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Ask Josh: February 1999

Ask Dr. Flake
posted: 02/01/1999

I am in desperate search of a new set of something for my hands. Straight up, which is better for skiing, gloves or mittens? Bob Blank Bozeman, Montana

Straight up, sideways, upside down, and backward, for the greatest digital warmth, toss your gloves on a midden and shove your hands into mittens. Why? The shortest answer is that gloves have more surface area than mittens, providing more opportunity for heat loss. Also, in a glove your fingers are all alone in their little pouches, but in a mitten they can cuddle, not only with each other but with your hot palm and your hand's sweet backside. Another thing to remember is that mittens are pretty simple to manufacture, and gloves are really difficult, so for the same money you're probably getting more mitten-more insulation, better fabric, better construction. With gloves, there are lots of seams and curves; each finger has to be wrapped in liner, insulation, waterproof-breathable insert, and shell, and there's lots to goof up on. As a result, really good gloves are pretty expensive. Take my wife: Most of the time she wears fancy European $80 gloves that match her one-piece suit in a color that makes her say, "What was I thinking?" And then, for when it gets really cold, she wears $35 mittens. Of course, it all kind of evens out, though. Wear gloves and your hands will be a little bit cold all day. Wear mittens and your hands will be warm and toasty until you have to tighten your boots at the top of the lift, at which point you'll remove your mittens and get frostbite.

I recently took a two-hour private lesson with a great instructor. It was well worth the money. But at the end of the lesson I was not sure whether it would be proper to tip the instructor. Does one tip, and how much? Paul Rakovich via the Internet

For a good private lesson, definitely tip the instructor; for a particularly illuminating group lesson, it's a nice gesture. (But be discrete: Your fellow lesson-takers may not be in a tipping mood and resent your making them look like cheapskates.) In both cases you'd tip 10 to 20 percent of the cost of the lesson, depending on just how good you thought it was. The wealthy have been known to tip into the quadruple figures, and one Aspen ski instructor is said to have been tipped a new Toyota Land Cruiser. Some instructors have been given heli-skiing trips by particularly grateful clients, and some have been asked to vacation at other ski resorts with lonely clients. By the way, if the lesson is lousy, you needn't tip.

What does "huck" mean? This word has started appearing in your magazine, but I've never seen it before. Roger Williams Boulder, Colorado

To "huck" means to throw. So in skiing or snowboarding, hucking means throwing yourself off something-like a cliff or rock-much like jumping, but the implication is that it's somewhat less graceful than jumping and rather more spontaneous. Hucking would seem to imply actively hurling your body into space. Why is it popular right now? I would contend it's because 14-year-old boys think it's fun to say words that sound like "huck" but with an F instead of an H. And because 21-year-old boys think it's fun to say anything their fathers don't say. Where did it come from? Several skiers claim the word first came into use at Squaw in the 1995-96 season, about the time the ski flick "The Tribe" was filmed. Snowboarders claim to have invented it several years earlier, by 1992. But the term has been in use to mean throw, as a synonym for "chuck," for a few decades. It is not in any dictionaries with this meaning, but Ultimate Frisbee players have been hucking their plastic disks for years. None of which helps me, because every time I try to huck, folks just go "yuck."

Please settle the question once and for all: Is skiing in the West truly better than in the East? Paul Morgan via the Internet

There are many ways to look at this question, and it kind of depends on how fed up you are with objective relativism. One way of looking at it says that skiing in the West is just plain better than in the East (better mountains, better views, better weather, better snow, better terrain, better resorts). Another way says that the East is better because the skiing is harder (more ice, sketchier snow, narrower trails, colder weather) and thus more rewarding. Yet another way suggests that it's all a matter of temperament-people will prefer one or the other based upon their personalities. Of course I tend to think it's kind of a moot question. If you're in the East, the skiing is best in the East. If you're in the West, then it's better in the West. Maybe skiing in the East is a little like using a condom-less sensation because you have to wear more layers-but hell, you still get to go skiing.

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