BY DAVID TAPLEY - SKI COACH
My history in skis
Pictured above is my 'history in skis'. One of the things the picture documents is the evolution of the equipment, particularly for off piste skiing, over the last 20 years.
Pondering the image a few observations jump out:
Ski's have got longer, again. I’m 178cm tall, and weigh 80kg in kit (5’-10” and 12st 6), and I'm still happy to ride any and all of the skis in the picture from 165cm up to 181cm. Riding different skis in different lengths is really beneficial for your 'feel' of what's going on under your feet.
You’ll also discover how your blend of movements and steering for the given snow conditions change to get the best from your skis in the moment. It all helps increase your versatility which is what helps you ski more conditions or more varied slopes.
Ski's have got lighter
Modern ski design and manufacture is in one of it’s creative phases taking advantage of new materials and design techniques. The bright green touring skis in the photo are 179 cm long yet are the lightest in the group and still offer excellent all round performance.
In (arguably unfair) comparison, the White and Blue ‘off piste’ twin tips to the right of them are 10 years old, are 35% heavier and offer less performance.
Ski's have got wider. This is a tricky one. The big white twin tips pictured are 105 mm under foot and as wide as I'd personally like to go. However some of the Big Mountain skis are available in 120 mm plus and there is a fashion or belief that you need super wide skis for off piste and powder.
Personally I'll likely go narrower next time, thinking that something in the 90 mm range is ideal. They should give me a lighter, more agile ski but also have more chance of feeling that amazing and addictive ‘freefall’ sensation in steep powder.
I also have a couple of potential issues with super wide ski's.
1. I believe they hold back new skiers by limiting their ability to develop a high level of skill in steering and balancing movements.
2. There is anecdotal evidence that they are not good for your knees particularly when skied on piste.
Bindings have changed
Well, touring bindings. Modern touring bindings are lighter, safer and make accessing the back country easier. Obviously the old mantra ‘light is right’ applies when skinning (walking) up hill. And the advent of light weight “pin” touring bindings with adjustable release values - and lately with TÜV safety certification has arguably made them safer. In terms of research and development for ski bindings, competition between manufacturers is producing new and innovative touring binding designs which are evolving from season to season.
There is a school of thought which says traditional Alpine bindings are not that great at preventing soft tissue injury and that bindings like the Dynafit Rotation (the new Radical 2.0) which have a rotating release front and rear offer some benefits. I popped an ACL a few years ago and the rehab was tough. I don't want to do that again but have stuck with my Radical 2.0s.
Ski's do not operate alone. Ski's are one part of a system comprising the bindings, your ski boots and your own bio-mechanics. To get the absolute best from the system it all needs to work in harmony.
Boots have changed
On that note, boots have also changed. If you don't like big clunky alpine boots have a look at new ski touring boots and skis. Lighter to carry, easy to ski, and unless you are racing or bump skiing, little or no noticeable difference in performance.
Insert Systems such as “Quiver Killer” or “Binding Freedom” make it possible to share a single pair of bindings across several pairs of skis. The brown ski’s (second left) are set up to take both modern Pin bindings and older Frame bindings depending on need, extending their life and adding flexibility.
Take care buying skis; take nothing for granted
I've bought 2 pairs of new skis where the bindings have been mounted slightly off centre, and at least one pair where the edges arrived with a hanging burr which caused them to ski 'grabby'. The off centre bindings were a non issue, just frustrating, but hanging burrs on new skis or after a service can really spoil your day, and are frankly unacceptable from any reputable shop.
The ski's I've loved have been the ones that inspire fun, and not always the ones that have been technically the best. My original 1080 twin tips are good example, (pictured silver, far left) and my Karma’s (beige, second left). In both cases I’d have been better off buying a sensible performance training ski but I have enjoyed those hugely.
That’s why many of the skis in the picture are twin tips. Childish fun….. :)
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