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Ask The Experts: March/April 2002

posted: 03/05/2002

Hard Core
My friend¿an expert skier¿recently noticed that I'm on a foam-core ski. He says I should go with wood. Is wood that much better?
Barney Werder
Minneapolis, Minn.

Barney, nothing gripes Geek more than seeing some know-it-all walk into a shop, flex a few skis and then start spewing about how he'd only ever use a wood-core plank. So many factors come into play in the overall construction of a ski; its wood core is only part of the performance equation. Wood usually costs more, which adds to the perception that it's a superior material. And foam is usually used in low-end skis. That's not just because it's cheaper (it is), but because it's also more consistent and yields a more forgiving ski appropriate for beginners and intermediates. Wood-core skis must be assembled by hand, whereas foam can be cheaply injected. But at the high end, there are companies, including Rossi and Atomic, who make damn good skis using sophisticated foams, which are milled (at considerable expense) into core shapes and then laid by hand into the ski mold. The consistency and dampness of dense foam lends itself well to racing and high-speed arcing. So what your friend is saying is that foam's good enough for super G World Champ Daron Rahlves, but not him? Sure. With all that in mind, Geek will allow it to be said that wood tends to be a little livelier, snappier and certainly a shade more durable than foam. But it's easy to generalize, and if foam has a bad rap, it's undeserved.
¿Gear Geek
Have a question for Gear Geek? Write Joe Cutts at

Pole Primer
I don't think I'm using my poles correctly. What's your advice?
Barbara McGreevy
Havre de Grace, Md.

Too few skiers realize that poles are extensions of our arms. Imagine a group of apes scrambling down a hill: They touch the ground with their knuckles each time they change direction. A ski pole works similarly, as a third point of contact with the snow. The pole touch not only stabilizes your upper body, but also establishes a rhythm and is your cue to change edges. Pole Fundamental: We use our right pole for right turns, our left pole for left turns. Think of them as directional signals: Swing the tip of your left pole forward to get ready to turn left, and right tip to turn right. We don't "turn around" our pole, nor do we lean on it heavily. Putting the pole's tip in the snow before a turn is a delicate pole "touch," not a "pole plant."

When you begin using your poles properly, the sequence is: Get the pole ready, touch, change edges. As you make parallel turns, you touch and change edges at about the same time, then immediately swing the other pole forward to be ready for the next turn. As you improve, you flow from one turn to the next so smoothly that you actually change edges before the pole touches the snow. The best World Cup racers eliminate the pole touch altogether in long, high-speed turns. But in slalom, moguls and everyday skiing, a well-timed pole touch is still critical for most of us. ¿The Professor

Have a question for The Professor?
Write Stu Campbell at

Rest Or Rip?
Is it OK to work out my quads when they're sore from skiing?
Paul Erskine
Minneapolis, Minn.

Normal muscle soreness lets you know you're on your way to building strength. That deep achy feeling is officially called Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS), which creeps up 12 to 24 hours after you leave the slopes. Experts disagree on its cause, but it occurs when you work your muscles harder than they're used to. DOMS can linger anywhere from two to seven days, but don't use it as an excuse to hit the condo couch. If you do, you could lose strength gains you've already made by pushing your body out of its comfort zone. Try massage, stretching and a light cardio workout to loosen up. If your quads are unusually sore, rest them for 48 hours after youu ski, and then resume your strength training¿just don't overdo it. Replenishing your body with fluids (beer and booze don't count), carbs and protein and getting good rest after you ski will help accelerate your muscle recovery. Finally, check your ski technique. Your quads will get sorer than necessary if you're in the back seat. ¿The Trainer

Have a question for The Trainer? Write Kellee Katagi at

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