15 Skiers From Around The Nation Choose Their Dream Quiver

The first thing we did was assemble a team, which, admittedly, was incomplete the first day of Powder Week, our industry event dedicated to checking out all the new skis for 2011. This year we hit the big time—the 10th annual—with every year but one held at Jackson Hole, including the last six in a row. If you need to know why we keep going back to this big mountain with a unique vibe and history, perhaps you should just stop whatever it is you’re doing and go there right now. Just go and give ’er hell. You’ll figure it out pretty quickly.

In Teton Village, with a few hundred skis at our disposal, everything appeared set to launch our first-ever Skier’s Choice Fantasy Draft—the goal being to shake up the status quo of buyer’s guides everywhere by letting real skiers pick their favorite skis. We had the Powder staff, trusted correspondents, ski bums, world travelers, ripping females, shop rats, and former gate-chasers, each selected for their intimate knowledge of ski gear and passion for the sport. We also wanted geographic diversity, knowing full well that styles change with regional snow conditions.

With one piece still missing, a 17-year-old kid on vacation showed up from out of nowhere. Thinking he was one of the “testers,” someone gave him a pair of boards and told him to go out and get busy. Later that day, someone else gave the kid an avalanche beacon and a quick tutorial, and brought him into Granite Canyon. Questionable judgment perhaps (sorry, Mom!), but I ran into Max The Poacher at the bottom of the canyon wearing the biggest smile I’d ever seen. Max, a park rat from New Hampshire, wasn’t quite used to such terrain (not many people are), but it was obvious that the last piece of our team was in place. Then, like all real skiers do when given the chance, we skied our asses off, rotating from brand to brand to brand.

Afterward, the 15 skiers in our Fantasy Draft were asked to build a quiver, pulling skis from four categories: powder, all-mountain, park, and dream trip. They would also select their preferred boot and binding. Rule #1: Once a product was chosen, it was off the table. This ensured diversity in the lineup. Then we drew names out of a hat to determine who would go first, and we flipped the order between each round. Those selections, dubbed the Skier’s Choice—60 skis, 15 boots, 15 bindings—are presented over the following pages.

So what does this Buyer’s Guide prove? Besides creating late-night bouts of schizophrenia—Who am I? Who am I really?—it shows that, more than ever, there is an incredibly diverse and talented roster of skis out there waiting to get snatched up. The 60 skis in this Buyer’s Guide represent our favorites, but you could easily add fifth and sixth rounds. Case in point: The Volkl Gotama, one of the most popular all-mountain skis of the last decade, wasn’t even selected, and the K2 Pontoon was still available in the final round. Which is why we’re also including a list of Free Agents – gear that didn’t get pegged but that still deserves your special consideration.

Despite our grade-A efforts, these selections will not be perfect for everyone. There is no science behind the Fantasy Draft, only the reflection of what a handful of real skiers want. Now it’s up to you to build your dream team. Which skis will you pick?

–MATT HANSEN