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