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Nearly all the Olympians used the long-thong heel plate. This device gives the racer strong ankle support and will allow his boot to turn safely out of the toe binding in a twist fall. One of the best of the long-thong plates is the Look Turntable ($12.50), winner of two gold medals. Unlike most other heel plates which have the thong attached to the tension springs, the Look's spring is independent of the thong (see drawing above). Hence, the binding will hold the boot tight even when the thong stretches.
But the skier who wears a heel plate depends entirely on his toe binding for release. In a head-over-tips fall, the kind that puts the worst strain on the Achilles' tendon, a toe binding like the Marker sometimes fails to release. Therefore, the recreational skier should disregard the thong plates and use a heel release, which will save his legs in this situation.
The Gunther Meergans Co. of Salem, Mass. has come out with just such a binding, a new form of heel release called the Wunder ($9.95). It has two very small safety catches located on the cable itself, one on each side of the boot. Under pressure, one or both of these catches pop out (see drawing above), easing tension on the cable and allowing the boot to come free. So far, the Wunder has undergone only preliminary testing; but if wide use bears out the early test results, the Wunder may be sensitive enough to let go when the ski is twisted at any angle. This could eliminate the need for a toe release altogether and thus cut the cost of safety bindings by 50%.
Another important trend at the Olympics—and one which can be adopted without reservation by recreational skiers—was the switch from heavy to light poles. The metals in the lightweight steel and aluminum are the same as in the old standard poles. However, by tapering the shafts more carefully and by using tougher alloys, the manufacturers have been able to build poles which weigh less and can be handled more easily but still are considerably stronger than the traditional heavy poles.
Four of the gold medal winners at Squaw Valley used the Persenico Bantam ($17.95), a steel pole that weighs only 9� to 9� ounces as against 15 to 18 ounces for standard poles. Besides its excellent handling qualities, the Persenico has a small strap at the base of the grip which can be used to clip the poles together for convenience in traveling.
The entire U.S. team and some members of the European squads used the aluminum Scott. The Scott ($19.50) is slightly heavier over-all than the Bantam, but the lower part of the shaft is very light and the Scott has a simple rubber web basket that reduces the tip weight even further. This makes the Scott as easy to swing as the Bantam. The drawing below shows the lower portion of the pole and a cutaway of the basket with the thick, tight center section that holds it to the pole without the use of rivets or pins. The Scott is guaranteed for the life of the skier.
There is one more major development in ski equipment which has just come out. It has nothing to do with Olympic racing, but it may very well have a lot to do with the 95% of the sport concerned with pure fun. It is a tiny 2-foot 8-inch ski developed in all seriousness by Clifton Taylor of Brattleboro, Vt., whose main concern is to make skiing easier for skiers starting out.
The beginning skier has always been the stepchild of the sport. He is loaded down with 25 pounds of boots and skis, taken to the base of a mountain and told to start walking—if he can. After staggering around for a couple of mornings with these 7-foot slats he is finally allowed to go up the lift. The beginner who gets through his first run without three or four bone-jarring falls is a fair bet to keep on skiing. The rest, estimated at well over 50%, quit skiing for good.