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Should an aspiring expert (!!) buy a boot when they're still an intermediate?

post #1 of 26
Thread Starter 
So, I spent the afternoon at a local sporting goods shop in Anchorage, Alaska -- with an attendant who possessed limited ski-boot knowledge compared to what I've learned from you on this forum -- trying on new ski boots. This was my first experience with this. We tried on about 5 pairs that they had in my size (end of season leftovers, apparently).

I'm a level 6 skier just completing my first full year of skiing (lots!), and have been using old hand-me-down size 29.5 boots that felt big for me unless all buckles were cinched to the max, but they were free and when I first started and knew no better I was wearing monster socks and WalMart insoles... Now I'm ready to outfit myself with something that will last me a while and work with me on improving my skills. The local shop sized me at 28.5, and those felt more snug.

I DO want to find a qualified boot fitter who knows something before purchasing (am searching Anchorage area and may head to Girdwood / Alyeska to try out a shop there), but in the meantime I want to ask a question about flex ratings. Of the boots I tried on, the Technica Vento 10 and a Nordica Speedmachine 8 fit the best. The SM 8 has a flex rating of 100.

Currently I'm basically an on-piste skier with ambitions of substantial improvement over the next few seasons.

1) Is the SM 8, though it felt good now, going to last me several years? Or do you think that as I improve even further, I'll soon require (desire?) a stiffer, higher performance boot. Am I in a mid-zone where it may be best to ski my old boots another season and then when I'm better shoot for a higher performance boot that will last several years?

2) Any recommendations for good ski-boot fitters in southcentral Alaska? None show up on the "master boot fitters" link.

Thanks for any insights.
post #2 of 26
Trochilids...Dump the boot that is too big and get the right size with the assistance of a qualified bootfitter. Do not waste your time with a boot that is too big, get rid of it. Any of the mentioned boots will be fine for you. Make sure they are fit well and are properly aligned. Invest in a properly made footbed.
post #3 of 26
I was at a shop jsut south on Anchorage that was pretty good, it was in an old style English Tudor, IIRC there was some midevil theme around it. Been up past Eagle River from time to time, my Sisiter in law lives up in Wasilla. Been up there and skied, Alpenglow (Artic valley), Alyaska and Hatchers Pass.
post #4 of 26
Second the info given to you above. Boots are the most important piece of equipment you will own. If they fit, are confortable, and properly aligned you will fall in love with them.

Watch how stiff you go with the boot. Most people get boots that are way to stiff for how they ski. You want to be able to flex them easily. Rock hard plug boots that take a gorilla to flex are fine for the top level racers. However, most recreational skiiers will do fine with an easy to flex boot. I'm a big guy and I had the my boots modified to remove some of the stiffness so I could flex my ankles in order to control my skis and get my joints to work together properly.

I'm really suprized that Phil didn't say the magic words to you - Krypton, Flexon.
post #5 of 26
Get a boot that fits.
How much do you weigh?
post #6 of 26
A somewhat overstated, but still kind of valid, way of looking at your choices:

- Keep the ill-fitting boots and never get much better ... hey, but the same boots will last you forever!

- Get boots that fit and perform perfectly for what you'll be doing next season, and improve "too fast," so you'll want/need new boots in a few years.

Which do you prefer?
post #7 of 26
Did the person that sized you do a "Shell fit" where they take the liner out and put you in the boot, have you slide your foot up until the toes touch, then measure the space behind the heel. If not, check your fit again. Several people I know tell me their boot's are snug but when I do the shell fit, they are often in a boot that's 1 if not 2 sizes too big.

Other than that, lots of good info above. Sorry don't know of a fitter up there but you can call or email someone at GMOL or Masterfit University to see if they have trained anyone from up there. It's not a guarantee of a good fitter but it's better than nothing.

DC
post #8 of 26
Thread Starter 
HI folks,

Thanks a million for these fine responses. Every one was meaningful. Let me comment on a few...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Phil Pugliese
I was at a shop just south on Anchorage that was pretty good, it was in an old style English Tudor, IIRC there was some midevil theme around it... <snip>
Yes, I believe this is Peter Glenn sports. I'll have to check them out. Thanks.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ghost
Get a boot that fits.
How much do you weigh?
Currently 210 lbs (6'0"). I'm planning to get in better shape for next season, though. I'm probably taking this skiing stuff way to seriously, but if it helps me live a healthier lifestyle, then...

Quote:
Originally Posted by sjjohnston
A somewhat overstated, but still kind of valid, way of looking at your choices:

- Keep the ill-fitting boots and never get much better ... hey, but the same boots will last you forever!

- Get boots that fit and perform perfectly for what you'll be doing next season, and improve "too fast," so you'll want/need new boots in a few years.

Which do you prefer?
That's an excellent way of looking at it, and reinforces the importance of good boots to skier development -- something I was overlooking. Thanks.

Quote:
Originally Posted by dchan
Did the person that sized you do a "Shell fit"... <snip>
No. He put my foot on a little measuring plate and the tip of the toe came to a fraction under 27.5. He said that that meant that I was probably a 28 or 28.5. He didn't have 28, so we tried 28.5s. The extent of his assistance was to ask if the toes pulled away from the tip of the boot when I leaned forward. He'd ask if I wanted to try on another one ("yes"), and go into the back room and see what else he had in 28.5 and we'd go through the same thing. The Nordica Speedmachine 8s were the least tight at the toes while I was seated... I'm wondering if they'd be too loose once packed out. The guy I was working with wasn't aware of custom footbeds and didn't know how much they'd affect the fit post-sale... What about that :.

I guess it behooves me to take more of a lead in choosing my correct boot if locally we do indeed have a lack of knowledgeable bootfitters on the caliber of others who post to this forum!

Thanks again for the insights, all!
post #9 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by sjjohnston
A somewhat overstated, but still kind of valid, way of looking at your choices:

- Keep the ill-fitting boots and never get much better ... hey, but the same boots will last you forever!

- Get boots that fit and perform perfectly for what you'll be doing next season, and improve "too fast," so you'll want/need new boots in a few years.

Which do you prefer?
One more perpective..
(shameless self promotion) I started skiing last year(season 04-05) and bought an intermediate pair of skis last year and intermediate boots, Blizzard xo4 and Salomon Performa 5.0, for about 500 bucks to start off.. By Jan this year I wanted new skis and new boots as the old boots didnt fit great and the skis were not that great either.. Got Rx8s and Kryptons.. I had to upgrade too fast for my liking and spend an extra chunk of change while doing so..

I would suggest buying a boot a few skill levels ahead of your current level..
post #10 of 26
Speaking from experiance and having gone from an intermediate boot to a high end boot myself.

Yes upgrading your boot is the best thing you can do. However I wouldn't go buy the stiffest race boot out there.

Flex is important while still learning. a good medium to medium stiff if probably best. more important is proper size. don't be afraid to buy something really snug, most pack out.

Lots and lots of good boot advice hidden in the past posts. spend some time reading here and you will be well informed.

Money spent on boots is far better then money spent on anything else.
post #11 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by trochilids
... He put my foot on a little measuring plate and the tip of the toe came to a fraction under 27.5.
Wouldn't that mean you're a 27.5?

Quote:
Originally Posted by trochilids
He said that that meant that I was probably a 28 or 28.5. He didn't have 28, so we tried 28.5s.
In other words, "you should buy what's left in stock ..."

You got good advice above - get shell fitted, by someone with a clue.

FWIW, I wear 9.5 street shoes; went this year from a 27.5 tecnica down to a 26.5 tecnica vento 10 hvl - it felt tight the first few times out, over just a liner sock, but after 15 days it has loosened up. almost TOO loose, i'm going to adjust the buckles for next season. so don't be put off by a snug initial fit.
post #12 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by trochilids
No. He put my foot on a little measuring plate and the tip of the toe came to a fraction under 27.5. He said that that meant that I was probably a 28 or 28.5. He didn't have 28, so we tried 28.5s. The extent of his assistance was to ask if the toes pulled away from the tip of the boot when I leaned forward. He'd ask if I wanted to try on another one ("yes"), and go into the back room and see what else he had in 28.5 and we'd go through the same thing. The Nordica Speedmachine 8s were the least tight at the toes while I was seated... I'm wondering if they'd be too loose once packed out. The guy I was working with wasn't aware of custom footbeds and didn't know how much they'd affect the fit post-sale... What about that :.
Don't buy ski equipment at a Sporting Goods store!!! The only way you should is if you know exactly what you want, and just want to compare prices. Boots are the most important piece of equipment. If you do this right (bootfitter, and probably a custom footbed), you will feel like someone added a steering wheel to your skis with the new boots.
post #13 of 26
Here's my two cents: Do not buy a stiff boot. 90 or so. Shell size - not two fingers.

You may be able to find a boot off the shelf for $300. You want a lower end boot that you can flex and that fits well. When they see your size and weight they will want to put you in something stiff.
post #14 of 26
You've gotten a lot good avdise in the other posts. Anyone who mesures your foot at a shade under 27.5 and says you're a 28.5 is clueless. A new boot should be tight to the point that it is borderline unconfortable, they will losen up (notice I said uncomfortable NOT painfull). I agree that you should not get to stiff a boot but in a Nordica I think with your ambitions you would be better off with the Speed Machine 10 or 12, you could out grow the SM 8 within a season. Just my opinion.
post #15 of 26
Thread Starter 

Follow-up -- feeling better about Anchorage bootfitters...

I really appreciate all the very helpful insights everyone here has provided. Great stuff.

Thought I'd follow up with some notes on my experience today. I did some research on Peter Glenn Ski and Sports in Anchorage recommended above and discovered that "Joe" is the person to talk to there, but I couldn't get there when he was in. So I decided to call Sunshine Sports on Northern Lights Boulevard on the other side of town, since that's where I was going to be. I knew they sold ski equipment (I bought my helmet there earlier this season). They said they had a full-service boot-fitter, also named Joe, and they've been selling boots for 30 years... So I dropped by to meet this Joe. I was pleased. We talked about ski boots and he really seemed to know his stuff (I don't think he contradicted a word mentioned by those commenting above, and in many cases made me wonder if he was a subscriber to this forum!).

He sized my foot also between 27.0 and 27.5 and looked at the width, felt around, and said I should be in something around a 27 Salomon. His stock is really limited, but we tried a few beginner-type Salomons in 27.5 -- the Performa series (but I can't remember the number), and the fit felt really good. Better than the 28.5 Nordica's I had tried at another store yesterday. Just for comparison he got me into a top of the line Salomon race boot (27.0 -- I forget the name), and that felt slightly more snug but overall comfortable, except for the incredible reduced flex, of course.

He also suggested we do a shell-fit, and explained that process to me. He said I had about a finger and a half behind the heal on the 27.5 Performas...

To his credit, after discussing my skiing abilities and future plans and trying on a few pair of boots, he didn't want to sell me any of the boots he had left. He said the Performa we tried on would probably work in the short term, but that he'd like to see me in something a step up from that, and he didn't have those in stock.

He also does custom footbeds, and we discussed those at length. He even does the air-vacuum ones where the mold is made without the customer standing and depressing the arch. For some reason those are substantially more expensive.

I asked if he was certified as a boot-fitter and for the first time I wasn't sure I completely understood his answer. It sounded like the affirmative, but he emphasized he's taken classes, attended boot-fitting clinics, and has years of experience just studying people's feet. Regardless of whether or not he has formal certification, I didn't feel that this guy tried to pull the wool over my eyes like I've experienced before. I acted "intelligently naive" the whole time and he passed the test. Based on my experience there today I think this guy will be a good one to work with in the fall.

So -- if you find yourself in the Anchorage area needing work on your boots (or skis), you might consider the more-than-average Joes at Peter Glenn Ski and Sports on O'Malley Road or Sunshine Sports on Northern Lights Boulevard. I'll try to remember to let you know how the final purchase goes next fall.

Thanks again, Epic, for great advice and for making this an enjoyable learning experience for me.

Best,
post #16 of 26
At 210 lbs, it seems to me that you do need a bit stiffer boot. Joe did well not to sell you the Performas.

It looks like you found the place to buy your boots (Either that or your name is Joe and this is a clever add ). You should have him order you some boots in. It may be more expensive, but it will be worth it in the long run. Get the custom footbeds too.
post #17 of 26
I think your experience in buying boots is fairly typical, and a good lesson to read. The first sporting goods store attempted to sell you what was in stock. Clearly this was an oversized boot that would not have given you good service or performance.

Joe took time to ask questions about your skiing, observe things about your physical makeup, he took your foot size and tried several boots, checking the shell fit. Based on his evaluation, a size 27 shell is a comfort fit. If you were really into performance or racing, you would probably belong in a 26.5. (keep in mind there is no difference in the shell size of a 27 or 27.5, just the liner and footbed changes) The Performa series is a lower end bood and your fitter wants to see you in a higher end boot, but has no inventory. Sounds like you can trust Joe to back up your purchase with continued support and adjustments if they are necessary. I'm curious what model he tried on you in the size 27...Spaceframe? You have the weight to flex a boot from 90 to 110 flex, so don't be too scared off. Model Gun Spaceframes are only a 95 flex index. OTOH if it was an Equipe race boot, then the 130 flex would not be forgiving to learn.

I'm impressed you have been able to progress to your current level in a boot, at least 2 sizes too large. I think you will be amazed at the difference with the new boots. Good luck.
post #18 of 26
I would be looking to put you in a 26/26.5 at the largest. The metal fitting thingy is called a branick (sp?) device and it gives a ball park number but does not take into account many things like volume, etc. It's also for street shoes meaning comfort.

I measure at just about 27 on the branick device. I'm currently skiing a 25/25.5 shell Salomon x wave 10, the older saffron colored boot. I'm starting to pack these out to the point where I'm considering a replacement liner (I move around a little more than I would like inside the boot). I did have to stretch the current liner in length to get a little more room for my toes and I do have to stay at least lightly pressured on the toungue of the boot to keep my toes from getting jammed into the front (meaning no standing up in line) so this small of a sizing is probably a little extreme for a recreational skier but I'm just trying to give you an idea of how tight some of us that want the maximum performance out of our boots will go.

The other thing is go with the thinnest ski sock you can find. A slightly thicker sock will feel a great deal tighter than the thin sock. If you start with a thin sock and get a great fit I think you will be much happer with the performance.

The Salomon your new boot guy was suggesting is a great intermediate boot and will take you pretty far. The race boot he had in stock is probably a Course Space frame. Does that sound right? The performa is a different "last" or shell mold so it will fit differently than the Course line and the Xwave/Rush line.

Good luck in your venture. And yes get the custom footbeds. They stabilize your foot in the boot so there tends to be less movement and rubbing which can cause blisters.
post #19 of 26
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by dchan
I would be looking to put you in a 26/26.5 at the largest. The metal fitting thingy is called a branick (sp?) device and it gives a ball park number but does not take into account many things like volume, etc. It's also for street shoes meaning comfort.
The measuring plate he used was a wide wooden one I stood on with both feet -- it was made by Salomon (or at least had their name emblazed on the front). Not sure if that's different? He had a metal one, too, but he looked at my feet and decided to measure with the Salomon wooden plate...

Quote:
Originally Posted by dchan
<snip>

The other thing is go with the thinnest ski sock you can find. A slightly thicker sock will feel a great deal tighter than the thin sock. If you start with a thin sock and get a great fit I think you will be much happer with the performance.
I've always been sking with fairly thick socks -- I'm looking forward to a well-fitting boot and thin socks! Can't wait to see how it changes things!

Quote:
Originally Posted by dchan
The Salomon your new boot guy was suggesting is a great intermediate boot and will take you pretty far. The race boot he had in stock is probably a Course Space frame. Does that sound right?

<snip>
Yes -- it was space-something if I recall correctly. It was a pale colored one that looked a little psychic!

Quote:
Originally Posted by dchan
Good luck in your venture. And yes get the custom footbeds. They stabilize your foot in the boot so there tends to be less movement and rubbing which can cause blisters.
I've had foot issues in the past (was in a water-sking accident many, many years ago and tore the heal pad off my right foot with a rope. Long story). So I'm familiar with custom footbeds for my non-ski boots. But even with a too-large ski boot, I've never had trouble sking without one. However, I'm definitely going to invest in those for my new boots. Great advice!
post #20 of 26
You may also want to consider World Cup ski shop in Girdwood. It's a good shop.
post #21 of 26
Thread Starter 

New ski shop in Anchorage

Now that fall is in full swing here in southcentral AK, I'm getting serious (again) about buying new ski boots. I stopped by Peter Glen Ski & Sports in Anchorage a couple weeks ago and found out that they have lost their premier bootfitter, "Joe." He has apparently moved out of the region. The new guy who's taking his place (don't recall his name) didn't really impress me at all. Bummer. Since I feel I need someone to really "hold my hand" on this decision, I doubt I'll be buying my first pair of ski boots there.

BUT -- World Cup Sports in Girdwood seems to be a very reputable company based on recommendations in this thread (thanks!) and my conversations with them. I've emailed them and talked to them on the phone and am impressed. The best news -- I just found out today that they have a new satellite store in Anchorage -- World Cup Skier's Edge. The store is owned by Mark Berger, who is also their primary bootfitter and has apparently been associated with their Girdwood store for many years. They are open 12-6, Mon-Sat. Unfortunately not today (Sunday)! But I'll stop by their store on West 41st Avenue, just off Artic Boulevard between 36th and Tudor Roads, this week. Sounds like both World Cup stores (the one in Girdwood and the one in Anchorage) really will stand by their bootfitting work and make sure that I am 100% satisfied. Both stores honor the work of the other, so if I have work done in Anchorage and then find myself skiing Alyeska and need assistance in Girdwood, that store will cover it, too. And they have lots of boots in stock right now. :

Sunshine Sports in Anchorage (with bootfitter Joe) also sounds like a worthy store to consider for purchasing boots, but I get the impression that World Cup may be a bit more helpful for standing by their work long-term. It seems to me that World Cup is more of a store that takes personal interest in their customers -- at least that's how I felt, but I could be wrong. We'll see. I'd rather have too many choices than not enough...

I'll keep you posted.
post #22 of 26
World Cup has the best bootfitters in the Anchorage area, year in and year out. You should have been at the Alyeska Ski Club/UAA ski swap at West High yesterday and today. World Cup was there with a wide selection of skis and boots, and I bet they could have fit you for a lot less than you woul d have paid in the store.

I know you have access to Hillberg and the employee discount, so I would seriously check out the Pro Shop's selection of upper-line Dalbellos. Best boot I've seen for the money, and since they aren't carrying hardgoods anymore I bet you can get them for next to nothing. I can help you get fitted if you want.

For bootfitting, I'm not a fan of Peter Glenn, Sunshine, Paramount, Sports Authority, or REI, but this has been a long-term impression and might not reflect the current situations at those shops. To be honest, I ski in race boots and require a significant boot work, so World Cup is pretty much my best option. I've had boots ruined at some of those shops, and others have tried to up-size me when I had width issues.

Get the thinnest ski socks you can find and wear them when trying on boots. Liners don't get any tighter as you wear boots, and a thicker socks is usually not much warmer- sometimes colder. If you have cold feet, a heated footbed or a pair of Boot Gloves are better options.
post #23 of 26
If you sense a theme, here, it's that good boots are more important than good skis. Second theme: while it's fine to go for a boot that's better than you are, don't end up with a race plug that you can't flex and that leaves you with bruises. If you're a 6, go for a boot that fits snugly, that's got good lateral support but some decent flex.

The brand totally depends on the shape of your foot; most make a model that'll work. My personal rec for you would be to try a Salomon X-Wave 10 or 8; nice combination of reasonable fit for most feet, reasonable flex, but lateral stiffness that'll help you grow. Nordicas also seem to fit a lot of feet, and the Beast 12 or the SpeedMachine 14 would work for you, same reasons.
post #24 of 26
I recently went through a boot search and you've been given a LOT of really good advice here.

The mistake that I made (twice) and a mistake that I think is really common, is buying a boot that is comfortably snug in the shop without realizing how much the liner will compress.

Others have said the same things, but please consider the following:
  • Buy boots wearing really thin socks, like dress socks.
  • Expect properly fitting boots to be uncomfortably snug in the shop. You should feel uniform pressure, but no sharp pains. The liner will compress significantly with time.
  • A key point is to make sure that your heel is secure and doesn't tend to lift up.
  • Your toes can touch the end of the boot if they slide back when you flex forward.
  • Remember that boots can be made bigger if you have a "hot spot", but making a big boot smaller is next to impossible.
  • Your boots will NEVER AGAIN feel as small as they do on the day you buy them.
Good luck!
  • Almost no one buys boots that are too small.
post #25 of 26
Thread Starter 
Great advice, all. I'm going to World Cup tomorrow afternoon to talk to the bootfitter in person. I'm excited.

Mike -- Hillberg is having a major liquidation sale on all their ski boots this Saturday. Apparently they're not stocking skis or boots anymore and want to clear out their inventory before the season starts. My job at Hillberg today was to sort the boots out. Looks like they have a decent selection of 26.0-27.5 men's Dalbellos in a handful of models. I need to figure out if Dalbello will be a good fit for my foot; if so there's a chance I could get some significent financial savings from Hillberg if the models offered are good (they appear to be models from inventory at least a year old).

Then again I need to factor in the service that World Cup can offer beyond the sale. I'm hesitant to "screw" World Cup by not buying their product after the help I'm certain they'll give me tomorrow. But I do intend to purchase custom insoles from them and pay them for formal adjustments of any boots I buy... Is that reasonable?

Cheers,
post #26 of 26
For a fee (usually about $50), World Cup will do custom bootfitting on a boot you've bought elsewhere. Something to keep in mind. Adjustments to boots they sell you are included in the price.

The Dalbellos are mostly from last year and a few years past. They are generally mid-volume boots that fit a wide variety of feet. Last year's models are generally lower performance, separated between lower and higher volume shells. I always liked the V-Pros and V-10s for an advanced freeskiing boot.

With Allen no longer working at Hillberg, there are no good bootfitters working there. I usually spend a lot of time there early in the season helping out. I don't know if I'll be there on Saturday, since I'm working nights this weekend. I wanted to stop by the ski swap, so I might spend a couple hours checking things out.

If you buy boots from World Cup, go to the Girdwood shop. They will have boots from past seasons and you'll have more cheap options- although not as cheap as at Hillberg. The tech in Anchorage is good, but the shop is new and they don't have the storage space.
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