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Ski Testing Through The Eyes of a Newbie

Posted July 11, 2022 @ 11:56am | by Tyler Fuller

I wake up with a refreshing dose of anxiety as my alarm startles me to life for a bright and early 4:47 am start to the day. I sit on the edge of my bed tiredly staring at the bags I packed the night before and run through a mental checklist, knowing full well I’ll get to the mountain and realize I forgot something. After a quick shower, I look into the mirror and tell myself I’m the best skier on the mountain (disclaimer: this is a reference to the game of GNAR and I’m not actually a conceited a**hole (well maybe I am, but not in this instance)). 

Flash forward a couple of hours and we are pulling into the parking lot of beautiful Mount Sunapee. The car reads a balmy 4 degrees and I spot some fellow Ski Monster folks already suited up, chilling on the Sunapee “beach,” soaking in the rays of the cold winter sun. This beach may not be your typical sandy coastline, but it’s arguably something much better: a perfect spot for aprés chillin’ and grillin’ at the base of the mountain that is guaranteed to foster immaculate vibes.


Getting ready, Sunapee, Beach, New Hampshire, TSM, The Ski Monster, skis, skiing, ski test, boots

Stoke levels are high as the crew suits up.


My fingers are numb as I stretch the stiff plastic of my boots and cram my feet inside. I struggle into the rest of my gear and walk over to where today’s demo fleet is laid out on the snow. Today we’re testing a bunch of heavy hitters and I couldn’t be more stoked. On deck, we have Atomic Maverick 95s, Elan Ripstick Black 96s, Volkl Mantra M6s, Armada Declivity 92s, Blizzard Bonafide 97s and Nordica Enforcer 94s. As I look at the skis in front of me, I feel like a kid in a candy shop. 


Skiing, skis, ski test, testing, gear test, The Ski Monster, TSM, Nordica Enforcer, Armada Declivity, Blizzard Bonafide

Pictured left to right: Armada Declivity 92, Nordica Enforcer 94, Elan Ripstick Black 96, Blizzard Bonafide 97.


Having started at The Ski Monster in August, this is my first chance to actually ski on the gear I’ve been talking about all Fall. Sure, I’ve been able to pick the minds of everyone at the store and know how everything is supposed to ski, but seeing is believing, and I know that being able to actually compare how different models ski side by side is going to be a game-changer. 

With everyone accounted for and stoke levels high despite the frigid temperatures, we click into the skis and start skating our way to the lift. As the chairlift picks up speed out of the terminal an irrational thought creeps into my mind about whether I remember how to ski. Sure, I grew up in Colorado and have been skiing most winter weekends since I was three years old, but carving turns in front of a camera on a bunch of skis I’ve never tried before seems like a perfect storm for looking like an idiot. 

I snap out of my existential crisis in time to realize that we’ve reached the end of the lift, and I hop off the chair with much less confidence than I started with (definitely not feeling like the best skier on the mountain). Thankfully, the plan is to take a couple of hot laps before skiing for the camera, so I have some time to shake off the first-day jitters. A few turns in and I’m feeling good; my anxious energy is washing away with every arc. 

After lapping the North Peak Triple a couple of times it’s showtime. We ski to the top of a run and Matt, our brand director starts giving instructions on what turns he wants to see. To start, he wants a left-footer finishing in front of him with the apex of the turn being at the top of the knoll and points to the spot he’s talking about. After finishing his spiel he skis off, leaving me extremely confused and looking around for clarification. Luckily, I get to watch a few people go before me, so I can see how it’s done. Without fail, every one of them bangs out the turn with flawless execution, and before I know it, I’m up. 


Armada Declivity, George, skiing, ski, ski test, winter, snow, New Hampshire, The Ski Monster, TSM

George looking lethal slicing and dicing on some Arrmada Declivity 92s.


Andrew, our head cheerleader, radios down to Matt letting him know I’m dropping, and I push off into my first turn. After a couple of leisurely arcs, I’m feeling pretty confident, but then it’s time for the big hero turn. 

Having spent a fair amount of time scrolling through The Ski Monster Instagram, I’ve come to the conclusion that the name of the game for groomer shots is getting low. Only problem is that while I consider myself a pretty confident skier, groomer skiing is something I didn’t do a whole lot of growing up. I lived in the bumps, trees, and bowls. Groomers were just a tedious necessity for getting to the stuff I liked. I never understood the need for speed and had no interest in becoming the next Bode Miller. 

That said, I am feeling extremely ill-prepared for arcing a nice turn in front of a camera, and I’m painfully aware of my lack of experience as I begin to shift my weight into the hero turn. To make matters worse, having gotten lost in my thoughts, I realize too late that I’ve already hit the knoll and am just now initiating my turn. This is definitely less than ideal, since I should be at the peak of my turn by now. Knowing that if I try to turn in front of Matt at this point I’ll inevitably make direct contact with his shins, I opt for finishing my turn below him. I miss the mark. 

Adding insult to injury (you know, to my ego, since I spared Matt's shins), my attempt to get low shifts all my weight to the back seat and collapses my torso, so I definitely look like I’m taking a dump. Great job, Tyler! That should make for a great photo!

As the day carries on, I start to relax into the rhythm of things. I worry less about trying to get the shot and simply enjoy the fact that I’m out skiing. Turns out the less you think about trying to get low or pose for the shot the better you look. Go figure. 


Tyler, The Ski Monster, TSM, skiing, ski test, ski, winter, snow

Lasered in on Matt behind the camera lens. 


Being in a more relaxed mental state, I’m able to focus on how the different skis are performing and begin to ask the important questions. How smoothly does the ski initiate a turn? Is the ski better at initiating turns at slower speeds or higher speeds? How does the ski grip? Does the ski feel nimble and playful or more damp and stable? Does the ski feel like it wants to be on edge, or are you able to smear your turns a bit? All of these questions and more are running through my head as I assess a ski's performance.

By about 2 pm the clouds have rolled in, making conditions for photos less than optimal, so we ski down to the base where Eric, one of the founders of The Ski Monster, is waiting with a cooler full of refreshments and 4 massive pizzas. I’m not sure when he slipped away to pick them up, but I’m famished and couldn’t be more ready to stuff my face full of ‘za. 

As I sit on the snow drinking a beer and reflecting on the day, I’m convinced this is an all-time work day. I just don’t know how it gets much better than spending all day on a bunch of skis that haven't even hit the market yet, and then finishing it off with some beer and pizza. My younger self would be going nuts right now. Lucky for me it’s just my first test day of many.


pizza, TSM, The Ski Monster, ski, skiing, ski test, Apres, hanging out, winter

Inside look into an integral part of any successful ski day: Aprés. And yes the vibes were immaculate. 


Since that first day at Sunapee, I’ve been able to go to 10+ test days at various mountains, testing skis under a variety of conditions, and every test day has provided me with unique insights. 

Some of those test days were with brands, while other days were just The Ski Monster crew. The big difference being that when we were out with brands, we were skiing exclusively on their skis. When it was just The Ski Monster squad we were testing skis from a bunch of different brands at once. 

While skiing with brands has been the name of the game for many years, there is a lot of value in being able to compare skis from different companies on the same day and testing models side by side. 


Skiing, skis, ski test, adjusting, bindings, TSM The Ski Monster, winter, snow

Behind the scenes of switching out and adjusting the sticks.


During the past couple of seasons, we have been able to build a company demo fleet of 70+ skis by coordinating with brands and reps, which has been an absolute game-changer for testing. Having our own fleet allows us to test more skis, more often, and under more conditions. You simply can’t get a holistic understanding of a pair of skis without skiing them under a range of conditions. For example, there were days when I wouldn’t love how something skied, but then I would try that same pair a couple of months later with different conditions and it would be awesome. It really opened my eyes to the extent that conditions can impact one’s perception of a ski’s performance. 

The other cool thing about having our own demo fleet is that everyone in the company is able to test skis, and everyone’s input is taken into consideration. The wide range of skier types and abilities within the company provides a more diverse perspective on how skis perform. Too often in the industry, testing is done solely by expert skiers, whereas the market includes people of all ability levels. While there is certainly value in the knowledge experts bring to the process, it also makes sense to me to have a collection of testers that reflect the market. 


skiing, ski test, TSM, Sunapee, winter, snow, The Ski Monster

The group debriefs about where to hit up next.


While ski testing is definitely a fun perk of the job, more importantly, it’s integral to how The Ski Monster conducts business. By testing correctly and effectively, the ski buyers are able to create a highly curated selection of products with the end consumer in mind. When you buy from The Ski Monster, you know the person you're working with is speaking from first-hand experience with the gear we carry. We aren't just quoting product summaries from manufacturers. TSM is built diffo and I couldn’t be more stoked to be a part of this avant-garde approach to ski and snowboard retail. 


skiing, ski test, chairlift, Tylerr, TSM, The Ski Monster, winter, snow

Peace out son!

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