Only in the past few decades has the ski industry developed bindings that actually release the foot in a slow, twisting fall as well as in a high-speed impact. But the finest bindings must still be checked for proper setting from time to time.

So, what do you do to keep your bindings working properly? Have them cleaned and calibrated for your weight and ability by an expert at the start of each season. Calibrating is simplicity itself. Take the skis into a well-equipped, responsible ski shop and recite the following incantation: “I would like to have my bindings cleaned and calibrated.”

It takes but a few minutes. The ski is locked into a special vise. The mechanic snaps your boot into the binding, then inserts a gadget that looks like a skeletal foot with a gauge attached, and twists. He does this three times to get an average pressure setting.

He then takes a reading of the DIN force required by your particular binding to release the boot properly for you, taking into account the length of your boot (because this affects the leverage your ski can apply to your leg in a fall) as well as your age, sex, weight, and skill level, and adjusts the binding settings in both the toe and heel pieces, if necessary.

It often is.

On the other hand, don’t accept a binding check if the technician simply locks your boots into the bindings and tests release pressure by banging them with his hand. A calibrated check is accurate. The guy’s hand is not.

A good technician should make note of the wear on your boots’ heels and toes when calibrating bindings, and advise you if they’re too worn for the bindings to function properly. If so, you have three options: 1) buy new boots, 2) have new toe and heel tips attached to your boots, or 3) understand, and accept, a possible source of future problems.

It will save scruff and wear on your heel and toe tips if you always don apres-ski boots or shoes and carry your boots when tramping across the parking lot from your car to the base lodge.

Of course, if your bindings aren’t properly calibrated and don’t release when they should, or do release when they shouldn’t, you may have the dubious pleasure of riding down the hill on a stretcher toboggan pulled by a skilled member of the National Ski Patrol. Your friends can wave down at you as you glide by on your way into the first-aid station.

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