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A Guide to Selecting Ski Boots

Ski boots are the foundation to your skiing and probably the most important component of all your gear. Your day of skiing can be ruined if your boots are the wrong ability for you or aren’t fitting correctly. Let’s take a close look why ski boots are so important.

Boots are designed for different skier types. To understand this, we first need to understand the different skier types.

(L Type skier) L type skiers ski slow and in a more upright stance. They prefer skiing runs that are green and easy. Many times they are beginners. These skiers need room for making errors, which usually happens often for this skier type. Ski boots for this type of skier are designed with a more upright stance; the fit is generous and the boots have a soft lateral support to allow errors.

(A Type skier) This skier type is starting to control their skis instead of their skis controlling them. They are also starting to ski more aggressively and usually prefer more challenging or blue runs. This skier requires more control than the L Type skier. Ski boots for this skier have more lateral stiffness, have a closer fit and have more forward lean to accommodate more aggressiveness.

(S Type skier) There are many S type skiers. You have racers, freestylers, free riders, extreme skiers or just great recreational skiers.

All these skiers have some things in common. They tend to ski faster, more aggressively and usually prefer the most challenging or black ski trails. They require the most in edge control. Their boots generally have more forward lean to adapt to their speed and aggressiveness. Their boots have more lateral stiffness to give the most in edge control and have the closest fit inside the boot.

Let’s help you understand some descriptions:
Forward lean is determined while the sole of the ski boot is flat on the floor and where the angle the upper boot shaft aligns your knees. Boots with less forward lean have your knees more upright as if you were standing. Boots with more forward lean position your knees more forward over the ball of your feet.

Why is forward lean necessary? It’s for balance. L type skiers ski slower and stand more upright. These boots have a more upright stance to help.

At the other end, S type skiers ski faster and have their upper bodies more forward as not to fall backwards while skiing aggressive. These ski boots have more forward lean to adapt to this style.

Lateral support is determined by squeezing the sides of the upper part of the boot. The more you can squeeze, the softer the lateral support. The harder it is to squeeze, the more lateral support. Why a difference in lateral support? An L type skier needs soft lateral support to allow for errors. At the other end, an S type skier requires more lateral support to help control their edges.

What about the inside of the boot?
L type skiers don’t require or want a close fit. They’re used to shoes and want their ski boots to feel the same. L type ski boots have a more generous fit.

An A type skier wants a closer fit to have less movement inside their boots. They feel the need to have more control of their skis and still want comfortable boots. The liners of A type boots fit closer and with more detail.

The S type skiers demand a close fit because they require the most in control. If their foot moves inside the boot while skiing, they could lose control. The boot manufactures design the inner boot with a more detailed, “lasted” boot liner that fits close to the foot allowing less foot movement. (A “lasted” boot liner is defined as a liner that has a detail shape like the human foot.)

Consideration is also given to the hard foot bed located under the inner liner to be more supportive and help prevent excess movement of the foot. Many skiers at this level will opt for a custom foot bed to fit them more precise.

Boot sizing:
The number one problem in boot fitting is “over sizing”.
This is because;
1) Boot sizes do not match shoe sizes! This is because the manufactures make boots for every country in the world and which have different sizing scales. So the manufactures develop their own scale.
2) Untrained sales people fit boots.
3) People fit their own boots.
4) People don’t give the boot enough time to fit when they first try them on.

Here’s a simple test to see if your current boots are sized correctly. Pull the inner liner out of the shell. Stand and put your foot into the shell of the boot with your toes slightly touching the front of the shell. Look behind your heel inside the boot. The L type skier should have about one inch of room behind the heel. An A type skier should have about _ an inch of room behind the heel and the S type skier should have about « an inch behind the heel. Anymore than this probably means your boots are too big.

What to look for when purchasing boots:
A trained boot fitter will ask a series of questions regarding
1) Your skier type
2) How often you ski
3) How long you’ve been skiing
4) The type of terrain you ski
5) How aggressive you ski
6) About your current equipment.

Next, the boot fitter should measure both feet with you standing and sitting. (Did you know most people have one foot larger than the other?) The trained boot fitter will also measure the width of your foot and the location of the ball of your foot in regards to your foot’s length.

At this point, don’t be concerned with the make or model of boot you want. If the trained boot fitter does their job properly, they’ll make a selection based on the information you gave them. If you’re not certain about the boot fitters’ ability at this time, ask for someone different or go somewhere else.

When the boot fitter has made a selection, try them on for a while. 30 minutes usually does it. At first, the ski boot will feel too small. (This is why many boots are too big.) Let the liner of the boots conform to the shape of your feet. After you’ve had the boots on for a while, your heels should settle into the rear pocket and create more room at the toes.

While trying them on, this is a great time to talk about skis, bindings and poles if you are in the market. It’s also a good time to ask about the shops’ boot-fitting guarantee. The shop should guarantee the comfort of the boot for at least a year with adjustments being made at no charge. If the shop has no guarantee, consider purchasing elsewhere.

Custom Footbeds: Keep in mind that under certain conditions, the boot fitter may recommend and charge extra for a custom a footbed. Think of a custom footbed this way, the inner boot liner will conform to the shape of your foot but what about under your foot where all the detail is? A custom footbed makes the boot fit complete. If your boot fitter thinks it’s needed, you should probably consider one. This will only help with the fit, the comfort and the performance of the boot.

After 30 minutes or more, if you’re happy with your fit, you should consider purchasing the boots. Your next step would be to match the rest of your gear to your boots and the way you ski. Remember, for the best results, the performance level of your boots should match the performance level of your skiing ability or be slightly higher to allow for improvement.
For more information or to shop for ski equipment, visit www.sno-ski.com.

November 12, 2002
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