Achieving the Perfect Ski Boot Fit

I hope everyone is shredding the gnar wherever you call homebase.  La Nina has proved to be a worthy ally unleashing mounds and mounds of snow in the Pacific Northwest.  While we Vitamin D deprived Washingtonians count the days ’till the sun emerges again from the gray skies, freeriders are smiling ear to ear.

I’ve put in a solid 20 days so far in 2011/2012.  I’m hoping to get close to 35-40 by June if at all possible.  Just a couple of months ago, I was facing a major dilemma in Sun Valley–yes, first world problems.  I had put down a solid 250 days on my Garmont Ener-G telemark boots.  After my first few turns on “College Road” on a crisp, sunny, 18 degree day, I started feeling pain on the sides of my feet.  I had some shin bang.  Nothing too bad.  I then proceeded to hot dog it down some bumps and the foot issues jumped tenfold.  I had to face reality.  My boots were shot.  It was an overwhelming feeling of pity and catharsis.  I had held out as long as possible, hoping that the inevitable would never happen.  The problem was I wasn’t sold on what boot I was going to choose as a replacement.

Over the last two seasons, I’ve demoed Garmont, Black Diamond and Scarpa boots–both in the 75mm and NTN versions.  I liked some but not enough to commit $700+ on something I wasn’t 100% sure of.  Afterall, we’re talking about boots.  If you’re feet are miserable skiing, you will be just a miserable person, period.  So, I did what I do best.  I did some massive research.  After reading review after review, I landed on a setup that has given my trusted Garmonts new life, just like replacing the worn out engine in your trusty old Toyota truck.  I feel like I can wail another 2-3 solid seasons.

The Liner

This is where it all starts.  It’s where your feet live, between plush foam and a hard plastic.  Nothing about hard shell plastic is comfortable.  But, with the right boot liner, fitting and footbed, your feet will feel like they’re in UGGS (well, maybe not UGGS, but pretty close).  You’ll know when you need a new liner when the tightest buckling doesn’t keep your feet from moving.  A good rule of thumb is you should be able to ski comfortably with your buckles undone.  Intuition is the mother of all boot liner companies.  They outfit most World Cup ski racers and are standard on Scarpa boots.  There are different types of liners for every type of skier.  The most popular liner is the Power Wrap.  The Power Wrap features a super dense 12mm foam.  It’s an overlay style liner.  I don’t particularly like the overlay style.  It’s certainly easier to get in and out of, but the overall feel is not my style.  Plus, if you have wide, flat feet like mine, the foam is just a bit too dense.  I would only recommend this liner if your boot is at least 102mm or wider.  I personally like the Freeride model boot liner.  It’s 9mm and features a tongue.  The design is similar to most standard boot liners.  The key here is to go to a master boot fitter to get a custom fit.  I cannot stress enough how important this is.  You won’t find this type of expertise as large retail stores.  Only small boutique shops will have a person that really understands how to get you set up properly. If you’re in the Seattle area, I highly recommend contacting Steve Forsythe at Centerline Skiing in Bellevue, WA.

 

The Strap

Shin bang.  We’ve all had it.  A few hours after skiing, you feel like someone’s been hammering your shins with a wood spoon.  Most people think that it’s because the boot cuff is too tight or your calves are too big.  Actually, it’s because your strap, which comes standard on your boot, doesn’t do a very good job securing the tongue, plastic and liner firmly around your lower leg.  The solution: the Booster strap.  The Booster is pretty much the go-to choice for ski racers.  You can imagine skiing at 80 mph, your equipment needs to be bombproof.  The booster strap does one thing well: it allows you to really clamp down and get your lower leg secure.  It’s a world of  a difference.  You will notice it on the mountain right away.

 

So, after it was all said and done, I spent about $300, or roughly half the cost to buy a new pair of boots.  It was well worth the research and effort, and I advise all of you to think about doing this before making an expensive switch to new ski boots.  If you haven’t found that “perfect pair” yet, I would look into doing these adjustments above to customize your existing boots.  Happy feet!

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