Sorry for the delay in my postings. As I’m sure you’re aware, Mother Nature has given us a sneek preview here in the Northeast. With truckloads of 2011 product has been arriving daily and curious customers checking it all out, there’s been little time to write.
So, how about you? Have you paid a visit to your local ski shop and spoke to an ‘experienced’ boot-fitter? If so, I hope you asked all the right questions and had a pleasant experience. If not, the clock is ticking. It won’t be long before the mountains are open and you’ll still have your old boots to manage.
Whether you have or have yet to, here’s some things to consider when looking at the boot wall -
Just as there are many brands of skis, so are there for boots. Within each brand, there will be a multitude of models. Gone are the days when Lange was the ‘narrow’ boot brand and Salomon was the ‘wider’ boot brand. Each model of boot will represent a certain shape/volume of foot. Within that model, there will be a variety of ‘flex patterns’ specific to a skier’s ability, agression level & physical weight.
Confused, yet? Now you can see why it’s so important to find the right boot-fitter.
Regardless of your foot shape and ability, nearly every brand of boot will have something for you. However, it may not be that the store chose to stock every model from every company. In fact, I can guarantee they did not – Nordica alone has 50 models of boots – men’s, women’s & kids; high performance, all-mountain, freeride/park & recreational; 98 to 104+mm last - and those are the ones they publish on their website. There are even more that aren’t listed. Multilpy that by Atomic, Dalbello, Full Tilt, Head, Lange, Rossignol, Salomon, Tecnica…well, you get the picture.
So, where does that leave you? Back in the hands of a qualified boot-fitter. Set that appointment and set aside the time to try on 2-3 pair of boots…MAXIMUM! This could mean up to an hour! You’ll be spending at least 15 minutes in each boot and there will likely be more time for ‘fitting’ of the boots – liner and/or shell heating, bucklet & cuff adjustments, insole fitting and possibly a liner stretch or two. This should help clarify the difference between a ‘boot-fitter’ and a ski boot salesperson.
Whether you are new to owning boots or this is your 10th pair, treat yourself to NEW skis socks upon your arrival. It is imperative that you fit the boot to the sock you’ll be wearing. Just picking out socks can be a daunting task. In a nutshell, I prefer the Smartwool PHD brand – light weight for the performance fit or wider foot, medium weight for the average skier and narrower foot. Get at least two pair – one to start the day and a second pair for the afternoon. Dry feet are warm feet.
Get measured/evaluated properly. You should be measured four ways on a Brannock style measuring device – length, forefoot width, arch height and instep height. An experience boot fitter will also observe even more about your particular anatomy – leg, ankle and foot alignment…or lack there of. Don’t worry about the numbers, your shoe size will not come into play here. It’s all about the boot sizing. A snug fit will take shape of your foot. Along with the proper foot support from a quality footbed, the result will be relaxed muscles and maximum circulation = maximum warmth & performance. A ‘comfy’ fit will become looser in no time =cold & tired feet on the mountain. Remember – this is an athletic sport, not a walk in the park….they won’t feel like your UGG’s.
The 2011 gear reviews can be a blessing and a curse for the retailer. It’s somewhat easy to pick out your next pair of skis based upon what you read. However, the boot is completely different. While customers often feel the desire to pick out their own boot based upon appearance, let the boot-fitter offer up suggestions after the evaluation. Doing so will save you a great deal of time and aggravation. While the prices may be higher than you expected, don’t let that weigh in your decision. As we mentioned, ‘happy feet’ are what’s most important - let your feet make the final call. Trying on two different boots side by side will narrow down the selection. Take off the ‘loser’ and put on the third option, if one exsists. Since feet are often different in size, make sure you try on both and stay in them for another 10-15 minutes – stand, flex and read a magazine…better yet, take a look at the ski wall and start planning that purchase.
All in all, a sound boot fitting experience should yield a pair of great fitting ski boots - one that will surely improve your skiing ability as well as your overall skiing experience. Next time, we’ll discuss the importance of foot beds for every skier’s & boarder’s boots. Then again, you may have learned about them already from your boot-fitter.