AY Honors/Skiing Downhill/Answer Key

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Skiing Downhill

Skill Level






Approval authority

General Conference

Skiing Downhill AY Honor.png
Skiing Downhill
Skill Level
Approval authority
General Conference
Year of Introduction
See also


Know the advantages and disadvantages of metal and fiberglass skis.

Fiberglass skis

Most modern skis are made of fiberglass because they are easy to manufacture and easy for the owner to maintain. Fiberglass can be molded into exactly the cambers, sidecuts, and stiffness desired. They are stronger and faster than wood skis at temperatures close to freezing.

Fiberglass skis are nearly maintenance-free. Waxless versions just need to wiped down after use. A waxing iron can be used on the other ones.

Wood skis

Wood skis are a lot more durable than fiberglass skis when they're properly cared for. Some wood skis are downright antiques!

However, wood skis need a lot more TLC than fiberglass skis. They can't be waxed with a waxing iron unless the bottom of the ski is varnished. You'll have to use a cold or hard kick wax instead, and rub it in manually with cork. If your skis aren't varnished, you'll also have to treat them with pine tar to seal the wooden base. This takes elbow grease and time.

At low temperatures, fiberglass can start to stick but wood just glides better than ever. That's a major reason why many cross-country skiers are willing to put up with a lot of work to maintain their wooden skis.

Wood is a better insulator than fiberglass. When it's really cold outside, the wood helps keep your feet a little warmer. Fiberglass isn't insulating at all so use extra thermal socks with fiberglass skis over wood skis.

Metal skis

In the 1930s and 40s (this honor was introduced in 1938) ski builders experimented with aluminum and various types of plastics, such as Bakelite, to improve ski performance and durability. You will have a hard time finding aluminum skis today, but titanium skis are available. Titanium skis are stronger than either wood or fiberglass, but are heavier and don't have as much flex.

Other materials

High-end manufacturers make downhill skis out of Kevlar, boron fibers, and carbon fiber. Carbon fiber has the best strength to weight ratio of all these materials. Kevlar and carbon fiber are both lightweight materials, but Kevlar is not very durable.


How does the sidecut of the skis help the skier turn?

The side cut helps because the skier can dig into the snow with the sides when "carving" along the trail.


What general rules would you use in selecting the proper length of skis and poles for yourself?

At the time of the original downhill skiing honor the standard for ski size was as follows: The skis you use have to be to your elbow or to your wrist with an up arm stretch depending on how big you are. If you are heavy you should use long skis that reach to your wrist and if you are lightweight then you should use short skis that reach to your elbow.

Modern skis are made to be skied at much shorter lengths than were historically used. A rule of thumb commonly used is based on skier ability; Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced. A beginner should use downhill skis that are at about the chin height. Intermediate level skiers will typically want a ski that is at the nose or mid face height. More advanced skiers would look for skis at about the forehead level.

Poles should be turned upside down with the handle on the floor. With the pole in this upside down position the standing skier should grip the pole just below the basket. The proper sized pole will put the arm at a 90 degree angle.


Know boot designs and how these features can affect your skiing.

The boot is the skier's vital link to the ski. The boot's design helps it to clip onto the boot and keeps it from twisting and turning. It gives the skier less stress knowing he doesn't have to worry about his skis falling off. It must allow the skier to flex forward firmly and comfortably. They must make the skier's feet warm in all climates, and they must be able to last several seasons.


Why is proper binding adjustment so important? What determines proper adjustment?

A binding adjustment is a useful feature of the ski. Without it the skier would fall off the ski and slide around.


Know what a safety strap or ski break is and explain its purpose.

Safety straps and ski breaks have two major purposes. The first purpose is to keep the ski near the skier to keep him from losing the ski in the case that it comes off and slides down a slope. Otherwise, the skier will be stranded, or at least experience a greatly increased time in reaching the eventual destination. The second purpose is to keep the ski from becoming a moving hazard to other skiers. If no ski straps or break was on a ski, it would continue moving until something else stopped it. During its trip, it could move into the path of other skiers, causing them to make abrupt stops and turns, collide with objects or other people, or simply fall themselves. Any of these actions could cause injury to those other skiers.

Safety straps usually go around the leg or boot. Though safety straps are effective in keeping a ski close to you, most manufacturers no longer make skis or bindings with safety straps. Even when the boots are released from the ski binding, the ski is still attached to the skier. Sometimes this causes the ski to hit the skier.

Ski breaks use a different method of ensuring safety. Unlike safety straps, ski breaks aren't attached to the skier in any way once the ski comes off. The ski break consists of two levers; one on each side of the ski and binding. When the boot is properly attached to the ski binding, the levers are kept upright and don't obstruct skiing whatsoever. But, as soon as the boot comes out of the ski binding, the levers snap down below the bottom surface of the skis to stop them from going very far.


What should you do if you come upon a injured skier who has not yet received any help?

If you see an injured skier, even from a distance, you should stop and help. If you are with a partner, one of you should go for ski patrol while the other stays with the person. If they are in a ski well, help them get their skis off. The potential of needing to know where to send help is a good reason to always keep track of what run you are on.


Discuss and practice good sportsmanship at ski areas.

Good sportsmanship is universal, but responsibility codes have been created by various groups. Here is one example that covers the main points.

Australian Alpine Responsibility Code

Regardless of how you enjoy your snow sport, always show courtesy to others and be aware that there are inherent risks in all snow recreational activities that common sense, protective equipment and personal awareness can reduce. These risks include rapid changes in the weather, visibility and surface conditions; as well as natural and artificial hazards such as rocks, trees, stumps, vehicles, lift towers, snow fences and snowmaking equipment.

Observe the Code and share with others the responsibility for a great experience.

1. Know your ability and always stay in control and be able to stop and avoid other people or objects. It is your responsibility to stay in control on the ground & in the air.

2. Take lessons from professional instructors to learn and progress.

3. Use appropriate protective equipment to minimize the risk of injury.

4. Before using any lift you must have the knowledge and ability to load, ride and unload safely and always use the restraining devices.

5. Observe and obey all signs and warnings. Keep off closed trails or runs.

6. Give way to people below and beside you on the hill. It is your responsibility to avoid them.

7. Do not stop where you are not clearly visible from above. Look uphill and give way to others when entering/exiting a trail or starting downhill.

8. Always ensure your equipment is in good condition and use suitable restraining devices to avoid runaway skiing/boarding equipment.

9. Do not ski, board, ride a lift or undertake any other alpine activity if your ability is impaired by drugs or alcohol.

10. If you are involved in, or witness an accident or collision, alert Ski Patrol, remain at the scene and identify yourself to the Ski Patrol.



What care should be given ski equipment after its use? What should be done with ski equipment before its use each season?

The original honor did not specify what equipment, but the South Pacific variant lists the following:

a. Skis

A ski is narrow strip of wood, plastic, metal or combination thereof worn underfoot to glide over snow. Substantially longer than wide and characteristically employed in pairs, skis are attached to boots with bindings, either with a free, lockable, or permanently secured heel. Originally intended as an aid to travel over snow, they are now mainly used recreationally in the sport of skiing.

Like all skis, the original alpine ‘downhill’ skis were little more than wood planks. Rudolf Lettner of Salzburg began marketing steel edges in 1928, enabling the ski to grip on hard snow ice. The following year Guido Reuge introduced the Kandahar binding, providing for heel lock-down and improved control for downhill skiing. Downhill ski construction has developed into much more sophisticated technologies. The use of composite materials, such as carbon-Kevlar, made skis stronger, lighter, and more durable. By the late 1980’s, World Cup giant slalom skiers were getting race-stock skis with deeper side-cuts. In 1991, designers at Elan produced a very exaggerated version of this race ski, and in 1993 introduced a recreational version described by the company as offering a ‘parabolic’ turn shape. This became the prototype of modern ‘shaped’ skis (when viewed from above or below, the centre or ‘waist’ is significantly narrower than the tip and tail). Virtually all modern skis are made with some degree of side cut. The more dramatic the difference between the widths of the tip, waist and tail, coupled with the length, stiffness and camber of the ski, the shorter the ‘natural’ turning radius.

Skis used in downhill race events are longer, with a subtle side cut, built for speed and wide turns. Slalom skis, as well as many recreational skis, are shorter with a greater side cut to facilitate tighter, easier turns.

The ski is turned by applying pressure, rotation and edge angle. When the ski is set at an angle the edge cuts into the snow, the ski will follow the arc and hence turn the skier; a practice known as carving a turn. While old fashioned ‘straight skis’ which had little side cut could carve turns, great leg strength was required to generate the enormous pressure necessary to flex them into a curved shape, a shape called reverse camber. When a modern ski is tilted on to its edge, a gap is created between the ground and the middle of the ski (under the binding) as only the sides near the tip and the tail touch the snow. Then, as the skier gently applies pressure, the ski bends easily into reverse camber.

Care and Maintenance of Skis

With the last patches of snow melting down the mountain, unfortunately, the time of year has come to move the skis up to the attic and bring out the mountain bike and surf board. As eager as you may be to get started with your summer adventures, it is important to properly store your ski or snowboard gear. Failing to do so can cause damage to your skis as well as your wallet in future ski seasons.

The most critical part of your end of season ski maintenance is to dry off your skis. Wipe down your skis and poles with an old rag or towel, paying special attention to the edges and bindings. This prevents your skis from rust damage and corrosion. If you are particularly motivated, you might even remove your bindings to make sure it is dry everywhere. It is also helpful to give your skis one last tuning before packing them away for the season. Either you can pay a lot of money taking your skis to a professional or you can tune them yourself. To do this you should first use a coarse nylon or bronze ski brush to remove any excess wax or dirt from your bases, always brushing from the ski’s tip to tail. Then, with an iron, wax your ski bases with warm-temperature weather wax, spreading the wax on smoothly. Leave the wax on your skis till next season. This will hydrate the bases of your skis so that when you scrape and brush off the wax next season your skis will be fresh and good to go. This also prevents any P-tex (i.e. an extremely durable thermoplastic that is used in ski and snowboard bases) that might be on your bases from drying out and flaking off in the future.

Taking these precautions before storing your skis for the summer will save you from extra ski maintenance next winter, help avoid damage to your skis in the years to come, and ensure you a smooth ride.

b. Bindings

Based on: Ski Binding (Wikipedia)

A ski binding is an attachment which anchors a ski boot to the ski. There are different types of bindings for different types of skiing.

The vast majority of bindings for Alpine skiing work by fixing the ski boot to the ski at the toe and heel. The binding attaches the boot to the ski, but to reduce injury also allows the boot to release in case of a fall.

Generally, the toe piece is designed to allow the boot to rotate to the sides, while the heel piece rotates up. In modern bindings a wide variety of motions is available from each binding.

The boot is released by the binding if a certain amount of torque is applied (usually created by the weight of a falling skier). The amount of torque required to release the boot is adjusted by turning a screw on the toe and heel piece.

Alpine ski bindings employ the use of a snow brake to prevent the ski from moving while it is not attached to a boot. Snow brakes work by the use of a sprung square 'C' shape, typically made of metal, which makes contact with the snow.

When a ski boot is put in the ski binding, the brake pivots under the downward pressure and runs parallel with the ski allowing free movement. When the boot comes out of the ski, the brakes spring out perpendicular to the ski and stops the ski from sliding.

Care and Maintenance of Bindings

Based on: Ski Bindings Maintenance

Your ski bindings maintenance plan should begin at the start of the season. Bring your bindings to a well-respected ski shop, and have them checked for common defects, which include broken parts and loose screws. Additionally, if you have purchased new ski boots or skis, you will need to check the compatibility between your boots, skis and bindings.

The anti-friction device plate should also be checked for damage. It is easily replaceable, as long as you catch the damage before it becomes severe. Most experts suggest that your DIN setting should be lowered when you reach the age of 50. On the other hand, if you are starting to ski in more challenging terrain, you might want to take your bindings to the shop and have them adjusted to a higher DIN setting.

Note: The DIN setting determines how easily the binding will release the ski boot from the ski when a skier falls. It is calculated by a formula which takes into account age, height, weight, length of boot, skier’s ability etc. Remember to dry your bindings after each use in order to prevent the build up of dirt and grime.

c. Ski boots

Based on: Ski Boots (Wikipedia)

Ski boots are specialized footwear that is used in skiing to provide a way to attach the skier to skis using ski bindings. The ski/boot/binding combination is used to effectively transmit control inputs from the skier's legs to the snow. Ski boots were originally made of leather and resembled standard winter boots.

As skiing became more specialized as a form of recreation, so too did ski boots, leading to the splitting of designs between those for alpine skiing (downhill) and cross-country skiing. The former have become much more specialized, rising up the leg in order to transmit sideways rotations of the legs through the bindings and into the skis, a process known as ‘edging’.

Modern alpine ski boots have rigid soles and attach to the ski at both toe and heel using a spring-loaded binding.

Care and Maintenance of Ski Boots

Based on: Choosing Ski Boots

On the way to the slopes, keep your boots inside the car instead of the trunk so they are warm when you put them on. After skiing bring your boots inside and dry them out completely. This is important, even if your boots seem dry, the salts and minerals from your sweat will break the liners down very quickly if left in a liquid state. Your ski boots are only as good as the quality of your liners. You can let them dry at room temperature or use a boot dryer. Fires and heaters are usually bad ideas for drying your liners because they can get too hot and cause damage.

Try removing your liners to help the drying process. Boot dryers are a great way to go for drying out your boots because you do not need to remove the liner from the shell which over time contributes to the breakdown of the liner.

If you leave your boots outside with the liners in, the liners will not only not dry, but the plastic shells will become stiff, making them extremely hard to get into, uncomfortable to ski in and in turn leaving your toes very, very cold.

Store your boots in a dry place with the buckles buckled and straps strapped to help the plastic shell to retain its shape.

d. Helmets

Helmets may make a difference in reducing or preventing head injuries. Many skiers and snowboarders are choosing to wear them. However, helmets do have limits and users need to be aware that wearing a helmet does not eliminate the risk of head injury.

In addition to offering an added degree of protection, snow sports helmets are now designed to be lightweight, comfortable, warm & fashionable.

Snow sports helmets are insulated for cold weather and provide better coverage and impact protection than other sports helmets, such as bicycle helmets. Be sure that the helmet you choose meets current recognized snow sport helmet design standards.

Care and Maintenance of helmets

Helmets should be replaced after a serious impact that may compromise the structure of the helmet. Helmet manufacturers recommend that helmets be replaced every 3-5 years irrespective of impact damage. Like all ski equipment helmets should be cleaned and dried where necessary and stored in a cool dry place.

e. Ski poles

Based on: Ski Poles (Wikipedia)

Ski poles are used by skiers to improve balance and timing as well as for propulsion. Early ski poles were simply sticks, then bamboo (1930s), then steel (1940s and early 1950s). In 1958, Ed Scott invented the aluminium ski pole. Now, composite ski poles are much lighter and stronger than aluminium poles, though aluminium poles are still one of the main types of ski pole on the market.

In the days before turning techniques had been properly developed, skiers would use poles for hunting: one pole would be for balance/braking and the other pole would have a sharpened tip or a spear head to be used as a spear.

In modern skiing one pole is held in each hand. Near the end of the shaft, there is a circular ‘basket’ attached to stop the pole from sinking significantly into deep snow. These can range from being small, aerodynamic cones used in racing, to large snowflake shaped baskets which are used in powder skiing.

Attached to the upper part of the pole is a grip with a strap, either fastened to the pole or detachable. These are usually slipped over the wrist to improve the skiers hold on the grip and to prevent the loss of the pole in the event of a fall. When skiing backcountry (off piste), the wrist strap is not normally used, because there is a risk of wrist injury if the pole should catch on an unseen branch or root.

There are certain methods to getting the right ski pole. For alpine skiing, the pole is placed with the grip on the ground. The skier then grips the pole right under the basket. The skiers elbow should form a right angle. If the skier's elbow is in a smaller angle the pole is too long, and if the skiers elbow is at an angle larger than 90 degrees, the pole is too short.

Care and Maintenance of ski poles

Ski poles should be cleaned and dried after each use. They should be inspected for an obvious damage. Damaged ski pole baskets, grips and straps should be replaced.

f. Skin and Eye Protection

Sunburn can be a serious problem, even on cloudy days. Always use a good sunscreen with a high SPF (sun protection factor) to protect skin exposed to direct or reflected sunlight. To protect your eyes from the glare off the snow (which can lead to ‘snow blindness’) the use of high quality sunglasses or goggles is essential.

If you are dependent on spectacles or contact lenses, carry a spare pair in case you lose or damage them while skiing.

Care and Maintenance of Goggles

When you get snow on your goggles, don't wipe them off with your glove or rag. Snow is made of abrasive ice crystals which will scratch the goggle lenses. It is best to shake the snow off, let them dry off naturally or use a special lens cloth to wipe them clean.

Fogging - make sure you use a special cloth to wipe the inside of your goggle lenses also. There are actual fog cloths that can do some good. It is best to let air get to them and dry naturally. Again, you don't want to scratch the inside of your lenses either.

If you have problems with your goggle lenses popping out regularly, try a simple silicon sealer to hold them in place. Then simply put your goggles back in their goggle bag when not in use. This protects them especially from the dreaded crease or crack. Goggles should last a long time is cared for. It also of course depends on the quality of the goggles you purchase. Better lenses last longer, cheaper goggles don't usually hold up to normal wear and tear.

g. Appropriate clothing, including layering

Alpine weather is unpredictable and a fine sunny day can quickly deteriorate into cold, wet, high wind or blizzard conditions. Your clothing, therefore, must be versatile and you should have ready access to protective clothing. Clothing can be divided into two layers:

  • The inner, insulating layers.
  • The outer, windproof and waterproof layer.

Inner Insulating Layers:

In cold weather these are the most important layers. Several thin layers that trap air and are made of material that will stay warm, even when wet, are better than a couple of thick bulky layers. The number of insulating layers you wear depends on the weather and the activity you are participating in. Wearing thermal underwear will also help insulate against the cold. Wool is a good natural fiber and manufactured fibers such as polypropylene and fiber pile are also effective. Cotton undergarments perform poorly in cold and wet conditions.

Outer Waterproof Layer:

Staying dry and reducing the effects of wind chill are important, therefore your jacket and over-pants should be waterproof and windproof. The outer layer also helps to insulate by trapping warm air next to the body. If you don't have your own windproof and waterproof outer clothing you can hire them from most ski hire outlets.

It is important to wear a warm hat as significant body heat is lost from the head. Woollen or synthetic socks and gloves should also be worn.

Never wear jeans or cotton/vinyl gloves as these do not give proper protection against wind, rain or snow.

Care and Maintenance of Clothing

  • Check your ski clothing for salt residues, grit or dirt before you put items away. If you leave the dirt on, you could reduce the effectiveness of the fabric technology. Don’t forget the gloves!
  • Close main zips and pit zips but open pocket zips and release the tension in any elastic drawstrings.
  • To clean garments, always follow the care instructions provided.
  • Do not use fabric softeners on outerwear as this can affect the breathability of the fabric.
  • To renew the efficacy of DWR (Durable Water Repellent) fabrics in outerwear, tumble-dry them at a medium heat for 30-40 minutes after washing. DWR fabrics are reactivated with heat.


Ski intermediate slopes under control and execute turns in good form.

Practice on the beginner slopes until you are ready to demonstrate your skills. Pathfinders need to demonstrate that they can comfortably ski an intermediate slope on a regular basis. It would be expected that the skills displayed would include starting turns in a wedge and ending the turn parallel, adequate stopping techniques and control over ski direction at all times.

It is anticipated that a Pathfinder would have over 20 hours of skiing experience to be at this level of skiing. At all times the Pathfinder should comply with the Alpine Responsibility Code.


Know how to get on and off a chairlift, Tbar, or J bar correctly and demonstrate through experience, without endangering yourself or others, your ability to ride this equipment.

Instructions to load on a chairlift

  1. Pick a suitable mountain for your ski level, and a suitable lift on that mountain. Most lifts have signs indicating what levels (green/blue/black/red) of trails that lift services.
  2. Put your skis on. Grab your poles, but don't put your hands into the straps.
  3. Get in line for the lift; the higher up the mountain the lift goes, the faster the chair lift may move.
  4. Glide your way to the lifting area and keep your poles close to you.
  5. Stop on the marked line.
  6. If you'll be sitting on the left, put both poles in your right hand, and look over your left shoulder. If you'll be sitting on the right, do the opposite. If you'll be sitting in the middle, do it either way.
  7. Bend your knees slightly because the chair (lift) will hit them, but this is normal.
  8. As the chair approaches, you may want to reach for it with your free hand.
  9. Sit down when the lift touches the backs of your knees.
  10. Pull the metal bar down over you as a seat belt and you are on your way to the trail.
  11. Sit back in your chair and do not rock the chair.

Instructions to unload off a chairlift

  1. Watch the big towers for signs because they may give you information when you are close to the top.
  2. Lift the metal bar off of you when the unloading area sign on the towers says to.
  3. Double check to make sure you have all your belongings and nothing is caught on the chair.
  4. Make sure your scarf is not loose.
  5. Slide forward in the chair and point the tips of your skis upward.
  6. When you reach the unload area and your skis are touching the ground completely , lean forward slightly over your skis and stand up once you have balance on both skis, the lift will give you a little push.
  7. Glide your way off the unloading area quickly. Do not attempt to stop with a snow plough in the unload area - your skis will cross the person's next to you and you will probably both fall. Ski away from the other people, then stop if you want to.
  8. Choose the right trail because sometimes there are many to choose from, with different skill levels (colors).

Remember to lift up your skis when getting on and off a chairlift. Your skis can catch in the snow and easily pull you off the chair. Be sure to take your ski poles off your wrists but make sure you keep a good hold on them so you don't drop one on a person below the lift. When getting off, always look before you go down the little hill. A less experienced boarder or skier could have fallen and you do not want to run into them.

After skiing the mountain, give a report on it and fulfill a major requirement for the Mountains Honor.


The South Pacific Division has a variation of this honor with useful resources and some alternative requirements: SPD version: This resource is the source of the equipment descriptions and care information and the skier responsibility code presented here.