Two weeks ago, we took a look at the new skis coming our way for next season. This week it’s time to take a look at a far more important piece of our equipment — ski boots.

When I was at Stratton trying the new skis, the second day was one of new snow falling heavily with 6 to 8 inches down as we hit the slopes shortly after the lifts opened. As I mentioned in that earlier column, it didn’t take many runs to realize that testing skis in the new snow didn’t tell us much. Fortunately, I had found the skis I was looking for the day before, and they were included in that column. I decided my time was better spent inside checking out the new boots.

Now understand, I don’t try out boots. I know from over 20 years of skiing in them, that I have a Tecnica foot. I also know that I could probably find another brand that would work, but why bother? With Tecnica’s, all I have to do is put in my custom foot beds, and go ski. I don’t make any adjustments at all and I have had some top boot fitters check my alignment just to be sure and the answer is always the same. Does this mean I recommend Tecnica’s for you? No. Obviously they are a top-quality, high-performance boot or I wouldn’t be using them. But my recommendation for anyone looking for new boots is to go without a brand in mind.

The reason for this is that feet are different and different boots fit different feet. If you have a ski shop that you regularly do business with, (and every skier should have that relationship) go to them. And take your present boot along.

A good boot fitter will ask why you feel you need new boots. Maybe it’s obvious. A buckle or two may be missing or broken. There could be cracks in the plastic. The soles at the heel and toe could be so worn that there is no longer proper interface with the bindings. But if the boots appear to be OK, the answer has more importance. Maybe your feet hurt, or your feet get cold, or your foot is moving within the boot. Before selling you a new boot, the boot fitter will try to nail down the exact cause of the problem. Maybe it can be fixed.

An example would be my brother-in-law. He asked if I thought he needed new boots. Knowing his boots were not that old, I suggested he visit a good boot fitter and have a fitting session. They built a custom foot bed and he got a few more years out of the boots with more comfort and better performance. Naturally, when he decided on new boots, he went back to that same shop and the same foot beds went into the new boots. He has a good fit and the shop has a loyal customer.

The point is that an inexpensive boot with a good fit will perform better than an expensive boot with a poor fit. For example, a $300 boot with a $150 custom foot bed may out perform a $600 boot. If I have made the point about fit, let’s consider flex. More boot manufacturers are listing flex ratings of boots. They range from 60 up to 150. Only a World Cup Racer would even consider that 150 rating, and I have an idea most are below that. When ski lengths for advanced male skiers were 195 to 205 cms, stiff boots were needed to push them around. Today, skis are much shorter and less boot is needed. My own example works here. Over the last few years I have dropped from the stiff race boot to a 110 flex, and it’s plenty. Realize that my skis now range in length from 165 to 180 cms. Better yet, the softer flexing boots cost less.

Let’s look at a few examples of solid value boots starting with Dalbello, a boot with a reputation for being easy to fit. Top of the line race Scorpions (130 flex) $650, (110 flex) $550 and (80 flex) $400. The all-mountain Viper at 110 flex is $450 and a 90 flex comes in at $300. In this line, most intermediates and even advanced skiers can get all the boot they need for $300 to $450.

Rossignol offers race boots from 150 flex down to 120 all at $699.95, all with very low volume lasts at 92 mm. The pursuit series makes more sense for most skiers flex ratings of 130/120 $599.95 down to 100/90 at $399.95, all with wider lasts.

Unfortunately, I have yet to receive the Atomic price list, but typical is the Redster World Cup series where the difference between the 130 flex and the 110 was $200. These are some examples. Going through the catalogs of Lange, Head, Salomon and Nordica, I find that all have a range of flex ratings from the stiff race boots down to the low intermediate models and the savings of going softer are significant. They also offer various fit adjustments, some with heat and mold liners, others moldable shells such as Fischer Vacuum. The good news is that all but the really problem feet can be fitted into one or more of the new boots and most skiers can find the fit and performance desired in the $300 to $500 range (less for beginners). It just takes a good boot fitter to find the right boot and make it fit.

Finally, last week I mentioned the big Skiathon at Sunday River and how you can support Maine Adaptive skiing. To make it easy, here’s how you can support the skier I’m supporting. Just visit Terri Messer’s website and you can make your donation. Terri’s individual goal is $3,500.

See you on the slopes.

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