Although there has to date been no equipment innovation that has proven to reduce the risk of serious knee injury (and other than binding tweaks, not even an effort in that direction), a new ski boot from Lange, the V 9, offers intriguing possibilities.
The first boot ever marketed as providing a safety benefit, the V 9 has a cuff designed to relieve forward pressure on the back of the leg (and thus on the ACL) when the skier is leaning back. The design is straightforward: The cuff simply rotates backward around 15 degrees from normal skiing position when a skier leans back against it. A device on the rear of the spoiler allows skiers to adjust the release pressure for different margins of retention.
According to Lange's marketing vice president, Charlie Adams, the V 9 design has been tested on cadaver legs and shown to relieve strain on the ACL during simulated ligament-ripping falls. It sounds plausible for Boot Induced ACL injury, but will it work for Phantom Foot ACL tears? We simply don't know yet, but Lange intends to find out. It is conducting an experiment by integrating V 9's into a rental fleet at a ski area and carefully tracking injuries by boot type. They hope, by the end of three years, to have a definitive answer and the data to back it up.
Until then, SKIING's on-snow tests suggest that the V 9 is a perfectly fine choice for intermediate and advanced skiers who are willing to pay for an extra¿though unknown¿margin of safety.