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Ask Josh - September 2002

Ask Dr. Flake
posted: 09/24/2002
by Josh Lerman

I have never seen a lift with-out a safety bar east of the Mississippi, but a number of western resorts (Alta, Steamboat, Heavenly, Park City, to name a few) have lifts without safety bars. What's the theory?
-James Harris, via the internet

Ahem. Your assumption that there's a theory behind the safety bar-no safety bar phenomenon is a bit off the mark, James. There is no conceptual underpinning to the presence of "restraining bars," as they're known by industry wonks (the phrase "safety bar" reeks of liability), merely convention. The western areas you mention don't have safety bars because their state laws don't require them. Most eastern states, on the other hand, do have such statutes. While a liability lawyer might describe the lack of laws in the West as a callous disregard for human well-being, I prefer to think it's a reflection of deep-seated sociohistoric forces: the don't-fence-me-in-ism of the West, versus the thou-shalt-not-ist tendencies of old New England. Not that it matters much either way. The fact is, falling off lifts-with or without safety bars-is incredibly rare. Nobody tracks fall numbers, but only 12 people in the U.S. have died in lift-related accidents of any kind since 1973, and most of those deaths were due to catastrophic lift failure, not tumbles.

Are (riser) plates generally a good idea with midfat skis? I am looking for maximum versatility.
-Daniel Prosek, via the internet

In that they're designed to perform exceptionally well on everything from spongy corduroy, to chopped crud, to boot-deep powder, midfats are inherently versatile, but if you think adding lifters will make them more versatile, well, that depends on the lifter. If 90 percent of your time is spent in skating-rink conditions, by all means, slap on the thickest plates you can buy-the Salomon Poweraxe Energy 2 plate offers 32.5 millimeters of stack height. Just know it's like throwing low-profile Pirellis on your Pathfinder: They'll stick better on the road, so to speak, but didn't you buy them for the good stuff? Riser plates improve leverage over your edges, but plates with more than 15 millimeters of lift feel precarious in deep snow, making it harder to regain balance and easier to oversteer turns. Which is one reason why many pro freeskiers opt for old two-piece (no plate) race-stock bindings with a mere six millimeters of lift. My advice? Steer clear of the extremes and run a setup like the Rossignol T-Plate: With its 10 millimeters of lift, it'll make your midfats livelier on hardpack without sacrificing powder pleasure.


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