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Help me find my first pair of ski boots

post #1 of 25
Thread Starter 

Hey guys, I'm pretty new to skiing. Learned to ski this past winter and now I'm totally hooked. I have a couple of ski trips planned so I've been thinking about getting my own ski boots. I was browsing through my local ski store Buckmans website. They have quite a selection on clearance right now, but I have no idea on how to pick one.

 

I would really appreciate any recommendations on which one I should get. I have made a list of the available boots in my size 28.5. My weight is 155lbs in case it matters.

 

I'm definitely a beginner so I don't need super fancy ones, but I would like to get to difficult blues by the end of the season. Here's a video of my skiing from last year in case in matters http://epicski.onthesnow.com/t/122506/beginner-ma

 

Thanks so much

 

Atomic B Tech 70 Ski Boot Now: $173.47

Atomic LF 70 Ski Boots Now: $200.85

Atomic Hawx 80 Ski Boots Now: $239.00

Atomic Live Fit 80 Ski Boots Now: $239.00

Atomic Hawx 110 Ski Boots Now: $399.00

 

Salomon Mission GT Ski Boot Now: $175.93

Salomon Mission 6 Ski Boot Now: $199.96

Salomon Mission RS 7 Ski Boot Now: $224.20

Salomon Mission Cruise Ski Boots Now: $239.95

Salomon Mission RS 8 Ski Boots Now: $319.95

Salomon RS120 Ski Boots Now: $319.96

Salomon Quest 12 Ski Boot Now: $439.95

Salomon Impact 100 CS Ski Boots Now: $439.95

Salomon Impact 120 Ski Boots Now: $479.95

Salomon X Max 100 Ski Boots Price: $499.95

Salomon X Max 120 Ski Boots Price: $599.95

 

Dalbello Axion 8 Ski Boot Now: $206.34

Dalbello Viper 10 Boots Now: $330.00

 

Rossignol Experience Sensor 110 Ski Boots Now: $319.96

 

Full Tilt Booter Ski Boots Now: $319.96

Full Tilt Classic Ski Boots Now: $359.96

post #2 of 25

The exact brand isn't important, the fit is. A properly fitting pair of boots is the single most important piece of gear you'll get, and if you cut corners then you'll regret it. Better to spend $600 at the start and get something that will work for five or ten years, than spend $200 three times over the same period and always have ill-fitting boots that are painful and impede your ability to learn how to ski. Trust me...

 

I'd suggest something with a fairly soft flex, but you need to visit a good bootfitter and let him do his thing. This link mentions a likely candidate in the Philly area. You might also try contacting some of the ski patrols in your area and ask if they can suggest someone.

 

In the meantime, start by reading this article in the EpickSki gear articles section.

 

BTW, I did look at your video. That's a lot better than I looked in only five days! :cool Keep it up!


Edited by chilehed - 11/4/13 at 5:10pm
post #3 of 25

It's pretty much all about the fit.  Different boots just seem to be made for different shaped feet.  Try on a bunch and buy the boots that fit you best.  IMO you only need a boot fitter if you can't find a pair of stock boots that fit. Pay no attention to the brand names.  At your level a softer flex will be better.  Caveat:  I am not a gear head or instructor, just a long time skier who buys boots that fit well and skis in them for many years with no problems.

post #4 of 25

You're pretty close to the point where you will want a bit stiffer boot than the softest beginner focused ones, though.  Ideally you want to get a set of boots that will last you for at least a few years.  So with that in mind, maybe aim for flex rating of around 100 or so.  Flex ratings are not based on any particular universal metric so do bear in mind that that number is just generally the one that gets stamped on the 'medium' flex range any given manufacturer offers.  

 

Fit is definitely most important part of this.  The brands are all pretty much the same, with the exception of Full-Tilt boots which offer slightly different fit and different advantages and disadvantages from the more conventional ones. 

post #5 of 25

I'm also a Philly guy. Where do you live and where did you get all the boot and pricing data...from a Philly area shop?

 

Buckman's is the major chain of local ski shops, and, their boot fitting specialists are pretty good. The main point made above is that you need to have your particular foot measured and evaluated at by a good fitter and then get into a shell that matches your footshape. I would recommend a boot somewhere in the 110 flex rating, but flex rating numbers are subjective. I would encourage you to visit a shop and go through the experience and see what your discover about how the various boots fit. Don't feel obligated to buy, take your time.

 

Wicks in Exton and Salters in Norristown are 2 other very good boot shops.


Edited by Living Proof - 11/6/13 at 7:03am
post #6 of 25
Thread Starter 

Thank you for all the great suggestions.

 

I went to my local Buckmans yesterday and they were very helpful. They guys who helped me were still in high school, very helpful throughout the process.

 

They recommended a flex 80 for me. I discovered that my size was actually 27.5 instead of the 28.5 that I got at rental last year.

 

We tried Salomon and Lange first which I thought the calf area was a bit too stiff. Then I tried Atomic Hawx 80 and it was a much better fit.

 

What do you think of Atomic Hawx 80? Should I go for a higher flex rating? I want to become a good skier, but I'm not really sure if I ever want to do double blacks. I just want to be able to enjoy well groomed terrain, and comfortable on some of the easier runs in the Vail's back bowls.

post #7 of 25

None should be surprised that a good boot shop would downsize you 1 size ( at least ) from what you had been renting, because, rentals are geared for comfort not performance. Personally, I would not let a high school student be my bootfitter.....I want someone with years experience. I'm disappointed to hear Buckman's did this as I did a fitting session with them last season and was impressed with my fitter, but, that was at their Allentown area store. Here's the dilemma, your boots should not feel great leaving the store, the liners need some time to adjust to your feet. That's why bootfitter trust is a key part of the process.

 

Where do you live? 

post #8 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by Living Proof View Post
 

Here's the dilemma, your boots should not feel great leaving the store, the liners need some time to adjust to your feet. That's why bootfitter trust is a key part of the process.

 

Spot on.  This seems counter-intuitive but if the boot is comfortable in the store, it's too big, either too wide or too long or both.  Did the store employee do a shell fit?  If not, he/she doesn't know what they're doing.  The liners have compressible insulation in them and it begins compressing as soon as you begin using the boots.  Over the course of several ski trips it will "pack out," meaning that it becomes permanently compressed, and that makes the interior volume of the boot larger.  If your feet can move around in the boot, the natural thing for beginners to do is tighten the buckles to eliminate that movement.  Doing this restricts blood flow to your feet which will make them cold, numb and painful.  You absolutely must spend some time with a knowledgeable and experienced boot fitter.  And listen to what the fitter says.  If a boot feels too short or too narrow, that can be fixed, but you cannot fix too big.  

 

Personally I wouldn't recommend you get a boot as soft as the Atomic Hawx 80, certainly not if your plan is to be skiing difficult blues by the end of the season.  You should not be getting a low end beginner boot and that's what that boot is.  Stop focusing on price and focus on fit.

post #9 of 25
Thread Starter 

I live in CC, went to the Ardmore store. To be fair, they really were very good. He tried to get me to go down to 26.5. But I felt my toes were a bit curled up. Only after trying 2 different pairs and a different insole did we go up to 27.5. He was also worried that it might be too comfortable last night.

 

He mentioned that we can use a thicker insole in case if it becomes loose, its that true? I feel like it's better to go up a size than being too small because you can also pad a bigger boots, but not the other way around?

 

I'm also having second thoughts about the flex rating. Buckman's website has last year's Atomic Hawx 90 for 319. Would that be a better option than 80?

post #10 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by mtcyclist View Post
 

 

Spot on.  This seems counter-intuitive but if the boot is comfortable in the store, it's too big, either too wide or too long or both.  Did the store employee do a shell fit?  If not, he/she doesn't know what they're doing.  The liners have compressible insulation in them and it begins compressing as soon as you begin using the boots.  Over the course of several ski trips it will "pack out," meaning that it becomes permanently compressed, and that makes the interior volume of the boot larger.  If your feet can move around in the boot, the natural thing for beginners to do is tighten the buckles to eliminate that movement.  Doing this restricts blood flow to your feet which will make them cold, numb and painful.  You absolutely must spend some time with a knowledgeable and experienced boot fitter.  And listen to what the fitter says.  If a boot feels too short or too narrow, that can be fixed, but you cannot fix too big.  

 

Personally I wouldn't recommend you get a boot as soft as the Atomic Hawx 80, certainly not if your plan is to be skiing difficult blues by the end of the season.  You should not be getting a low end beginner boot and that's what that boot is.  Stop focusing on price and focus on fit.

I call BS on above.  My boots, and I went to a legendary boot fitter, felt great from the first moment I tried them on and thorough all 33 days that I skied in them last year.  My previous boots felt great right out the door and I skied in them for 22 freaking years.

post #11 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by crank View Post

I call BS on above.  My boots, and I went to a legendary boot fitter, felt great from the first moment I tried them on and thorough all 33 days that I skied in them last year.  My previous boots felt great right out the door and I skied in them for 22 freaking years.

I think what he means is that the boot should not feel lightly wrapped around your feet as the street shoes do out of the door. Comfy is a vague term...They should not be painful but certainly should not be pressure free either. I think what they suppose to be is that you feet should feel like the boots are grabbing them firmly and tightly when lightly buckled. Like a firm hand shake type of pressure all around. After a few days of skiing the liner will pack out a bit (more so on the softer beginner's boots) to give you more room.
One good way to test how flexible the boots should be is to get in your boots, fully buckled and flex your knees forward. With reasonable amount of force you should be able to drive your knees a little past your big toes in room temperature. If you can do that effortlessly then the boots are too soft for you. If you are panting when trying to do that then they are probably too stiff, regardless of your skill level.
Edited by LaserPower - 11/6/13 at 10:45am
post #12 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by crank View Post
 

I call BS on above.  My boots, and I went to a legendary boot fitter, felt great from the first moment I tried them on and thorough all 33 days that I skied in them last year.  My previous boots felt great right out the door and I skied in them for 22 freaking years.

Then your feet are 1 in a million.  Congratulations on being lucky.

post #13 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by Phillyguy03 View Post
 

I live in CC, went to the Ardmore store. To be fair, they really were very good. He tried to get me to go down to 26.5. But I felt my toes were a bit curled up. Only after trying 2 different pairs and a different insole did we go up to 27.5. He was also worried that it might be too comfortable last night.

 

He mentioned that we can use a thicker insole in case if it becomes loose, its that true? I feel like it's better to go up a size than being too small because you can also pad a bigger boots, but not the other way around?

 

I'm also having second thoughts about the flex rating. Buckman's website has last year's Atomic Hawx 90 for 319. Would that be a better option than 80?

With respect to flex rating of 80 vs 90, I don't believe there would be an appreciable difference between the two. Remember that you are trying the boots on in a warm store, they will be more rigid o flex using them outside when it's cold...the colder it gets, the more rigid they become. Boot flex criteria can be confusing in that the function of a boot is to give support to enable your shin to remain in the center of the boot and be in balance. There really is not a great need to flex the front of the boot by pushing on the tounge when skiing. (that's an opinion folks). That's part of the reason I would recommend a 110 flex for an athletic male with the potential to become a solid skier.  

 

In Jan. of this year, I got a new pair of Atomic boots, and, believe their shell size changes on the half size, i.e. there is no size 27. If the 27.5 boot feels less than snug, the boot fitters should place a thicker insole or shim to take up some space. From your description, it appears that this was done to achieve your "comfort" fit. In the fitting process, good shops will place dowel to measure the distance from the back of the shell to your heel with the liner removed. If the larger dowel takes up this space, it's called a comfort fit. If a smaller dowel covers this space, it's called a performance fit. Very small dowels result in a "race" fit. So the 27.5 will fall into comfort fit, the 26.5 is a performance fit, subject to a break-in process. The result a tough decision for a newer skier. Any who post here can only share their experiences about which way to go. I think most experienced skiers would recommend the smaller boot as liners pack out. Filling space with shims is not the preferred method. My experience this year was that I accepted very slightly curled toes to downsize. The shop did a little grinding in the toe area a few weeks later, but, I am very glad I did get the smaller boot.

 

On the other hand, if you get the Hawk 90, at $319 it's not a great outlay of $$$. Should you continue to ski and progress, in a few years, it's very predictable that you will be looking for a higher performance boot, regardless of which you purchase now. At that point, you'll have experience to make a more informed decision.   

post #14 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by mtcyclist View Post
 

Then your feet are 1 in a million.  Congratulations on being lucky.

Actually, my feet are very average.

post #15 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by crank View Post
 

Actually, my feet are very average.

felt "great" is a very vague term...some people refer to "comfy as in sandals" as great, some people refer to "wet suit tightness (as long as no pinching pain)" as great like I do. what's your definition? 

post #16 of 25
I'm with LP - if Buckman's is using high school kids as boot fitters, go to Salters or Wicks.
post #17 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by LaserPower View Post
 

felt "great" is a very vague term...some people refer to "comfy as in sandals" as great, some people refer to "wet suit tightness (as long as no pinching pain)" as great like I do. what's your definition? 

Felt great means held my feet very firmly and evenly.  No issues with the heel lifting at all and just enough room for a bit of a toe wiggle up front.  I used to have racing boots that fit like glove and now have very good boots that are not racing boots that fit like a glove.  They hug but do not hurt.  I guess that's closer to your wet suit analogy than it is to sandals.

 

We all know how important a snug fit is.  You want your boots to transmit every little nuance from your head through your feet to your edges.  You need boots that hold your feet firmly, you don't need discomfort or pain

post #18 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by crank View Post
 

Felt great means held my feet very firmly and evenly.  No issues with the heel lifting at all and just enough room for a bit of a toe wiggle up front.  I used to have racing boots that fit like glove and now have very good boots that are not racing boots that fit like a glove.  They hug but do not hurt.  I guess that's closer to your wet suit analogy than it is to sandals.

 

We all know how important a snug fit is.  You want your boots to transmit every little nuance from your head through your feet to your edges.  You need boots that hold your feet firmly, you don't need discomfort or pain

Precisely. But many people would think that a "wet suit fit" is very uncomfortable...hence the situation "ski boots need to be uncomfortable...", and that's where the previous opinion discrepancy comes from~

post #19 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by Phillyguy03 View Post
 

I live in CC, went to the Ardmore store. To be fair, they really were very good. He tried to get me to go down to 26.5. But I felt my toes were a bit curled up. Only after trying 2 different pairs and a different insole did we go up to 27.5. He was also worried that it might be too comfortable last night.

 

He mentioned that we can use a thicker insole in case if it becomes loose, its that true? I feel like it's better to go up a size than being too small because you can also pad a bigger boots, but not the other way around?

 

I'm also having second thoughts about the flex rating. Buckman's website has last year's Atomic Hawx 90 for 319. Would that be a better option than 80?


YOU ARE GETTING VERY BAD ADVICE, any competent boot fitter will tell you that he has no solution if you are unfortunate enough to mistakenly buy too big a boot. There is NO WAY TO MAKE A BOOT SMALLER (only real solution is to buy smaller boots not thicker insoles, socks, etc.).  Competent boot fitters can grind, heat and punch and do all sorts of things to make a smallish boot shell adapt to your foot.

 

Very first step in boot fitting process is to remove liner to see how many fingers will fit behind your foot with your toes at front of shell, should be 2 maximum!

post #20 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by Phillyguy03 View Post
 

I live in CC, went to the Ardmore store. To be fair, they really were very good. He tried to get me to go down to 26.5. But I felt my toes were a bit curled up. Only after trying 2 different pairs and a different insole did we go up to 27.5. He was also worried that it might be too comfortable last night.

 

He mentioned that we can use a thicker insole in case if it becomes loose, its that true? I feel like it's better to go up a size than being too small because you can also pad a bigger boots, but not the other way around?

 

I'm also having second thoughts about the flex rating. Buckman's website has last year's Atomic Hawx 90 for 319. Would that be a better option than 80?

 

Like @MWshredder said, it is always a better idea to go small than go big. Padding a pair of big boots is doable, but not ideal because the more padding material you have to compress, the less power will be transferred from your feet to your boots (a portion of that power is used to compress the padding material. Padding material acts like a spring that work against you). Then naturally you have to work harder to compensate the power loss in order to provide the same amount of power to your skis. Going smaller, on the other hand, is better because any good bootfitter can make room in your boots to accommodate small pinching areas, and you would not have the extra power transfer loss from padding (unless, of course, they made too much room, in that case the bootfitter is terrible at his job). A shell fit will be able to determine if the boots are good size. And spend a lot of time try to find the best fitted boots out of the box. That will make your life and the bootfitter's much easier. 

 

If you still have doubt regarding flex, here is a good way to find out:

One good way to test how flexible the boots should be is to get in your boots, fully buckled and flex your knees forward. With reasonable amount of force you should be able to drive your knees a little past your big toes in room temperature. If you can do that effortlessly then the boots are too soft for you. If you are panting when trying to do that then they are probably too stiff, regardless of your skill level.

post #21 of 25
Much more eloquantly explaination by LASERPOWER, but I noted you mentioned Vail back bowls and suggest you do yourself a big favor and wait for your trip to Vail or another resort with competent bootfitters (PM if you want referral to Vail bootfitters). You can reduce the process of dialing in your new boots from potentially many months or even years to a few days and eliminate all the pain in between. As far as cost, you probably need to factor in an extra $100 at a minimum or more likely $150 in bootfitting fees on top of the boot costs you listed above.

First thing a competent bootfitter is going to do is grind the bottom of your boot(s) to adjust the canting (nobodies leg structure is perfect so your boot sits at a slight angle and thus your ski is not perfectly flat but canted one direction or another which is corrected but grinding the bottom surface of the boot). Proper canting costs $75+ and is very important; do not skimp or you may find yourself being able to turn very well with one ski but having trouble getting on edge with another ski due to a canting problem.

Next thing is to remove pressure points and send you out to ski. After an hour or 2, you will be going back to the bootfitter for adjustments and after another hour or 2, a second round of adjustments and then at the end of the ski day, you probably end up leaving the boots overnight for some more serious surgery. But if you buy the boots in a Philly suburb, you probaly end up paying for all these adjustments, perhaps a flat-fee or $25 a pop. If you buy the boots from a competent bootfitter, you get life of the boots adjustments for free and they are done at the slopes so you can describe the problem in real time and test/enjoy the fix in real time.

Final important factor is your boots get bigger over time as the liner material "packs in" (actually 2 reasons the boots should be very, very tight in shop, liner material will "pack in" and your foot shrinks out in the freezing temps). So after 5-10 ski days, you will need to tighten those buckles a bit more to compensate for the liner material packing in or reducing in volume and that may create new pressure points. The next ski year, your boot will probably need some new adjustments to compensate for the liner packing in so your relationship with your bootfitter will pay more dividends.

Perhaps their is a local shop that can do all the things necessary to dial-in your boots, but in my experience I have not found anyone who even scratches the surface. But regardless, when you factor in the time delay and pain and suffering, I learned that the most important relationship is with a competent bootfitter at the slopes who will find the right shell for your foot (high v. low instep, narrow v. wide heel, etc) and then much more quickly and painlessly dial those boots in so you can enjoy yourself.
post #22 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by MWshredder View Post

Much more eloquantly explaination by LASERPOWER, but I noted you mentioned Vail back bowls and suggest you do yourself a big favor and wait for your trip to Vail or another resort with competent bootfitters (PM if you want referral to Vail bootfitters). You can reduce the process of dialing in your new boots from potentially many months or even years to a few days and eliminate all the pain in between. As far as cost, you probably need to factor in an extra $100 at a minimum or more likely $150 in bootfitting fees on top of the boot costs you listed above.

First thing a competent bootfitter is going to do is grind the bottom of your boot(s) to adjust the canting (nobodies leg structure is perfect so your boot sits at a slight angle and thus your ski is not perfectly flat but canted one direction or another which is corrected but grinding the bottom surface of the boot). Proper canting costs $75+ and is very important; do not skimp or you may find yourself being able to turn very well with one ski but having trouble getting on edge with another ski due to a canting problem.

Next thing is to remove pressure points and send you out to ski. After an hour or 2, you will be going back to the bootfitter for adjustments and after another hour or 2, a second round of adjustments and then at the end of the ski day, you probably end up leaving the boots overnight for some more serious surgery. But if you buy the boots in a Philly suburb, you probaly end up paying for all these adjustments, perhaps a flat-fee or $25 a pop. If you buy the boots from a competent bootfitter, you get life of the boots adjustments for free and they are done at the slopes so you can describe the problem in real time and test/enjoy the fix in real time.

Final important factor is your boots get bigger over time as the liner material "packs in" (actually 2 reasons the boots should be very, very tight in shop, liner material will "pack in" and your foot shrinks out in the freezing temps). So after 5-10 ski days, you will need to tighten those buckles a bit more to compensate for the liner material packing in or reducing in volume and that may create new pressure points. The next ski year, your boot will probably need some new adjustments to compensate for the liner packing in so your relationship with your bootfitter will pay more dividends.

Perhaps their is a local shop that can do all the things necessary to dial-in your boots, but in my experience I have not found anyone who even scratches the surface. But regardless, when you factor in the time delay and pain and suffering, I learned that the most important relationship is with a competent bootfitter at the slopes who will find the right shell for your foot (high v. low instep, narrow v. wide heel, etc) and then much more quickly and painlessly dial those boots in so you can enjoy yourself.

 

Let's get a little realistic, buying your first boots is not rocket science. How many first time boot buyers are going to go through all the above steps as part of an initial buy? Somebody on Epic should open a poll asking about how much boot fitting we've all had done, I'd bet damn few have ever done canting, although many need it. There are competent boot shops in the Philly area who can supply all the services listed about, including the Buckman's the shop he visited. I would recommend that he call Buckman's and speak to their lead bootfitter to make an appointment with a very experienced fitter. Salters also has a great fitting reputation. They all give guarantee of fit and will work to eliminate  hot spots that develop after a few days. Philly has an independent fitting-only specialist, Billy Caplan (posts on Epic as Cantman) who gets great reviews from all who see him, including Finndog who is very picky about who works on his equipment, and has the most complete boot fitting shop I've ever seen, including the best canting device I've ever seen.

 

The crux of it is that Phillyguy is going to have to make a decision about how tight his boots are before leaving the store. The epic posters agree that tighter is better than comfort, but, that's his call in the final analysis. Get to a competent bootfitter and make the best decision based on his analysis and your feel for the boots. Then, make sure you understand what the shop will do when and if you have problems.

post #23 of 25

^^^^ Truth. Reread and memorize. We get overwrought here. Easily. 

post #24 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by beyond View Post
 

^^^^ Truth. Reread and memorize. We get overwrought here. Easily. 

Ya think.  I feel bad for the OP getting caught up in this typical Epicski debate.  Did any of you smallest shellers and harder flexers look at the videos he posted?  I am not a boot or gear expert but I ski with a lot of people, some of them Bears, who are constantly buckling and unbuckling their boots.  Seems to me if they fit right you shouldn't have to do that.

post #25 of 25
LivingProof is absolutely spot-on, find a great bootfitter first and this will not be rocket science. LP is also spot-on that damn few have their boots properly canted, but trust me, if you have an alignment issue then you want to be among the few. Sorry to temporarily hijack your post, just trying to help you avoid some of the problems that I've encountered over the years. Good luck!
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