The weekly emails I receive from seniorsskiing.com and realskiers.com trigger both memories and ideas for this column. I have to admit that I have joined the senior skiing community.
No, that doesn’t mean I’m no longer capable of skiing the entire mountain. It does mean that I no longer seek the most challenging terrain and that I am content to cruise groomed runs making long–radius turns that on today’s skis require almost no effort.
My only problem is when I go up to Shawnee Peak I run into friends who are very good skiers and always invite me to join them.
One I don’t know if I will see this season is Bruce Cole. When it comes to skiing, Bruce has done it all. He competed in freestyle in the early years, coached freestyle and taught out west, returned to Bridgton and coached high school skiers and in recent seasons has spent most midweek days at Shawnee Peak.
At the end of last season Bruce surprised all of us when he bought a place at Jay Peak in Vermont, so I don’t know if we will see him this season. That being said, I am always open to an invitation to return to Jay Peak, one of the better ski mountains in New England. I’ll have to send this column to Bruce to see if he gets the hint.
MINDING YOUR BINDINGS
One item in the latest issue of seniorsskiing.com caught my attention. The site teams with realskiers.com to get questions answered by Jackson Hogen, probably the most well-known equipment writer in the country.
A skier asked if it was oOK to mount old bindings to new skis, and Jackson’s quick answer was no. He cited a few reasons, mostly that shops cannot work on bindings that are beyond a certain age. I have rarely written about bindings, except to recommend taking your skis to the shop to have them checked out at the beginning of every season.
Today’s bindings are so much more sophisticated than what we started on that there isn’t any way to even compare them
My first good skis had cable bindings with the toe of the boot shoved into a metal toe piece so that it was completely trapped. Release … what release? When released bindings replaced these, skiers were required to have retention straps. They were mistakenly called “safety straps,” but when a ski released from the boot but remained tethered to the skier, bad things often happened.
When I first started patrolling, these straps were still in use and required by most ski areas. There was one group that absolutely refused to use the straps: racers. It doesn’t take much imagination to realize what can happen when a downhill racer crashes and the skis still attached to his feet come with him. Racers wanted those skis as far away as possible.
I recall an incident at Sugarloaf during a downhill race. On the big turn below the Gauge Headwall, a snow fence was strung along the side of the run. The natural chute down the right side aimed skiers and equipment at that fence. Racers still on the skis at the bottom of the headwall rounded the turn away from the crowd gathered behind the fence. Loose skis obviously didn’t turn.
On this day a ski came off when a racer crashed in the chute. That 210-225 cm downhill ski came off that headwall as fast as it would have if still on the foot of the racer, maybe 60 mph. It went through that fence as if it wasn’t there and took out one of the spectators who thought the ski would be stopped by the fence.
I was on the other side of the run where I wound up chatting with the owner of that ski, a young Canadian racer, Wende Lunde. Years later, I had dinner with a family in Calgary that knew this young lady. I think I sent them the picture I took of her sitting on that hay bale at the bottom of the headwall.
Incidents such as this one and the possibility of them on recreational runs led to the development of the ski brake, and it took only a few years for them to be an integrated part of every binding. A brake on that DH ski would have had it tumbling instead of gliding straight at the fence.
Today, we take bindings for granted, and the technology is such that I am comfortable with whatever binding comes with the ski. Because of the consolidation of equipment, certain skis come with certain bindings. You will find Markers on Volkl, Blizzard and K2; Atomics (the Old ESS binding) on Atomics, Salomons on Salomons; Rosignol or Looks on Rosignols and Dynastars; and Tyrolias on Heads. Some are part of systems, engineered to perform with the ski.
Years ago, mounting bindings meant using a template and drilling holes in the ski for the screws. This is still required for skis sold without bindings, but many are sold as packages and there are rails pre mounted on the skis. All the shop mechanic needs to do is slide the bindings onto these rails, adjust them for boot sole length and set the DIN (release setting).
I can do this in my basement, but I still take them to a shop mechanic to make sure I have the forward pressure right.
This is a case where rental technology has been adapted to regular bindings. Obviously, rental units have to be quickly and easily adjusted. The bindings on my skis can be simply dialed with a screwdriver to the exact boot sole length, the same as rental units. You can see these in action at any demo day.
On my last change of boots I went from a 320 mm sole to a 315. It took only a few minutes to make the adjustment. Today’s bindings are one of the great improvements in skiing. Take care of them and they’ll take care of you.
See you on the slopes.
Dave Irons is a freelance writer and columnist who hails from Westbrook. He has been contributing to the Sun Journal for many years and is among the most respected ski writers in the Northeast. He also is a member of the Maine Ski Hall of Fame. Write to him at [email protected]