Ask Josh - Februrary 2000

Ask Dr. Flake

dear josh,
Since you are the almighty man of knowledge, can you tell me the resorts in the U.S. that ban snowboarding?
Matt Jungers
via the Internet

I think you're going way the hell out on the shakiest limb of the skinniest tree in America when you call me the "almighty man of knowledge." In the future, I'd prefer that you refer to me as a man of putative knowledge whose mightiness has been neither proven nor disproved (I still cling, funguslike, to hope). Thank you. Anyway, the nationally significant ski areas that do not allow snowboarding at this writing are Mad River Glen, Alta, Deer Valley, Taos, and Aspen Mountain. Snowboarding's now been around long enough that I can make some sweeping generalizations about the situation. The big picture is that skiing and snowboarding are essentially compatible, as has been proven at almost every major ski area in the country. The little picture is that the two are not inherently compatible. Skis and snowboards do have different effects on the snow, which some skiers might find vexing. Skiers and snowboarders do use the trail differently, which some skiers might find vexing. Skiers and snowboarders do differ in average age and therefore in taste in clothes, music, and lifestyle, which some skiers might find vexing. It is because of the little picture that these ski areas choose not to allow snowboarding. And as long as they can afford-economically-to ignore the big picture in favor of the little, I suspect they'll stick with it.

Will we ever see the perfect pair of skis-one pair that does it all and sits at the pinnacle of technology?
Mike Gregoire
The Dalles, Oregon

Well, Mike, I thought we were close to the top when we had Hexcel's glass-wrapped honeycomb core and Dynastar's Omega Rib running around at the same time. And then darn it all if I didn't think the Rossignol VAS damping system was just about the biggest pair of feline pj's the world had ever seen. Now we've got extreme sidecuts consorting with titanium and graphite, while piezoelectronics flash hither and yon on Gothic K2's. So, will there ever be a pinnacle? The short answer is no. There are just too many demented engineers who looo-ove skiing for there to be any cessation to innovation in ski technology. But if you are simply asking if there will ever be a perfect pair of skis, I would have to say that I myself have owned several pairs of them. My Rossignol FPs (the gray ones, not the blue ones) were perfect. Then there was a pair of Hart SLX slalom skis that, quirky though they were, were on many instances perfect. I have strong convictions that my Authier Zubiflex GSs were perfect-until some bastard at Iberia Air Lines broke them. I could go on, but my point is that lots of skis have given me lots of perfect moments, and at those times, I'm thinking a whole lot more about the pounding in my chest and the spectacular clarity of my vision than the technology underfoot.

My son and I have been wondering where washboard ruts in ski runs come from. They don't make intuitive sense, given the way skis work. What causes them?
Ken Evans
Salt Lake City, Utah

This question has been bugging me for nigh on six years. I have asked and asked and never received a decent answer. My personal feeling, however, has been that they do make intuitive sense, given how skis work. And I've just had that hunch verified by a source sound enough that you should be able to weather a noisy barroom debate on the subject with this answer: As you ski along the flats, your skis are both packing the snow and mushing small quantities of it out of the way, plowlike. When you encounter a small bump in the snow, you push more snow up onto it, building it up, and then pack it down, strengthening it. Your ski then plunges down the other side and, hitting ground level, plows a little bit of snow out of the way, creating a trough. Now multiply that process by thousands of skiers, and you get a series of bumps and trenches being built up in rows. Those of you old enough to have ridden a T-bar will have witnessed this process in slow motion many times-remember?

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