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Boot Alignment and risk management issues

post #1 of 16
Thread Starter 
A lot of posts talk about how to help students with alignment concerns, and I have attended a PSIA clinic where we learned to do a few minor modification with trail maps to improve a student's alignment, and then skiing. I have also heard ideas about putting strips of masking tape on the bottom of boots to explore canting. If a student were to be injured using one or more modificaitons that an instructor created or encouraged, there would seem to be some additional risk. How would you suggest managing this risk?
post #2 of 16
It's a touchy area, Fog. First, by all means, instructors need to know what the policies of their particular school are regarding anything that could be considered--or construed by a prosecuting attorney--as a "modification" of the DIN-standard boot-binding interface. Some areas may absolutely forbid it.

Most that I'm aware of do not, though. At the very least, I would certainly explain fully to the students what you propose to do, and make sure they understand that it could, in fact, contribute to a binding malfunction and an injury. Make sure they agree to accept the risk. I suppose witnesses aren't a bad idea, too.

Personally, I don't think the things you describe increase the risk in any appreciable way, but I'm not aware of any studies that actually confirm my gut feeling. And, of course, virtually everything we do as instructors has the potential to increase someone's risk, at least in the near-term. Even learning the safest techniques out there often involves introducing students to something unfamiliar, and puts them in challenging situations and environments that may be new.

But litigation doesn't always consider such things, so watch out!

Assuming that you are following the established protocol of your resort, you are probably protected from any personal liability, regardless. I'm not a lawyer, though. I'd love to hear what some of our legal eagles have to say about this!

Best regards,
Bob Barnes
post #3 of 16
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Barnes/Colorado View Post
Assuming that you are following the established protocol of your resort, you are probably protected from any personal liability, regardless.
If you are working for the resort within the course of your duties the resort is liable for your actions, but regardless of whether your employer is liable, and insured, for anything you might do, you are not excused from liability for your own negligence simply because you were operating within the scope of your employment, with a few governmental exceptions. You must still not act or omit to act other than as a reasonable person would. A jury could find that the resort's policy required or permitted negligent action and that you should have known better. You would then be subject to joint liability with the resort, and other culpable defendants, but you would not be directly insured by the area's liability carrier.
post #4 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by FOG View Post
A lot of posts talk about how to help students with alignment concerns, and I have attended a PSIA clinic where we learned to do a few minor modification with trail maps to improve a student's alignment, and then skiing. I have also heard ideas about putting strips of masking tape on the bottom of boots to explore canting. If a student were to be injured using one or more modificaitons that an instructor created or encouraged, there would seem to be some additional risk. How would you suggest managing this risk?
Ouch. Why do you think they use Teflon as an AFD pad. If a lawsuit inclined student falls and hurts his leg while skiing on instructor altered bindings, even though he/she would've hurt it anyway, bend over and kiss your A$$ goodbye.... His lawyer will have 20 experts lined up explaining that the tape definitely could have induced the injury, and the resort's lawyer will have a couple saying that it probably didn't.
Oh, and even if that student begged on his hands and knees in front of 50 people, that won't mean a thing in court. Welcome to the screwed up world we call a court system.
post #5 of 16
Some choose to live in fear of the improbable, some chose to live.

Some buy insurance for every possible scenerio, some, like Doug Combs, live every day to the fullest and if they die, they die happy doing what they love.

we all live somewhere along the Risk spectrum.


Some of you may have seen some posts I have made about the need to create an indemnification program supported and administered by binding manufacturers for coaches and instructors to allow them to, safely within standards set by the industry and ASTM, apply shims between the boots and bindings of clients to allow evaluation of canting and fore/aft balance issues on hill. It is high time that we stop running from what can improve the health of the industry and the enjoyment and satisfaction of aspiring skiers everywhere. Somehow resorts have found away around the liabilties associated with building huge dangerous man-made obstacles in terrain parks than have claimed lives, but can not or have not tryed to address this issue of incorporating a service that more and more people are realizing will help their skiing enjoyment and SAFETY. Terrain parks sell lift tickets!

Ask yourself this?... Do you always insure that you have cleaned every bit of snow and ice or contamination from the parking lot off your boot sole and binding innerface before you click into them? Do you think that this increased friction might cause a problem? Do you think that just maybe bindging manufacturers have considered this real life environment when designing their bindings? You bet they have.

I have not experienced a binding heel piece that could not accept at least 3mm of increased material in it and still close properly or release properly. Heel pieces only need to release straight vertically so increased friction from foreign material is not an issue.

I have not experience a binding toe piece that could not tolerate/compensate for at least 3mm of increased material in it and still function. Toe pieces need to release laterally therefore friction is an issue for retention and release. Realize too that a certain amount of friction is inherent and neccessary for proper retention. The material that is used to shim a toe piece needs to be of a maximum thickness and should not add more friction that the system inherently provides. This material type and thickness could be standardized by the industry and required for all indemnified coaches/instructors to use when performing on hill assessments and experimentation.

There is a simple solution to our dilemma. Someone with industry clout and fortitude needs to take the lead on this topic and see it through. We need to involve the manufacturers, resort operators, PSIA, and USSCA to get this done. Resort ski schools could offer a much better product when this service would be acceptable to the risk management department. It needs to be standardized and indemnified. We need to get it out of the closet and into the limelight!

Do you want to ski better or hide under a rock?....
post #6 of 16
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by bud heishman View Post
Some choose to live in fear of the improbable, some chose to live.

Some buy insurance for every possible scenerio, some, like Doug Combs, live every day to the fullest and if they die, they die happy doing what they love.

we all live somewhere along the Risk spectrum.


Some of you may have seen some posts I have made about the need to create an indemnification program supported and administered by binding manufacturers for coaches and instructors to allow them to, safely within standards set by the industry and ASTM, apply shims between the boots and bindings of clients to allow evaluation of canting and fore/aft balance issues on hill. It is high time that we stop running from what can improve the health of the industry and the enjoyment and satisfaction of aspiring skiers everywhere. Somehow resorts have found away around the liabilties associated with building huge dangerous man-made obstacles in terrain parks than have claimed lives, but can not or have not tryed to address this issue of incorporating a service that more and more people are realizing will help their skiing enjoyment and SAFETY. Terrain parks sell lift tickets!

Ask yourself this?... Do you always insure that you have cleaned every bit of snow and ice or contamination from the parking lot off your boot sole and binding innerface before you click into them? Do you think that this increased friction might cause a problem? Do you think that just maybe bindging manufacturers have considered this real life environment when designing their bindings? You bet they have.

I have not experienced a binding heel piece that could not accept at least 3mm of increased material in it and still close properly or release properly. Heel pieces only need to release straight vertically so increased friction from foreign material is not an issue.

I have not experience a binding toe piece that could not tolerate/compensate for at least 3mm of increased material in it and still function. Toe pieces need to release laterally therefore friction is an issue for retention and release. Realize too that a certain amount of friction is inherent and neccessary for proper retention. The material that is used to shim a toe piece needs to be of a maximum thickness and should not add more friction that the system inherently provides. This material type and thickness could be standardized by the industry and required for all indemnified coaches/instructors to use when performing on hill assessments and experimentation.

There is a simple solution to our dilemma. Someone with industry clout and fortitude needs to take the lead on this topic and see it through. We need to involve the manufacturers, resort operators, PSIA, and USSCA to get this done. Resort ski schools could offer a much better product when this service would be acceptable to the risk management department. It needs to be standardized and indemnified. We need to get it out of the closet and into the limelight!

Do you want to ski better or hide under a rock?....
If someone else, such as binding manufacturers were to indemnify me, that would go a long way toward managing my risk, but since they don't indemnify me, how do I manage the risk in the existing environment? Are you suggesting that we go bare of coverage, and do things as we see fit? This might work, but I would want some better evidence that I am meeting a standard of care were I to be sued. Would it be bbeter to attend some course and get some certification? Teaching to the PSIA model goes a long way toward showing we meet the standard of care in our instruction. We need to be able to show we meet the standard of care in our alignment efforts..
post #7 of 16
If I wasn't comfortable and confident with what I was doing then I wouldn't do it.

We need the binding manufacturers to support this concept! and someone to champion the idea of a certification program that would provide indemnification for instructors/coaches.
post #8 of 16

follow the lawyer

the first thing a lawyer would do is make sure there are no witnesses, and destroy the records. at least you are actually trying to help someone.....
post #9 of 16
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by bud heishman View Post
If I wasn't comfortable and confident with what I was doing then I wouldn't do it.

We need the binding manufacturers to support this concept! and someone to champion the idea of a certification program that would provide indemnification for instructors/coaches.
In no way did I mean to criticize you or imply any criticism of you. I think your advice here is great, without any reservation. I am looking to manage my own risk when I implement any suggestions, and to explore ways for others to manage the risk.

Certification does not have to provide indemnification to be useful. It can provide evidence that the certified individual meets a standard of care. I am sure that is part of my ski area's support for instructor certification. I can see the defense now: "the instructor working for my client was certified by an internationally recognized national accrediting organization, the PSIA, and was teaching in accord with their doctrine, and our resort's instructional plan. Of course there is some risk to skiing, but the plaintiff accepted that risk, and the ski area did its best to manage that risk."

If there were a recognized organization for boot modifications that would help a lot. There could be a similar defense. The closest I see anyone coming is bootfiters' university. I am not so sure that modifications encouraged by PSIA would be so wwarmly treated in court. If I were the dfense attorney I would certainly give it a shot, but if I were the plaintiff's attorney, I would feel pretty comfortable attacking the instructor's expertise in boot modifications.

Regarding Bud, and a few others across the country who are regarded in the trade as experts, i think they would likely be able to prove that they met a standard of care ifthey were to be sued. What can everyone else do?
post #10 of 16
Fog,

No offense taken, Sorry, I didn't mean to sound defensive, just making a point that one should feel comfortable and have a strong understanding of how bindings function and alignment issues before experimenting with strangers or paying clients. I am glad you see my point, and your thoughts about "ski mechanics workshop" may be a very good starting point since they are well respected and supported by most of the manufacturers. I should probably try to sell my buddie Jim Schaffner (a traveling clinician for them) on the concept and see if he might sell the concept to the workshop powers that be.

I just believe that if resorts can build jumps and obstacles to challenge and injure boarders and skiers with little liability, then we should be able to help people ski better and safer with proper boot balancing.

Regarding what everyone else can do?:

Don't use more than 3mm thick shims.
keep the skier on gentle terrain and away from trees and lift towers.
ski at moderate speeds relative to their ability level.
leave no paper trail and have no witnesses (as suggested above).

Create the awareness for the skier that the grass may just be greener with proper alignment then refer them to a trusted boot guy who can perform the permanant alterations to their boots and return to DIN specs.

bud
post #11 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by bud heishman View Post
Fog,

No offense taken, Sorry, I didn't mean to sound defensive, just making a point that one should feel comfortable and have a strong understanding of how bindings function and alignment issues before experimenting with strangers or paying clients. I am glad you see my point, and your thoughts about "ski mechanics workshop" may be a very good starting point since they are well respected and supported by most of the manufacturers. I should probably try to sell my buddie Jim Schaffner (a traveling clinician for them) on the concept and see if he might sell the concept to the workshop powers that be.
bud
Talk to Jim, I'm betting he says it's a bad idea. There are some bindings that rely on the sole of the boot being clear more than others, so I doubt if he'd give it a general blessing, and knowing the engineer that Carl is, he'll probably want to quantify it, but if anyone would come up with a way to temporarily cant safely and get the blessing of the various binding manufufacturers, it would be Vermont Ski Safety.

Quote:
"the instructor working for my client was certified by an internationally recognized national accrediting organization, the PSIA, and was teaching in accord with their doctrine, and our resort's instructional plan. Of course there is some risk to skiing, but the plaintiff accepted that risk, and the ski area did its best to manage that risk."
"Sidebar your honor!!!! due to new evidence just introduced in testimony, I would like to add the PSIA to the list of defendants.":
post #12 of 16
2-turn,

Which bindings are you refering to?...

binding toe pieces either have automatic toe height adjustments or the have a manuel screw that adjust the clearance between boot and binding. Either way both are designed to allow/compensate for some snow/ice build up and still function properly.

How would one prove in court that their binding didn't release because there was contamination in the system? How could it be disproved?

What matters is that the boot binding system will still fall within the "inspection range" when torque tested. I have been a professional witness in court cases and as a manufacturer we were asked to test the system and determine if it had functioned correctly.

I should add to my list above that the person putting shims under the bindings should explain what they are doing and the possible risks then get the approval from the person before proceeding. Would a verbal consent help in litigation? "I would like to place these small shims under your boots to demonstrate to you a possibly better position that would allow you to ski better and put less stress on your knees but you should understand that their is a slight increased risk that it will negatively affect the release of your binding while using them and I don't recommend that you continue using shims or tape after we have done this experiment because of the increased risk. Do you understand? Would you like me to continue?..." Should the person demonstrate hesitation, I would not continue.

bud
post #13 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by bud heishman View Post
2-turn,

Which bindings are you refering to?...

binding toe pieces either have automatic toe height adjustments or the have a manuel screw that adjust the clearance between boot and binding. Either way both are designed to allow/compensate for some snow/ice build up and still function properly.
What matters is that the boot binding system will still fall within the "inspection range" when torque tested. I have been a professional witness in court cases and as a manufacturer we were asked to test the system and determine if it had functioned correctly.

I should add to my list above that the person putting shims under the bindings should explain what they are doing and the possible risks then get the approval from the person before proceeding. Would a verbal consent help in litigation? "I would like to place these small shims under your boots to demonstrate to you a possibly better position that would allow you to ski better and put less stress on your knees but you should understand that their is a slight increased risk that it will negatively affect the release of your binding while using them and I don't recommend that you continue using shims or tape after we have done this experiment because of the increased risk. Do you understand? Would you like me to continue?..." Should the person demonstrate hesitation, I would not continue.

bud
It's been a while since I hung out with the Vermont Ski safety guys, so I don't remember which bindings were which, but some bindings depend more on the base of the boot being clean, and don't release as consistently when the bottom of the boots are contaminated. This info is based on a study Vermont Ski Safety did with a clean/ dirty test on new bindings several years ago. Some are retained more by the wings, so the bottom of the boot aren't as critical and some of the AFD's worked better. Markers have the moveable toe, so they should be immune to contamination, but guess what, if that piece of tape hangs over the movable pad and hangs up, that binding will not release. IIRC, I think it was some models of Looks were the least influenced by dirt.
I did some testing when I went to AT boots, and also I had a customer told by Nordica that if he wanted to use Alpine bindings, Markers worked best with AT. Well, I set up that combo for him and found the Vibram sole was soft enough to hang over the sliding part and while exerting a slight forward pressure, the sole stuck on the non-moving part of the toe piece and wouldn't release. When confronted with this, Nordica said "oh yeah, you also have to grind the Vibram sole flat." In some bindings that duct tape could act like a vibram sole. On my set up (garmont G-rides), I found Salomons, with the toe piece adjusted all the way up, released consistently. Of course that's with a clean, perfectly brand new toe piece.
post #14 of 16
Now you are telling me you are using AT boots with vibram soles and you are worried about a little tape on an Alpine boot sole hanging up?.....Wow! Do me a favor...take your AT boots to a shop and have them torgue test your binding with them then put an alpine boot in the system with say...6 layers of duct tape on one side of the binding and let me know which one tested out higher!? Don't tell your buddie Carl E. you are using vibram soles with your alpine bindings, he might have a seizure.

Oh, another question....Have you ever looked between the Marker sliding AFD and the base plate after that binding has been used for a season? They use "GREASE" between the two surfaces to LUBRICATE the interface of the two parts so as to reduce binding to binding friction. Grease attracts dirt and grit (as you will notice upon inspection) that contaminates this interface. So, IMO, this kinda shoots that theory out the window. Don't believe all the marketing hype you read in those brochures.

bud
post #15 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by bud heishman View Post
Now you are telling me you are using AT boots with vibram soles and you are worried about a little tape on an Alpine boot sole hanging up?.....Wow! Do me a favor...take your AT boots to a shop and have them torgue test your binding with them then put an alpine boot in the system with say...6 layers of duct tape on one side of the binding and let me know which one tested out higher!? Don't tell your buddie Carl E. you are using vibram soles with your alpine bindings, he might have a seizure.

Oh, another question....Have you ever looked between the Marker sliding AFD and the base plate after that binding has been used for a season? They use "GREASE" between the two surfaces to LUBRICATE the interface of the two parts so as to reduce binding to binding friction. Grease attracts dirt and grit (as you will notice upon inspection) that contaminates this interface. So, IMO, this kinda shoots that theory out the window. Don't believe all the marketing hype you read in those brochures.

bud
As I said in my previous post, I did torque test my AT boots in the Solly bindings with a Vermont tester and they tested within specs, not to say this will hold true in the real world. I even put downward pressure on the toe while twisting out, and I couldn't get it to test high. I only did this as an experiment and rarely if ever use AT boots with Alpine bindings. I have 2 skis mounted with Fritschi AT bindings that I use with my AT boots, and, YES, I did function test that setup also, and they both tested EXACTLY according to the chart. BTW, this is a sore point for my Vermont Safety friend.
As far as Marker bindings, I was exposing a problem with them, not hyping them. But as far as the grease goes, yes, grease does attract dirt which is why they say to use silicone(not gease) when lubing them, but not taking one apart to see how it works, I won't comment on how that will affect release except to say that I haven't seen a problem with the slide sticking.
post #16 of 16
2 turn,

Look at any new marker binding and you will see GREASE.

I would personally choose to ski with a hard plastic shim between my boots and bindings before I would ski with a vibram sole in an alpine binding.

Rubber would seem to provide far more friction to a sliding surface than would hard plastic?.....We may be jointly proving a point that alpine bindings can function properly with a variety of materials and tolerances placed in the system. We know it we just need legal protection to help make the next leap in ski instruction methodology.
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