Although some of the items (bindings, helmets and course surface/mainte-nance) mentioned [in “Binding Clause,” Jan. 7] certainly can help, the real issue becomes speed and the number of gates. Several years ago, the theme
was “longer was safer” as minimum ski length requirements for FIS and USSA
events were increased. [There was] little thought towards those “smaller athletes” who could not manage a longer ski. We all know that skis are turning
quicker, thus increasing speed out of every turn; the answer to this was then to
add more netting on the hill — a reactive approach, and not really enforced for
training. Personally I feel that several key things need to happen:
1. Control speeds a bit more by increasing minimal gate requirements.
2. Strictly enforce homologation requirements; widening race trails, along with
netting and surface prep should help.
The hard part to all of this is cost and what ski areas are willing to do to help
with these problems. It appears that in many cases, areas turn their backs and
put the requirements on backs of the clubs, FIS/USSA, and TDs.
Richard J. Butze
Santa Clara, California
A recent story on SkiRacing.com drew quite a reaction. The short update cov-
ered recent testing of breakaway gate panels by the International Ski Federa-
tion (FIS) at the World Cup men’s downhill in Bormio, Italy. The idea for the new
panels was the product of a special official/athlete meeting held during World
Cup races in Val d’Isere, France. Skiers such as Aksel Lund Svindal and Scott
Macartney contributed ideas to slow the rate of injures that has dominated this
season’s headlines. Some readers’ thoughts:
“Hey FIS dudes, um… ever consider updating mandatory protective gear for
the racers to 21st century standards? Don’t get me wrong, I like speed suits as
much as the next person, but as far as protection goes you might as well be
naked. You’d think watching Scott McCartney’s helmet pop off during his hor-
rific Kitzbühel crash last season would’ve sparked some debate, yet here we
are the following season with athletes using the exact same gear.”
“The only thing really needed, that we can do anything about, is better bind-
ings. Radio relays that when one binding releases the other releases if there is
no weight on it, because if there is no weight on the ski and one is off — you’re
either down on the snow, or in the air and lost a ski. In both cases, that second
ski still on is going to likely cause injury. Smart bindings would be the future.”
“We all race because we love it, we love the adrenaline rush, the danger
factor and experience of making ourselves come close to having involuntary
bowel movements going 80 mph in a downhill course. We give consent to the
possibility of injuries every time we step in the gate whether it be for training or
a race. As we push the level of skiing to higher speeds, the safety of athletes is
going to be compromised. Don’t punish the athletes by turning their equipment
into restrictive suits of armor, but develop new things like breakaway panels,
ingenious new ways of fencing, or bindings that release even when the dins are
on 18. Keep ski racing alive!”
GRANDE IS GRAND
This [“The World Cup According to Grande”] is the best writing I have seen in
Ski Racing in many years. Congratulations and keep up the good work. Being
an ex-racer, it is extremely fascinating and critical without being unfair.
Because of a technical glitch, the caption for the lower right photo on page 27 of the
Jan. 7 issue was incorrect. The photo is of Georgia Simmerling.
Ski Racing regrets the error.