Ski bindings, the metal and plastic contraptions that hold you on, or let you off your skis, have come a long way since the bone snapping bear traps of the fifties. Now we hardly think about them. In most cases, they have become so sophisticated that you need to be a rocket scientist to understand the technicalities.I must confess that I could always tell you the name of the ski I was on, but would be often hard pressed to tell you the name of the binding that was doing such a wonderful job holding me on and letting me go with such precision.
There are times, however, when they may let you down - usually because they have not been adjusted properly.There is now a standardised din setting for all makes of ski binding so that the numbers on the dials mean the same regardless of the make. They can be adjusted to suit the weight and expertise of a skier - the higher the number the heavier and/or better the skier - generally. They should be tightened so that within a reasonable margin they will both hold the skier onto the skis and then let him go when necessary.
The back binding releases to prevent him from breaking his leg, and the front one releases to prevent him twisting his knee ligaments. For reasons I won't bother with here, a safe back binding was quite easy to perfect, while a safe front binding was more difficult. This is why there are far fewer broken legs than twisted knee ligaments today. I say that generally bindings should be adjusted to suit the weight of a skier, but his standard and the speed he skis, and the terrain he is skiing on can also be considered.
What I recommend here is that whoever adjusts the skis for you in the shop is aware of your weight and adjusts the bindings accordingly. If they then pre-release and come off when you haven't even made a mistake, check to see whether the back or front one is responsible. If it was the back one the clamp will have opened upwards, and if it was the front one then the back will still be closed. This is because front bindings normally return to their original position after release and you won't notice any change.If you are out on the hill you can usually sometimes borrow a screwdriver from the lift hut - but don't expect anyone else to do it for you unless you are very attractive, and they don't mind being sued if you have a bad accident because of a maladjusted binding.
Tighten in half clicks until the binding stops pre-releasing. The harder you ski the higher you will need the settings, but always crank up in small increments.Sometimes bindings do pre-release in such unusual circumstances that there's no case for adjustment. A few years ago we were skiing in the sun down good hard pack snow. I decided to hang left on to a path out of the sun, and hit it a bit too fast. It was classic ice, hard as rock and bumpy like a ship's bottom and I knew I was in trouble.
There was a sharp left turn fifty yards down but before I was anywhere near it my right ski came off and this was the one I really needed for a left hand turn. I just about got the uphill one to start turning but I couldn't cope with the bumpy ice and hit the lip on the outside of the bend at about thirty. Nothing was visible over the lip apart from the far side of the valley. At the moment of launch my left ski stopped dead on the upward lip and I flew out of it. I described a perfect parabola about twenty feet above the ground at its highest point with just my boots on, and landed on all fours twenty yards down the hill in soft snow. The people coming up in the bubble lift a few feet away must have laughed fit to burst..Simon Dewhurst has taught downhill skiing in North America, Scandinavia and the European Alps for 35 years. The above extract is taken from his book "Secrets of Better Skiing" and can be found at http://www.ski-jungle.
com/better-skiing/contents.htm. If you have any comments about the above article, he will be happy to answer them.
By: Simon Dewhurst