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Ask Josh – December 2000

Ask Dr. Flake

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Is it undesirable to catch air in a downhill race?
Richard Thomas Briganti
Radnor, Pennsylvania

It’s not the air that’s undesirable, it’s the things that come with it. Air itself does offer less friction than snow, so all things being equal, air is faster. But all things aren’t equal. First of all, it’s harder to stay in a tuck in the air¿you have to hold your legs up at the same time you’re pushing your body down, whereas on the ground all you have to do is push your body down. Lose your tuck and you’re a big, flapping sail with two flat seven-foot boards strapped to your feet. Also, in the air your balance is far more tenuous. A gust of wind could gently tap the bottoms of the tips of your skis, initiating an ever-so-slow backward rotation that ends with you frantically windmilling your arms in an effort to get off your tails. Which leads to item number three, which is the risk of a sloppy landing from which you have to recover, thus wasting valuable tenths of seconds. And as the previous three implicitly suggest, every time you launch off anything at 60-odd miles per hour you increase an already substantial risk of exploding in a swirling white cloud of snow and ice punctuated with skis, poles, and skier.

Should I teach my ex-girlfriend to ski or to snowboard?
Evan Sargent
via the Internet

Oh yeah, that’sa good way to get over a broken heart. You’ll have to spend lots of time with her, ride the chair next to her, maybe even touch her a little (just to make sure her leg or arm is in the proper position, right?). Sure, you’ll forget her in notime. “What, your new boyfriend doesn’t ski? Really? Well, how will you learn, then? Wait a minute! I have an idea. I could teach you!” Pathetic. Look, my first piece of advice is to forget it. Move on. But if you’re absolutely set on this idea, then I’d teach her skiing. You get her up and around on a snowboard and she’ll be off and flirting with some droopy-drawers, pierced-septum knuckle dragger in no time flat. Teach her to ski, though, and things move a little slower, you have a chance to appear a little more authoritative, you get a few more chairlift rides to ask faux-naive questions about the new boyfriend (“So, are there other interests the two of you don’t share?”). Besides, snowboard boots are so warm and comfy there’d be almost no chance she’d get cold feet and need someone to rub her chilly little tootsies.

I have a CamelBak hydration system, but the hose always freezes. Is there a way to avoid that?
Greg Rams
via the Internet

I’ll spare you the too-easy potshot crack about frozen hoses and move right on to the substance of your question. When it was first introduced, the CamelBak (and other hose-and-pack hydration systems) promised to send us slurping merrily into the watery sunset. And for warm-weather sports (matters of tube-flavored water and bladder hygiene notwithstanding), they did approximately that. But in the winter, the water in the hose froze, and if you were so thoughtless as to put the pack on your back outside of your clothes, then that could freeze, too. The pack makers have responded by covering various and sundry parts of the apparatus with neoprene insulation, but that’s only going to work, and temporarily at that, if what’s inside the neoprene is much warmer than the frigid air outside of it. Wearing the pack under your coat will help, but if you keep the tube flapping handily outside your jacket, there’s still nothing to prevent it from freezing. The folks at CamelBack suggest blowing the excess water back through the tube into the pack when you’re done drinking so the tube is empty and can’t freeze. But that won’t help for long, as any remnant moisture in the tube will freeze, and the next time you get a drink and blow it back a little more will freeze, etc. Your best bet is to keep both the pack and the hose under your jacket and just accept the inconvenience of unzippiing when you want a drink. Either that or leave the CamelBak at home and go into the lodge and get a glass of water every two hours or so like the rest of us.

Do you have a question for know-it-all Josh Lerman? Send it to Ask Josh, Skiing Magazine, 929 Pearl St., Ste. 200, Boulder, CO 80302; or e-mail him at

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Former Skiing executive editor Josh Lerman is now articles editor at Parenting.