50th Anniversary Ask Josh Special: January 1999

Ask Dr. Flake

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Dear Josh, I have read of a recent epidemic of broken legs resulting from skiing accidents. I am very optimistic about the new “safety” bindings, which purport to open before the skier can be injured. What do you think?
Harland “Bunny” Stoth-Hooker
East Wotham, Connecticut

Safety, safety, safety-that is all one hears these days. Well, let me tell you, in the old days we didn’t talk about “safety,” and we didn’t break our legs. No, real skiers are not gingham-wearing little girls skittering about in mary janes and frill-topped socks, all aflutter and out of breath at the thought of a simple ski-slope spill. And these new bindings you are so optimistic about? They will never catch on. The idea for this Hvam Saf-ski binding we have all heard so much about recently, for example, is based on fear. It will keep you in your binding if you are skiing “just right”. Attempt some trick, however, or momentarily lose your balance, and it will release of its own accord, hurtling you into the snow, and your ski down the mountain like a hickory missile with its sites set on the tender flesh of some innocent skier below. Or are we, as some have proposed, to wear our skis on a leash, like a dog? As every skier of any experience knows, the best way to avoid a leg break is for your ski to break right in front of your toe iron, just in the nick of time. And I expect to hear very shortly of wartime advances in American hardwood lamination, which will allow the finest skis to do just that. They may end up costing upwards of 20 dollars a pair, but it will be well worth it. (December 1948)

What’s up with these stretch pants things? Do they really stretch? And what’s the point? Are they just a fad?
Plotya Dzibkin
Fecumville, New York

Oy, these stretch pants! What’s next? Short skis? You listen to me: Stretch pants have no more place on the ski slopes than a bacon salesman at a rabbi convention. First of all, they are not as practical as good, sturdy wool gabardine, and despite what anyone says, they do not look right with a sport coat in the tap room at the end of the day. They are the result more of the sad state of modern tailoring than of any actual need for new fabrications in skiwear. If your ski kit fits correctly, why do you need pants that are designed to stretch? And they do not strike me as decent. All too often have I seen a young lady-need I add an unchaperoned young lady?-crammed into pants several sizes too small, the fabric stretched tighter than her skin itself, using these so-called stretch pants as an excuse to lure men to her side. I look away, I tell you! I look away! I do not look at the firm back of her thigh, nor the gentle swelling and curve of her youthful buttocks, nor the gently mesmerizing tightening and easing of her muscles. No, I do not! It is not right!! I think it safe to say that by 1975, stretch pants will be a distant memory, as will these new buckle boots. (February 1955)

I’m very excited about the new ski area under development at Vail, Colorado, which I’ve heard will rival the great ski villages of Europe. What do you think of this area’s promise?
Johann Johannsen
Tonkawonka, Minnesot

People frequently ask me what the next up-and-coming resort will be. Some, I think, are even looking to make a quick buck off an investment in the vicinity of these new slopes, either in a shoddily constructed chalet or some other business venture. Several new ski areas have been started recently, and while I wish them the best of luck, I do not have high hopes. Despite the growing popularity of the sport, most of these hills are just the fervent wishes of fevered imaginations. There is no sound reason to build this Vail resort. It’s in the middle of nowhere. The valley is narrow, and although the snowfall is quite impressive, the mountain itself is not. The best skiing, I’ve heard, is on the back of Vail’s mountain, miles from the proposed lifts and village. And whhat is the likelihood that you can build an entire village from scratch? It is unheard-of. Even Sun Valley already had a bustling little town in Ketchum. Vail has nothing but an old ranch. Do they propose to build a quaint Alpine village, with stores and hotels and the like, in the middle of Colorado? No, the future of skiing resides quite comfortably in its present, thank you very much. Don’t count on Vail to overtake established areas like Berthoud Pass or Sugar Bowl any time soon. (January 1961)

I’ve just purchased a pair of those new ski brakes and I was wondering if you had any tips on installing them. Will I be the only one on the slopes with them?
Lars Putzcurdle
Hinieham, New Mexico

I hope to God you’ll be the only one on the slopes with them. First of all, ski brakes will never work. They will get frozen in the “up” position, and your ski will become a six-foot-long fiberglass, steel, and P-tex harpoon, leaping from mogul top to mogul top, pausing only to split some skier’s already hairless scalp. Furthermore, if you fall and your ski stops and you keep sliding, you’ll have to hike up the hill for your errant ski, something no reasonable skier would tolerate. And if ski brakes should become universal, how many skiers will have to suffer the indignity of limping into the ski patrol shack with the the tail of a ski poking out the top of their skull after being impaled from above-like an olive with a toothpick-by a ski plummeting from the foot of a safety-strapless skier on a chairlift? After you’ve carefully wiped the blood off your binding, you would be well advised to put your safety strap back on. (Spring 1974)

Former SKIING Magazine executive editor, Josh Lerman, is only 35 years old, but he believes his skiing wisdom to be timeless.

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