Now that it’s the end of the ski season, it’s the ideal time to go shopping for ski boots for next season’s ski holiday.
Not only do you have the time to find the perfect ski boots without the pressure of a ski getaway breathing down your neck, but you’ll also be able to grab a discount at most stores as they need to sell their winter stuff to make space for summer or next season’s attire.
And I’m sure we all know what good ski boots can do for you. If you need a reminder – let’s take a look at my ski boot journey.
Where It All Began
Here I am, looking fashionable as ever clad in my mum’s rolled up ski pants with three thick pairs of socks to wedge my feet into my older sister’s leather ski boots that were at least three sizes too large:
Ice-nibbled feet with skis too long to manoeuvre was my baptism to skiing. And what an impression it made, clearly!
Somehow it wasn’t enough to put me off, and years later here I was again, still wearing incredibly uncomfortable and highly oversized skis with an unimpressed smile…
The only difference was at last I had (slightly) better clothing. I really had to crank the buckles to the absolute max to anchor my feet in the boots, resulting in cut-off circulation and painfully cold feet.
But The Years Flew By…
Fast forward and I’m still the best dressed on the mountain, naturally.
I became a ski guide with Bladon Lines and Ski West, and the company got us a great deal with Salomon boots and Dynastar skis. My adult ski boot experience started with the Salomon SX90s and progressed to SX92s.
And my god – those foam buckets really were the best. To this day, they’re still the comfiest ski boots I’ve ever worn. Rear entry was the magic element – this meant that you could also unclip the back and stand straight – a perfect standing-at-the-bar position.
Well, that’s where my quest for the perfect boot began.
My Quest for the perfect ski boot
During the ’80s, I went to Jamie Neil who worked for Snow Fun in Val d’Isere. He started with setting me up with some custom-made insoles and then proceeded with a foam injection. Suddenly it was as though my skis had been awakened – my whole experience was totally transformed, as my skis actually reacted quickly.
The next decade was all about the Strolz shop in Lech that used to actually custom-make ski boots. I was happy in those days with my Nordica 22 Grand Prix boots. The race foam injection, stiff competition shell, the extra shin pad… I mean, you could ski with these boots unclipped – that is what I call a perfect fit.
I wore those for years until they fell apart, before moving back to some comfy Salomons again. But the time was approaching to invest in something that would better my performance, as well as being comfortable when hanging around with my children.
This time around I didn’t want to trek to the Alps to find my shiny new pair of boots. Everyone was raving about this guy named Hamish Wolfenden at Profeet in Fulham.
And this man – well, he truly was a legend.
Lesson Finally Learnt: Don’t Go By Brand
Mr Wolfenden established the right size and shape boots for me and before I knew it, I was introduced to my first pair of Atomics. Never in my life had I pictured myself wearing Atomic.
It goes to prove that within each brand there are the right and wrong shell sizes for every person. So seriously, do NOT go by brand until you have firstly had your feet checked and secondly had some custom insoles made before you try the boots (that’s the first lesson I’m teaching you here).
Right, that’s my ski boot life story done with. Now I want to help you find your ski boot soulmates using the lessons I have learned, so pay attention…
Start By Finding a Hero For Your Ski Boot Story
First, I reckon it’s necessary to provide you with my top unsung heros, just in case you ever come across them in your travels. Here is the A Team:
Gavin Paterson – Snow & Rock, Port Solent
Alain Baxter – Alain Baxter Sports, Stirling
Jules Mills – The Bootroom, Chamonix
Hans Martin Heierling – Heierling Sportorthopadie, Davos
Colin Martin – Solutions 4 Feet, Bicester
Fabian Stiepel – Intersport, Kaprun
Nick Hammond – Mountain Air, Verbier
I also hear good reports on:
Vital Ski Boot Facts to Know Before Purchasing
I managed to gather some important facts on ski boots that you must take into account before deciding to buy, as told by ski boot fitting legends.
Ski Boots Fall into Three Categories
A ski boot’s a ski boot, right? Wrong – have you not been listening to a word I’ve had to say so far?
There are three main categories: Alpine, touring, and hike & ride.
Find a shop with a great selection of brands and options for your feet. By options I’m talking variations of flex, liners, width and volume for your foot and a good boot doctor to make you the perfect footbed.
Nothing Can Be Done Without Custom Insoles
Things have progressed since my loose leather boot days, and the current way ski boots are made by the manufacturers expects each person to have custom insoles.
Everyone’s foot arch is different and manufacturers rely on boot doctors to sort this out. This is the reason why the cost of footbeds is not included in the cost of purchasing ski boots – custom footbed is the key.
You’ll Need To Spare a Couple of Hours
A custom fit takes about two hours. It can take up to two days for World Cup racers. So if you plan to buy ski boots, it’s best to make an appointment and set aside a couple of hours.
This is the service you pay for rather than buying something off the shelf.
They Will Loosen Up (So Loosen Up…)
Bear in mind, after your purchase, the boots will feel tight and small, particularly if you are used to renting. Shops tend to upsize, whereas boot doctors make you downsize.
They may be tight for roughly three days but you will settle in, so don’t fret.
They’ll Cost Anything From £350
And how big will the dent in your wallet be? Be prepared to spend from £350 and up, to include fitting and custom insoles.
The more you spend, the more sophisticated your liner. Obviously.
Some Niche Brands Offer Customised Boots
Choose from the likes of Dale, Dahu, Apex, and of course Strolz in Lech who have been making the same shells for years and years with unlimited width options.
Look at this one below. The idea is that you take the shell out after skiing and you can drive your car!
Be Honest About Your Ability
When you see the boot doctor, don’t overstate your ability or they will simply recommend the wrong boots for you. I’ve been there, and boy was it unpleasant.
Picture aching feet in heavy hike boots resulting in a lot of hard uphill work for a powder-less outcome. If you say you are an expert but you lean back when you ski off-piste, your ski boots just won’t work for you.
So ask yourself: are you really an expert?
You scoff, but think about this one carefully. Most people think they are experts. An expert is not someone who is just capable of bombing down the mountain.
To claim this title you need to also be confident enough to ski well on ice, bumps, fresh snow or generally when conditions are not favourable. Believe it or not, women tend to be technically better than men as they make more turns!
So, to my skiing friends and clients out there, as winter season comes to an end and the perfect time for investing in ski boots has come, make the best future investment for your partner and treat them (or yourself!) to a gorgeous pair of ski boots.
You’ll guarantee a smile at those mountain lunches instead of the face of agony followed by relief as they unclip their boots.
Oh, and if you’re interested in heading out to any of the ski resorts I’ve mentioned here, perhaps for a ski weekend that combines time on the mountain with a trip to one of the famous boot doctors, we can make it happen for you.
Get in touch today and we can start planning your tailor-made trip to one of the world-class destinations we offer.
I’d love to hear your feedback, too. How many pairs of ski boots have you owned? How did you finally get it right?