Originally Posted by Bode Klammer
My rule of thumb is that if you are not using race skis, you don't need race boots. Nobody uses race skis much anymore.
Last year I had a job training new instructors. They all had the latest recreational race boots and the latest and greatest fat skis. They wanted to have the same boots as the top guys, but they didn't know that most of the top guys cut the boots to soften them. Most of them would have done better in rental boots. Most of them will replace those boots 3 times before they ski at a level that requires them.
My experience softening boots has been mixed. If you go too far you can end up with a boot that doesn't flex well, but is still pretty stiff. I have never been able to take a race boot down to be soft enough to be really good in moguls, but I've ruined a couple of pairs trying.
Get a flexy AT boot and learn how to balance in it. You will improve faster and be more comfortable while you're learning. When you learn what the limitations of those shoes are, you won't have to ask what kind of boot you need.
I think you have to ski in other areas as it is funny that you say that, and I would guess that you are in the West coast area where Powder and BC are a lot more accessible (not that I don't envy you this advantage). However, where I ski, hard pack, groomed, icy over skied runs are the norm. Most of the advanced skiers ski either twin tips and soft boots (and play in the parks) or ski race or near race skis and boots to make the most of the conditions. The rest of the skiers slowly ice up the runs, while they slowly improve (we all go through this stage at one point or another).
I won't argue the importance of a stiff or soft boot, but say that it is important as to what you intend to ski most of the time to make the best selection to achieve the best stiffness. My bias is towards stiff boots as I can always make a boot softer and more forgiving (within reason of course), but it next to impossible to make a boot stiffer.
As to moguls, I used to ski 205 GS skis in moguls full tilt, with race boot without a problem (up until 2011), would a softer and shorter ski and boot have helped maybe, but never had the need or urge to try.
To be fair I think some of the equipment and what a skier can do with it comes more down to personal style and technique.
In terms of boots (quality level being the same) a soft boot is more forgiving, larger range of motion, and less responsive, a stiff boot is not forgiving, less range of motion and very responsive. It ultimately matters on what the skiers list of priorities are to determine the stiffness and each of those options will hinder/help in final application.
Your comment about the instructors and the gear, gives a very good example of poor ski/boot sales advice for such a mismatch. Here a good ski shop would have steered towards the correct match given the application.
(sorry for being all over the place, multitasking).