Hi Boot Gurus:
I am an aspiring intermediate skier from Minnesota, 45 years old, 5' 11", 190lbs. I ski mostly around here (little hills, harder snow), but hope to take a trip out West every year (one planned in a few weeks). A former XC ski racer, I started downhill skiing regularly last year. I like the black diamond runs here, but have only skied in real mountains twice and mainly favored the blues there, but want to progress. I have been skiing on beginner boards (Rossi Cobra 90, 162) but just bought some used Elan M666's (176).
My first pair of boots (Tecnica Mega X, 31.0), bought new last year at a local swap, are way too big. I have read a bunch of threads here, and am trying to take the prevailing wisdom to heart. I visited three local boot fitters, and got some different opinions (shocking!)
The first one (Pierce Skate and Ski), measured length & width, shell-fit me in a few boots, and finally recommended a Tecnica Inferno Blaze in a 28.5 (98 last, 110 flex, ~$575). Those boots felt very good (quite snug, toe touching until flexed, no hot spots), although I only had them on for about 15 minutes. When I told the boot fitter they were a ways above my budget, he did not have much in a lower price to offer me, primarily due to my fairly low volume instep. He also thought a lower flex boot would not work that well for me.
The second store (Hoigaards) agreed with the first on general size (measured length, but not width, suggested a 28 shell), but thought the flex was not important at all. The fitter said something like "with the new skis forward flex stiffness is not important because you just tip side to side now, not up and down". He shell-fit me in a Tecnica Mega 6 size 28.5 (so-so feel, ~$225) and a Nordica Hot Rod 6.5 in a 29 (better, but not great feel~$250). FYI I described my background to that fitter, he asked my budget, I said around $300 and he brought out their cheaper boots. Could not stay long enough to try on more boots.
The third (Ski Hut), had me try on a Tecnica Phoenix Max 10 Air Shell [28.5], and a Dalbello Viper 10 [28.5]. Neither felt great. Had very limited time there.
1. Is it possible to find a decent, good fitting boot, with appropriate flex, for my average-to-narrow foot, in a price under $350?
2. I think fit is most important, and may need a lower volume boot.. Can one get a narrower last boot in a lower price range?
3. Are these Air shells a gimmick? Seems like a crutch for boots that don't actually fit.
4. Are there other boots you think I should try?