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Alpine ski racers generally set their ski bindings higher than binding manufacturers and ASTM/IAS (International Association for Safety and Skiing) recommendations for expert skiers. Racer binding settings among two groups of recreational racers were investigated and correlated with incidences of inadvertent binding releases during racing. Preliminary findings confirmed higher settings among both 13-year-old children racers (median 1 scale indicator above S recommendation) and among adult Masters recreational skiers (median 2 scale settings above recommendation for the toe and 2.5 above recommendation for the heel).
Reliable reports of inadvertent release incidents during races were investigated. In addition to the lateral release at the toe, which constituted almost all slalom inadvertent releases, associated with rapid onset of torque at a gate, the common giant slalom inadvertent heel release was documented. This latter event can occur when the ski is pressed down into a trough well below a giant slalom gate, with skier weight far forward and deceleration of the weighted ski, and is not prevented by high heel release settings. This common heel “prerelease” corresponds to the new inadvertent heel release mechanism (“Brown's Bow”) identified by Brown and Ettlinger (ASTM STP 860, 1985, pp. 224–237). A related heel inadvertent release upon sudden unweighting is also suspected.
ski bindings, ski racing, skiing safety
Professor, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA