Ask Josh: November 1998

Ask Dr. Flake

Dear Josh, I've heard that top speed skiers go faster than any sky divers, and my friend keeps telling me to prove it. What's the truth?
Dak Steiert
Edwards, Colorado

Ah, the truth. We all want the truth; would that we could find it. In your case the truth is elusive and hydra-headed. You are, on average, correct. Most sky divers average 110 to 150 miles per hour in their descents, and the world record for speed skiers is 152 miles per hour. But sky divers can certainly go faster than that. In fact, the world record for sky-diver speed is 321 miles per hour, a speed even the slipperiest of earthbound two-plankers hasn't halved. The main difference is that speed skiers are usually trying to go as fast as they can, whereas most sky divers are not; they kind of spread eagle themselves to slow down so that their torsos won't be torn from their pelvises when they pull the rip cord. As for proof, math will demonstrate irrefutably that sky divers can go faster than speed skiers: All the wax in the world is not going to give snow a lower coefficient of friction than air.

I am a 39-year-old, 165-pound advanced skier, but I have slowed down recently due to a knee injury. A local sporting-goods store recommends the Dynastar 8XL, which they're selling for cheap. Problem is, it's a ladies' ski. Will I look like a man in high heels on these things or what?
Ed Acuna
Pasco Robles, California

Stop your whining, hike up your skirt, and go skiing, you weenie! No one is going to notice whether your skis have an L on them or not. And if you're having fun, who the hell cares? Isn't that what skiing's all about? The only real differences between these skis and the men's version are going to be the color (in this case, blue and yellow versus the regular X8's blue and red), the lengths available, and the torsional stiffness. But since you're not the heaviest guy in California and your knee's blown apart anyway, you're not going to need a manly 203, and torsional stiffness probably won't be an issue. If the price is right and you like the skis, go for it. It might be worth it, though, to demo a few skis before you decide to buy the cheapest ones you come across. And by the way, that's a pretty blouse. New?

What are your feelings on retail prices for skis? What should the typical discount off the list price be?
Joe Monahan
Boston, Massachusetts

My feelings, believe it or not, are immaterial. I feel that we should all get our skis at cost. No-better yet, we should all get our skis for free. That's what I feel. But that's communism; if we all had free skis, we'd miss powder days because we'd always be in line to buy toilet paper. Really harsh toilet paper. So I'll settle for modest discounts from suggested retail. But what's modest? Let's take a hypothetical pair of skis with a suggested retail of $625. Wholesale on that is-hypothetically-$424. But most ski shops don't pay wholesale. They get a discount. If they order 25 to 74 pairs of that ski they might pay $313 a pair. Seventy five to 149 pairs might cost them $306 a pair. And so on. So, what's the markup on a pair of skis? Impossible to say; it's different everywhere. But whatever the markup is, it has to pay for mortgage, taxes, insurance, advertising, and the rheumy-eyed slacker who's been hired to say, "Yo, these rip." If the skis are ugly and his boss got a discount on them in the first place, you might get them for cheap, say $450. But if they're flying off the shelves, you may be stuck paying close to suggested retail. Accept it: The free market will cost you.

I bought some Marker MRR racing bindings, which have turntable heels. What's the advantage of having a binding with a turntable?
Isaac Linton
Gresham, Oregon

They look cool. I have always felt they look cool. When I was little I thought they looked cool. That's why I bought my N 77's back in 1980. Even now, I feel that they look cool. On soome of them you can even see the springs! Cool! Now, the putative advantage of turntables is that, because the screws holding the heelpiece to the ski are beneath rather than behind your heel, the flat spot on the ski caused by the boot locked into the binding is smaller, enabling the ski to arc more easily. Can the average skier feel this? No. Can some skiers feel this? Yes, but not all of them will like it. Plus, some engineers note a disadvantage: In forward falls, the heelpiece jams the toe of the boot into the toepiece of the binding, which theoretically makes it harder for the binding to release (though turntables have never been linked to increased rates of injury). But these differences are tiny. The real advantage of turntable bindings: Did I mention that they look cool?