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How to Ski Better in One Hour

The Lonely Bootfitter
Nothing maximizes the fun factor like a perfect fit.

The best hour you can devote to improving your skiing this year doesn't involve taking a lesson, doing yoga exercises, watching an instructional video or even (stifled gasp) reading a riveting web site.

You don't have to wait for winter. You can even schedule the hour of your quantum leap in improvement in advance. All you have to do is show up and put yourself unreservedly in the hands of the master boot fitter who sits before you.

Before you leap to the defense of your current ski footwear, declaiming that they are goodness, truth and beauty, consider this: most skiers who bare their toes on the bench where your Editor toils at the boot-fit trade are in boots too big for them or otherwise sub-optimal.

I dealt recently with a lad whose boots were a full two shell sizes too large, but that isn't the reason he was giving them up. He confessed he didn't like jumping (little wonder!), but that wasn't the issue either. The soles had simply worn away until they were rockered like a powder ski.

Now that he's in new, 2cm-shorter boots that put him in a balanced, centered stance, this fellow's skiing has improved before he's even gotten back on snow.

While this scenario may sound extreme, it's all too disturbingly common. And mis-sizing is only one of the serious handicaps a visit to your local boot doctor might reveal.

Almost as prevalent as over-sizing is the peril of skiing in a boot with an inappropriate flex and/or stance. A boot that is too stiff or otherwise locks the skier in a position where the ankle can't flex effectively prohibits skiing in balance. A boot that is too soft or allows the ankle to flex too far won't transmit pressure or help the skier stay in balance. Flex and stance, considered together, need to be in a "Goldilocks Zone" that is just right for the individual skier's requirements.

"And what might those requirements be?" I hear the Discerning Reader cry. Many factors go into a boot fitter's assessment of appropriate flex/stance, including tibia length, tibial shaft alignment, skier athleticism, calf/shin diameter, physical limitations and skier feedback. All add up to a global concern: does this skier have control over the boot or does the boot have control over this skier?

As if this weren't enough to consider and evaluate in a few minutes, the boot fitter must also be a bit of a seer, imagining this skier's prospects in the near, mid and long term. Left to their own devices, recreational skiers will hold onto their boots for a decade or longer; while no boot fitter can guarantee a boot's performance over that span, he must at least imagine the skier's needs over a three-year horizon.

We haven't even talked about the intricacies of fitting and supporting the foot inside the appropriate shell, which requires another arsenal of boot-fitting skills. This is why dialing in the perfect fit can easily consume an hour.

It is an hour extremely well spent. As visionary coach and apostle of the carved turn, the great Warren Witherell, advised, an hour with a qualified boot fitter will do more for your skiing than a season's worth of private lessons.

As we mentioned in last week's edition of realskiers News & Views, there is no better time to visit your trusty boot fitter than right now. The size and model selection won't get any better, and if by circumstance the model and size deemed to be your perfect match isn't in stock, there's still a good chance it can be ordered.

And if you happen to be in Reno in late August or early September, swing by Bobo's and ask for Jackson. My ministrations will only take an hour, but your feet will be thankful all winter.

jackson hogen

Warren WitherellWarren Witherell, who we lost in May 2014, was skiing's first 'supercoach' as well as the most accomplished water ski champion ever to flash a wall of water. His contributions to snow skiing, and to World Cup and Olympic competition in particular, were beyond important—they were seminal.