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Jackson Hogen on skis vs. boots

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 

Came across this on Real Skiers. We've developed the "boots will help more than skis" into a signature for what-ski-should-I-buy posters, but I've noticed nearly as many longer term members - self included - who could plead guilty to the middle line (my italics) :D


"Skis are sexy; skis are fun. Boots are a nightmare.  That's why skiers cling to any boots that don't cause permanent nerve damage, even if they bought them before Nixon resigned.  Consider this: new skis most likely won't make you a better skier; properly fit new boots almost always will."


But curious if anyone has actual data on how long a modern shell lasts. Not including liners, which obviously wear out pretty quickly, and excluding boots stored in your Phoenix home's metal tool shed, or those you wore to walk the length of Squaw Valley's parking lot every day last season. If you take care of your shells, how many years before plastic senescence? And do boots lose life minutely each flex cycle, like skis, or do they just hit an age threshold and fail, like a old plastic handle that cracks?


Oh yeah, and if it's all about UV exposure - the standard fallback - then do those of us at lower altitude resorts get an extra year out of our boots? :yahoo:


It's stuff like this that keeps me awake at night...

post #2 of 10
I'd like to hear from a materials engineer on this myself. Thought of just getting new liners for the last pair, then decided I really needed stiffer boots anyway and that the price difference wasn't that large. But, won't feel that way about the current pair. Expect to have them ten years. By then I might not be skiing anyway.
post #3 of 10


High end Koflach boot shells seem to last a long long time.  Mid-range Nordica's not so much.

post #4 of 10
Thread Starter 

^^^ Yeah, I've found different boots seem to have different lifespans, but not clear why. All I know is that plugs have uber-plastic that flexes more uniformly than anything on the planet, and they also seem to be nearly immortal. So I wonder if it's the plastic formula, rather than the brand or the design. Or maybe just the thickness.


OTOH, would still love to know about the flex cycle thing. Plastic's amorphous, so neither metal nor wood nor carbon provide a model, far as I can tell. Yet we've all flexed a plastic spoon or such until it fractures. Is the fracture the result of cumulative microdamage each flex, or is it just a sudden change in state along the fracture line when the elasticity is exceeded? If first, then yeah, boots will lose life each season. If second, more about how heavy we are and how hard we ski. 

post #5 of 10

My wife has a pair of 25 year old Flexons that show no sign of breaking down. She couldd use liners but she's happy with the old ones so there you go.

post #6 of 10
There have been a number of threads over the years with anecdotes about broken or not broken boots. The conclusion is there were boots that broke, especially during a certain time period and with certain manufacturers, but that boots are better now. The OP is interested in data about modern boots, with the supposedly "better plastic". Are they lasting longer with the better plastic, but still expected to break? I, at least, would like to look into the future, since I know for sure that the old plastic boots broke. So, let's restrict this thread to stuff made within the last ten years. Will they last another ten?
post #7 of 10
Thread Starter 

^^^^ This. For instance, late last season on my beloved and well worn BMX98's - maybe 150 days on them - I had this "ah hah" moment when I realized they felt different than they used to. Less snap, bit more trouble holding an edge even when newly tuned; bit, umm, less life in them. (Same could be said of the pilot, of course.) Duh, they've been through a lot of flex cycles. I use them in bumps and trees a lot, and even though I tend to take care of my gear, the wood and fiberglass are beginning to show what microfractures do to performance. Not just softer but  a first hint of deadness. We've all been there. Great excuse for new skis.


But do we notice the same thing in our boots? Plastic must also resist flex, store energy and then rebound/snap. And every time we tilt our skis on edge, or hit some crud, or land after some air, our boots are deforming and recovering shape, just like our skis. 


So when would we notice if the plastic began to fracture on a micro level and lose some of its capacity for this? Or would the change be so gradual, and our perceptions so ahistorical, that we'd get new boots before we'd notice? Or is boot stiffness and rebound more like falling off a cliff, mostly flat until it's vertical? 


Boot makers know, since they employ materials scientists, and they put these things on machines to test for failure. So you reps...?

post #8 of 10
Thread Starter 

Followup. Here's something for the engineers and chemists in the room: http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/ma402297a


It's about PE, assume roughly same issues for other plastics, which will differ in their responses. But my chemist take away from this and some other articles is that 1) The only cliff is when a macrofracture becomes noticeable to the user. Before that, there's been a gradual non-linear weakening on the molecular level. And on a macro level, there's been changes in the area around the strain, paradoxically including a hardening of the material on either side and the formation of a "neck" or thinner region that will fail.


2) Plastics behave differently under low strains than high, because of something called "creep," which apparently means molecules realign along axes of strain; this reduces total strain. Can't pull this off under high strain. But they do like to form temporary molecular bridges that can be lost and (perhaps) rebuilt without permanent deformation. And at high strains, plastic can behave a lot like a fluid. Wow. Not sure what ramming into a mogul constitutes.


3) Heat and UV are bad, accelerating molecular damage. We knew this. So are lacunae and contamination on a molecular level. We surmised this.


4) Plastics appear to resist compressive forces (think sitting on a flexible barrel and having it sink slightly, bulge in the middle) better than shear or elongation forces. 5) Bad things happen when elastic deformation (meaning the plastic will return to its original shape) gives way to plastic deformation (meaning the return will be incomplete), but some plastics are capable of amazing plastic deformation before failure (think chewing gum). 


I await a plastic chemist to tactfully rip me a new one over this summary. :eek Meanwhile I've got a hunch that my clumsy answer to my vague question is that yes, boots age and lose their ability to return to their mold shape. Just like skis. No cliff, not fine until they crack or visibly fail. Still unclear though on the relative speed of aging. Is 3 years an old boot? Will Sib's new boots last that decade? :dunno 

post #9 of 10
Hey, will Sib last that decade...? The jury is out.
post #10 of 10
Thread Starter 

You, like the rest of us, are immortal. It's the other bodies that give out...;)

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