Back in Denver, Colorado for our second year at Masterfit University. This two-day boot fitting seminar always teaches us something new. Especially since we’re amateur boot fitters, not in the trenches year around like some of the gurus teaching us. A few things I learned today that apply directly to WildSnow boot fitting and stance tuning projects:
– Skiing is what these guys call a “mid-stance” sport. Meaning your “ready” or “neutral” position is where you want your foot solidly supported. That means everything from footbed shape to binding and boot ramp angles.
– The mavens of Masterfit seem to be emphasizing ankle flex and shape even more this year. My own theory with fitting ski touring boots has always been to 1) Support the foot, 2) Snug around the ankle, 3) Fit the cuff to the shin and lower leg so the boot is responsive. Lectures today validated those ideas. More, I heard greater emphasis on the fact that if you work the principles above, you don’t need your toes banging into the end of the boot for a “performance fit.” At Wildsnow, we don’t call that a “performance” fit, we call it a frostbite fit. Best avoided by crafty boot fitting.
– Biggest problem for many boot fitters these days is people buying boots online, then showing up for a fit. As always, our suggestion is talk to the boot fitter first. Arrange a contract, have him or her evaluate what type of boot you need (size, width, flex, etc.) then go for that killer deal you’ve been eyeing if the fitter says it’s worth a go.
– BootFitters.com is doing a better and better job on reporting flex ratings and width categories for hundreds of ski boots — including AT boots. While much of their information is acquired by repeating manufaturer specs, I was told by Mark Elling (content creator the website, and MasterFit instructo) that efforts are ongoing to establish last width measurement standardization and that sort of thing. Here at WildSnow we’re supporting what they’re trying to do, and will link where appropriate to their information.
– Boots with for/aft stiffness are important for people with minimal ankle flex, and also help skiers with lots of ankle flex who would otherwise “collapse” forward. In other words, no wonder most people we talk AT boots with are always searching for something with good for/aft support.
– Beware of ramp angle tuning. Some raising of the toe is good with rampy tech bindings. But mess things up too much and you could be looking at a ruptured Achilles tendon due to pre-stressing that part of your foot anatomy. Also, the only skiers who really “need” exactly neutral ramp are park skiers who spend as much time going backwards as going forwards. The rest of us do fine with some binding ramp angle (though less than most tech bindings), at least that’s the conventional wisdom.
– I like Masterfit’s new “no grinding, no gluing” footbed system. You simply run a pre-build footbed through a heater, then mold it on a foot form. Basic. Other companies have similar systems, nice to see one from these guys. It’s sort of cross between a totally custom glue/grind or otherwise constructed footbed, and the “drop-ins” you can buy off the rack in nearly any shop.
Overall, much other stuff of highly technical nature is covered at these seminars. All helps inform our writing at WildSnow. More importantly, when we do receive a test boot we don’t just crimp down the buckles, ski for a few hours, and write a three paragraph review. Instead, thanks to Masterfit we’ve learned enough about fitting to do a decent job in the WildSnow shop, and go out on test boots that actually perform as their makers intended.
Boot fitting can have interesting permutations. We were listening to Fresh Air on NPR a while ago, and the late great crime novelist Elmore Leonard described the following situation. Interviewer Terry Gross had asked him how he thought up the terrific dialog in his novels:
Leonard related that when writing you have months to think about getting the dialog right, but in real life things are somewhat different.
He described sitting on a bench at the bottom of Aspen Mountain at 4:00 in the afternoon, dead tired.
A beautiful gal skis down, she’s perhaps half Leonard’s age. She props one foot up on the bench and says something like “I don’t know what feels better, taking off these boots or making amazing love.”
Leonard to Terry: “That was 15 years ago and I’m still trying to think of a good comeback.”
(P.S., These no-flash indoor shots were taken with our new Canon EOS Rebel SL1. Simply amazing how easy it was to get this kind of quality with very little ambient light.)
WildSnow.com publisher emeritus and founder Lou (Louis Dawson) has a 50+ years career in climbing, backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering. He was the first person in history to ski down all 54 Colorado 14,000-foot peaks, has authored numerous books about about backcountry skiing, and has skied from the summit of Denali in Alaska, North America’s highest mountain.