Baby On Board
I'm a solid intermediate skier, and I'm 10 weeks pregnant. Is it safe for me to ski during my pregnancy? My husband says yes, but I'm not so sure.
Santa Monica, Calif.
Talk to enough female skiers, and you'll hear legendary boasts of tackling bumps in the third trimester and double-blacks on the due date. And indeed, many women do ski throughout pregnancy-especially during the first four to six months-without any harm to themselves or their junior racers to be. That said, skiing while pregnant is not for everyone. First, if you have a high-risk pregnancy or a history of miscarriages, stay off the slopes. Second, take your skiing ability into account: Many pregnant women who ski are experts who feel as confident on skis as they do walking down stairs. And remember that no matter how good you are, your bulging belly throws off your balance and requires an adjustment in the way you ski. Third, realize there are factors that are out of your control, such as terrain, snow, and other skiers and boarders. To lower your risk of falls, ski at off-peak times, when the snow is good, on terrain you know.
Also, take altitude into account. Few studies have been done about the effect of altitude on pregnancy, and there is little evidence to suggest it's harmful. Even so, pregnant women have a harder time getting the oxygen they need, especially during exercise-a problem compounded at altitude. Skiing while pregnant is an odds game: Weigh the above factors, and decide if you're willing to play.
Write Kellee Katagi at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In A Bind
I bought new skis. The shop guys said I shouldn't use my 6-year-old bindings. Are they just trying to sell me new ones?
Yes they are. Because they love you. Gear Geek can be just as cheap as the next guy. He'd rather save a buck for a new Palm Pilot than give it to the shop guys. But in this case, they might be right. Bindings have finite life spans-especially if you ski a lot. Manufacturers can guarantee they'll work safely only for a certain number of years. This is called indemnification. Each year, shops get lists from all manufacturers telling them which bindings are still indemnified.
The manufacturer is telling the shops that it's OK to service those models, because they're still safe. After a decade or so, a binding drops off the list, and you'll no longer find a shop willing to service it. Your 6-year-old bindings may still be indemnified, but they're getting on in years. If they haven't been abused, they probably still work fine. But that's a theory you don't really want to test. Besides, new skis deserve new bindings.
Write Joe Cutts at email@example.com.
Oh, My Aching Feet!
When I ski after time off, my feet hurt like hell. Then the pain goes away. What's up?
Many skiers have achy, crampy feet if they haven't been on the slopes for a while. In our normal lives, we wear shoes, sneakers, even sandals. Our feet change shape in this relaxed footwear. Your ski boots also change. Most boot liners contain "flow," a dense Silly Putty-like substance that molds itself around the foot. The flow settles when not in use, and the shape of the boot liner alters because your foot is not there to act as a form. The pain we experience is a toughening of the feet, but also is caused by the remolding of the flow. Once the material moves back into place, the ache goes away.
A few years back, I was called to Europe for a ski test. I flew all night (feet often swell on airplanes), rented a car, drove to Solden, Austria, slammed into my cold boots in the parking lot and skied hard for two days. My feet were so bruised when I got home, I couldn't put my ski boots on. I had to have special, larger liners made, which I was forced to use wwhile my feet healed.
The best prevention is to think ahead. A few days before your first ski trip, get your boots out, warm them up, and put them on-with thin ski socks. Wear your boots for at least an hour. Walk around. Your feet will feel tingly, even a little numb as the flow repositions itself. On the snow, you may feel a dull ache on your first run, but it shouldn't last long. The season after my boot-caused lameness, I wore my ski boots to bed before my first day out. It's embarrassing, but it worked.
Write Stu Campbell at firstname.lastname@example.org.