After striking up a conversation with the folks at Intuition about their new line of liners, they offered to send me a pair to test drive. And while the grass is still green outside my window here on the coast of Maine, I figured I'd give you all a look at them, and share some early thoughts.
Me: 54 years old - 45 years or so on snow, level 9 +/- depending on the day and terrain, recently
transformed from Old School to New School technique (http://www.epicski.com/forum/thread/84855/what-i-did-on-my-summer-vacation-or-where-mainers-go-when-the-snow-goes), current boot - '09 Nordica Doberman Pro 130 (26.5 - street shoe 9.5 US), personal stuff - major chicken shins, small heel, skinny ankle and medium forefoot.
Perhaps I am an unlikely test subject for Intuition liners. I bought a pair two years ago and could not get them to work. They were Power Wraps which I used in a pair of Krypton Pro's. For well over a year I tried to get them to fit without success. The unresolvable problem was that they were too short. They were size 8 - the same as the shells. Nothing worked. I endured 4 or 5 fittings at the shop where I bought them. We tried every top cap they had. Nothing. So in February 2009, when I was at Vail, I took them into Greg Hoffman's shop and one of his guy's put the pneumatic "rack" to it. Still wicked toe crunch. He also took off the rear cuff thinking that might lengthen it for me. Nope.
Finally I gave up. I am sure the Power Wrap is a great product. People love it. But even the best liner, ski or boot is no good if it does not fit.
While I was not in the market for a new shell, I found a great season-end deal at the Ski Depot on the Doberman's. Instant love. One finger shell fit ( like my old Tecnica XT17's, may they rest in peace). Great 98mm in the fore foot. The stock liner was OK but nothing special. So I blew the dust off my 5 year old Doberman leather race liners - the kind that lace up and look like boxing boots. I skied all last year with this set up. And it was great. I got fitted with some Aline foot beds that took the "A frame away and put me in excellent balance.
As the season wore on, and it got colder, so did my feet. The only thing colder than a leather race liner, is a leather race liner that is packed out. Much as I hated to admit it, I had to retire these.
So I went back in the archives to see what people liked. Back to the biggest players - Intuition and Zipfit. General consensus (with acknowledged exceptions) was that Zipfits may have the edge on absolute performance, but Intuition had the edge on warmth. And some felt the plug liners from Intuition were virtually no compromise at all. Frankly, I was not crazy about investing in another pair of Intuitions, no matter the model, if their sizing was the same.
As it happened, a pair of Zipfit Grand Prix's came up on Ebay. They were "well-loved," but they were also a whole lot less than a new pair at $350. They came. I put them on. Heaven. There is just something about a leather liner that I love. And these things fit like a glove on my foot - and like an overstuffed burritto (as steepcreeper put it) in my shells. No way. Not even close. I would have to go up at least a size and a half to get those Zips in a shell. The Gara's or WC's might do it - but I just did not want to spend $350 for a liner that may be as cold as my beloved race liners.
So back on Promotive where Intuition offers a 40% deal to members (unsolicited plug for Epic membership). Some correspondence back and forth with the nice folks at Intuition, and now I have a pair of the new version of their plug liner. And here it is.
Does not look much like the Power Wrap
My old race liner is on the left.
I do not need to dwell on the obvious differences between the v1 Power Wrap and v2 Plug Liner. Wrap vs tongue. Cut higher in back, lower in front. Spiderman motif (unintentional?). What is also immediately apparent is how much less liner volume there is in the same size.
That is quite apparent in the cuff profile and forefoot area. The "wrap" adds even more volume.
Note the narrower heel pocket as well - much more like the race liner.
And these liners were clearly designed for 98mm lasts or less.
Here is how they look in the shell - I like it.
So, first question I had was how they would feel out of the shell. Would they compact my toes like their PW cousins. No problem. I wear Hot Chilis super thin socks, or the like. And with these, my big toe just touches. But unlike the PW's, these new plugs have an elasticized toe box - just what my PW's needed. Out of the shell they do not feel special. I have come to like that blood pressure cuff feeling of the leather race liners. But that is no criticism of the Intuitions which have a different design
So would they even fit in my shells (unlike the PW's and Zipfits). Again, no problem. They slipped right in like they were a stock liner made for that shell.
I buckled them up. They fit pretty well with the same settings as my leather liners, which means plenty of room to loosen and tight. Felt great. Even as I write this I am wearing the boots with the Intuition on one foot and the leather liner on the other. If I did not know it, I would say they were the same liner. Each has excellent heel hold, though the nod goes to the race liner. Not surprising since it has molded to my foot over years. And my foot and the Intuition are new acquaintances. As I am proofing this, I have had the boots on for about 25 minutes, and the fit with the Intuitions is getting more secure - heel is settling in and there is better hold in the forefoot.
Of course I neglected to mention one critical difference between the v1 and v2 liners. The new one requires no heat molding. And right out of the box it feels better than the PW's did after 4 or 5 cooks (lost count). I asked the folks at Intuition if there was any fancy ritual to go through to mold the new ones - nope. Just plug and play, so to say. Because they are foam, I would expect them to mold to the contours of the foot, and fit even better. That seems to be happening - and without the torture of the heat process.
A few final thoughts. The tongue on the new plug is considerably thinner than the one on my race liners. I would say that it has the same thickness as the inner wrap of the v1 PW. There is enough tongue showing on the front to put the Power Wrap around it and cinch - a good thing for those of us cursed with chicken shins. The foam in v2 is considerably more pliable than in the v1 PW. While the foam in the new one is "soft," it is not a cushy fit - not at all. It is a serious close to the shell plug fit. Whether this appeals to you - well, you know who you are. I, for one, love it.
All in all, this liner holds great promise for me. Two things I can will not know is how damp they feel (a frequent observation by PW users) and how warm they will be. They already feel pretty damn toasty compared to my leather race liners. Stay tuned for on-the-snow updates.
Thanks for reading,
Edited by deliberate1 - 11/28/10 at 12:39pm