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Ask Josh - December 2001

Ask Dr. Flake
posted: 01/07/2002

Dear Josh,
When I skied near Bolzano, Italy, last December, the resorts I visited had no runs with moguls and very few ungroomed areas. Do Europeans like to stay on groomed terrain, or was I just at a less-than-challenging mountain?

Kim Norton
via the Internet

You were just there early in the season of a crappy snow year, Miss Rush-to-Judgment. Many, many European resorts blow the black-diamond doors off most U.S. ski areas -- Tignes, Verbier, Val d'Isère, to name a few. It is true that large numbers of European skiers favor a more relaxed, urbane style of snow sport that leans more toward espresso than hurling yourself incompetently down the local mogul run, as we Americans favor. But there is no shortage of bump skiing in Europe. You were just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Last year I trashed both of my pairs of skis, and I'm getting new ones. Can I use my old Marker M48 or Tyrolia 590 racing bindings on new skis?
Jim Schmidt
Colorado Springs, Colorado

A binding is only as good as the design principles behind it. So while the actual metal and plastic from which the device is made is not likely to deteriorate meaningfully in a few years, its mechanics may no longer represent what is currently thought to be the safest way of attaching yourself to a ski. The logical question, therefore, is whether binding design in general -- or for these models, specifically -- has changed significantly enough since your grippers were introduced that they should no longer be considered prudent. Most changes in binding design in the last 10 years have been aimed at enhancing ski performance rather than release, and the binding's effect on the ski is something to think about. But current data suggests that today's bindings offer little more protection against broken legs than your old bindings do -- if your bindings are working properly. And that's a big "if." Really, you should take them to a ski shop for visual inspection and function tests to make sure they're still working as designed. (How's that for cagey, noncommittal language?) Even if they pass, nobody will give you a 100 percent guarantee of safety. Some ski shops might refuse to work on such old bindings altogether, saying they're no longer "indemnified." This is a fancy way of saying that they're worried you'll break your leg like a balsa-wood mannequin in a gravel crusher and that they'll be up a financial creek of a certain sort because the binding manufacturer's insurance will no longer cover them. Most bindings are indemnified for 10 to 15 years; in your case the M48's still qualify, but most shops won't work on the 590's. My personal recommendation? Well, I could tell you what to do, but then you'd go out and bust your leg up like a ceramic mermaid figurine in an anvil-testing machine and sue me. No way I'm telling, because SKIING Magazine doesn't indemnify me. (For more on binding safety, log onto vermontskisafety.com.)

My friends and I want to plan a trip. Is it realistic for three teenagers from New Hampshire to fly to Whistler and stay and ski for less than $1,000?
Mike McCarthy
Nashua, New Hampshire

Ah, to be young and possessed by the dream of skiing in the West. I remember with complete clarity reading mags like SKIING and yearning -- aching -- to ski big mountains. In my imagination, they were huge, a realm of experiences sublime and indescribable. And the amazing thing is that however amazingly you're picturing it, it's better. Anyway, the answer to your question: probably. I assume you're talking $1,000 each and that this is for a weeklong trip. And let's put aside for the moment the fact that there are probably few hotels willing to put up three minors travelling without an adult. There are basically two ways to plan ski travel. One is to price everything yourself -- separate airfare, lodging, lift tickets. The other is to buy a package from a tour ooperator or ski resort. As a rule, the package is going to be cheaper, and in the case of Whistler, there are packages for only a little more than $1,000, including airfare, shelter, and six days of skiing. These, of course, do not include food. Let's see how that compares with à la carte travel. A bunk bed at the Shoestring Lodge in Whistler is $29 a night (7 nights: $203). Lift tickets are $54 a day for 18-and-unders (6 days: $324), which brings us up to $527, plus tax. With airfare costing ballpark $500 (at press time) from Boston to Vancouver, you're over a thousand bucks. But guess what! The room and lifts are priced in Canadian dollars, so they really only cost about $346, putting you in at a shade under a grand. Of course, you still haven't eaten, but a week of PB & J never hurt anyone.



Do you have a question for know-it-all Josh Lerman? Send it to Ask Josh, Skiing Magazine, 929 Pearl St., Ste. 200, Boulder, CO 80302or askjosh@skiingmag.com. We won't be able to answer all questions.

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