U.S. Shops with 3-D Scanning Capability
In Memorium, Carl Ettlinger
Carl was a giant of a man whose outsized voice roiled every conversation like a burst dam and whose expansive vision reached across the mixed milieus of research, journalism, risk management and education. I knew him when he was at the peak of his powers, as he explained to me when I interviewed him for a “where are they now?” profile in Skiing History. He was able to conduct long-term research on injury patterns as well as analyze the particulars of the current binding market, turn around and package this knowledge into articles for Skiing and Skiing Trade News, followed up by a workshop tour that would bring enlightenment to the grassroots level. No one but Carl could have pulled this off, and Lord knows no one has had the requisite talent, energy and will power since.
But time and tide wait for no man, and Carl’s finely spun web of influence was eventually plucked apart. The loss of his pivotal positions in the press allowed him to slip from public view before we, the skiers of the world, realized we hadn’t taken the time to thank him.
We have the time to thank him now.
So thanks, Carl, for being first and foremost a teacher, for teaching is at the heart of the evangel’s mission.
Thanks for being so damn stubborn. Your insistence on improving skier safety wore through a wall of resistance as tough as Vermont marble.
Thanks for having a heart as big as that melon-sized head of yours. The fuel to your tireless mind was a caring heart that tried to embrace the world.
Thanks for all the stories once the Mount Gay flowed. Who knew we would have won the Vietnam War if only his superiors had listened? I can’t remember exactly how – he wasn’t the only one drinking Mount Gay – but I recall the light in his eyes as he relayed his twisted tales, taking us down successive rabbit-holes of digression that I lost track of at the seventh level.
That’s what I remember most vividly about my many interactions with Carl: his brain so teemed with thoughts he rushed to get them out in a verbal jailbreak that would travel around the cosmos until returning, many lost minutes later, to the subject that had inspired them. That was Carl: too many words for one sentence, too many tasks to tend to and all of it, every erg of his endless energy, devoted to a cause he never ceased to serve.
Fare thee well, Carl Ettlinger. The world misses you already for it will never see another quite like you, whose every moment seemed larger than life itself.
I raise my glass to you, old friend. Mount Gay, of course.
June 23, 2020
Are Your Old Bindings on Death Row?
As every boot fit winds to its conclusion, the bootfitter will ask if there are any skis that need to have their bindings adjusted to the new boots. Even someone planning to buy new skis to go along with their boots may have a second or third pair that is still in the starting rotation. The warm afterglow of the new boot purchase suddenly cools when the skier is informed that the shop can’t adjust the old bindings to the new boots. In many cases, the old bindings look to be in tip-top condition, so why won’t the shop work on them?
First of all, it’s not the shop’s call. Every binding supplier insures its dealers against liability claims as long as all recommended practices have been followed. As part of that agreement, the supplier appends a list of products covered by the indemnity contract. Any binding not on the list isn’t covered, period. If the shop agrees to work on the old binding, it’s exposed to liability it would be well advised to avoid.
The list of indemnified products is updated annually, so every season there’s a possibility that one of your old favorites has slipped into obsolescence without you ever realizing that the end was nigh. While nothing can mitigate the shock of losing a loved one, you can handle the moment with greater grace and composure if you’re prepared for it.
So how can you tell if your bindings are near their expiration date? It depends on how long it’s been since their birthday. While there’s no hard and fast rule governing how old a binding must be to fall off the list, if your bindings are 10 years old they’re suspect and if they’re over 20, they’re past retirement age.
A binding need not be old to be incompatible with a modern GripWalk boot sole. By next year, almost all Alpine boot soles will be GripWalk and all Alpine bindings will work with them; however, in the current market we have a hodgepodge of flat soles, rockered soles and treaded soles, creating a high risk of incompatibility, particularly with older bindings.
If you have any doubt whether your bindings are obsolete, worn out, misadjusted or incompatible with your boots, bring them to a specialty ski shop (along with your boots) for a complete system inspection. Your legs are worth it.
If this system of forced retirement sounds like consumer protection overreach, consider the bright side: since your equipment is going to age whether you use it or not, get on it as often as humanly possible while it’s young. Young skis are more responsive, young boots have faster reflexes, young bindings have more energy in their springs.
This solace-inspiring reflection is perhaps best compressed into this memorable Rule to Live By: “The older you are, the more it pays to have young equipment.”
The Ten Best Women’s Skis You Can’t Find
An examination of the current women’s ski market – as outlined in a two-part article on Realskiers.com – reveals that the most highly adapted made-for-women models reside in a category that’s all but invisible in the U.S. The Technical genre comprises the narrowest non-race skis that are intended for carving continuous arcs on groomers. Because this describes how and where a majority of Europeans prefer to ski, Technical women’s skis are popular across the pond.
The reason they’re MIA in the U.S.A. is the advanced to expert woman in America finds the adventure of off-trail skiing far more alluring than the prospect of endless carving, so when she’s ready to step up to better quality of ski it tends to be a wider, all-mountain model.
And so the models that brands invest the most in testing and modifying to optimize their suitability for women gather dust in a corner of the women’s ski rack, if they make it that far. Here are ten of the best women’s skis you’ll have a hard time finding in America (alphabetized by brand).
While it’s hard to find a model that isn’t in stock anywhere, if you’re researching skis in the U.S. market you’ll find the most detailed reviews on Realskiers.com. Each review is linked to a panel of specialty dealers who carry the reviewed model.
Boots for Big Feet
It wasn’t so very long ago that options for fat, wide feet were few and far between. Now every brand makes at least one series of boots built on a wide last, and myriad medium and wide shells can also be heat-molded to conform to almost any foot shape. While most wide boots are still aimed at recreational skiers of modest ambitions, there are also more options than ever for more skilled skiers with prodigious pedal extremities.
The boot models referenced here aren’t single iterations; each represents a series of models covering a full range of flexes and associated price points.
Atomic Hawx Magna The Magna models start out huge (yet supportive) and can be made much roomier wherever needed via a fast heat-molding session.
Tecnica Mach 1 HV The Mach 1 HV is a high performance boot in a fat suit. One of the best skiing high-volume boots available.
Lange LX The Lange name is synonymous with uncompromising performance. Not trying to be the biggest bucket in the group, it’s meant for an advanced skier.
Salomon X/Pro Out of the box, the S/Pro is a medium, but Salomon’s slick, 2-minute molding process can create room for almost any hoof.
Head Edge LYT Cool features include a superlight, Graphene-infused shell that can be heat molded, as well as a liner with a nifty – and unique – retro-fit capability.
Rossignol Allspeed Rossi’s boot line gets more budget-friendly as it grows in width, making the Allspeed a bargain for big feet. Extra toe room a bonus.
Nordica Sportmachine Nordica’s performance line of high-volume boots. Both liner and shell are eminently adaptable, but fit so well they may not need to be.
Dalbello DS MX Dalbello is best known for its 3-piece shells, but the DS MX is a fine 4-buckle alternative with a moldable shell and liner. Available with GripWalk.
Tecnica Mach Sport HV The Mach Sport chassis comes in all widths, as it targets all recreational skiers. The “HV” – High Volume – models are hefty size.
Nordica Cruise Nordica has a long history of catering to wide feet attached to occasional skiers. The Cruise specializes in coddling plus-sized paddle-feet.
Rossignol Speed The Rossi Speed, O, rich with irony, is meant for those who mosey. It’s an economy class wide-body, with extra toe room.
K2 B.F.C K2 unabashedly built the B.F.C. for comfort, not for speed. You could put it on blindfolded, a neat trick for a ski boot. Available with GripWalk soles.
Full Tilt Descendant Fat feet attached to park rats – a sobriquet drenched in deep respect – and others addicted to Full Tilt’s 3-piece shells, will feel at home in a Descendant, available with a hike mode as the Ascendant. Clever lads.
7 Biggest Influences on Current Ski Design
Since the early 1990’s, the overarching objective of non-race ski design has been to abbreviate the learning curve. Mission accomplished. These are the seven most influential factors driving modern ski design.
To read more on the evolution of the modern Alpine ski, read Jackson Hogen’s latest Revelation, The State of the Ski Market: The Origins of Today’s Wacky World.
7 Things You Should Know About Knees and Your Skis
The only foolproof way to protect your knees when skiing is to stay home. But there are some things you can do to mitigate your risk of knee injury, starting with…
Top Ten Bargains of the 2020 Ski Market
Realskiers.com has created a Value Rating System to identify the best ski deals. The Realskiers VRS correlates a ski’s street price with its overall performance score to determine the season’s best buys. The envelope, please….
A testament to how well Flipcore design translates to Frontside conditions.
The old Slicer is still a terrific twintip with true, all-terrain chops.
The revised QST 92 made a quantum leap in overall performance.
Atomic’s lightweight Prolite design hits its sweetspot.
Despite its bias for off-trail skiing, this Liberty miss does well on groomers.
Elan is onto something with its new on-trail/off-trail hybrid Wingman series.
The Sheeva 9 makes off-trail skiing sinfully simple.
One of the few Frontside skis that favors the Finesse skier.
No other double-rockered baseline adapts so well to groomed terrain.
The best bargain in the Big Mountain genre smears crud effortlessly.
Does Your Ski Shop Belong in America’s Top 20?
Specialty ski shops are part of the connective tissue of our sport. More than just a commercial nexus, specialty shops provide vital educational and social services for the skier community. They hold the keys to every skier’s skills development, for specialty retailers are where you’ll find the best bootfitters. Without the services of a well-trained bootfitter, attaining high-level technical proficiency is difficult, if not impossible.
The specialty shops listed here have all contributed their time and resources to assist Realskiers.com in its mission to serve the skiing public. They are among the best shops in America because they consistently strive to deliver state-of-the-art products and services to their customers.
Aside from their uniformly high service level, these Realskiers Test Centers share another critical attribute: they are family-centric and family owned. As has proven to be the case in ski area management, the gulf between hands-on, family ownership and corporate ownership is a bottomless chasm.
You, the consumer, have the power. You have total discretion over where you invest your recreational dollar. At some point, you’re going to need new gear and the services that come with it. I cannot over-emphasize the importance of patronizing shops that are either on this list or belong on it. Your support doesn’t automatically make you a better person (although it might), but it might very well make you a better skier.