BLISTER Buyer’s Guide, Pt. 2 + Reviews of Other Buyer’s Guides (Ep.69)



TOPICS & TIMES:

  • Listener questions (4:21)
  • Why curated.com is the worst (46:30)
  • Product reviews from other buyer’s guides (53:05)

Last week on GEAR:30, we talked about some of our 19/20 Blister “Best Of” selections and some of the products that just missed the cut, and why. And we also discussed some general trends and some of our takeaways from putting our big Buyer’s Guide together.

In this episode, we’re answering a bunch of the questions you submitted, then in the back half of our conversation, we assess some of the product reviews from several of the other ski review publications and one gear recommendation website. And fair warning here, I get pretty fired up. Because there are still a lot of fake reviews and extremely misleading product reviews and product recommendation services out there, and this really needs to stop. Those review publications and review services need to do better, or we need to stop supporting them.

There is a little bit of strong language in this episode, so please don’t listen if that offends you. But we here at Blister are far more offended by the fake and / or misleading reviews and product recommendations in the outdoor sports world that are posing as legitimate consumer product information. Anyway, judge for yourself.

Update: Get our Buyer’s Guide / Blister Member Benefits

We recently released the digital edition of our big, brand-new 19/20 Blister Winter Buyer’s Guide. And the limited-edition print version of the guide is going to be shipping out in just a couple of days, so keep an eye on your mailbox for that.

If you’d like to get a limited-edition print copy of the guide, there is still time to order them on our website. Here at Blister, we refer to the print edition guide pretty much everyday, and we know that a lot of ski manufacturers and product managers use this guide as a reference book to keep tabs on what the rest of the industry is up to.

The other thing you can do to get the print edition of the guide — while quantities last — is to become a Blister Member. Blister Members receive:

  • The print-edition of the guide
  • Get access to all of our Flash Reviews and Deep Dive Comparisons
  • Can email us with any gear questions and get our personalized recommendations
  • Get access to a number of exclusive deals & discounts from various manufacturers so that, if you use any of those deals or discounts, the Membership literally more than pays for itself

And as you will hear in this episode, we believe that there are more reasons than ever before to support independent review sources — ones that won’t lie to you, and that you can actually trust.

Blister discusses reader questions regarding Blister's 19/20 Winter Buyer's Guide, and responds to the other winter buyer's guides
Sam Shaheen on the K2 Midbender 108Ti, Crested Butte, CO.

22 comments on “BLISTER Buyer’s Guide, Pt. 2 + Reviews of Other Buyer’s Guides (Ep.69)”

    • I don’t mind naming a shitty publication. (I am not affiliated with Blister.)

      The “puppies” & “hummingbirds” text is from Freeskier. Also, Freeskier’s numerical ratings methodology has been fundamentally flawed in multiple ways for years. One obvious example is how this year, Freeskier is reporting that a 194cm 4FRNT Devastator gets Stability=9.33/10, while a 156cm Völkl Secret 102 gets AN EVEN HIGHER Stability=9.38/10. That is not credible to me. Freeskier reports lame text & misleading numerical ratings, and I don’t see how their reviews can help readers.

  1. Thanks as always for putting together an honest and informative buyers guide. To me, the most frustrating thing about some publications is their refusal to acknowledge trade-offs in ski design, which obviously exist else there would (hopefully) just be one perfect product (aka the soul 7). Blister is also the only source that bothers to write and think about interaction effects (e.g. soft but heavy or straight plus lots of rocker), which seems like a huge part of writing a review since its something the consumer cannot easily analyze for themselves…

    Anyway, sweet guide.

    • Thank you, Eddie.

      Some possible answers to your observations: (1) They don’t want to upset the ski manufacturers who advertise with them and / or pay to be in these guides (2) You have to actually spend enough time on or in products to talk accurately about true tradeoffs. (3) You also have to care – even just a little – about helping skiers & snowboarders find the right product. But these writeups are clear evidence that they don’t. At all. Helping skiers & snowboarders is not the point or purpose of these guides.

  2. agreed – powder and freeskier reviews are pure marketing paid for “reviews” – utterly worthless.

    good points though – made me laugh :)

  3. You guys mentioned in the context of one of the bad reviews that you think different snowboards can have different speeds based on shape, but you think skis of similar length/width don’t vary in terms of speed.

    Do you think that is true in powder? I found the speed/frictionless feeling of the 4FRNT EHP and Renegade in powder to be one of the defining characteristics of the skis. Even with their tips below the surface, those skis move faster down a given powder covered slope than other skis of similar waist widths for me. The only sensation of friction/resistance is boot drag, not the ski itself.

    Anyway, thanks for all you guys do! Going to try to pick up some Black Ops 118s this year based on Luke’s glowing review.

    • Hey, Dan – two important things here:

      (1) I just talked to Luke about his statement, and the main thing he was trying to convey was that, in Powder’s description of the Citadel 106 — “The Union found this technology means no chatter, but also less speed” — he (and we) think it is nonsensical to talk about how the tech / construction of a ski can make it *stable* (“this technology means no chatter”) but also *slower*. A ski can be stable but unforgiving. But we’ve never seen a ski — including the Citadel 106 — have a tech that makes it stable but slower than other skis.

      (2) I consider your other question to be a different question. And here, I would say that *shapes* can definitely affect speed in pow. We can’t think of examples where the “technology” or construction of a ski makes it slower or faster than another ski — assuming their weights, flex patterns, and shapes, are similar.

      • The negative value delivered by that particular review might be rare in that the review might not be strictly false this time—but instead might possibly be a valid observation communicated poorly via irresponsible wording.

        If I give them the benefit of the doubt, I’m guessing they meant: “The Union found this technology [of the whole idea of severe weight reduction, and then hoping to compensate for the resulting instability with non-Newtonian goo] means no chatter, but also less [top end] speed [limit before the whole severely-lightweight ski deflects too much to maintain control].”

        But way more fun if they claim this defense instead: “The Union found this technology [of non-Newtonian goo, which delivers less rebound] means no chatter, but also less speed [in pump track tests, skier-cross course pumping tests, etc. where pumping is well-known to be faster when you have more rebound than when you have less rebound].”

      • Thanks Jonathan! I agree, never skied anything with tech/layup that makes the ski slower per se. Unforgiving or poor suspension in rough snow, yes… and the OG Renegade comes to mind in that context. I couldn’t ski those planks at speed in bad snow to save my life.

        But straight shapes, above average weights, subtle reverse camber profiles, medium to stiff flex patterns, and semi pintails (and/or lack of wide twin tip tails) seem to make a ski faster in pow for me. Not necessarily better, just faster (and will require more turns to control speed) down a given pow covered slope.

  4. Great episode! I appreciate the thorough and thoughtful descriptions of gear in your guide. I always thought the silly metaphors in other publications were ment to be accessible and relatable to new skiers. I’m curious how you would write ski reviews directed at folks that don’t understand adjectives like damp, poppy, playful, hooky, or decently edgy. Would you use broader metaphors or expect the reader to pick up the lingo from context?

    • In the Guide, I see some write-ups in which Blister used some simple language for some of the vanilla skis, that are low-risk of being strongly hated. The write-up for Salomon QST 106 says, “…if you’re not crystal clear on exactly what you’re looking for in a ski, grab the QST 106, and we suspect you’ll have a great time.” I think new skiers can understand that language.

      • Thanks, Leif — good question, and you already got a very good answer from Vitamin I.

        Regarding making reviews “accessible” and “relatable” … that is definitely a worthy goal of reviews. But when you sacrifice all *accuracy* in the interest of being “accessible” … then we have a real problem, and the descriptions become not “relatable” but condescending, patronizing, useless … and / or dead wrong.

        And that’s the big problem with “silly metaphors” — like cliches, they are impediments to thought, and obstacles to accuracy.

        But again, keep in mind that many other review publications are not spending any or enough time on the products they’re writing about … so they just slap together some bad copy about hummingbirds or race cars.

        At the beginning of our buyer’s guide, we have a link to our Snowsports Glossary of Terms. And so, yes, we think that glossary + a passionate skier or snowboarder’s ability to get a handle on the performance of a product (even if they do not know every single term) given the context of our descriptions plus the Blister Spectrums is more effective than silly metaphors.

        • I reread your review of the qst106 and several others as vitamin suggested. You guys do write simple understandable reviews without the cliches and you don’t overuse technical terms. The spectrum is legit, that’s the most helpful part of any gear guide I’ve ever seen.

  5. So I just listened to Parts 1 and 2 on the way to and from the bike park today. Awesome stuff! In part 2, I believe you posed the question with respect to other buyer’s guides: “Who’s would pick this up and give it any weight?” (Or words similar to that sentiment). And the answer is: 99% of the people on the hill. The reason is most people don’t have the innate interest in equipment and gear that all us Blisterers have. They go into their local shop and will drop $$$ on whatever the guy/kid in the shop tells them to buy. They have no information, no data, usually no skill and, most certainly, no interest in learning. So when those other publications are stacked two feet high as you walk in the door, they assume whatever is in there is gospel or they don’t even care.

    To be clear, this IS an indictment of all those black bib guys with beer bellys — and yes, I’m being extremely judgey (because those dudes usually create risk to others on the mountain) — but what it simply comes down to is individual interests. I’m 53 years old and have been skiing for 50 years, and I still (like, this afternoon) go in the basement to just look at my skis and scratch the itch until it snows. I’m the idiot who is fortunate enough to be able to fly to Tahoe for a weekend, but will go a day early just to hit the Moment factory on way from the airport. Wait, did I mention that I’m dragging my 15 year old daughter to the Winterland showing Thursday night because none of my buddies could get a hall pass?? The black bib crowd don’t care about this stuff. They’ll agonize for hours over their fantasy football leagues, but will then go to REI and buy boots that have more room in them than my house slippers!!

    I agree 100% with your view on those other “reviews”, but the thing is, while no publication should put forth data with no actual, substantive investigation, the audience for those buyer’s guides is not being harmed because whether they read those reviews or yours, they don’t have the perspective to decipher and digest the beta you’re putting out. What you guys are doing is akin to the Jehovah’s Witnesses that go house to house — your message is going to spread individually and at the grassroots level to those skiers who want the product you’re distributing. And that’s a good thing. It’s like parents always tell their kids, “don’t worry about what your friends are doing, worry about yourself.” Blister is a unique and absolutely fantastic idea, resource and product. Keep doing what you’re doing because we love it!

    For the record, I wear Baker Bibs and they are not black . . .

    • Thanks for the comments, Chris. I’d agree with you that if someone has no interest in learning / just doesn’t care … then there is little that we’ll be able to do for them.

      I would disagree with you, however, that they are “not being harmed” by those buyer’s guides.

      I talk to people in lift lines and on chair lifts all the time who are clearly on gear that is making their experience on the mountain worse – more difficult and less fun than it could and should be. I hear a lot of, “I’m not good enough to know the difference when it comes to gear.” And that is false — they might not *know* that a rockered, ~108 mm wide ski will make their deep pow day much easier and more enjoyable than the ~80mm-wide, flat-tailed demo ski that they are on, but it will. (And that’s just one example.)

      Furthermore, I definitely believe (and know) that one need not be some expert or longtime skier to get a handle on what we’re up to. And I believe / know this because we hear from people new to the sport all the time who say that they’ve learned a lot reading our reviews, GEAR 101 articles, etc.

      And that makes us very happy, because that is very much our goal – that while we don’t use cute puppy metaphors much (because we think that’s unhelpful and condescending), people who are genuinely interested in learning more about these sports we love seem to think this is a valuable resource. But a resource that can and will continue to be fine tuned.

  6. The topic of Blister’s dissatisfaction with Curated.com came up in discussion at PugSki.com, and I posted there, so I might as well paste it here too. When I first tried Curated.com back in April, they sucked. When I tried them again a few days ago, they sucked again.

    I can confirm Blister employees’ bad experiences while using Curated.com. Curated delivered an EVEN WORSE experience to me (I’m not affiliated with Blister). I consider it unethical for Curated to use the public as guinea pigs for profit while they are “testing out” how high ticket items can be sold. It would be more ethical to defer public release of Curated’s recommendation system until AFTER the recommendation system/process has been refined and tested using INTERNAL employees/testers (who wouldn’t actually buy, it would just be testing internal R&D).

    MAJOR FLAW #1: After user finishes answering all the questions of the new-user-experience, the system should display something HONEST like “Sorry, we still don’t know enough about you to make a sufficiently-personalized recommendation, so later we’ll need to have you speak with a human, and we’ll get more info from you at that time.” Instead, the system just attempts a money grab by recommending an immediate purchase that is a POOR MATCH for the user.

    MAJOR FLAW #2: Curated deceptively reports their user satisfaction ratings for ONLY the subset of visitors who bought. So, Curated is inflating their reported ratings by not including any satisfaction ratings from the visitors who were so dissatisfied with Curated service that they refused to buy.

    DETAILS OF MY CASE: Curated’s system recommended that I buy a Head Kore 93 180cm. It is an understatement for me to say that ski is a POOR MATCH for my tastes. That ski is 1585g, 180cm, & 93mm underfoot. Turns out my tastes are WAY WAY DIFFERENT: I like skis that are literally ~3000g, ~195cm, ~130mm underfoot…like a 2013 metal Volkl Kuro 195cm, or a 2011 Blizzard Zeus 194cm, etc. It’s hard to imagine any recommendation system being WORSE at personalization/curation than Curated.com.

  7. Thanks for both episodes, just listened to them back to back and always find the discussion between the 3 of you helps me in how I try to think and learn about skis and skiing (coming from a base of waaay lower knowledge and experience).

    I was someone who a few years back wanted to learn more about different skis and so thought subscribing to one of the mags would make sense. To your point, you see a gear edition with all the lovely pics and short descriptions and it feels helpful, and it is (kind of), when you don’t know any better. Then I discovered Blister because I was looking for a more detailed review and then afterwards found demo weekends so that I could actually try skis myself. The reviews in mags are just so insubstantial and now I find myself getting annoyed if I see one cos they typically don’t even include weights in their specs! So one could make the argument that they served a purpose (for me at least) as they whetted my appetite to go find something that really described using the ski rather than, you know, looking at it in the shop.

    I guess also there is a ‘know thy audience’ element to this too. I would guess most people are not skiing anywhere near the number of days that you do, or wanting to ski the type of terrain you do. Now that could be cos they haven’t been getting on anything other than rentals and/or it could be that they love their skiing as a social activity, don’t want to leave the pistes etc. I would still argue that the mag reviews will not help them either and you may say you are not really writing for that audience, but it’s a big population I would imagine.

    BTW I listened and then wondered if these were video podcasts, would have happily listened/watched them again just to see what colour Jonathan was turning and how many veins were popping ;o)

  8. And meant to ask, where you include a ski in the guide that is not listed as tested on your site, where is that input on the ski coming from? Is it that one of you has ski’d it but not in a Blister capacity and not as a review?

  9. I’m curious what other guides or sources of reviews are out there that you all respect and value the opinions of? You mention the importance of reading reviews and not just listening to what someone in the shop says as well as the fact there are MANY unreliable sources for reviews so besides reading Blister reviews where else can I turn for an additional opinion?

    Thanks for the detail and the level of care that you put into all of your pieces!

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