< officially on my soapbox>
I have a love/hate relationship with the sport of skiing. In some ways I love dealing with all the gear and the complexities of getting everything dialed-in. But today I dealt with what I believed to be a very small change that led to very large consequences, thus showing me once again that ski reviews aren't to be trusted, even your own demoing sometimes can't be trusted, and skiing as a sport needs someone to step up and try to give all of us a better way to select properly fitting gear and methods to get it all setup to maximize our skiing enjoyment.
< getting off my soapbox>
I decided to reduce the binding delta on my Elan 999 skis by removing the 6mm lifter under the heel piece on my Look PX12 Ti bindings. This change left me at just about 0 delta with both my toe and my heel at the same height. I had used these skis previously with the lifter in place so I knew them well enough in that setup before making the change. With this "small" change in the binding delta I hit Breckenridge today to see how the skis would perform.
I knew from the moment that I skated towards the first lift that I was going to be in for an interesting day. I was already having trouble getting the shovels of the skis to engage. We took a warm-up groomer before hitting the bowls and chutes off the top of peak 8 and I felt like my skiing had just stepped back to full blown intermediate status. I just felt no confidence in setting my edges and the skis were feeling very squirrely at speed. These same skis just 5 days earlier were railing groomers for me and were very inspiring overall. As the day went on I was able to adjust a bit, but it was much more work and I had to be constantly "on" to make sure my weight was substantially forward at all times. I generally ski with a much more centered weight balance, but with the reduction in heel lift I had to shift my weight significantly further forward.
Now please don't take away from my experience that a reduction in binding delta is a bad thing - and that's the very problem I'm trying to point out here. It's different for everyone since so many variables come into play - binding delta, boot ramp angle, boot forward lean, binding mount position. If the ski had been "masked" I wouldn't have even thought they were the same skis. So there are no "absolutes" or rules of thumb that can apply to everyone. The combination of gear that we put together (skis, bindings, and boots) results in a hit or miss proposition. Sometimes you'll be lucky (or close enough) and it will all work out. But what if it doesn't? Do you start telling everyone that "these skis suck"? All I'm trying to get across is that it's very possible, heck it's most likely probable, that you just didn't have the right setup when you drove that ski. Maybe you needed more delta or a more rearward/forward binding mount position. It's a crazy state of affairs we deal with in taking up this sport.
Some of you may feel that I'm exaggerating this a bit and that it's really not all that confusing, but how many "professionals" out there really know how to put all of this together with reasonable assurance that the gear setup will "fit" you? Bud Heishman's approach (go check out his site at snowind.com) is probably the closest thing going, but his expertise is not common and not generally available to most of the skiing public. Most boot fitters are clueless (or choose to ignore) all of the variables since they don't usually deal with the skis and bindings. What are we left to do to get things right?
Personally I'd like to see the relationship of these variables spelled out and made well known to at least the skiers that are interested in getting the most out of their gear. Right now it's much more of a hidden art to get these things right rather than a well-known science. Would it be possible to develop some concrete guidance based on your height, weight, tibia length, foot size, skiing style, etc. or will it always be a "black art" that few understand and few benefit from?
Thanks for listening (or should I say reading ).