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Race boots on intermediate skier?

post #1 of 22
Thread Starter 
A couple of years ago, I bought a pair of Nordica Grand Prix ST boots, chosen simply because I have rather narrow feet and these were the only boots they had in the shop which were a decent snug fit. The boots are apparently derived from their racing line, and were undoubtedly higher-end than my capabilities at the time. I reckoned that as I became a better skier I would get more out of the boots, but I'm still not sure that they're the right boots for me, although comfort is not a problem. I'm at best an 'advanced intermediate' skier (I'll ski most black runs reasonably OK at the US resorts I've been to), but still not the target market for these boots, I'd expect.

So, what effect would trying to ski in 'racing' boots have on an intermediate level skier? (Incidentally, I have recently had the flex slightly softened by a bootfitter at Fernie, BC, although they are still stiff).

J2R
post #2 of 22
Hey J2R,
The stiffness of the boot is probably what makes it toughest on non expert skiers. But another thing is the extreme forward lean of race boots. These two factors when combined with an intermediate or even some advanced skiers can actually be dangerous. These boots will put you in a very aggressive stance, and if your skiing is not as aggressive then your body will compensate the lean with mostly your back. This will in turn cause a more rigid stance on your part and it will be a lot harder to improve your skiing. If I could make a suggestion, I would say that people should always get boots at there level or even a little lower. This may be a little more expensive in the long run, but it will help with the growth in skier ability. I would only upgrade boots when you feel that you current boot is holding you back because it is not rigid/aggressive/responsive enough for your ability. Good luck with your decision [img]graemlins/thumbsup.gif[/img]

Ben
post #3 of 22
Too stiff a boot can also throw you in the back seat and get you in trouble.

I went with a very stiff boot for me and had to power through learning. Thankfully I have strong legs or I would have had no fun learning.

I went from a rental to an X-Wave 6 to an X-wave 10 to a Crossmax 10 in a span of three seasons.

I was fitted improperly on the first two boots.
post #4 of 22
I have the opposite problem J2R. I race in one of Dalbellos "high performance" boots, although I think it is one of the more intermediate boots as the liner is thick and cushy, and doesn't give the best response. You wanna trade?

[ February 15, 2004, 07:20 PM: Message edited by: dipstik ]
post #5 of 22
If the boots fit, but are too stiff, I would soften them up. I am a lightweight and want a responsive race boot, so I usually buy race boots and soften them up (my last pair I softened about 15%, I am guessing). I don't need excessive forward lean (I prefer an upright stance) or too much for/aft stiffness, but the other attributes that race boots offer (thin liner, tight fit, power and responsiveness, and light weight/no frills) aren't available in most consumer lines.
post #6 of 22
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally posted by Benski:
The stiffness of the boot is probably what makes it toughest on non expert skiers. But another thing is the extreme forward lean of race boots.
I'm not sure whether the Nordica Grand Prix ST boots have an 'extreme forward lean'. Is there any objective way of determining this? If they do have an excessive forward lean, what, if anything, can be done to remedy the situation? I've read posts from Bob Barnes suggesting that you can increase forward lean by stuffing something (he favours trailmaps) between the back of your liner and the boot cuff. I'm not sure the opposite works, does it, stuffing some trailmaps down the front of the boot?

J2R
post #7 of 22
J2R: Send a query to Jeff Bergeron on this site ("Expert Boot Advice Given"). I'm sure he can answer your questions. Good luck!
post #8 of 22
first question: WHY?

ski equipment is designed intentionally with skier abilities in mind. why would you want a boot that is MORE RESPONSIVE than what your ability calls for? You are asking for a bad ski experience -- which I described in this thread as a "one step forward, five steps back" kind of progression.

stick with boots that fit your feet AND ability. if a shop doesn't have a boot for YOUR ABILITY that fits your foot, don't buy a too-advanced boot that fits better... go to ANOTHER SHOP and find the boot that fits your foot and your skiing ability.

with all the different lasts available among the different boot mfrs, you will find the proper boot.
post #9 of 22
Gonz, I think that there is another possible reason: quality. Both in terms of fit and materials, in general, higher-level boots tend to fit better, have better material quality, and be much easier to modify than lower-level boots.

Regardless, such postulating on my part does nothing to diminish the belief I have that the only real answer is a truly expert boot fitter/alignment specialist.
post #10 of 22
Who wants to purchase 3 boots over the course of a few years if you progress quickly?

I think you should get a boot that still has room to grow as your ability changes.

If you do not know specifically what you want from your boots and what terrain you will eventually ski then go with something at your level or slightly higher.

My wife skied on Salomon Evolution 2 7.0s for 3 seasons. At first they were fine for her but as she progressed quickly she realized that they are to soft for the terrain she skis and her ability.

Finally we got her a pair of womens' Salomon X-Wave 9s this weekend and I think it will help her skiing tremendously.

One ski salesperson told my wife he would never put her on that stiff a boot probably because he did not have that model and size in stock.

We found a ski shop that had the X-Wave 9s and my wife can flex them with no issues.

It's all a matter of preference if you know what you want, what to look for, and how to use it.
post #11 of 22
Steve, I agree, but I believe you're talking about skiers at a certain level of ability.

An intermediate wouldn't be well-served by a "plug" ski boot because of the flex-tuning required to make it forgiving enough for a lower-level skier. The bootfitting alone would be quite expensive, lengthy, and probably not what the average intermediate expects to go through when buying boots. For a "money is no object" intermediate, though, it would be worth it, provided the skier has the patience for such extensive customizing.

For higher-level skiers who don't need a lot of flex tuning (whose ability matches the flex designed into the plug), you are 100% correct (IMHO, of course).

Scalce, your sliding scale description theoretically is okay, especially for mfrs who make "adjustable flex" boots, but I'm willing to bet that MOST skiers don't progress that much over 3 seasons. I'm not talking about a level 6 skier getting a boot designed for level 7 skiers. I'm talking about a level 5 getting a Level 8 or 9 boot. In that case, over-responsiveness (which is both linked to, and independent of, forward flex resistance) makes it a "one step forward, 5 steps back" deal.

The question of "being able to flex the boot" is a macho thing, designed by guys 20 years ago who used to ski 207cm skis no matter how good they were. Responsiveness is a lateral AND forward matter. An intermediate skier with sloppy and randomly improper movements should not have a too-responsive boot. Forgiveness is more important to progress than looking down the road and buying for one's "goal" level of skiing.

[ February 16, 2004, 12:26 PM: Message edited by: gonzostrike ]
post #12 of 22
Race boots are also intended to be skied at far higher speeds, and hence with greater pressures within the turn. Think of the pressure on the boot when racing a tight slalom.

It's simply not possible for an intermediate to ski aggressively enough to provide enough force to warrant getting a boot that is so hard to flex.

IMO, what will happen is that the intermediate will begin to balance with the upper legs/hips only, and forget about balancing moves using flexion of the ankles. That could stall their development permanently.
post #13 of 22
Quote:
Originally posted by BigE:
IMO, what will happen is that the intermediate will begin to balance with the upper legs/hips only, and forget about balancing moves using flexion of the ankles. That could stall their development permanently.
EXACTLY! well-said, BigE.
post #14 of 22
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally posted by gonzostrike:
first question: WHY?
Read the post again. I have narrow feet, and these were the only ones in a pretty large range which fitted. No, I was not deluding myself into believing I was an expert skier. I had no pretentions of the kind whatsoever - I just reckoned that boots which fitted me and which I would 'grow into' in terms of ability would be better for me than ones which were of my level but which didn't fit me. Had I known then what I know now, I would have gone on to other stores, but I didn't. Hence my question. What is the likely effect of wearing race-derived boots on an intermediate level skier?

J2R
post #15 of 22
Gonz, I'm totally with you on the distinction. Interestingly, the Tecnica XT17s that I'm in now are very easy to flex, in my opinion. However, laterally, the are "instant-on." Think and turn. I love them. But, I can imagine that if I did not have number of snow hours that I do, I'd probably be freaked out trying to figure out why my skis were doing what they are doing.

Interestingly, I think that a big part of responsiveness is the liners. Most liners are 2x as thick as the XT's, and I think that the delay in liner compression probably provides a noticable mellowing of response.
post #16 of 22
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally posted by gonzostrike:
first question: WHY?
Read the post again. I have narrow feet, and these were the only ones in a pretty large range which fitted. No, I was not deluding myself into believing I was an expert skier. I had no pretentions of the kind whatsoever - I just reckoned that boots which fitted me and which I would 'grow into' in terms of ability would be better for me than ones which were of my level but which didn't fit me. Had I known then what I know now, I would have gone on to other stores, but I didn't. Hence my question. What is the likely effect of wearing race-derived boots on an intermediate level skier?

J2R
post #17 of 22
Quote:
Originally posted by gonzostrike:

For higher-level skiers who don't need a lot of flex tuning (whose ability matches the flex designed into the plug), you are 100% correct (IMHO, of course).

Scalce, your sliding scale description theoretically is okay, especially for mfrs who make "adjustable flex" boots, but I'm willing to bet that MOST skiers don't progress that much over 3 seasons. I'm not talking about a level 6 skier getting a boot designed for level 7 skiers. I'm talking about a level 5 getting a Level 8 or 9 boot. In that case, over-responsiveness (which is both linked to, and independent of, forward flex resistance) makes it a "one step forward, 5 steps back" deal.

The question of "being able to flex the boot" is a macho thing, designed by guys 20 years ago who used to ski 207cm skis no matter how good they were. Responsiveness is a lateral AND forward matter. An intermediate skier with sloppy and randomly improper movements should not have a too-responsive boot. Forgiveness is more important to progress than looking down the road and buying for one's "goal" level of skiing.
Good point. I forget about lateral stiffness because I am so used to boots that turn as soon as you think it.

Is it really that hard for an intermediate to have a very responsive lateral stiffness?

Would they be hooking tips and tails?

I would think that forward flex would screw them up worse.
post #18 of 22
Quote:
Originally posted by J2R:
Hence my question. What is the likely effect of wearing race-derived boots on an intermediate level skier?J2R
I already mentioned that in my earlier post, which might've been in draft while you posted. Here's what I said:

Quote:
Scalce, your sliding scale description theoretically is okay, especially for mfrs who make "adjustable flex" boots, but I'm willing to bet that MOST skiers don't progress that much over 3 seasons. I'm not talking about a level 6 skier getting a boot designed for level 7 skiers. I'm talking about a level 5 getting a Level 8 or 9 boot. In that case, over-responsiveness (which is both linked to, and independent of, forward flex resistance) makes it a "one step forward, 5 steps back" deal.

The question of "being able to flex the boot" is a macho thing, designed by guys 20 years ago who used to ski 207cm skis no matter how good they were. Responsiveness is a lateral AND forward matter. An intermediate skier with sloppy and randomly improper movements should not have a too-responsive boot. Forgiveness is more important to progress than looking down the road and buying for one's "goal" level of skiing.
If that doesn't answer your Q, give me a more detailed Q and I'll try to see what I can tell you.
post #19 of 22
Quote:
Is it really that hard for an intermediate to have a very responsive lateral stiffness? Would they be hooking tips and tails? I would think that forward flex would screw them up worse.
Not really. The most important aspect of boots today, with today's laterally-oriented skis, is the ability to flex at the ankle. I'm starting to see how few people actually can do this in their boots, and as a result I'm starting to think that this is the most common reason why so many people ski "back seat" (in addition to the psychological reasons).

Ankle flexion is critical to higher-level skiing. You cannot have a dynamic turn without it.

A boot that's too stiff in forward flex will make the skier off-balance to the rear when he/she should be flexing at the ankle.

A boot that's too stiff laterally might not cause any problems for the athletic, well-balanced intermediate, who might be able to accommodate the responsiveness with quick balance movements. But for most skiers, I think it's going to lead to an unexpectedly early edge, and in a setting where inefficient or improper moves have put the ski on that "early" edge, the skier will feel out of control -- and that's NEVER a good thing if you're trying to improve by challenging yourself.

For a long time, laterally stiff boots were hard to find below the race models. That's because lateral movements were mostly an expert's game, a small refinement of the largely rotary technique that was in vogue until just about 10 years ago. It's only in recent years (maybe 5-7 years or less) that lateral stiffness has been available.

Honestly, I have been skiing the newer stuff only for 4 seasons. I had a 10-year skiing hiatus from 1989-1999. Lateral softness was a much bigger issue in the 1989 and earlier days.
post #20 of 22
I had to get some ramp angle because my ankles don't flex as well as most people so it helped open up my ankles and I haven't been in the backseat since.

I always thought it was the boots forward flex that screwed me up but now I would never get something softer.

I think that stretching the calves before skiing helps alot too.
post #21 of 22
Quote:
Originally posted by gonzostrike:

A boot that's too stiff laterally might not cause any problems for the athletic, well-balanced intermediate, who might be able to accommodate the responsiveness with quick balance movements. But for most skiers, I think it's going to lead to an unexpectedly early edge, and in a setting where inefficient or improper moves have put the ski on that "early" edge, the skier will feel out of control -- and that's NEVER a good thing
Normally, intermediate skiers are not aligned, consequently, they are always on one edge or another -- the skis are not flat. IMO, this feature may be mitigated somewhat by boots that are laterally soft.

But, the feedback of edging errors will be masked which is not appropriate. I think an intermediate already has a pretty good feeling about gliding, so masking edging errors is not what they are looking for.... unless terminal intermediate status is good enough. I think the effect is similar to a sloppy fit.

If they do wish to improve past intermediate, it's a matter of learning how to organize the body above the skis to make the skis behave as desired. This won't be easy if the boot is laterally soft and the skier is improperly aligned.

Forewards softness is an entirely different matter, as it will assist the intermediate skier to make the "smaller" balancing movements at the ankle. Naturally, these movements are not "smaller" at first, so a softer flex is preferred that will not punish their overreactive balance errors. After the ankle movements actually do become smaller -- the skier is really "getting it" -- a boot with stiffer forward flex will become more helpful.
post #22 of 22
I agree, BigE... but watch out! The tenacity of the "stiff boots for strong skiers" theory is quite strong.

My skiing took some BIG leaps forward last Friday. I skied on my AT gear, which means Garmont Mega-Ride boots... relatively low cuff, softish flex, no ramp angle, no binding delta. The result of using those boots is that I have to be centered on the skis, or they experience lots of yaw.

Skiing in softer forward flex boots can tell you a lot about where you SHOULD be. But it's not going to give you the same fast response that a stiffer-flexing alpine boot will give.

Whether the fast response is a hindrance or a breakthrough for any given skier is entirely skier-dependent. We have to strike a balance between good feedback that might tell the skier "that move SUCKED and you'd better not do it again or I'll put you on your arse," to "sorry, my Cadillac-comfy ride won't tell you anything about your skiing technique OR the quality of the snow you're on."

I don't want people giving up out of frustration. I also don't want the equipment holding back a skier's progress.

I skied for many years without properly aligned feet/lower legs. My skiing improved steadily over that time, but then hit a plateau caused by lack of alignment and bad habits. I'm just as convinced as you are regarding the value of good footbeds and skier alignment in the boots and on the skis. But I think that "forgiving" is a good (albeit vague) quality in ski equipment for beginners and intermediates. It keeps the fun/accomplishment level within reach.
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