Conventioneering at Masterfit U boot fit seminar. Barge cement fumes and the roar of the grinding machines form a backdrop to the whine of the heat guns. And like the advice offered to Dustin Hoffman far far in the past while he was trying to deal with the Robinson girls and his future: Plastic.
New bullet points from yesterday’s chair time:
– Boot industry is going mad-dog over providing boots with a cuff latch they sometimes call a ‘hike’ mode. Most of these only allow the boot cuff to relax back to a vertical position. Perfect for standing at the bar or walking the parking lot, but not a ‘hiking’ mode by the standards of current AT boots. Push from the boot fitters here is they’d like to see the naming of these modes standardized, so consumers don’t get fooled into thinking some of these boots tour at all well by current standards. I’m not sure what those mode names could be. Perhaps “touring” for the real AT boots and “comfort” for the others?
– An issue that comes up here with Wildsnow is just how far do you go with fine-tuning things like boot fitting? The philosophy I like, and mentioned in one of the lectures we attended, is you want the feeling that your gear is a ‘clean slate’ so you’re not skiing uphill or down thinking “Man, if I had a little less heel lift, or a stiffer boot, or better buckles, or…I’d do so much better.” But instead thinking “Wow, my gear is dialed, now what can I do to gain fitness for the uphill, or learn a more comfortable and fluid ski technique?”
– Here at WildSnow we’ve recently had discussions of things such as the angle created by your binding toe holding your boot down lower than the heel, creating an “angle.” These guys like to call that sort of binding angle “delta,” and the angle inside your boot created by the boot shape as “ramp.” Editorially, we’ll do the same thing here at WildSnow and edit back through our writings for consistency.
– Some of these guys ski in a lot of boots. So I listen to their opinions. What keeps coming up regarding AT boots? Statements such as “Scarpa Freedom SL is the best Pebax boot we’ve ever tested,” and “Dynafit Vulcan — awesome thing skis just like a race boot!”
– And then we have plastics. Mainly, the gurus validate our take that Grilamid heat molds much easier than Pebax. Grilamid shells are usually quite thin (that’s why they’re light), so you have to be careful no matter what you’re doing, but the stuff gets easy to punch at about 220 degrees F and has very little problem with “spring back,” which is the bane of Pebax. Thus, if you’ve got fit issues that require boot punching and you want lightweight AT boots, bypass Pebax and go directly to Grilamid, for which your boot fitter should be thankful.
– I continue to be energized on what these guys are doing with boot testing at bootfitters.com. From what I heard, their on-slope testing methods are quite good but due to the work involved they have little to no on-site validated metrics, but instead are listing manufacturer flex ratings and last widths. That’s better than nothing, but let’s hope they find the will and warm bodies, along with methodology, to do some kind of independent boot flex testing. I’m so sick of this “my boot is 110” marketing drivel. It’s like nails on a blackboard. We need an independent metrics program — that’s not just tester opinions but rather a mechanical measurement.
One caveat: use the BootFitters.com website to read between the lines and figure out the better boots. Do so by looking at the ratio of positive and negative comments from the testers, as well as tester comments that related directly to your own issues. What you see in the print magazines, with their gear “awards” and “medals” can be B.S. that just confuses. Insider info.
More about boot metrics. Perhaps the reason these guys (along with the main skiing magazines) are leery of off-slope mechanical testing has to do with history. Turns out that back in the 1960s, a certain ski magazine decided to do a comprehensive boot test and review. Only they did the whole thing in someone’s New York City basement, with no on-snow evaluation whatsoever. This of course was roundly laughed off as one of the most ridiculous gear tests ever conceived by the human mind. And who wants to go back to that extreme? Thus, a mix of on-snow testing and bench metrics is the best. I’d like to see BootFitters.com get strong in both areas.
Lastly, it’s pretty funny how the term “A.T.” continues to be convention for describing alpine touring boots. We (meaning myself and a few other writers, along with Paul Ramer) came up with that term many decades ago, to indeed stand for “Alpine Touring.” I’ve never liked it. In Europe they just call them “ski touring boots” though you do hear “AT” once in a while. I’ve also heard the term “ski mountaineering” in use to describe AT boots. My humble suggestion is we keep experimenting with the terminology, and don’t get hung up on calling them “AT boots.”
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.