Body armor, injury protection for skiers?

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Body armor, injury protection for skiers?

Postby JeffOYB » Mon Jan 23, 2012 10:36 am

My pals and I ski mostly ungroomed trails and look for challenges there. So my needs are different from groomer-skiers. Our needs overlap a fair bit with tele skiers.

The topic of protection/armor comes up now and then. Skill makes it mostly unneeded but everyone crashes, so we're thinking about it more. --For ourselves, as we age, and for others coming along as "trail skiing" catches on (the mtbike form of XC).

We tend to hit our hips most often. Then forearms. Then there's thumb-tweaks and shoulder-yanks. Knees and elbows are at some risk. At some point a bike helmet is smart.

There are several easy fixes and a couple tough ones that we still wonder about.

Padded shorts are easy to find. $27 gets you motorcycle shorts with just hip and tailbone pads -- thin, light, flexible. (Most moto shorts have thigh pads, unneeded.) Wear em under regular clothes.

Thinly padded forearm sleeves are easy, too -- used for football.

Gloves are a toughy -- some of us think the whack-impact is what gets 'em, others say it's the bent-back injury. I side with 'bent back.' Maybe a glove that clips the thumb to the forefinger would help.

Thin elbow and kneepads are easy.

Then there's the shoulder... How to keep the arm from yanking back too far... We're thinking maybe some kind of hopefully-simple retention strap. The shoulder would need to be "anchored" to the chest somehow. But the chest is a tube and anything strapped to it could rotate if tugged on by the shoulder. Hmmm...

Ideas?
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Re: Body armor, injury protection for skiers?

Postby donpollari » Mon Jan 23, 2012 6:12 pm

Ugh, just say NO to body armor.

:albino:

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Re: Body armor, injury protection for skiers?

Postby JeffOYB » Mon Jan 23, 2012 8:44 pm

?

Also say "no" to challenging trails?

Say "no" to even thin padding that doesn't interfere with motion and prevents injury that I'm talking about?
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Re: Body armor, injury protection for skiers?

Postby kuan » Mon Jan 23, 2012 9:37 pm

I guess I don't understand. Are you talking like tree skiing?
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Re: Body armor, injury protection for skiers?

Postby JeffOYB » Mon Jan 23, 2012 10:36 pm

No, just kinda what I posted before. Challenging trail skiing. We ski mostly ungroomed trails -- a lot of hiking trails and singletrack mtbike trails. We don't have grooming around here. But lots of trail. Even areas that have a lot of grooming probably still have even more ungroomed trail -- and a lot of that trail is very scenic and challenging to ski. I suppose most skiers don't pick the intensely up'n'down trails that we like. We find today's gear is great for technical skiing on ungroomed trail -- a cuffed boot (especially with a BC-NNN binding) on a Rossi Evo Tour is a versatile, highly capable combo. Our hunch is that mtbikers and skilled skiers are going to discover this kind of skiing more and more. Now, the trails with the best hills have a lot of twists and turns and often rooty, rocky drops with trees nearby. So we crash now'n'then. It's easy to do when dropping through a fast offcamber turn that has roots. So we tend to biff on our hips or whack our forearms. That's the most common impacts. The lightly padded mtbike shorts and thin-pad football forearm sleeves would take care of both of those. Also, there is light, small knee and elbow pro (Arcteryx anatomic) if your trails have more babyheads than you want to risk -- can't hardly see them under the pants. But we also get thumbs peeled back and shoulders jerked back, too, sometimes. -- Those are the ones we can't quite figure out how to guard against. It's not such big stuff -- we don't get going THAT fast -- it's not like downhill mtbiking stuff -- we don't need heavy or bulky pro -- but we're not getting any younger. Skis slide out more than tires do. Metal edges might help a bit, but these minor biffs seem worth cushioning if reasonable...
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Re: Body armor, injury protection for skiers?

Postby LewLasher » Tue Jan 24, 2012 6:41 am

JeffOYB wrote:minor biffs seem worth cushioning if reasonable...

Often, cushioning is provided by snow.

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Re: Body armor, injury protection for skiers?

Postby Askel » Tue Jan 24, 2012 8:26 am

When doing this kind of single track skiing, the thing that's going to get me isn't impact injuries, but some kind of muscle pull or strain from getting all crossed up or landing funny in weird terrain.

Regular weight lifting helps prevent a lot of this, and greatly increases recovery time if it doesn't.

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Re: Body armor, injury protection for skiers?

Postby Biffbradford » Tue Jan 24, 2012 11:00 am

That's crazy. How about some 'un-official' trail work in the fall to remove some of those small trees? or even blaze a new work around by clearing brush?

I just can't see skiing with body armor. I can't see skiing XC knowing that I'm coming home all banged and bruised up! :-)
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Re: Body armor, injury protection for skiers?

Postby JeffOYB » Tue Jan 24, 2012 11:11 am

It seems like "armor" is scaring people. But thin hip pads and forearm pads are unnoticeable. So what's to fear?

Talk of trailwork and removing trees kinda misses the reality of trail skiing. There are perhaps 100X as many miles of "just plain" trails as of groomed trails. They're there to ski on not to work on.

In thin snow conditions there are modest but noticeable obstacles. It's not a huge deal. The big problem points are easily solved.

The "why ski trails?" angle becomes obvious once you do it awhile -- since there are so many trails and because they're so low-impact and narrow they can fit into the best terrain and scenery. They can be very nearby; very beautiful; very rewarding/challenging/skill-oriented. In deeper snow there are still crash risks -- a bit like how mtbiking is crashier than road-biking. But it's worth the hassles, I think, as do my fellow trail ski devotees.
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Re: Body armor, injury protection for skiers?

Postby Biffbradford » Tue Jan 24, 2012 2:03 pm

Well, if you choose to ski through the trees on dangerous trails with an X % chance of getting hurt, then by all means arm yourself to the teeth! :D

I think you're in the minority on this forum though. :-)

Every body skis for different reasons. I ski for the exercise and to enjoy the fresh air, not to defy the odds of crashing and twisting my knee. I also don't bomb down the Lapham Peak downhills at 30mph on boiler plate snow. That's just as crazy, but some people love it.

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Re: Body armor, injury protection for skiers?

Postby Biffbradford » Tue Jan 24, 2012 2:43 pm

OH, sounds like the making of a great video though! :supz:
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Trail maintenance is reality

Postby LewLasher » Tue Jan 24, 2012 3:05 pm

JeffOYB wrote:Talk of trailwork and removing trees kinda misses the reality of trail skiing. There are perhaps 100X as many miles of "just plain" trails as of groomed trails. They're there to ski on not to work on.

In Vermont we have lots of backcountry skiing, and lots of us participate in trail clearing. This isn't really all that unusual. Even hiking trails need maintenance. Otherwise, after a while the forest swallows them up, and they aren't trails any more.

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Re: Body armor, injury protection for skiers?

Postby JeffOYB » Tue Jan 24, 2012 3:47 pm

Biffbradford wrote:Well, if you choose to ski through the trees on dangerous trails with an X % chance of getting hurt, then by all means arm yourself to the teeth! :D

I think you're in the minority on this forum though. :-)



I note again that the pads I mention are hardly noticeable. So there's that.

In thin snow, simple pads can give you back a trail that you might skip over.

You're right that at present the interest in singletrack trails is a minority on this forum. Who knows if it'll be that way forever. Some here might catch the bug! Mtbiking is a good parallel -- it caught on among roadies and recruited huge numbers that liked it for its ownself.

Most times, of course, singletrack doesn't require any padding, but cheap simple unobtrusive padding probably isn't a dealbreaker for thin snow conditions once someone gets into it.

Every trail has a risk "x." Many favorite trails have a higher risk, given the appeal of a thrill and a challenge. The trails I refer to aren't just challenging and gorgeous, they're superior for just plain skiing, too, in many ways compared to our almost nonexistent local groomed options. It's superior trail that can be skied just fine if you're skilled -- and the skills pay off more than just keeping you from crashing.

The Birkie certainly has an injury risk. Say it's 1, to pick a number -- dozens of sprains, contusions don't dampen the appeal. I'd guess the trail skiing I describe might have a risk of, say, 4. Reducible to 2 with said minimal noninvasive padding. ...And it offers more than twice the thrills and variety of ski-skill opportunity, hence the pay-off that some find with singletrack.

Skilled skiers rarely crash bad at the Birkie. Skiers with even better skills rarely crash bad on a singletrack trail.

These are skills that probably half the skiers could readily acquire. Once they have these skills then lots more and better trail open up. And the whole world of tele and other turns opens up, too -- all ya need is a little sidecut.

I recall the Forbush groomed trail system back in the day in Michigan had a great trail called the Rollercoaster or Corkscrew. It was really challenging. Around 1984 or so the liability climate changed and the owner brought in a bulldozer and gentled up that trail. It's still a thrill, but half the trail it was. Back when I was addicted to grooming, I used to enjoy pilgrimages to Stokely/SooFinn, Canada, to ski more exciting trails than seemed available in the US (MI, CO, CA, ME, WA) where I'd been. It's been great to find such peak trail experiences right close to home courtesy of singletrack.

Heck, even groomers can get dicey or icey enough that many would hesitate to ski 'em. A bit o' padding might be a handy way to keep you on the trails.

....So, any ideas on how to reduce thumb and shoulder-yank injuries for skiers?
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Still open-minded, still skeptical

Postby LewLasher » Wed Jan 25, 2012 12:46 am

It's not surprising to have controversy when someone puts forward a new idea that does not conform to "conventional wisdom." I'd encourage respect for new ideas, and not just dismiss them out of hand. But I'd also say that, if you are going to put forward a new idea, you'd better be prepared to defend it, and not just repeat it, when your idea is attacked.

I try to keep a balance of open-mindness and skepticism. Maybe there's something worthwhile that no one else thought of before. Or maybe there's a reason why it isn't already part of the conventional wisdom.

I think it's particularly worthwhile to be receptive to the possible benefits of new ideas in the area of safety. I'm old enough to remember a time (30? years ago) when almost nobody wore a bicycle helmet. And the advent of helmets for downhill skiing came even more recently. There is always room for progress, when it comes to safety.

Backcountry skiing is one of my winter activites, and, 3 years ago, I had a serious accident while backcountry skiing. So I'm interested in possible new ideas for safety in backcountry skiing.

However, I am not (yet) convinced that protective clothing/"armor" is a significant idea for skiing safety. There are two reasons for my continuing skepticism. One: protective padding/"armor" is most helpful for impact injuries, but it seems that most skiing injuries are not caused by impact (but, rather, by stretching or twisting). Two: if the problem is thin snow on poorly maintained trails, then I'd say the answer is (a) to maintain the trails and (b) to wait until there's enough snow to cover up the trail anomalies and provide the needed cushioning, before going skiing on ungroomed backcountry trails.

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Re: Body armor, injury protection for skiers?

Postby JeffOYB » Wed Jan 25, 2012 6:37 am

I suppose I repeat myself when concerns pop up that were previously addressed. But I try to come at it from another angle. Controversy, joking, is all fine. If it's boring, skip.

Another way to look at "pro" is if one wants to go biking in sketchy conditions they'll sometimes add a little protection to improve most-likely trouble hotspots. It's not a big "weird" deal. Mtbikers might use full finger gloves instead of the usual fingerless. If one is going to race a rainy crit you might double up your shorts and jersey, and I've seen good racers add duct tape to hips and arms. I forget the details other than being awed but maybe they applied it to the first-layer jersey/shorts -- but I think one guy I saw might've put it right on his hips. (This was at the tricky Snake Alley, IA.) None of this is overkill but just gives a little something that can come in handy.

Obviously tele skiers and mtbikers often use some pro, and trail ski needs can cross over there, but I hadn't mentioned how rollerskiers and inliners often use it, too. (I tend to skip it then as we have smooth, mellow local roller pavement. I rarely crash on pavement -- it's hitting icy roots while skiing that gets me.)

Twists are one kind of injury, "biffs" are another. Due to our rocky-rooty descents our locals find the "biffs" to be common -- but easily padded-against. Twists seem tougher to offset -- but that's why I asked if there were effective options out there. There has been a lot of fast development in this area in other sports that might cross over to our needs. Also, a fix done in one region may not be well-known in another region.

I've dealt with the thin-snow concern already. ...If one waits for better snow, one might not ski -- especially this year. We're using our rock skis a lot. A bit of protection also helps give us back our trails.

As for trail maintenance, on my small local loops I kick away all twigs and remove small stones/rocks, etc., so they're good in even thin snow. But on our adventure trails the roots'n'rocks often can't be removed because they're in downhills and they hold soil. Some of our trails have so many roots even on the flats, and so many bigger rocks, that it would take a public works crew to deal with them. And because these are multi-use trails -- primarily hiking -- the managers opt for non-interference until things are bad for everyone. (One local flat trail is now so rooty due to erosion that it's almost un-walkable. It needs quite a bit of snow, too.)

Local skiers should expect to wear out skis sooner, if they want to ski, but I know some folks who only have fragile race skis and so they just don't ski locally, driving hours to get to enough snow so they won't scratch their skis. I suppose it's like anyone who likes what is far away and just isn't into what is nearby. It happens.
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