The curse of American reviews

Gigiski is a Dutch-Belgian venture. For the most part, our audience is European (from the low countries, in fact). Regarding website visits, 95% are from Europe; in ski advice, 100% are European. In fact, most of these visits and advice requests are from countries that have no real mountains or local skiing culture of their own (apart from indoor slopes). So it’s fair to say, that most of our visitors and clients are non-local skiers looking for some guidance in ski selection and fully trust our reviews and comments – there is no chance of a quick demo before purchasing.

We are, of course, not the only website that publishes ski reviews. There are several forums, web shops, and outdoor websites that have them too. And youtube, of course, is loaded with ‘reviews’ too (most of them just list specs and offer no real appreciation of the performance on snow, though, other than what the brochure says). Luckily, there are some exceptions. 

American dominance

There is one factor, however, that cannot be ignored. 80% – maybe more – of all written or video ski reviews are North American. In itself, this is not a problem. They’re in English and therefore reach a wide global audience. But American skiing and ski culture are quite a bit different from European ski culture. Or maybe they aren’t, but the skis in review and the entire frame of reference are quite different from European (Alpine) skiing. 

The main differences are the amount and type of snow (especially in the Western half of North America, where most reviews are from), and the approach to skiing other types of terrain besides the marked and groomed runs. The latter – groomers – is definitely the European default. In fact, anything off the groomers is technically off-piste and therefore not necessarily safe (in terms of signage, obstacles, avalanches), patrolled, or covered by insurance. 

This does influence the skis that are in review. In American reviews, you really have to look hard to find any ski narrower than 80 mm underfoot in reviews. Most of them start around 88 mm in waist width – as a ‘hard snow ski’. For reference: in Europe, that would be considered too wide for most recreational skiers, unless they do venture off-piste from time to time or are ski patrollers in a snowy place like Verbier or Tignes or something. Obviously, European skiers ski wider skis as well, but not a 100+ mm ski as a day-to-day allrounder. As a freeride-specific ski, sure.

All is relative

If you like wide skis with a stiff flex and some rocker to help you get through the crud or bumps (in stead of proper technique) – have a blast. But calling a 104 mm wide freeride ski with tonnes of rocker and early taper ‘the best carver on icy hardpacked snow ever’ (yes, I have seen that quote in that context) is ridiculous. Perhaps compared to other skis in that width or category. 

On icy hardpack, a narrow ski (actually narrow, 65-70 mm let’s say) with hardly any or just no rocker at all, with a good tune and extended sidecut would definitely be a better carver. If you ski them right, they’re just as good when the runs start to deteriorate and get bumpy. This kind of objectivity is hardly found in American reviews. If you find reviews of these kinds of skis at all. 

Skiing in North America (Colorado): off the groomers, variable, soft snow and bumps

Risks

Most of the ski reviews one can find online are American. Most skis reviewed online are viewed from an American perspective. In itself, nothing wrong with that. The problem occurs, however, when those skis in American reviews are bought by Europeans that don’t first convert or translate them to the realities of skiing in Europe. 

I have seen quite a few consumers disappointed with their purchase because we don’t have Utah champagne powder here. In fact, they only ski outside the groomers only twice a season. The other days, they ski behind their kid on a small hill. Try getting a set of Bonafides through each turn without the speed or power to bend them. ‘But they said these were the most versatile skis you can buy!’. For that professional skier maybe, who skis 100 days a year, in variable snow, at high speeds, and probably has a shed with 4 other pairs of skis at home. 

My point: be real, look at what you really will be doing during your skiing days. And remember: the skiing culture, snow conditions, frame of reference, and type of skiing may be very different in America, compared to the Alps. 

4 comments on “The curse of American reviewsAdd yours →

  1. If I take a look on youtube and search for ski reviews, I tend to find a lot of them from British ski shops. Reviews toned to their customer base, largely comparative to ours.
    American reviews are generally more extensive written reviews, and won’t show up that easily if not opening a private search browser.

    So more to the point would be to look at where/what nationality the review is (from). Britons tend to appreciate the midrange skis for comfortable cruising, Italian and Polish reviewers often prefer proper racers, Germans do enjoy quality gear and focus on hardpack, French are more free-minded and as for North Americans, they do have the above mentioned different snow conditions compared to us Europeans.

    1. All true. But research shows that most (by far!) reviews are American. The English language really helps. For many people, Italian, French or Polish is not easy to follow… That factors in as well.

  2. This article is spot on. I am an avid skier, Masters racer who likes moguls, Powder and has done considerable heli-skiing in BC, Alaska, Europe, and even Iceland. In Vermont, many recreational skiers are on fat skis despite conditions that do not favor them. Out West nearly everyone other than myself is on fat skis I was in Zermatt this March and most skiers are on carvers. If you ski properly, narrow carvers are better in moguls and you can ski off-piste if you are a good skier. I admit that I have a 90mm underfoot ski for off-piste skiing but it is perhaps my least used ski.

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