Advertisers Or Readers?

Ski testing in the early 70s challenged SKI magazine’s leaders in ways they didn’t anticipate.  While our readers loved the reviews and wanted more, we were careful about what we wrote.

A huge proportion of SKI Magazine’s income came from advertisers.  Our publisher regularly reminded me that ad revenue dwarfed what came in from subscriptions and special events.

However, readers showed up in ski shops with ski reports in hand asking questions that the shop personnel couldn’t answer nor could the manufacturers’ reps.  Skiers wrote to us asking for data on skis that weren’t reported. 

Right away, the question “do we print a bad report?” came up.  Space limitations limited how many skis we could cover and only printed “good” reports.

SKI was accused by some manufacturers of destroying a whole year’s worth of marketing with our reports.  Several challenged our results and methodology, but, after seeing the details, were satisfied with its accuracy that reflected what they already knew or suspected.

We offered to bench test and ski prototype new products, and many took the magazine up on its offer.  Again our data proved to be accurate.

Unfortunately, we became the whipping boys of the marketing people.  Our response was to only sell skis that performed was met with cold stares.

Pressure mounted because several manufacturers threatened to reduce their spend with the magazine unless we gave their skis “good” reports.  John Fry, Ski Magazine’s editor in chief at the time, refused in a battle that was well above my pay grade.

In the end, SKIpp debunked three “sacred truths” of ski design at the time:

  1. Myth – ski core determines performance.  The truth – the core is nothing more than a form around which the materials that affect the performance are mounted;
  2. Myth – Side cut determines how well a ski carves.  The truth – side cut has little to do with how well a ski carves but does affect the rate of turn (remember, this was long before the shaped skis of today); and
  3. Myth – Material A is better than Material B.  The truth – it is how the materials properties are combined into the ski’s flex pattern, damping and resistance to torsion that determines how well a ski performs not the materials themselves.

Forty-four years later, after running one of the most innovative ski testing programs in the industry, my 73 year-old legs still have some calibration left and if you gave me a row of unmarked skis covered, I’ll bet I can name the brand after two runs.

Now, I rent skis because I don’t want to schlepp them on airplanes, and, because most ski shops have a selection of high performance skis, you can swap out on a daily basis.  This way I can play ski tester every time I ski.  So, some things never change.

2 Comments

  1. Avatar Mark Lopshire says:

    Marc,
    Great article!
    Appreciate the insights from the 70s!
    And thank you for your service.
    You are always welcome to ski with us at Magic Mountain in Southern Idaho!
    Mark

  2. Thanx for your kind words. I would love to ski at Magic Mountain!!! One of these days!!!

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