Modem skiing actually began with the development of bindings that locked a boot onto a ski. The binding had two important functions. First, it enabled skiers to control the way a ski moved, thus permitting them to develop edging and turning. Second, it released the boot from the ski in a hard fall - a rather important function, because if the binding didn’t release when the ski turned left and the leg turned right, the snapping sound was gruesome.

Even the earliest bindings did release the leg in most falls, but the ski’s sudden freedom meant chasing a loose ski down the mountain. To keep the ski reasonably close at hand in a fall, until only a few years ago it was' customary to tie the binding to the boot with a leather thong. There was only one disadvantage to this method: The flailing ski held by the thong could easily smack some tumbling skier with stunning force.

Then the modem brakes were invented. Quite simply, these are two spring-mounted prongs held against the ski when the boot is locked into the binding. In a fall, if the skier pops out of the binding, the prongs spring out and dig into the snow, keeping the ski reasonably close to the skier but without the danger of a loose ski held by thongs whopping you on the head. The modem binding-and-brake combination has all but eliminated the no-longer-justified fear of breaking bones in a snowy tumble.

Obviously, the first thing the ski shop wants to sell you after you pick out your skis is a set of bindings. Bindings have improved so much in the past few years that there’s now little difference between them, except that bindings for experts can be regulated slightly to alter the performance or release functions. This is of little concern to the skier whose basic interest is green to low expert runs.

What is significant is the DIN (Deutsche Industrie Normen, or German Industrial Standard) setting. This measures how much pressure it will take to release your boot from the binding in the event of a fall. The DIN numbers range from 1 to 10. The higher the DIN setting, the tighter the boot is locked into the binding.

Essentially, a binding whose DIN can be set between 3 and 7 can be adjusted to meet the needs of skiers whose skills range from green to low expert. Tough, rough, sturdy skiers may need a binding with a top DIN setting of 10.

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