Chair 6 at Breckenridge hates my bindings.

broken mig bindings

I'm not sure why, but it does.

It's my last day of riding, 4/14/2007. I'm with my wife Sherrie and we're striking late season gold at Breckenridge. The sky is blue, the snow is great, and no one appears to be here and life is good...with the exception of my left ankle. I sprained it about 4 days ago in Muay Thai kickboxing.

If I could return my ankles on warranty, I would have a long time ago. Big feet and small ankles are a poor design choice. My mom refused to take them back, so athletic tape and Advil it is. The season should be over for us, Sherrie and I have had 30+ days of good riding, and the mountain bikes are calling back in Denver. That said, Breck got 3 feet in the past week, turning the late-season slushy snow-cone into white gold.

Temps are in the 20's as we head to the gondola at 8am and my spirits are high.

I'm curious to see how my ankle tape job is going to hold up. The first run of the day doesn't look good. I've taped badly, and when I flex my ankle to put toeside pressure, I want to scream like a 6 year old girl with a skinned knee.

We stop in the Burganhoff and I cut and fiddle with the tape some more. Ahhhh.....the ankle is working. After a warmup run on a butter smooth blue, we hit a run called the windows....because that's smart....oh wait reverse that.

The windows is some of the most challenging double black diamond terrain Breckenridge has to offer.

My ankle is questionable. Bad ankle + the windows => no bueno. When doing a mandatory tight heel-toe-heel-toe transition between trees, I hesitate, and the back of my board hooks a tree. I see white and my ankle is on fire as I cartwheel down a few yards holding my leg. Sherrie has a mixture of 'are-you-ok?' and 'of-course-this-is-a-bad-idea' on her face. I grimace and agree that this might not have been the best choice given current circumstances.

I figure that's ok, we've only got 97% of the windows left to ride, including a typically challenging section which crosses a creek near the bottom. The good news; After slamming my ankle, I'm fully awake, and my ankle seems to have loosened up a bit....Maybe it's just the massive adrenaline dump masking the pain. Either way we're off, and I slowly-slowly-slowly edge my way to the bottom.

Sherrie is at the E-lift when I slide in beside her. After a few runs on peak 10. We see the 6 chair open up, and head over. The 6 chair has been closed for upper mountain avalanche control. Avalanche control seems like a good idea today.

While riding up in the morning, we see 2 big snow slides. One of these was set by explosion, the other by a ski patrolman skiing. The patrolman didn't get caught up, so it's all good. The boom and hiss to rumble doesn't take the shine off the day. I can't remember a better day in terms of sun, snow and temperature.

Chair 6 hates these bindings?

The last time I was at the top of chair 6, I went to buckle up, looked down, was missing my main strap buckle to my rear binding strap. It simply isn't there. Loosing a toe strap is a pain in the butt, but I've never lost a main strap. My buckles between toe strap and main strap are different sizes, so I can't just swap them out. My riding companions Sherrie and Travis graciously agree to head down under the lift to see if they can find the missing in action buckle. I view this as a low-probability venture, but worth a shot.
As Sherrie and Travis head down scanning for the unlikely, I start picking my way back to the peak 8 base....slowly. As I head down, I get a good chance to evaluate riding without a main strap. Heelside riding is pretty good, as the binding highbacks give support, but toeside is scary.

When I push at all with my back foot, my boot heel comes up and I can't get much of any pressure on the edge. This is a great time to have good wax and a very fast board...oh wait, no that is making it suck a bit more. I take the smoothest slowest path to the bottom, and other than the pucker factor and rear leg, calf burn, it goes without serious incident.

A funny moment happens as I am nearing the bottom, on a beginner green run, doing about 10mph. The speed-control ski patrol ask me to "keep my speed down" as I go by...I laugh and point to my rear binding which is dragging off the back of my board and replied.

"Got a broken binding...Slow is the only speed I have"

At the bottom about 15 minutes later, Sherrie and Travis arrive, and they've FOUND THE BUCKLE!!! Wow, that is some luck. I pick up another screw from the board shop at peak 8(thanks), and we ride the rest of the day.

Chair 6 didn't get my bindings, it was close, but the bindings are still working.

That was about 5 weeks ago, and now we're set to hit the lake chutes above chair 6.

Find the Lake chutes at Breckenridge

View from the Lake chutes

view of the Lake Chutes

To get to the Lake chutes, you take chair 6 up, then the imperial chair, then hike. Between chair 6 and the imperial chair is about 100 yards. Some snowboarders ride without buckling their back feet in, I hate skating like that so I always buckle up. There is typically way to much going on near the entrance to a lift to have me without being able to control my board well.

As I look down my heart sinks. My ride Mig bindings, which are 4 years old have broken 1/2 of the main binding strap...

Since this is chair 6, it is of course the binding on my bad ankle. I figure screw this, we're going anyway.

I tell Sherrie about the deteriorating binding and we head up the Imperial lift, being gingerly with the strap. We decide we'll go up the Imperial, and then head to the peak 8 base via the Whales Tail.

The strap isn't looking good, and the 1/2 broken has turned into 1/4 of the strap holding on.

At the top of the Imperial, we head over to the open bowls of the whales tail. I'm being as gentle as I can opening and closing the binding, but I'm really hoping to make it to the parking lot before this breaks.

We start down, and get down 800 or so yards to the peak 7 area, roughly even with the top of the T-bar. Sherrie is trailing me 'just in case'.

I start toward a steep chute with small scrub brush and a few rocks on the side. As I'm cresting into the chute, my forward lean turns into a forward roll with only 1 foot connected to my board.

Crap!!!.....not good!

I jacket slide a few feet and stop on some partially exposed brush. Everything is in one piece on my body, but my gear is not so lucky. My rear binding is done. If this had happened 20 yards later, It would have been much worse. I would have taken a LONG slide to the bottom of the chute. As it was, the binding disintegrated right before I hit the steepest section and I managed to not fly into the rocks....double bonus!!

From here it will be a LONG walk back to the base. I simply can not continue riding with only a toe strap. Walking is a dicy prospect from here in the best of conditions. Walking down can quickly turn into jacket sliding out of control.

The steep conditions and my bad ankle make hikng out a non-possibility. There has to be a better way.

The rear binding strap has the purpose of keeping my boot back into the binding. I need something to hold my boot down.

Ha! I've got athletic tape!!

I proceed to tape behind the binding plate in back and loop the tape over my boot. I've got about 6 wraps around, and I'm out of tape. I've now got the worlds cheapest binding strap....if this works.

My bad ankle is paying off, as I never have tape with me. Ha!

Sherrie follows me down and my makeshift strap is working pretty well....that said, I'm riding as gently as I can. On toeside, I've got a surprising amount of control. This is medium adhesion tape, and not really suited to snow-alumininum-leather coherency. I'm trying to balance between taking my time getting to the bottom, and the tape getting wetter by the second and loosening.

10 minutes later, I'm wadding a racquetball sized ball of tape up and smiling like crazy at the base of peak 8.

I still don't know why chair 6 at Breckenridge hates my bindings, but as my beloved Migs have been officially retired, I think I'll risk going to the top of Breckenridge again next season.