China has some great places to ski, and renting equipment from a resort is certainly viable as long as you are armed with a little knowledge on what to look out for. What the clerk hands you over the counter will not always be right for your needs. This can have a large effect on safety and how fast you progress. An internationally-trained instructor would take care of this for you, but the following tips can serve as a general guide.
Binding-release mechanism settings
These are tiny, oft-overlooked numbers on the front and back of every ski binding. These settings determine how easily your skis come off. If the number is too low, they will automatically pop off every time you make a turn or go over a bump. If it’s set too high, your skis will not come free when you take a fall, which is the cause of most knee twists. If set properly, this clever mechanism releases skis exactly when necessary.
In most countries outside China, these settings (known as DIN) are taken very seriously. Customers will be asked for their height, weight, boot length, skill level, and age, which then get plugged into a formula to calculate the correct setting for them.
In China, however, DINs will are often all set to a single, approximate number for that size of ski, which doesn’t allow for different abilities, heights and weights. It’s possible that the last person who used the skis changed the settings to suit their own ability, without the staff resetting them afterwards.
You can take responsibility for your own binding-release settings by looking up your number in advance using an online DIN calculator, such as this one.
When you receive the skis, check the number on the front and back of the bindings. On the photograph, the tiny white line is the indicator that these skis are set to DIN 7, for example.
If the number is not right, point at the setting, say the number you would like and the staff will usually be happy to change it for you with a screwdriver. When you hand back your skis afterwards, remember to remind the rental staff that you have changed the setting from its original number so they know to change it back to the default.
Beside DIN settings, the bindings themselves may often be set too big or too small for your boots. If your boots only just squeeze into the bindings or you find that they are free to shake around once clipped in, the release mechanism will be less effective and you should readjust the size for a snug fit. With a bit of luck or help, you might be able to locate the small lever to re-adjust the size yourself. Otherwise, just take them to the desk and show the staff that the boots don’t fit the bindings.
To check that the poles you have been given are the right length, stand up straight and hold the pole by the handle. When the base of the pole is resting on the snow, your arm should be comfortably bent at a right angle. You can tell when the pole is too long or too short when your hand is not at the same level as your elbow.
When stood up vertically, the length of a ski should fall roughly between the height of your chin and nose for beginners and intermediates. Although there is some flexibility in this aspect, you know something’s wrong when your child’s skis are taller than them.
You should be able to wiggle your toes slightly when wearing your ski boots, but there should be no movement in the heel. Doing up the uppermost straps as tight as possible is the key to having full control when skiing. Conversely, toe straps shouldn’t be too tight. Don’t be lazy when strapping up; it will cost you more effort later.
All this may seem like a lot of detail, but try to follow these pointers if you’re skiing without an instructor. Following these tips is the key to a safe, comfortable, and fun day.
Next week on the blog, we will finally get out onto the snow. I will share some tips on choosing appropriate terrain and staying safe on those first steps to learning how to ski.
In between seasons training and working as a ski and snowboard instructor in Austria, Pete Tupper did a degree in Chinese and German in the UK and came to Beijing in 2010 to run winter camps under the name of O’le Ski. Since then, he has become a well-known face in the family and schools activities scene, creating and hosting the first climbing and skiing championships events for international schools and running all kinds of adventure weekends and trips. He just formed new music classes for kids and adults. Information on the various O’le organisations can be found on www.ole-sports.org and www.ole-music.com and Pete can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo courtesy of O’le Ski