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Tuesday, January 25, 2011
New gear review site vows to tell truth

By Charles Bethea
ESPN Action Sports

Blistergearreviews.com vows to review gear honestly and without favor.

An online ski, snowboard and mountain biking gear review site debuting this week has called out the competition: "The current state of gear reviews is a joke," begins BlisterGearReview.com's brazen online 'manifesto,' which continues: "And short reviews suck." Blister's average product review, by contrast, will be a considerable 1,200 words. "Too many review sites and publications read like the ad copy produced by the manufacturers themselves, and many literally won't publish a negative review of a product ... a serious review forum should not shy away from telling the truth."

Based in Santa Fe, New Mexico, Blister Gear Review is run by a former philosophy PhD student and writer, Jonathan Ellsworth, who has also worked as a personal trainer. Ellsworth, 36, has been skiing for 17 years and says he got 100 days in on the mountain last winter. He started Blister because he was fed-up with flaccid reviews of expensive gear. Blister's audience will be comprised of core riders, he says, as well as readers who identify with that core culture, and consumers of high-end outdoor equipment.

The fun part about testing gear.

"By 'high-end' I definitely don't mean just the most expensive," Ellsworth says. "I mean the best, the most innovative, the most interesting. But 'innovations' aren't always improvements, and 'interesting' doesn't always add up to awesome." Blister reviews will cover products from well-known companies like Rossignol, Burton, and Giant, as well as small, independent manufacturers like Praxis, Venture, and Commencal.

Blister's stable of non-anonymous reviewers includes ski patrollers, instructors, and guides; competitive alpine and telemark skiers and snowboarders; and seasoned, expert bikers. "People," says Ellsworth, "who are obsessed with performance and have dedicated their lives to the sport." Testers, whose bios will appear on the site, have already tested skis, boards and bikes at Taos Ski Valley, Squaw Valley, Alta, Arapahoe Basin, Snowbird, the Wasatch backcountry, El Colorado, Chile, and Las Lenas, Argentina, and over hundreds of miles of singletrack in the Rocky Mountains.

Ellsworth admits that he and his reviewers won't attempt to test everything that "falls off the assembly line." Multiple reviews of "the interesting, innovative stuff" will be posted weekly on the site. Blister, which already has a number of reviews posted, will likely review 30-40 skis, 25-35 snowboards, and a select number of boots, bindings, beacons, mountain bikes, shocks, and downhill body armor next season. "Gear manufacturers often claim that their latest thing is the greatest thing," says Ellsworth. "We won't just pass along more marketing hype."

Though brash about its mission, Ellsworth is initially coy about Blister's unusual name: "I'm not sure how much I want to say about it. I like that it's evocative, memorable, and gets people wondering." But, after a pause, he can't help himself: "To me it evokes something that is hardcore, tough, impossible to ignore, blisteringly or brutally honest. It agitates."