There’s a new member of the Mountain Sports staff. It sits in the back of the shop and never speaks, but it’s eager to meet your feet. So we checked with Jim Riley, our Ski Shop Hero (yep, he won that award in 2012 from Skiing Business magazine) on Mountain Sports’ new Fisher Vacuum Fit Station, which incorporates a three-step process to help boot techs achieve the perfect fit for a skier’s boots. Here’s how this nifty machine works:
Step 1: The boot’s shell is heated for 12-15 minutes. Step 2: A liner and footbed is inserted into the still warm and pliable shell. Step 3: Using special pads that wrap the enter shell and compressed air, boot techs adjust the entire boot to the anatomy of the foot.
“It’s a pretty cool tool and a lot of fun to use,” Jim noted of the new addition. And he ought to know. Crystal is fortunate to have THE expert footbed guru on premise to help skiers and riders with the most important equipment purchase they’ll make - their boots. Take heed of these boot-fit tips from Jim:
What’s the most common mistake people make when purchasing boots?
“By far the biggest mistake we see in the shop is people buying boots too big. I can’t say it enough: it’s easy to buy a boot that's too big, but very difficult to have one fitted too small. Never buy a ski/snowboard boot based on your shoe size. Seven out of ten boot problems I run into stem from boots that are too big. Boots are not shoes or slippers, and should not fit like them. Boots will be tight and snug at first, and hopefully, will stay snug. The last thing you want is a foot that can move inside the ski boot, since the boots will break in a lot as you wear them. In our shop, we tell people to have at least 14 hours on new boots for the best fit to form”.
If you’ve purchased skis in the past two years, but are still skiing on 10+ year old boots, how does that affect your skiing?
“Ski and snowboard boots are just like any other footwear; they’ll pack out and break down from use. The plastics and materials used to make today’s boots have evolved to become stronger, lighter and warmer. So if you’re still on older boots, even with newer skis, you’re working harder than you would be with boots designed for the current generation of skis. The life of a boot is said to be between 90-120 days of skiing. That could be a year for some, and as many as 10 years for others. After 10 years, I would be worried about the strength of the plastic, and at least have the shop take a look at them”.
What are the best socks to wear with ski boots, and why?
“Our shop recommends the Smartwool PhD® Ski Graduated Compression Ultra Light Sock. I have a thing about socks when fitting boots, since the right sock makes a difference in how a boot fits. Thorlo also makes a great ski sock. It’s not about how thick or how many socks you have on – it’s about the material of the socks and how they fit. Feet have a lot of sweat glands - around 250,000 each - and in an average day, feet can produce more than a pint of sweat. A sock’s job is to move that sweat off your foot, because the longer that sweat lingers, the faster a foot gets cold. Most new boots rely on their own liner for warmth, so any thin sock made with some kind of wicking material is a good choice. Cotton is not a choice; it will hold sweat on the feet and freeze toes”.
What’s the most popular boot brand sold at Mountain Sports? What makes it the number one choice?
“Right now the Lange SX series is flying off the shelves. It starts at around $299 and fits a wide assortment of feet. Lange built this boot in a unique way, called the “Natural Ski Stance”. It allows the skier to stand straighter for better efficiency and less leg fatigue. On the snowboarding side, Burton is still king of boots in our shop. But that being said - all the boots we carry have a reason for being in the shop. We have a boot for any type of foot. Super wide foot? Got it. Narrow heel? No problem. Most of the boots we have were picked by our staff from real-world testing on the slopes”.