I'm interested in becoming both a freestyle skier and a bodybuilder. Do the two mix? Or can large amounts of muscle affect my skiing in a negative way?
via the Internet
My uninformed opinion is that working hard on the one would preclude your being able to work very hard on the other, but that's not really what you're asking. You can pursue freestyle skiing with overdeveloped muscles, but your exercise-induced gigantism won't make it any easier. Freestyle skiers, after all, are interested in muscles only insofar as they improve their performance, and it's not inconceivable that whomping big delts, pecs, and lats will just make you needlessly heavy. If you're going to be jumping, the more you weigh, the harder you'll obviously come down on your knees. (When you lift, you won't be sculpting your cartilage.) And it may be harder to move your body -- especially in aerials -- if you're a bulky, thick-necked bodybuilder. You can, of course, do both if you want to. But you'll have to spend a lot of time training, and the only time you'll have to yourself and for a life will probably be when you're in the shower. Which, if your body is a rock-hard paragon of the human form, could have its own rewards. Or should I say Onan rewards?
What's the deal with people using bent ski poles? Is there any secret advantage to them, or are they just supposed to look cool?
Salt Lake City, Utah
There are some advantages to some bent ski poles, but those benefits are certainly not secrets; they're prominently touted in the pole manufacturers' literature. Basically, there are two main reasons to ski with a bent ski pole. The first, aerodynamics, is (no offense intended) not a concern to anyone who doesn't know the advantage of a bent ski pole. Downhill, super G, and speed skiers all use ski poles that are curved to fit snugly against their bodies when they're tucking, reducing drag. For recreational skiers, on the other hand, several manufacturers have touted the benefits of a ski pole angled slightly forward and away from the skier at the tip, which is said to reduce the amount of effort required to swing the pole forward during a turn. Like so many technological tweaks to ski equipment, however, half the benefit is in your head: If you like the way bent poles feel, even though the actual benefit is minute, you may gain confidence and ski like a hero. Conversely, if you spend a hundred dead POTUS's on a pair of fercockta poles and feel no difference, you'll be pissed off and bitter and ski like a hook-line-and-sinker-swallowing sucker.
I've just started skiing. I love it, but I've heard that lots of people just use skiing as an excuse to show off their expensive ski duds. Is this true?
via the Internet
Anyone who just wanted to show off their fancy clothes wouldn't bother schlepping their luggage all the way to the mountains; you can stay in the city and wear inordinately expensive garments. But that's not to say there aren't folks who spend a coupla median household incomes on their straight-outta-the-Alps outfits and then just hang out at the bottom of the mountain in them, quite actively not skiing. And the recent interest that high-end designers like Prada, Chanel, and Armani have shown in skiwear has only encouraged such conspicuous consumers. The idea is to co-opt skiing's coolness, its many layers of meaning, the rich patina of its history. People who buy the stuff want to be well dressed, yes, but they want to be well-dressed skiers;they purchase image in the hopes of implying substance. Which isn't to say there aren't substantial skiers who wear expensive skiwear. And who's to say the turtle-fast woman in the $2,100 turquoise maribou-trimmed suit isn't having the time of her life putt-putting down the bunny slope, loving her stretch-panted self at the same timee? The problem occurs when function is made subservient to appearance. In regular clothes, climate-controlled buildings and temperate weather mean that the function of streetwear can be appearance if you so desire. But skiwear has to keep you warm and dry, which is why mountain duds that sacrifice comfort on the pyre of arbitrary aesthetics should generally be considered a menace.
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Former SKIING executive editor Josh Lerman is now senior editor at Parenting.