Spending a lot of time in a ski resort leads to getting to know the local shop owners and staff. This can result in free ski and snowboard waxing, complimentary food and drink, and preferential treatment. I managed to blag my way into the snowboard test for professionals, right here in La Clusaz, and then the ski test in Méribel a week later. It was a semi-legitimate blag: I work for the shop every now and again.
These two days have been the highlight of my ski season so far. Trying next year’s equipment was a real pleasure, but even better, I was able to mingle with professionals and talk about the stuff I love – skis and snowboards. Given I’ve been skiing for three decades and snowboarding for two, I didn’t feel guilty about being there; I was more qualified to test the skis in Méribel than my ski tech friend who came with me — a snowboarder with limited ability on skis.
Equipment test days for professionals are very different to the ones for the public. There are breakfast treats, three-course lunches (some that came in giant saucepans), all-day snacks and drinks, plus free clothes galore. A free lift pass is provided at registration. Yes, that meant free skiing in Méribel! Guests can lounge around indoors or chat to ski designers and company owners. There are competitions, TV interviews and a mutual respect between the exhibitors and the testers. The limited number of invitees ensures much shorter queues, if any, than those seen at public ski tests. It could also be related to all that free food luring hungry boarders and skiers away from testing.
I felt like I had found ‘my people’ at both the ski test and the snowboard test days. I want to work for Burton, Dupraz and maybe even Volkl, whose staff dressed in lederhosen and provided beer all afternoon. Top points go to K2 for their buckets of single red roses. Mine has since wilted, but the happy memories of the test days live on. If you’re thinking of spending a winter in the Alps, consider being a ski tech! Now, to find a ski manufacturer who will employ me.