Testing New Skis on Austria’s Highest Mountains


Early & late season skiing

Some Austrian resorts are high enough to make early season skiing well worth while. Kühtai and Sölden are perhaps the best of these, Kühtai being one of the highest resorts in Europe. Although early and late seasons don’t offer as full a range of skiing as the height of the winter season, it’s far less crowded, and the experience of hurtling down glaciers and high alpine tracks under blue summer skies is not to be missed.

Certainly, with the nearest winter slopes in the southern hemisphere, die-hard skiers flock from as far afield as Moscow to enjoy these locations. Kühtai is 2020 metres up, with slopes towering above the village, making it ideal for out-of-season skiing, and properties for sale in Kühtai are in great demand. Many athletes, such as Bode Miller and Lindsay Vonn, use it for high-altitude training all year-round.

Testing the skis

It’s to these resorts the industry turns to test the equipment they’re planning to sell for the following winter. This year, for instance, Kühtai hosted the Snowsport Industries of Great Britain ski test, while Sölden is popular for events held by individual companies including the Salomon Station on the Rettenbach glacier.

Testing carries on from the tail-end of the winter through to the summer and autumn months, going from determining which designs will be worth selling to familiarising employees with the strengths and quirks of each pair of skis. Typically, testers will be given the chance to try out equipment on the glacier and then fill in a report card, scoring the skis on criteria such as agility, ease of use and stability.

Completely new ski designs are rare, of course, and most of the new products are refinements or improvements of existing models and construction techniques. Manufacturers constantly test their products, so the skis are always evolving, though every so often a ski is produced that remains popular year after year, needing little change.

Different sidecuts, cambers and rockers suit different kinds of skiers and slope conditions. An intermediate who wants to turn more easily won’t want the same design as the dedicated off-piste skier who wants to float in deeper snow, though some models are made to be versatile.

Whatever the specifications, Europe’s leading ski manufacturers have the perfect setting to make sure their improvements work on Austria’s high alpine resorts found in Tirol.