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A safer ski

Letters to the Editor

Almost everybody who has spent any amount of time in this valley seems to have torn an infamous ACL.

The anterior cruciate ligament in our knee seems not at all to fit into modern skiing. Ski racers, who do everything a little harder, deal with it almost constantly until they give up because the machinery of their knees doesn’t work anymore. Or they survive thanks to excellent doctors like world famous Dr. Steadman in the Steadman Hawkins Clinic.

I got my ACL repaired 15 years ago. Over the years they have found ways to do the “repair work” faster and easier. Even Don Rogers, the Vail Daily’s editor, has had his ACL reconstructed. Hi Don! Welcome to the club! Now you are a real member of the Vail community.



However, instead of finding better ways to repair those knees, the ski industry should develop equipment that fits better to the anatomy of our body. Wouldn’t you think that sounds logical?

I spoke this fall with one of the editors of a ski magazine. He told me that believe it or not, “We don’t care for safety of the users. Our customers look only for high performance equipment!” Nice attitude!



When I injured my ACL, I even did not fall down. I was just losing balance and leaning too far back. Then, when I hit a bump, there was a sudden pain and the feeling that now some thing is torn. Later on, I asked the doctor why this happened. I never forgot his explanation: He told me simply that humans have a long forefoot and a very short heel. We are not built to have such a long thing sticking out at the heel. The ski tail is too long.

When babies learn to walk, they almost never fall forward on their had, but they fall constantly on their butt, and there is a lot of suspension. Ski have a long tail. Instead of falling when you should fall, the knee gets the whole pressure and the ACL is gone.

So basically, we have the choice when we lose balance: Use your built in “suspension” at your backside or risk tearing your ACL.



Now comes the other part of the story. There is a former space craft engineer in this valley who was not at all to be happy to buy a pair of normal skis. This guy found a way to create the perfect ski, without the usually long tail.

What is his secret? He gets his skis made from a ski manufacturer with a special sidecut and a special flex according to his design. He adds his own set-up, like dampening weights to balance the very short tail, and also a special riser to increase edge set and the carving performance. There is some more high tech, like an improved binding release, a special flex plate to avoid vibration for a smooth run, and so on.

It really works! In fact, it works so well that John Atkins, from the Steadman Hawkins Clinic, fell right on his butt when he used it his first time. He was leaning too far back – lucky guy. No ACL injury. But likes those skis and so does John McMurtry, who has worked with the U.S. Ski Team and now does important work at the Steadman Hawkins Foundation. He agreed that these skis are very well skiable, and safer.

Vail is a place what has a lot of remarkable people. One of these people is Dave Gorsuch, former member of the U.S. Ski team. Over the years he has built up the Gorsuch Sport stores with top equipment and a nice crew of knowledgeable employees.

Dave has kept an open mind for new things. He is always willing to try out new ideas. Dave thought that these short-tail skis, might be a great idea and he supported the project.

Two years ago, when nobody was willing to try out those funny looking new skis without a normal tail, Bill Jensen, Vail’s Mountain’s chief, came right away after a simple phone call to ski these skis. He understood the importance of improving skiing wherever possible.

Some years ago, a friend of mine had asked me what new skis he should buy. I recommended he pay a little more and buy those new Atomic 160 slalom skis, which I liked so much. Today, I still feel bad. I was wrong because its simply to much ski for him. How often does that happen every winter?

A downhill ski is long and heavy. It is the best ski to go over 60 mph. A slalom ski is short and quick. It is the best ski for running slalom gates. A fat powder ski offers a lot of surface so that you may float on deep snow. There is for any kind of use a special ski what offers optimal performance. It seems to me that the normal skier quite often has the wrong equipment.

The recreational skier needs a ski that is safe, since a helmet does not protect the knees. He would need a safe, all-mountain ski that turns easily at a speed up to 30 mph, that turns in any snow and also holds on hard-packed slopes.

Such equipment saves energy and increases confidence in the his abilities. It feels comfortable and makes better skiers. It’s also more fun.

So, if this information make sense to you, then simply go over to the Gorsuch store and ask the people there what they have found out. They are the only store that has tested the skis without the dangerous tail. They call it breakthrough ski there.

Vail has good and experienced skiers. If the ski industry can’t do it, we did it in Vail by ourselves. We have now finally a ski that is safer and has the same and in many ways better performance then all the other all-round skis. These are the skis for locals who ca


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