Subject: “Playing The Game” – SKI AREA MANAGEMENT (1/99 page 46)
Answer: Over the years I have been modestly successful in restraining my enthusiasm for Seth Masia’s editorials. But in “Playing the Game” I found his arguments both witty and right on the money. However, as I flipped the page, it almost seemed as if the editor had lost some copy. Seth had just reached the fifth level of digression with subjects such as Gordon Lipe, short skis, trial lawyers, and the insanity of non-releasable bindings when, faster than a 12 year old on a video game, he was back to The Naming Of The Parts.

STOP!! Go for the sixth level Seth. I know you can do it. What’s wrong with a non-release binding on a ski that’s three times the length of your foot? And, now that millions of dollars and dozens of personal and corporate reputations are at stake, what do we do?

On the assumption that only the technician who recovered Ollie North’s notes from Fawn Hall’s computer will ever find Seth’s missing page, I’ll try to fill in the blank. Skiboard (generic term) suppliers confused an absence of a standard for free rein to market a product of untested design, and researchers underestimated the product’s potential for rapid growth. While epidemiologists patiently process skiboard injury statistics, anecdotal evidence is already mounting which demonstrates the strong possibility that this product could produce lower leg injury rates on a par with Alpine skiing of thirty years ago. Back then, even with the releasable bindings of the day, one in 3,500 skiers broke a leg each day. Today it’s one in 35,000 and among those that still succumb to this injury, barring a collision, the equipment is usually found to mimic the release performance of that bygone era.

The solution does not have to be so expensive as to destroy the marketability of a short ski and could be adapted quickly to existing inventories. In our opinion, a product with a limited but specific release capability would suffice. Twist release would be essential, though a forward lean release would not be required for the current short ski genre. Forward lean release could be replaced, in our opinion, by a preloaded restraint providing the capability for substantial vertical elasticity at the heel once the appropriate preload setting had been reached. This capability would have the added benefit of keeping the skier from applying unnecessary loads in forward lean (which can easily bury the tip of these short skis) and the capability to lift the boot heel would also make getting back up after a fall easier.

The product need not look anything like today’s alpine binding. It would probably need a pivot point in twist near the center of the foot and a pivot point in forward lean near the ball of the foot. Ideally the product would mount in the same holes as current non-release models. At least initially it would only accommodate Alpine or Telemark boots and it would probably not require a ski brake but might employ a short semi-rigid integral leash, or it could utilize a simple retractable system.

We have tested designs with many of the properties I’ve outlined. Adjusted for release to current alpine standards, these prototypes release in at least some falls. If they never released we might conclude that potentially dangerous loads can not be generated by such a short ski.
The industry should look on the current ski board situation not as a problem to be ignored for another buying cycle, but as a golden opportunity to move quickly and fill a giant vacuum. If we are not going to rise to the challenge, we should do a final body count, and if our predictions for disaster turn out to be correct, bury the whole ski board concept under a sign marked “BAD IDEA.”–CFE