I'm gonna write a lot of story down, because I'm annoying like that, and I obviously won't take offense if nobody reads it. My questions will be at the bottom.
After almost ten years in Salomon's that were consistently painful, I just got new boots at The Boot Lab in Vail. I'll be honest, I didn't do any homework before taking the plunge and I have a few questions, and I'd like some opinions/criticism/validation on the path I took (now that I've been doing a little reading).
This was my third annual trip to Vail, and the past two years, the guys at the Boot Lab have been trying to get my Salomon's to work, but I think it was just an insurmountable task. I got those about 10 years ago, just out of high school, at a shop in Brewster, New York, and I knew even less than I do now, so I don't even know if they were the best option at the time. I have wide, flat, high volume feet, and I don't get to ski nearly as much as I'd like to, maybe 10-15 days a year (sob). I would describe myself as an advanced skier. I ski mostly groomers, because powder's hard to find, and for various reasons (excuses I tell myself) I'm no good on bumps. I raced GS a couple years in middle school, which instilled a love of arcing carve turns on hard pack.
For the past two annual trips, they've made me a new footbed, done a lot of grinding (both on the liner and shell) and done a number of punches on the shell. Each adjustment helped, but this year again, the pain was unbearable. So at the beginning of this year's trip, I told them to fit me with new boots that would let me ski pain free. The primary reason I didn't shop around too much was that with all the help they'd been over the last two trips, I trusted them and felt like they knew their stuff. They had me try a Tecnica Phoenix 14 HVL (I think) and the Atomic B120. I demo'd both and eventually decided on the Atomic B120, because even though the Tecnica had fewer pain hotspots for some reason it cut off all circulation to my foot.
Even with the wideness of the B120, they had to do a couple of punches to the outside of the boot (what I believe is called the 6th toe area) and a few punches on my instep (more for my right foot overall than my left). All adjustments were made slowly over the course of the week. I'm happy with the boots, I'm essentially pain free (which I didn't know was possible), and I think I'm skiing at least as well as I was before, probably better.
Now for the part that someone might actually care to read.
I've been reading a few posts about boot fitters and the difference between a puncher and fitter, and I've been reading all sorts of terms about alignment, canting, planing, etc. Are these all things that only concern skiers of a higher ability level? When the fitters/punchers at the Boot Lab made my footbeds three years ago, they aligned my legs to some degree, but during the fitting of my new boots, it was mostly about taking away pain. Should they have been doing more with less punching? Since it takes a few days to even get a boot liner warmed up, should I have toughed it out a little longer before asking for more room, or should they have resisted my requests more? Or since I ski so infrequently, is it more important that I can get through the first few days more easily. Are there any long term negative ramifications of such extensive shell modification, as the liner breaks in more? I'm inclined to say that since my feet are happy, I'm happy and I can always tighten the buckles down a bit more.
(To be clear, no matter what opinions are expressed, the Boot Lab has given me the best customer service experience of any shop in any industry that I've ever had.)
What is the screw on the back of the B120 for? It has a 14 and a 16, is that to change the forward angle?
Is it important that the boot sit perfectly flat on a table? My B120's have a slight wobble and it looks like the toe area of the sole and the heel area are not perfectly on the same plane.
Why is it that (for Atomic at least) all the highest end boots all have narrow lasts? The only boots wider than 100mm are the Hawx, Park, and B-tech. I think the B120 is probably plenty of boot for me, but it seems strange that all the super aggressive boots like the Burners and Trackers are narrow.
I appreciate any responses, and sorry for the long meandering post.