RealSkiers: What You Should Know Before You Buy Your Next Boots

RealSkiers: What You Should Know Before You Buy Your Next Boots

This young lady wisely opted to have her boots fitted by the pros at Boot Doctors. (RealSkiers)

Buying alpine ski boots has never been a picnic. It isn't going to get any easier, at least not in the near term.

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RealSkiers: On Fluidity

RealSkiers: On Fluidity

Harald Harb pouring himself downhill.(RealSkiers)

If there is a single quality that epitomizes how great skiers ski, it's fluidity. Fluidity is the application of technical skills to the opportunities the terrain and snow conditions provide. Fluidity is anticipation so precise every arc appears effortless. Fluidity arises from the awareness that when we ski, we step into a torrent of gravity.

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RealSkiers: When Race Skis Ruled

RealSkiers: When Race Skis Ruled

Franz Klammer's Olympic gold in Innsbruck didn't just raise Fischer's profile among American skiers, it helped build the entire sport's popularity. (RealSkiers.com)

Last week on Realskiers.com I wrote about the best all-mountain skis made since that terminology became common usage. This week's reverie highlights some of the great race skis that served an earlier generation of skiers as their everyday ride.

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RealSkiers: Incremental Innovation - What To Expect in 2018 And Beyond

RealSkiers: Incremental Innovation - What To Expect in 2018 And Beyond

Over time, incremental innovation results in significant change.(RealSkiers.com)

To appreciate the global trends evinced by the 2018 ski market, one must first comprehend the pressure on major suppliers to renew as much of their product line as resources permit. At a minimum, cosmetics need to change; any model that doesn’t change its stripes, so to speak, risks dealers filling in around carryover, thereby reducing initial orders by 20-30 percent off the bat.

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RealSkiers: So You Want to Test Skis?

RealSkiers: So You Want to Test Skis?

There's a big difference between skiing and ski testing. (Copper Mountain)

Everybody loves to demo new skis. When most skiers try out a new model, they just go skiing and see if they like it. They may lack the vocabulary to describe precisely what they prefer and what they loathe, but they can easily distinguish between being happy and being miserable.

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RealSkiers: On Roundness

RealSkiers: On Roundness

 

Gad Valley, Snowbird. (Realskiers)

In the White World of the mountains, every line is a curve. The innocents who proudly announce that they straight-lined such-and-such a slope fail to observe that every inch of their descent described an arc through space. (Through time as well, but let's not complicate matters any further for now.) Once atop a mountain, the instant you step into gravity's stream you go from standing on a dot to standing on a curve.

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PCSkiGal: Top Picks For Winter Feet

PCSkiGal: Top Picks For Winter Feet

The Oboz Madison is a great pick for both fashion and function. (Oboz)

Winter footwear used to be easy. If you asked any real skier (not bunnies who sit at the Montage sipping hot toddies) what they wore for kicks they'd answer ski boots and Sorels. Ah, the good old days. Now there are so many cute, cool choices you might wind up with the winter version of Imelda Marco's shoe closet.


 

Those who live in resorts like Park City know what I'm talking about. It's cold, icy and snowy a solid six months out of the year; and it's boring looking down at the same winter feet every day (and night). If you even thought about getting fancy for dinner or Sundance good luck not slipping on your a** in front of international paparazzi- or at least your friend's Snapchat. So you need a fancy winter shoe? There are such things, you know.

Athleisure fans rejoice! You now have some of the most fun and functional silhouettes for winter feet since the Ugg rage thankfully waned. Flirty, fleece-rimmed ankle boots pair with your favorite skinny jeans, calf-high zips compliment your new sweater dress or pencil skirt and, well, those Tecnica Moon Boots go with nothing and therefore go with everything.

If you are in need of inspiration check out these great fashion finds for winter feet:

The Oboz Madison Insulated Boots are everything you could want for winter. Rugged outsoles for traction and friction, a nubuck leather upper for shedding snow and rain, 200g of Thinsulate for winter warmth, a pile cuff for comfort, hidden side zipper for easy entry, an insulated footbed for extra warm feet and they are adorable. $165.

Tecnica MoonBoot W.E. Monaco Lows
Tecnica MoonBoot W.E. Monaco Lows give you the style of those oh-so popular slipons but with the traction and dryness you need for navigating snow and slush. They may look bulky but they're lightweight, flexible and uber warm. Plus, the Lunar faux fur has waterproofing to keep it from looking like you have a wet rat around your calf half-way through the season. $160.

Wolverine Sirrus Zip Oxford
Wolverine Sirrus Zip Oxford. This hard-to-find shoe is a must for any local. It's the winter equivalent to wearing flipflops all summer. Suede leather waterproof upper, warm, fuzzy, faux-fur lining, removable full-cushion footbed, arch support and deep, deep lug soles. $89.
Ahnu Sugarpine


You see these Ahnu Sugarpines and instantly have to have them. Not only does it come in fun, unique colors you won't find in any other mid-hiker, but they are super warm and waterproof. The Sugarpines have Ahnu's neutral foot position for better balance and stride, a double-reinforced toe to keep out water and cold, and a padded tongue for extra cush. This may not be your snowshoe-shoe but it'll be your fave go-to for casual winter dinners and dog-walks. $89

Altra Lone Peak 2.0 Polartec Neoshell

When you are into winter trail running, there's the Altra Lone Peak 2.0 Polartec Neoshell. Zero drop, waterproof and roomy. The neoshell upper provides a weather-resistant barrier while the sandwiched StoneGuard midsole gives flexible protection as you traipse over rocks and ice chunks. The design is made to feel like an extension of your foot rather than you trying to make your foot fit the shoe. If you have a wide foot and struggle with a comfortable trail shoe you need to explore this brand. $65.

Timberland Authentic Winter Fold Downs

Timberland Authentic Winter Fold Downs. In case you haven't kept up on the trends, fold downs are all the rage. Not only do you get a cute fuzzy shoe but a chukka too. The durable uppers are made with full-grain, waterproof leather and suede, and, unlike other winter fashion boots, these folddowns have a waterproof membrane and teddy fleece lining for extra oomph. EVA midsole and aggressive lugs provide all-day comfort even when the streets get slick. $98

Lowa Sparrow WS Climbing Shoe

Every outdoorswoman needs the Lowa Sparrow WS Climbing Shoe on hand. When you can't ski for whatever reason the most fun "adventure" workout you can have is in the climbing gym. These beauties offer all-day comfort which is key if you've been in ski boots for five days straight. The women's last keeps your heel in place but gives extra wiggle room in the toe box. It's really more about having a shoe that doesn't make you scream in pain without sacrificing performance; especially in the winter. BTW, these do awesomely on those intermediate (and beginner) sport routes. $140.



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RealSkiers: The Mail Bag

RealSkiers: The Mail Bag

Skier Katie Van Riper is all smiles at Snowbird. (Matt Crawley/Snowbird/Facebook)

This week, Jackson Hogen shares some Realskiers.com subscriber perspectives he found instructive, on pedicures, gloves and proper ski size selection, with responses appended. 

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RealSkiers: Women's LIB

RealSkiers: Women's LIB

Perry Martin demonstrates that what was old is new again, ripping into Alta on a unisex Big Mountain ski. (Realskiers)

“Lighter is better” (LIB) has been the dominant theme in consumer products over the past several years, so it’s no surprise that ski makers have adopted this mantra as their own.

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RealSkiers: Get A Grip

RealSkiers: Get A Grip

The once simple choice of boot sole has grown complicated. (Realskiers.com)

If you are a lifelong skier, no matter how long that life may currently be, either you or someone you know has taken a nasty spill while crossing a slick parking area in their ski boots. These types of falls tend to be sudden and unmerciful, the landing area of unrelenting density. The injuries range from wounded pride to broken femurs. The broken bits aren’t binding related and we tend not to think of these incidents as skiing-related. Yet they are intrinsic to our sport.

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RealSkiers: Your Next Ski

RealSkiers: Your Next Ski

If you’re like most advanced skiers, you’d like your next pair of skis to do everything well. Even if you aren’t the master of all terrain conditions, your want your skis to be. Much as you’d like to own several pairs of skis, it isn’t going to happen. No need to heed the weather report; you’re grabbing the same pair of sticks no matter what.

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RealSkiers: Measuring Up

RealSkiers: Measuring Up

How can anyone go wrong getting a Bonafide? All that’s left to screw up is the size… (Realskiers.com)

Prospective modern-day ski buyers do assiduous research, checking every online advice purveyor for clues in its reviews that will identify his or her personal best-of-all-possible worlds. They interview friends, instructors and a random coterie of lift-mates they interrogate while riding up on the gondola.

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RealSkiers: Silver Skier Reflections and Selections

RealSkiers: Silver Skier Reflections and Selections

The first two weeks of January are Seniors Weeks at Purgatory in Colorado. (Purgatory)

Aging isn’t for the faint of heart.

It takes fortitude to slide out of bed when every sinew seems to have ossified overnight. The silver-haired who continue to ski into their dotage manage to do so not because they’ve found the Fountain of Youth, but because they’re able to suppress or ignore the body’s daily attempts to signal for a time out.

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RealSkiers: The First Five Minutes

RealSkiers: The First Five Minutes

A thorough assessment provides the alchemy that turns curiosity into trust. (RealSkiers)


Last week’s Revelation, “Take the Leap of Faith” inspired some thoughtful critiques among the Realskiers faithful, both on our Facebook page and in one-on-one correspondence with yours truly. One perspicuous soul correctly observed that said essay was superficial, while another waxed eloquent on why the ski industry should adopt saner, customer-centric practices that mimicked regular shoe buying. 


 

In my meandering reply to this critic, I noted that if the customer takes charge of the sale, then the person who has the least idea what he or she is doing is now running the show. This is rarely a formula for success. But if the customer is to surrender to the bootfitter’s care, there has to be a solid foundation of trust. That trust must be earned in the first five minutes. To address the concern of my other aforementioned gadfly, I want to explore the first five minutes of a boot sale in scrupulous detail. Some of the methods I’ll refer to below ought to be standard practice at any true specialty shop; other parts of my routine are techniques I’ve adopted over the years to better assess the skier sitting in front of me.

After greetings and introductions – let’s imagine our boot customer is named Andrea - I’ll pose a few basic questions that allow Andrea to describe herself as a skier. I’ll learn where she normally skis or intends to ski (Mt. Rose), what trail conditions she prefers (groomed) and her experience level (an infrequent skier until this season, when she’ll be skiing more (new relationship)).

While I continue down my litany of questions – what boots did she use before?, does she already have her season pass?, is that guy standing over there the one who’s going to be guiding your development? – I observe how Andrea sits, her posture, where her feet are pointing (slightly outwards) and generally how she moves. I ask what other sports or exercise are regular parts of her lifestyle. Turns out she does a bit of everything, including heavy doses of cycling. Now that we’re all relaxed and getting an understanding of the skier Andrea wishes to be, I’ll ask to see her bare feet, both of them, and if possible her bare legs up to and including her knees. This is a non-negotiable request.

Once I have Andrea’s bare feet before me, I ask to take control and do so, re-positioning her feet in a roughly 6-inch wide stance with her toes pointing at me. I’ll be looking for any red spots, calluses, signs of prior injury/surgery and, of course, examining her overall foot structure, ankle position and leg shaft angle, both straight-on and from the side. I’ll ask about any history of injury.



Now it’s time to get serious. First I swipe my bare hands over Andrea’s feet, starting at the heel and working forward. I’m feeling her bones, particularly the calcaneus, navicular, first cuneiform, styloid process and metatarsals. I’ll perform brief diagnostic tests of Andrea’s ankle range of motion, arch flexibility and forefoot plane. I’ll take an impression of the plantar surface to look in particular at her arches, anticipating what sort of underfoot support she’ll need.

I’ll measure both her feet with a metric measurement tool. Ski boots do not reason in American sizing and if metric (or mondopoint) sizing had equivalents in American sizes the two systems would be the same. So I don’t bother with American measurements and don’t usually measure the arch length, as I already know a lot about it, including its length relative to the total foot length. Where warranted, I’ll also measure the heel-instep perimeter (HIP). At this point, I’m pretty sure what boot, in what size and with what modifications I’m going to suggest for Andrea, but I’m not positive what flex is going to be optimal.

Bear in mind all the inspections I’ve done have taken practically no time. I swiped her feet in 30 seconds, did a R.O.M. test on her ankles and Windlass test on her arches in less than that. Measuring two feet doesn’t take long, nor does taking an impression on a plastic film. I’m in maybe four minutes and I know a lot about Andrea and what I don’t know I’m about to find out with her first boot, which is coming right up. But before I disappear into the boot stacks, I tell Andrea what I’ve just learned. This is the moment where curiosity turns into trust. What I’ll say goes something like this:

“My dear Andrea (for I feel I know her so well now), I can already tell you’re going to be a very good skier in very short order. You’re an active athlete – the calluses on your first met-heads and overall tension from your toes to your knees confirm your passion for cycling. Your arches aren’t particularly high, but they are tight and probably give you problems. You probably have a ¾ orthotic in your cycling shoes, don’t you? And your first cuneiform bone causes discomfort in some, but not all, of your footwear, both athletic and casual.

“Your skiing is about to take a giant leap forward for three main reasons: you are getting out of rental and second-hand boots that never fit you in the first place and into a boot that will help you maintain dynamic balance. To do this, we need to support that sometimes angry arch of yours with a custom insole to which I will make some modifications to relieve pressure from your first ray. And we need to shim behind your narrow calf so you stay forward into the front of the boot so you can learn proper steering, something you’ve yet to experience. “Most importantly, your ankles are so tight they have a somewhat limited range of motion. Nothing to get too excited about, but we do want to keep you pressed into the tongue so you get the benefit of what movement you do have. This is why I’m going to bring you two boots, one stiffer than the other, to see which will be better for you.” (I already know the answer to this, too, but I want Andrea to feel the difference and understand why I’m recommending the stiffer boot despite her current ability.)


Well, my five minutes are up and the boot sale isn’t over by any means, but I hope I’ve demonstrated both to Andrea and to you, Dear Reader, that’s it’s probably okay to trust me. I know exactly which boot will allow me to address all of Andrea’s needs, optimize her dynamic balance and produce an environment so comfortable she’ll never have to fuss with her buckles again. Oh, and the third reason Andrea is going to get good in a hurry is that guy over in the corner nodding his head and smiling. He’s planning on skiing a lot this year, and now he knows he’ll have someone beside him to share his passion.

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RealSkiers: Understand the Brand

RealSkiers: Understand the Brand

When considering which ski is right for you, don’t just compare thumbnail model descriptions, helpful though they might be. Don’t put all your faith in numbers either, even though statistics exude the aroma of science. Take stock in the advice of family and friends, if you must, but I wouldn’t invest too heavily in the opinion of those whose experience has been largely limited to one ski.

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