. 

But after a couple of runs it began to feel a bit tame.  

Maybe my ski legs were coming back.

I bit the bullet and went back to the Nordica.

It was a different ski - responsive, accurate and fast.

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Though of course it wasn't a different ski.

I tried to pretend the snow had softened.

But the real change was in the operator - me.

My legs were warmed up and I was ready to charge.

I changed my opinion of the ski completely.

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As I mentioned the PlanetSKI team consists of myself and Katie.

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She took out the XO 2 dot and put it through its paces.

So, what did she make of it?

Next up for me was the Head Supershape Magnum.

The conditions here in Ischgl are amazing for the time of year with plenty of snow at altitude and warm temperatures.

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See here for a snow report from Katie with a video from Ischgl and news of the good snow around the high-altitude glacier resorts in the Tirol.

The warm temperatures mean only one thing by early afternoon - slush and soft snow.

So, I abandoned plans to ski on piste skis all day long and went for one of my all-time favourites.

The Blizzard Bonefide.

I mentioned in the first video that it probably hasn't changed for next winter, well it has.

"This season was the same as last and Blizzard didn't think they could improve it but this year they have done so with a slightly different shape on the front making it better for skiing on piste," said Mark Watson from Ellis Brigham.

So it seemed appropriate to give it a whirl as I was apparently on a piste sking day.

I couldn't really tell if it was a better piste ski in the slush.

But it brought me a season first.

I fell over.

I was hammering through some slushy but well-spaced out bumps at high speed and my right leg got caught and was thrown up in the air behind my back.

I told myself to bring it slowly back down while concentrating on keeping the left ski stable and then relax, go with the fall and hope the ski came off.

My body managed the instructions.

The binding sprang loose as the ski hit the ground.

And over I went.

Half the snow on the mountain found its way down my trousers as I slid face first down the slope, but otherwise I was unharmed.

Katie came over the brow of the hill behind.

I could tell she wanted to laugh, but she is far more considerate than that.

"I'm fine," I said to her anxious enquires about my health.

The concerned look vanished from her face and she burst out laughing before collecting my ski that was someway back up the slope.

One of my favourite skis of all time had seen me and spat me out.

My view of it though remained unchanged - a fabulous ski both on and off piste.

But perhaps not at high-speed in slushy bumps.

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And tomorrow we get to do it all over again - this time it's all mountain skis and I will be back on my Bonefides (hopefully staying on them this time) and I will be judging them against the Atomic Vantage - another fabulous all mountain ski. 

Then I will get through as many others as I can.

Let the ski testing continue...

TUESDAY 25th April

Yesterday I was putting the piste skis through their paces and today I was planning to put the all-mountain skis to the test.

However with a forecast of snow for later in the week I decided to test the all mountain skis on the piste in the afternoon and save the off piste for when the snow fell.

Good call as I had a great day with a few more piste skis in the morning.

And I fell in love with a woman.

Well, a woman's ski actually.

The Cloud 12 from Atomic.

PlanetSKI's senior news reporter, Katie Bamber, is with me in Ischgl testing the skis and she said I would love it.

Now I'm not bothered if a ski is branded as a man's ski or a woman's ski - all that matters to me is how it behaves.

It behaved superbly.

I was in love.

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It is the women's version of the new Redster from Atomic that is coming out next season.

It was stable, fast, responsive and powder through the soft snow too.

I couldn't fault it - even though I am a man.

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Katie meanwhile was turning her attentions elsewhere.

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My favourite piste ski for a while has been the Atomic Redster doubledeck but it is no more.

It is being replaced next season.


Now I can't say I get excited when a salesman approaches me uninvited and tries to sell me his product - think doorstep salesman.

But this was different.

" I represent Volkl and would like you to come a test out some of our skis," said Mr Salesman.

"Sure thing," I replied.

And then I was travelling up with a pair of Volkl Code S attached to my feet.

I recieved the usuall sales pitch and information about the ski.

Apparently those silver things on the end of the ski are to keep them stable and were where developed from scientists who put dampners in buildings in earthquake zones.

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I was slightly sceptical.

And then I skied it.

Wow!  It was stable.

Rock solid stable.

A fabulous piste ski.

And I told Mr Salesman - David Sawyer-Parker - about my earlier reservations.

He laughed and understood.

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The ski does not come cheap - £750 with bindings - but is worth the outlay in my opinion.

In the afternoon I tuned to the all mountain and tested the Atomic Vantage and the Blizzard Brahma - but more of their on piste performance in the blog on all-mountain skis.

I'm sitting back and waiting for the powder.

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WEDNESDAY 26th April

I have a confession to make. 

I have been skiing for 50 odd years, I work as a ski instructor and I claim to be a decent skier with a pretty exhaustive knowledge on skiing as I ski 100+ days each winter and visit over 50 different ski resorts.

But I can't adjust a binding.

And neither can Katie.

So we learnt.

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You find out the length of your boot.... adjust the toe and heel binding. Clip in anc check it fits and then adjust the din setting.

This is the how tight the boot is attached to the binding and depends on weight and you level.

Personally I prefer a 7 for general skiing and I crank it up to 9 if I am going for it.

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Later I spoke to one of the top testers.

Tom from the Ellis Brigham store in Tamworth.

And I also skied one of my favourite skis of all time that has been upgraded for next season - The Blizzard Bonefide.


Now testing skis in hungry work and Katie was in charge of liberating food form the hotel's breakfats buffet.

Only the hard biloed eggs she had prepared for our lunch turned out to be not quite so hard bolied.

In fast they weren't even soft boiled. They were raw.

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Overnight we had a bit of snow.

Fresh snow at the end of April Smile

Today was a day for all-mountain skis and the bigger variety:

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And this is what it allowed us to do.... test the skis in a bit of powder.

Here I am on the Blizzard Bonefide (see yesterday's blog for my comments on their piste performance).

And these are the Head Kore 105......

And then it was the Atomic Vantage 100 and the Atomic Vantage 90.

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And the Alchemist 99.

All were different with advantages and disadvantages.

So, which did I prefer?

Lets just say I am being drawn to orange - that's the Alchemist 99.

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We will be reviewing them all in our autumn ski test feature that will be out ahead of the winter of 2017/18.

One of the problems though is making notes as  it is easy to forget. Some of the testers wrote it down at the time.

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Katie and I prefered to do it at night back in the hotel as we discussed the pros and cons of each ski we tried.

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Tomorrow more snow is forecast and I'm going bigger...

It's a tough life but someone has to do it Wink


Today we tested powder skis.

In this.

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It was the best morning of the week with deep powder snow - see here for my separate blog on it.

I tried the big boys from Faction, Head, Atomic, Salomon and more.

But all too soon the week was over.

It's a wrap.

It's all over for another year - 70 or so pairs of skis all packed up after being tested into the ground.

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... and ready to go.... and ready to go.

















So, what are my thoughts after spending a full week testing dozens and dozens of pairs of skis?

First of all is that you can't buy a bad pair of skis.

But you can buy the wrong ones.

Either not suited to your standard or the type of skiing you want to do and the snow conditions.

Each ski seems perfectly designed for the job in hand.

Obviously you need a piste ski if you stick to the marked runs.

If you spend 90% of your time on piste then don't buy one of the big fat ones with the fancy graphics.

It may look cool but the chances are you will not have the skill to carve it on the groomers.

If you spend most of your time off piste whether to side of the marked run or further afield then don't get a specialist piste ski.

For me it is not the brand that is important but the type of ski.

I probably spent most of my time on the all-mountain skis.

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For me the Blizzard Bonefide is my weapon of choice but there was very little to chose when up against the Head Kore 105 or the Atomic Vantage 100.

It was the same with the GS skis - they were all superb but you need one to march your ability.

Don't get a stiff and heavy race ski unless you have the ability to turn it and like skiing fast.

And if you want to have an all mountain ski have a think about what you genuinely do and not what you would like to do.

The Atomic Vantages are the case in point.

It is an all-mountain ski but if you spend more time on the piste then go for the 90..... if you spend more time off piste then buy the 100.

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I found the testers from Ellis Brigham experts in their field - knowledgeable, patient and full of wisdom.

The next time someone asks me what ski they should buy I will simply advise them to go to Ellis Brigham and be honest.

They will need to speak to one of the ski experts and be accurate about their skill levels, and hopes for the future.

Many products  in the world of the 21st century seem to be morphing into each other and going to the lowest common denominator and centre ground.

Not so skis - they really are differences between them all and each ski is different.

Think craft beers. Or wine.

And lets not foget that colour is important. 

Skis, jackets, gloves, rucksacks, goggles...

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But how many people does it take to adjust a binding? Wink

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Later in the year we will reporting on all the skis on offer for next winter.  If you have half as much fun reading all about it as we had testing them then our job is done...

Roll on the season of 2017/18.

See here for the main PlanetSKI news page with all the latest stories from the world of snowsports.

PlanetSKI: No1 for ski news

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