Ski bindings, your first defence.

Even ski poles have been made “sexy” and people pay vast sums for them.

But ski bindings seem to thrill no-one. This is a great shame, because ski bindings are the most important safety item in all of your skiing equipment.  They are the magic piece of hardware that can save you from serious injury.  Ski poles can just break your thumbs or poke you in the eye.

No one loves ski bindings, and very few understand them, know how important they are, or even have a clear idea of what settings they personally need, and how to check those settings.

This is a recipe for damaged ligaments at best.  You would do well to read on if you have any doubt at all regarding your understanding of bindings.

 

Ski boot

On www.bobski.com there is a section on bindings and their settings.  It tells you how to work out what settings YOUR bindings should be at.  On my courses I show you how to check them for accuracy, and how to adjust them for different circumstances.  This is important stuff; you really ought to know it.

The link is http://www.bobski.com/safety.php There you will find information on two paradigms for ski binding settings and why they differ.

But in addition, and as a result of the best experimentation technique there is – i.e. personally sliding down a dangerous slope and losing both skis ! – I want to add the following, which you could read in conjunction with the safety page on Bobski.com  I hope you find it of interest, and if it or the information on my website raises any questions you would like answered, just post below, or email me and I’ll try to help.

Here it is:

Bindings Revisited
(Or, the smarty-pants gets his come-uppance)

Bindings are your primary safety device and you are ill advised to not understand them.

On the site, and on my list of free technical papers I have published information and settings charts from studies done by the French, which have resulted in their “AFNOR” settings recommendations.  These are by and large lower for any given skier’s weight or skiing style, than the earlier  “DIN” settings.

I have experimented with these settings myself, and have brought them to the attention of pupils on my courses, many of whom have re-set their own bindings to the AFNOR settings numbers.

There is independent evidence that strongly suggests that these settings ( which hold the boot less tightly ) have contributed to a reduction in the number of ligament-damaging accidents which on the older settings may have had more serious effects.  This seems to be because whilst bindings on the DIN settings open up satisfactorily when the skier has a fair amount of speed, they often don’t open during low-speed falls.

Depressingly often, falls lead to ligament and other damage even when the skier has come to a stop, or taken a fall at a speed or in circumstances which seem unlikely to have led to injury. It seems possible that this is because the forces involved fall between those which open the binding, and those which cause injury.  Overall, at the speeds, and on the more common types of terrain found on my courses, the “AFNOR” effect appears to be beneficial.

One cannot of course prove a negative but premature release seems not be occurring, and a number of the few small tumbles at low speeds have resulted in easy binding release and no injury.

I continue to be absolutely convinced that only the foolish would fail to go to the trouble of understanding their bindings, and knowing not only what their settings should be, but how to check them, and how to amend them. Do not rely on ski rental shops.

However! A Warning!

There is a caveat to this however, to which I can personally attest !

Descending from the col on the Grand Montet toward the Argentiere Glacier, I did something inappropriate in response to being cut-up by another skier, and in falling came out of both bindings. The resultant, satisfyingly dramatic, slide went on forever, worrying my  guide friend Pascal more than me – but then he could see it!  He is convinced that the cause was too-low binding settings,  for the circumstances. And that’s the key thing – “for the circumstances”.  Every risk in life is a compromise; certainly everything in skiing is.

I am certain that Pascal is right in his observation that when off-piste, in steep terrain, or skiing hard when the forces are so much greater, then higher settings may be appropriate.  He expressed it perfectly when in response to my  claim that my settings were intended to protect my aged knees, he said “Zere is no point in having perfect knees, if you’re dead! Better to be alive wiz a broken knee.” Ah! The French, zey ‘ave a way about zem!

Off-piste, it would appear, the better option is a setting similar to the older “DIN” settings, and perhaps even to ignore the “DIN” recommendation to lower the setting because of your age.  There are occasions when you must not slip: if you do slip, you are much more likely to be able to stop if you retain your skis.

I was lucky, I didn’t make it to the crevasse. In future I shall be careful to trade-off one risk against another. On piste though, skiing at lower speeds, I’ll personally choose the “AFNOR” settings. What I won’t be doing is to leave my bindings on one “standard” setting irrespective of circumstances.

bobski@bobski.com

© Bob Valentine Trueman 2010
All rights reserved.

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