By Steve Kopitz
Call me crazy, but I’m a big fan of being warm and comfortable when I’m skiing. This warmth and comfort is especially important to me when it comes to my ski boots. I once heard a ski salesman say, “If your boots fit properly your feet should never get cold.” Since you can’t hear me scoffing with sarcastic laughter, let me just say that this statement is a bunch of bunk in my book. With over four decades of skiing experience under my belt I can attest that even if your boots fit great, they will still get cold. I have this problem almost every time the temperature drops below 30 degrees, which is usually every time I go skiing. If my word isn’t enough for you, I can point you in the direction of other people that I know who experience the same problem. I guess what I would tell this salesman if I ever ran into him is that some people just don’t have great circulation, so regardless of whether the boots are the perfect fit; your feet can still get cold.
If you are like me and you have this same issue, here are few tips to help you keep your feet warm and toasty.
1.) Sock Material: Skiing requires a good, quality ski sock. When I say good and quality, I do not mean a cotton sock. Never, and I cannot stress this enough, never wear cotton socks when you are skiing. Cotton socks will absorb moisture and it will hold that moisture right next to your skin, creating the perfect setting for cold feet. When you ski your feet sweat, therefore you will need a sock that can pull, or wick the moisture away from your skin. Socks that are made specifically for skiing are typically made from materials such as wool, or other synthetic materials like polypropylene. Also, not only are wool or synthetic material socks better at wicking moisture away, they are also much warmer on average than cotton.
2.) Sock Thickness: Contrary to popular belief, thicker socks are not necessarily better. For starters, you want to avoid purchasing ski boots that are sized for you to wear thick socks. If you do this, and opt to wear a thinner pair of socks, you will be in for an unpleasant experience. The extra room that is necessary for the thicker socks will create lots of padding, or mush, in your boot that will compress as the day wears on. This compression will cause your boots to become too loose, creating the perfect environment for cold feet. A good pair of thin or medium weight ski socks is best. Of course if you’ve already purchased a pair of boots sized for thicker socks, you will have to wear your thicker socks.
3.) Sock Liner: Another option that you have is to wear a very thin sock liner that is made for the specific purpose of wicking moisture away. Add an additional pair of good, thin ski socks over the liner. This system of two thin layers will always prove to be much warmer than one thick layer.
4.) Disposable Boot Warmers: If you’re familiar with hand warmers, then disposable boot warmers will be very familiar to you. Disposable boot warmers are little packages that will heat up when opened and exposed to air. Boot warmers are available in two types, the most common is sized smaller than the hand warmer version and also has an adhesive backing so that you can stick it to the bottom of your sock towards the front of your boot.
The second type is shaped like a footbed and is inserted in the bottom of your boot prior to putting your feet in (see right). This style is more comfortable, but it should be noted that is also more expensive. Both are great options if you only get cold feet on rare occasions.
5.) Boot Heaters: If the old saying, “the greatest thing since sliced bread” applied to anything, it would be boot heaters. These nifty little gadgets are battery-powered heaters that can be installed in any ski boot. There are two brands of boot heaters on the market, one made by Thermic and another made by Hotronics. Both models work equally well and each comes with a set of rechargeable batteries that you clip on your boots. A wire then runs down inside of your boots between the shell and the liner to the warming disk that goes into the front of your ski boots inside the liner under your foot. You will need to make a small incision in the bottom of your liner to insert the wire, which isn’t a big deal at all.
The batteries will have multiple settings that will allow you to easily control the amount of heat you want your warmers to emit. The batteries will last all day, and may last up to 2 days between charges depending on the setting you choose.
Both my wife and I have these heaters in our ski boots and couldn’t imagine skiing without them. Our feet are never cold even on the coldest days of the winter. As I mentioned in the opening, there is nothing worse than skiing with cold, numb feet. An additional great feature of boot heaters is that they can be easily transferred from one pair of boots to another. If you get new ski boots you can just take your boot heaters off of your old pair and set them up on your new pair. Or if you want to attach them to a pair of regular outdoor boots, you can do that as well. I did this numerous times when my son was ski racing and I was often standing out on the slopes for up to 8 hours. The cold temperatures would come up through the bottom of my after ski boots and make for some miserable days.
6.) Boot Dryers: One reason why some people get cold feet is that they do not properly dry their liners after each day of skiing. They will ski all day one day and then go out again the next day with moist liners. I was told at one point in my life that your feet can sweat up to a cup of water in a single day of skiing. This may or may not be true, but why take the chance of not fully drying your liners. Drying your liners can be accomplished a couple of ways:
• Remove your liners from the shells after skiing each day and set them near a heating vent or other place with good air flow. DO NOT set them by the fire, as this will melt the liner. Trust me on this one; I have seen this happen on many occasions.
• Purchase a set of boot warmer/dryers. These are small heaters that you plug into the wall and place inside your ski boots at the end of the day. They will lightly heat the inside of the liners and help to evaporate the moisture that is trapped inside.
• Air powered boot dryers are the deluxe way to deal with moist boot liner problems. This device is similar to a hair dryer as it circulates warm, dry air with a fan. This process pulls out all the moisture and makes your liners usable for skiing again. Some of these also double as glove dryers to solve the same moisture issues with your gloves.
I hope that one or more, if not all of these tips are helpful to you. I am a big fan of comfort when skiing. It is what I love to do and I don’t think the “No Pain, No Gain” mantra should apply, as that stuff isn’t for me. If you have additional ideas for keeping your feet warm, I encourage you to comment on this article and share your ideas with other skiers.