If you only have an hour, first focus on your feet. (Tecnica Skiboots/Facebook)
If you can only carve one hour out of your crazy holiday schedule to get fully outfitted in new gear, how best to spend this precious hour?
Your best chance of success depends on a small amount of preparation. First, try to fit your priceless sixty minutes into a weekday, if you can manage it. Wear your thinnest pair of ski socks and loose-fitting pants that roll up easily. If possible, bring your current boots and skis; if not, bring pictures on your phone. Be prepared to provide a brief summary of your skills and ambitions.
Anyone whose opinion is worth repeating will tell you to spend practically all this time on your boot selection and fitting. The best way to expedite this process (and save yourself unnecessary agita) is to immediately put yourself in the hands of a veteran bootfitter. As he (or she) examines your bare feet, recite your concise skiing history and what you want from your next pair of boots. If you have any information you feel the bootfitter should know, such as circulation problems or prior injuries, now is the time to divulge your particulars.
After a brief but illuminating exam of the ankle, arch and overall foot and lower leg shape, a good bootfitter will usually have a first-choice boot he/she has in mind. There may be some lingering doubt as to the best flex index for a given model, but this issue is usually settled, one way or the other, by the first boot you try on.
The faster you and the bootfitter can select the ideal model, size, flex and volume, the more time the latter has to dial in an optimal fit. This can be as simple as heating the liner for a few minutes and wearing the boots for another ten minutes. Assuming expeditious model selection, there's even enough time to heat-mold the shell, if need be.
The time spent heating boot components is le bon moment for narrowing a wildly diverse ski market down to one perfect ski. In a guided interview with your bootfitter you reveal that you consider yourself advanced to expert; have a season pass and plan to ski 40 days this season (although you'll do well to get in 25); love fresh snow but rarely get it and indulge in a one-week western vacation every year.
Your bootfitter has two follow-up questions to help winnow the field: what ski are we replacing, and how would you describe your stance: feet fairly close together and under your hips, or wider, with your feet extended away from your body?
Your answers will provide your bootfitter cum ski-selection guide with all the background information he/she needs to steer you to the right ski. In our case study, the ski advisor will suggest 3 different All-Mountain East models (85mm-94mm underfoot), each with a slightly different personality but all capable of skiing comfortably in any terrain. Our skier's traditional, narrow stance will be more comfortable than on a wider ski, while providing more than adequate flotation in knee-deep powder.
The only contingency unaccounted for by this selection is a whopper of a storm that leaves behind a blanket of bottomless. In this instance, count your lucky stars and demo a fatso of a powder ski for your one day in heaven.
With your new boots still cooling on your feet and your new skis in hand, it's time to pick a binding and fill out a shop ticket, two tasks best left to your bootfitter/salesperson. When asked when you hope to retrieve your mounted system, realize that "today" isn't an answer easily accommodated. If you need your new rig ASAP, be prepared to turn your charm meter up to full blast.
Before you sprint to the register, consider adding these experience-enhancing accoutrements to your haul:
- If your bootfitter recommends an aftermarket insole that enhances arch support, buy it.
- Of course you already have poles, but they're as old as the skis you're retiring. Get poles befitting a person of your stature: Leki Trigger S.
- You also have socks, but chances they could stand refreshing, too. Le Bent's merino and bamboo socks are the bomb. If you want to buy American, Farm to Feet makes a great lightweight merino sock made in the U.S. of A.
- If you struggle to get your boots on, struggle no more: Snow Eagle heated boot bags (formerly Hot Gear) get your boots so toasty warm they slip on.
- Snowbird Secrets, A Guide to Big Mountain Skiing will put you in the right frame of mind to enjoy skiing physically, mentally and spiritually. [The Pontiff of Powder shall provide automatic dispensation to anyone who procures Snowbird Secrets online.]
Of course, there's a way to buy anything you might desire in far less than an hour via the Internet. The problem with going this route is it treats boot fitting as a simple matter of sizing, when it entails so much more. The reason we spent almost every minute of our allotted hour on bootfitting is that without the proper stance and support, the skier will work exponentially harder. Simply put, you will suffer in the wrong boot, and so will your skiing.
Even if you only have an hour to spare, there's no reason to endure an improper fit for another minute. All it takes is an hour is change your skiing for the better, forever.