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Are You Living In The ‘60s, ‘70s, ‘80s, ‘90s or Beyond?

HoliMont-EntranceBy Dan Balkin, HoliMont Snowsports School

Is it possible? Indeed, it is. I have been secretly recording where some of the best skiers at HoliMont have been living. These sensational two plankers are veritably living anywhere from ‘65 to ‘05.

When I saw Bruce Heine two weekends ago ripping turns down Exhibition, he was living in ‘72 despite having spent all last year in ’85 — but today when I skied with him, he went back to ‘85. If you think this is impossible, read on.

The amazingly smooth, technically brilliant former U.S. Ski Teamer, Cindy Goodin (nee Oak), has been living in ‘65 all ski season, despite the fact that husband Barry is living in ‘88. Cindy sounded a little bit embarrassed about living in ’65, because so many people are living in different zones. I assured her if I ever make a ski turn that vaguely resembles hers, I would gladly live in ‘42.

HoliMont skiing ace Chris Hunt is the most futuristic of this brazen bunch. He is living in 05. Ward Wilson was committed to living in ‘85 last year, but this year he went back to ‘72 and has reportedly found something nifty there. Ski racer extraordinaire Joel Solly is perhaps the hardest to keep track of — last season I caught him living in the ‘60s, ‘80s, and ‘90s — amazing.

I swear on my underfunded retirement account that everything in the preceding paragraph is true. I am, after all, talking about what width these skiers are skiing underfoot.

What? Yes, nearly everyone who does not live in an impenetrable portion of the Amazon River Basin has heard of shaped skis, but not everyone knows that the second revolution in modern skiing is how wide your skis are.

As you know, ski lengths are measured in centimeters, but ski widths are measured in millimeters. Cindy Goodin could ski on toothpicks and make beautiful ski turns — that is why she can ski on skis that are essentially slalom cuts (the narrowest width underfoot) and still make gorgeous ski turns in any conditions. Mere skiing mortals, however, will generally find that wider skis are easier to ski on.

I was a skeptic, however, so I made a cautious move this winter. I went from a ski that was 68 mm underfoot to a ski that was 80 mm underfoot. The verdict? As Mick would say, “It’s only rock and roll but I like it.” It took me a few days to become accustomed to my wider skis, but I think they are fantastic.

The knock against wider skis was that they could not hold on ice. Being a former liberal arts major, I had to swear that I would never explain anything of a technical nature lest I cause an engineer to have a nervous breakdown. That said, the conventional wisdom is that more narrow-waisted skis, 64–68 mm underfoot, will hold much better on ice. On steep, gnarly, incredibly firm World Cup racecourses this is undoubtedly true, but Chris Hunt has no problem making his 105 mm waisted skis hold on the steepest pitches locally.

Different ski manufacturers use different benchmarks, but the following is a general rule of thumb: Skis that are narrow in the waist (64–70 mm underfoot) are generally favored by racers or ex-racers. Skis 72–80 mm are generally marketed as front-side carvers. Skis 85–98 mm underfoot are generally billed as mixed-use skis that perform admirably both on groomed trails and the ungroomed backside at large resorts. Skis 100 mm and over are often promoted as more suited to ungroomed snow or powder.

Remember, these are only guidelines, and Chris Hunt is ripping turns on firm pitches on skis that are 105 mm underfoot. This is where other factors come into play, such as how stiff your ski is, whether it is dampened by one or two layers of metal within the ski, and how much sidecut the ski has.

As for me, this year I’m going to be living in 80’s.  After all, that is the year that the Stones released the forgettable album “Emotional Rescue.” At least my skis can make ‘80s shine.

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