Like many skiers, Matt Erickson has always sought a better way to get a snug fitting ski boot while maintaining comfort. Unlike most of us, he has done something about it. Last Monday morning, I met with Matt at his Auburn home to have my boots fitted with the new product.

Here is some background that will help. My boots are Tecnica Diablos with Hot Form.

Through the years, I have had custom foam boots, and others made to fit with hours in the ski shop. In nearly all of them, the liners packed out with use, and I used various combinations of pads around the ankle to provide the snug lateral fit that would also lock my heel into the heel pocket. It was always a trial and error process. Apply C’ pads to the outside of the liner and try the boots on the hill. Sometimes we hit it on the first try. More often it was back to the shop for adjustments. New Year’s weekend, I had stopped in at the Jack Frost Shop at Sunday River to reheat my Hot Form boots and snug up the fit. Owner Fred Cowin showed me a new product and gave me the name of the inventor, Matt Erickson.

As a veteran ski coach, Erickson was intimately familiar with the problem. When we got together, he had just returned from a trip to New York and Pennsylvania where he performed clinics for coaches and instructors as a member of the PSIA (Professional Ski Instructors of America) education staff. He fits this activity into his schedule as a full-time ski coach at Gould/Sunday River, where he works with J-I and II junior racers. His junior racing was out of Seattle and later he coached at the college level in Virginia. In 1994, his wife joined the staff as an oncologist at CMMC, and he joined the instructional staff at Lost Valley to run the junior racing program. After three years, he switched to Sunday River and Gould Academy for more junior coaching where he also assists Cindy Brown with the Telstar program. Part of each summer is spent coaching at summer ski camps in Oregon. In the November issue, SKI Magazine named Erickson as one of the top 100 alpine ski coaches in the US.

Through the years he observed young ski racers downsizing their boots to achieve that precise fit around the ankle. If you have ever watched these ski racers, you may have noticed that the first thing they do after crossing the finish line is unbuckle their boots. That’s because they have them so tight they can stand them only for the one to two minutes it takes to finish the course. As Erickson pointed out, “They downsize so much, the boots get smaller and smaller, and as they do, they get shorter and shorter all to achieve a snug fit at the ankle. This can lead to serious foot problems, bone spurs, and shin bang.”

The downsizing solution is detrimental in other ways.

“If their feet hurt, the kids won’t spend the time practicing that they need,” said Erickson. “It’s even worse for recreational skiers who simply lose the incentive to ski, if their feet hurt or are cold due to poor circulation. Every skier needs that snug fit, but it has to be comfortable.”

His experience with all level skiers, and his own boots, sent him on a quest to, “Find a way to make the boot fit better. I wanted the boot to respond better laterally. But I wanted it to be easy to use and adjustable.”

His solution was a sheet of long lasting memory foam sandwiched between soft polyurethane sheets sealed together to form a pad with plastic tubes which extend above the back of the boots. These tubes have a two-way valve, and a special reverse-action pump can inject or remove air to adjust the fit.

Obviously, the construction process is more complicated than what I have pointed out here, but the inserts are in my boots, and I know from what I felt that the ankles are snug and the heel hold is positive. I have skied long enough in enough different boots to know how a good snug fit feels, and my boots now have that feel.

Better yet, the new fit is the product of a brand new company headquartered on Lake Street in Auburn, home of Matt Erickson, President of Custom Airfit Inc.

Getting started wasn’t easy.

Erickson knew he had to come in with a product that would achieve his goals and come within a certain price range. Custom foam liners add $180 to $200 to the cost of a boot. Only professional or dedicated skiers will spend that on top of a high performance boot ($500-$700). Top boot fitters can spend hours working on a single pair of boots. Often, skiers make repeated trips to a ski shop to get it exactly right. Striking a balance between custom liners and boot fitters’ time, Matt figured his product could retail for as much as $80.

That meant he had to find a contractor who could produce a product that would do the job and last. The solution was the same technology as airbags.

The polyurethane had to be welded by radio frequency, a true specialty. He located a company with down time that could be filled by producing his bladders.

He now has the Custom Airfit Boot Bladder that will do the job and comes in at less than half the cost of a custom liner. The bladder will also work in snowboard boots. It takes little time to install and can be adjusted easily. If your boots have grown a little as you have skied them, Matt Erickson might have the answer. Check with your ski shop.

Dave Irons is a freelance writer who lives in Westbrook.

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