The Sun & Ski Cure for the Winter Time Blues

How are you supposed to switch gears from sunshine and wakeboarding to ice covered lakes? When summer ends, it can sometimes be hard to make the adjustmentto cooler weather.

Why not try investing your downtime into a new sport this winter?

Believe it or not, snowboarding can actually make you a better wakeboarder.The skills you can develop while snowboarding can translate to help improve your already impressive wakeboarding skills.

Some of the areas that snowboarding can help you improve include:

  • Strength – Snowboarding requires you to move in ways similar to wakeboarding. This means you will not lose all the progress you made over the summer.
  • Turning – Snowboarders shift their weight using their toes or heels, which differs from wakeboarding. However, if you can work to develop a strong snowboard turning technique, it will most likely improve turning when you wakeboard.
  • Focus – Just like wakeboarding, it’s essential to be aware of your surroundings when snowboarding. Maintaining this level of awareness all winter will help you stay alert when you start wakeboarding again.

If you do plan on hitting the slopes this winter season, you’re going to need the warmest snowboarding and skiing clothes. Shop for the top brands and you’ll be sure to start off in style. Here’s a list to get you started:

  • Men & Women’s snowboards
  • Men & Women’s skis
  • Men & Women’s Ski boots
  • Men & Women’s ski and snowboard jackets
  • Men & Women’s ski and snowboard pants
  • Ski Goggles

Invest in only the essential items and grow your wardrobe when you decide you’re going to stick with the sport. Shop Sun & Ski for a wide selection of name brands including The North Face, Spyder, Canada Goose, and more to get you started.

So many choices, so little time…

2011 Phoenix Air Shell
2011 Tecnica Phoenix Air Shell 90

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.

Boot Fit Basics

2011 Dalbello Blender
2011 Dalbello Blender

Welcome back.

Hopefully by now you’ve had a chance to try on your boots. I’m guessing that you found there’s ‘room for improvement’. Most people would think that a tight fit is the problem when feet hurt. In fact, the one problem I see all too often is a boot that is TOO BIG. While everyone wants that little extra toe room, adding extra toe room often brings on other fit issues.  We’ll talk about that and other ailments in later segments.

For now, here’s your next assignment –

While the there’s plenty of time before the season starts and there are great bargains to be had, pack up your boots, socks and footbeds (if you have them). Find yourself a qualified boot technician make an appointment to get ‘fitted’.  Treat this as if you were going to the doctor’s office for a check up – experience matters. How do you know where to go? Ask! How do you know who has the experience? ASK!!! Just because someone works in a ski/snowboard shop and calls themself a ‘custom boot fitter’ DOES NOT make them an expert at fitting. Only years of experience gets someone a reputation in this industry.  While the more seasoned techs are usually around the resorts, that’s not a guarantee. You may just find you have someone right in your area. However, you may have to travel some to find the best. 

Expect some to spend some time with that person. I always like to schedule a full hour to do a proper evaluation of the skier, their feet, their present equipment and to have them try on some new product. You may only need half that time to realize what needs to be done. 

Be prepared for the unexpected. A good boot tech will fill you in on a great deal of information. If you get the ‘quick sell’, move on and find another shop. When you find the right one, you’ll know it!  More than likely the initial evaluation will be ‘on the house’. However, expect the better ones to charge for their time and materials – it will be a very worthwhile investment.

In the next segment, we’ll discuss the boot fit process in greater detail and point out some things you’ll need to get the season off on the ‘right foot’.  Until then, start searching.