All the gear, no idea – A beginners thoughts on park equipment

I was 8 years old when my parents first took me skiing and it is probably the clearest memory of any of my childhood family holiday I have ever been on. The thing I loved most, then and now, was the adrenaline rush. There is something about skiing fast down a perfectly groomed piste that gives me a buzz. But speed isn’t the only way to get a bit of a kick out on the mountain, I can’t think of any other sport that offers such a diverse array of options for the adrenaline junky. I recently decided to make the most of my season as a resort representative in Courchevel and explore some of these options; first up: The Park!

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We’ve all seen the videos, usually on mute in Après bars, or on big screens in equipment shops; fly on the wall documentaries following the best freeskiers in the world, throwing themselves off obscene jumps and performing ridiculous aerial feats. I imagine that the average skier watches these videos, like me, with a mix of awe at what they are doing and envy at the fact that I will never, ever, be as good as them. Whilst I am not deluded enough to think that I will ever look/be as cool or pull off a fraction of the ridiculousness that they make look so easy, I don’t think that some basic grabs and 180°s are too much to hope for. Maybe, just maaaaybe a 360°.

But before I start the practical side of things, I thought it would be prudent to do a bit of research into the theoretical side of what equipment I will need.

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When it comes to ski gear when hitting the park, the key considerations are weight and safety; pulling grabs and rotations is much easier when you haven’t got your own body weight in ski attached to your feet, and when throwing yourself off black jumps, safety is always a concern. The weight consideration doesn’t just apply to the skis, anywhere weight can be lost, from bindings to boots, it should be.

Freestyle boots tend to be less stiff than piste boots, able to absorb a bit of the impact of landing a jump.

A ski’s bindings should be as light as possible without losing strength, its important that they should be set up by an expert, this is particularly important for the DIN setting, which controls how easily a ski will pop off when everything goes wrong. Where the binding is mounted is also a key consideration, a centre mounted binding makes skiing/and landing jumps “switch” (backwards) much easier.

Freestyle poles are often shorter and lighter than their piste equivalents, making them less likely to get tangled up or get in the way.

Park skis are lighter and less stiff than downhill skis, often with a bit of “camber”; this is how far the middle of the ski rises off the ground, which acts like suspension when landing a jump. Park Skis are also often twin-tips, making skiing switch an awful lot easier.

 

Words – Hector Smetthurst

Courchevel Senior Resort Representative

 

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