The switch isn’t tough, but is it safe?
Vail, CO Colorado
BEAVER CREEK ” When the International Ski Federation mandated that wider skis be used on this year’s World Cup for safety reasons, it was assumed that everyone would essentially be in the same boat.
A few races into the season, most of the skiers feel like they are in the same boat; the only problem is, it may have sprung a leak.
“Sometimes I feel more pressure coming from the skis and I don’t think it’s going to be more safe than last year,” said Didier Cuche. “The idea was to have safe skiing, with less injuries, but I don’t think so.”
In addition to the wider surfaces, which were intended to ease the stress to the knees on landings, FIS instituted a lower ski plate height.
“They say we have so much more leverage when we are higher, but really, when it comes down to it, if you watch a lot of video, most guys are blowing out their knees when they boot out and their skis hook up again, which is much easier to do now that we have less boot lift and less lift on our skis,” said Ted Ligety. “So you are always on that fine line of booting out and going on your hips and hopefully not hooking up.”
Cuche said he felt soreness in different areas of his legs after a few days of training on his new giant slalom skis.
“Sometimes you put more pressure on the skis in the turn because it’s wider,” he said. “For your knees, you have to push more.”
Ligety saw some ill effects of the new skis early on in their implementation.
“A lot of guys (booted out) this spring, and there were few injuries here and there with their knees,” he said. “(The changes) were supposed to be for safety, but I wouldn’t necessarily agree with that.”
Jan Hudek, who won a downhill race in Lake Louise, Alberta, last weekend, had a mixed review of the new skis.
“They don’t weight more, but they are wider everywhere … which is good in some ways. You don’t need as much lift in the boot or the bindings and you can lay your ski over more and get lots of edge, but that’s where you run into some problems, especially in the speed events when you don’t want your edges to be super aggressive all the time and they are grabbing snow a lot.”
Marco Buechel said that even though the skis are wider, there isn’t a change in speed.
“The FIS wanted us to be slower, but the fact is since these skis don’t bounce anymore, as much as they did before, we can go faster,” he said. “We can go more straight, take more risks ” it levels it out. It’s not a big change.
“For me, honestly, I think it’s a bad decision to have these new sidecuts. I think the old one’s were doing very well.”
While the safety of the new skis may be an issue, everyone seems to be adjusting well.
“We’ve been skiing more than 40 days, on the giant slalom, super-G and downhill (ski), and I’m ready,” Cuche said.
“I thought it was going to be a big deal, but it hasn’t turned out to be a big deal,” Ligety said. “The giant slalom skis I think are better than last year.”
One group that may get left behind the in shuffle is small ski manufacturers.
“I think it’s like in car racing,” Buechel said. “The big companies with a lot of money have more cash for producing and testing. They can do a lot more than a small company.”
Hudek felt a bit of a personal pinch, but not for too long.
“It was tough because we had a pretty cool thing going with (Rossignol),” he said. “Manuel (Osborne-Paradis) and I along with our serviceman designed our own downhill skis last year and had our own sidecut and everything, and you saw the results, they worked pretty damn good. It was a tough pill to swallow ” to have to go back to the drawing board and have to figure out how to make the same ski, but with a different sidecut that will work the same. We’re still tweaking it out, but they worked pretty darn good at Lake Louise, so it’s exciting.”
Sports Writer Ian Cropp can be reached at 748-2935 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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