Most skiers who aren’t professionally involved with the sport cling to any number of misconceptions about equipment and technique. Just how some of these fallacies came to be embedded in the skiing public’s zeitgeist is unclear, but friends and family are the usual culprits when it comes to cementing bad ideas in place. To help you shed the shackles of ignorance, we hereby expose five fallacies that hinder pursuit of the quality ski experience.
1. Wax makes you go faster.
True, but not entirely true.
It’s the pattern in the base structure—tiny cuts in the polyethylene base imparted by a diamond stone—that gives the ski its glide properties. Wax helps protect and preserve the structure and contributes a more lubricious surface for a short duration, but it doesn’t oblige you to go faster any more than owning a sports car forces you to race it.
Regular base and edge maintenance, including waxing, enables a ski to go faster, but more importantly it dramatically improves steering. Riding a well-tuned ski is akin to riding a luxury sedan; whether you choose to go fast or not, the handling is exquisite. Trying to control an untuned ski is like driving around on your rims.
Our advice is to have your base re-structured every year and wax as often as you ski.
2. To ski properly, bend your knees.
Close, but no cigar.
Yes, in a proper stance the knee is flexed, but if the knee is the only joint in the lower leg that’s in a flexed position, all is lost. The critical joint isn’t the knee but the ankle; knees flex, in large measures, as a consequence of bending ankles.
We cannot stress often enough that the primary objective of the boot-fitting exercise is to capture the rear and mid-foot in such a way that ankle range of motion (ROM) is optimized as part of a balanced stance. If the ankle can’t move, you can flex your knees to a fare-thee-well but you still won’t be able to buy a turn and your thighs will eventually burn hot enough to melt your long undies.
If you can’t easily position yourself in a comfortable, balanced stance with a well-supported heel and ankle, find the best boot fitter you can and surrender yourself to his or her care.
3. Sit back in powder.
This is perhaps the worst instruction tip ever.
Even before the era of rockered forebodies, sitting back in deep snow was a rookie maneuver; now that every Powder and Big Mountain ski in Christendom is bent up at tip and tail, leaning back is not only unnecessary, ineffective and exhausting, it’s also dangerous.
The modern off-trail ski is made to ride over any obstacle in its path whether you sit back or not, so spare yourself the agony. If you insist on weighting the tail of the ski, you’ll find it’s been made to swivel sideways, not support your steadily descending derriere. A few turns in this posture and you’ll soon be shaking snow out of your helmet.
Here are all the adaptations necessary to ski the modern powder ski:
4. Thicker socks keep you warmer.
No, they don’t.
In fact, socks play an insignificant role in providing insulation, a job better left to the inner boot. The role of the ski sock is to be slick, the better to slide into a recalcitrant boot, and to wick, as in moving moisture away from the foot. Using a thicker sock to boost insulating properties is an enterprise doomed to failure.
The thick sock—or, worse yet, the dread double-sock—takes up every iota of space that ought to be reserved for the minuscule amount of trapped air that’s essential for insulation of any kind to be effective. It’s also more prone to wrinkle, sag and bunch, none of which is good. Not to mention that it’s probably made from the wrong fabrics, piling on more demerits. Worst of all, thick socks compromise circulation in the foot, resulting in cold feet at best and possibly even frostbite.
And if you’re using thick socks to fill up excess space inside your boots, Lord help you.
If you want warm feet, buy an ultra lightweight synthetic blend ski sock. Make sure your boots are warm when you put them on.
5. A new ski will improve your skiing.
Would that it were true.
A new ski will usually improve ease, enjoyment, self-esteem and might even enhance your sex life. A new ski will often improve your performance possibilities, particularly in off-trail terrain when you adopt a wider ski. But a new ski will not materially improve your skills or suddenly allow you to exceed your potential. If you don’t know how to tip and pressure a ski, simply buying another tool you don’t know how to use won’t kick start your competence. If an analogy would help, if you don’t know how to use a given computer program, buying a new computer won’t solve the problem.
So are we suggesting you not buy a new ski?
Of course you should get a new ski, as it will make the job of your instructor or coach that much easier. Once you master the basics, your new skis will bloom beneath your feet, revealing the reasons you bought them in the first place.
There is a possible dark side to this otherwise sunny scenario: should you shop carelessly or unwisely, you may end up with a ski that hinders rather than helps your skills development.
And that, Dear Reader, is the raison d’être of Realskiers: to guide you through the model selection process to a ski that will feel made to order just for you.