Ski Tip from the Pro: Check Your Bindings

photo credit: Izzard

photo credit: Izzard

Airbags, seatbelts, life jackets: I assume they’ll do what they’re supposed to do if ever put to the test. Add ski bindings to that list. Other than being part of the annual ski tune-up, I’ve never given them a second thought. At least that was the case until I spent a few days at Mt. Tremblant.

It was a last minute trip and I was planning to replace my gear at the end of the season. I thought I’d squeeze in a few more days with the old skis and take a lesson or two while I was there. Mid-chairlift ride, my Mt. Tremblant Snow School instructor told me I better get my bindings checked. Why? Because bindings have a limited life span. And once they pass their best-before date, you could run into trouble. Your bindings may not release. Take a tumble and the results could range from a torn ACL to death. If you need to see the evidence, hundreds of painful crashes on YouTube make a pretty compelling case.

Now I’m double-checking the safety equipment I so casually trust with my life.

photo credit: Apostolos

photo credit: Apostolos

Next lesson: ski technicians cannot adjust older bindings.  Technology changes, release mechanisms evolve, and technicians will only work on bindings that are indemnified. If bindings are indemnified, it means the manufacturer stands behind their ability to function as intended. I’m pretty sure we all want our bindings to function – meaning stay on or release – as intended. If the manufacturer is stepping away from any responsibility, it’s time to pay attention.The National Ski and Snowboard Retailers’ Association publishes a Binding Indemnification List that reputable ski shops know about. And the professionals won’t touch old bindings.As I travelled along this road of binding discovery, I wondered if there was anything else I should be doing to minimize risk (aside from proper ski storage and maintenance and that’s another story). I took at look at what Mike Langran, President of the International Society for Skiing Safety, had to say. His take:  Self-test your bindings every time you go out. At the very least it could significantly reduce your likelihood of knee injuries. His suggested tests are posted below and take less than a minute. Check his article on the website ski-injury.com for how-to photos.

Test the toe piece setting

With your ski angled so that the front inside edge is on the ground, try and twist your boot inwards so that the toe should twist out of the front of the binding. Apply the force gradually – you should not have to use excessive force.

Test the heel piece setting

With your ski flat on the ground, slide your foot back until your leg is out straight. Now try and lift the heel of your boot out of the binding. Don’t use do too much force – you’ll strain a muscle or possibly even rupture your Achilles tendon if you’re too vigorous!

Sounds pretty reasonable. Given all the joy skiing brings me, I’m happy to take the advice of experts and spend a few minutes making sure things are working as they should.

photo credit: Trysil

photo credit: Trysil

What do you think? How often do you change or test your gear?

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8 thoughts on “Ski Tip from the Pro: Check Your Bindings

  1. We get our skis tuned every year at a reputable shop and they do check the bindings. Thanks for the reminder, time to take them in…… the snow is coming. And, you are correct about wanting the bindings to release. I had a ski accident three years ago (hit by a snowboarder) and I “flew” out of my skis (thank goodness for that part – the rest was not pretty).

  2. The ski binding mystery is now solved. Asked at several ski shops and did not get satisfactory replies. Sent this to a friend who had a problem with bindings releasing. Excellent work.

  3. OMG, I thought all there was to skiing is go down the hill hope not to fall and be cold! Obviously I am not a skiier! Amazing tip on ski bindings and adjustments who knew! not me clearly.

  4. What do you think? I think this is food for thought. How often do you change or test your gear? .. The more I skied the more times the binding setting are checked.

  5. RIGHT ON THE MARK.
    Yes ski binding settings and adjustments (to be set by professionally trained people) are a very important part of skiing. You need to consider the timeframe – the number of times skiing on the skis. I have known avid skiers to upgrade skis and bindings yearly because 120 days or more may wear the plastic, springs, pins and other moving parts to a point of … do I put my feet back into these bindings after the punishment they took over the ski season?

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