STEVE: Hello and welcome to another Summit Sports Podcast for Skis.com and Snowboards.com. Each year many of us, or at least some of us, maintain our skis in order to get them into top condition. We sharpen them, we wax them and we make sure they're good to go for another season. We can often tell when our skis are starting to wear a bit and when it might be time to replace them.
But what about ski boots? What do you need to look for to know when it's time to buy new ski boots?
THOM: When you're looking at purchasing a new set of ski boots, what you really want to think about is, is the boot holding you the way a ski boot should? Does it still have that great firm heel hold that allows you to transfer your energy and control your skis well? When that heel pocket starts to breakdown, you really need to consider getting a new set of boots for the control and performance you'd expect.
JULIE: We really look at breakdown of the boot and how old the boot is; not necessarily in terms of when you purchased it but how many days you used the boot. As the liner starts to breakdown you can develop some fit issues.
S: That's Thom and Julie. Both work here at Summit Sports, both have been on the podcast before and both are very knowledgeable when it comes to skiing and ski gear.
J: Yeah, I've been skiing, like I said for, this will be my 25th season on snow, I've been working in the ski industry for the last 7 years as a shop employee and spent 2 years before that teaching lessons which I've continued to do that all the way through. Worked at our premiere retail shop boot-fitting for 3 seasons before I got transferred to work over in the internet division.
T: I've been boot-fitting since I was 14 years old. It's a hobby and a passion of mine and I grew up with some pretty awkward feet so I've learned the ins and outs of boot-fitting as a result.
S: All right guys, how do we know when a boot's breaking down?
J: So, the material the liners are made of is a variety of different foams and similar to a mattress or a couch, the more you sit on it, the more you sleep on it, the more you have your feet in them, that foam material starts to breakdown, it starts to pack out. At first it will be very comfortable but when we start to have too much room in that boot and the liner is too compressed, our feet tend to slide around more inside the boot, that can lead to things like blisters, again, that energy transfer from your body to the skis, that time increases so you won't be able to make turns as sharply or quickly. So, those are some things you may notice when you're skiing.
T: The most obvious signs of wear-and-tear on a boot are going to be on the boot sole. You'll see the edges start to round, the toe and heel start to round up. These are really important signs to pay attention to because that actually determines how safely you're bindings are to release and a really worn down boot sole leads to an unsafe connection between the boot and binding. Depending on your boot, these may be replaceable but the key is to replace them before you've actually worn down the shell as well because once that happens, the boots are no longer safe, no longer good.
S: What about advancing out of your boots? Hopefully as you're skiing you become better at the sport but how do you know when it's time to upgrade your boots to match your skill level?
T: This one's a little bit more challenging, to figure out but there's a couple ways that you can sort of gauge. For younger skiers it's going to be a weight-based thing. As you grow, as you get taller or as you get heavier you absolutely need to move into a stiffer boot. This is something that holds true even with adults. Often we will put larger skiers in more advanced boots to really support their size but form an ability stand point, what you're going to find is that the boot no longer feels responsive. It feels like you're sort of pushing through the front and there's no real stopping point in the flex of the boot. When you find this is happening, you're going to need a more aggressive or stiffer boot.
J: You'll kind of notice in your skiing style in general. Beginners tend to ski in a wedge and as you start to progress in parallel turns and really trying to carve is really when you start to notice a big difference. A lot of the fit of the high end boot or a boot for an advanced or expert skier, is designed for performance so it's a stiffer flexing boot, a little bit narrower generally and that's designed to transfer the energy from your body and movements you're making into the skis so some of the features of the beginner boot basically make it so that energy transfer isn't as quick so if you're trying to learn how to carve and you're trying to get those skis to carve and it's just not happening, it could be time for an equipment upgrade. I buy boots at least every 2 years. Last year I did 100 days on snow so I'm in mine a lot.
S: Okay, not everyone makes it out onto the slopes that many times per year. I'm lucky to get 5, others average around 15-20. How long should our boots last? How many ski days can we get out of them?
T: I try and stick to a 70-80 day rule with my boots. I'm a little bit bigger guy and I'm pretty hard on my equipment so at that point in time, my liners are usually very much broken down. But again, for a simple rule it's really that 100 days. If you're a more aggressive skier or you're a bigger skier like me, again, lean towards the safe side and swap them out about every 80.
If you're one of those guys that doesn't get out super frequently, really every 6-7 years. If you replace the boots you're going to ensure that you're having the best time you can possibly have the entire time you're on the hill rather than worrying about foot pain or foot warmth. The technology in ski boots does progress pretty rapidly and especially from 10 years ago it's made huge changes in how it can map feet so you're going to see enormous differences in how comfortable a modern boot is. You're going to see an enormous difference in terms of the quality of the liners which is a huge impact on how warm your feet will be.
S: There are people who own multiple types of skis, is there a reason to own more than one kind of ski boot?
J: There are. Most people wouldn't need multiple types of ski boots. There are boots that are designed for all-mountain purposes, there are some that are designed for racing, some for freestyle and some with a lot of backcountry characteristics for touring. So, if you're just sticking to recreational all-mountain skiing then no you wouldn't need 2 types of boots.
T: For most people the answer to this is no. One pair of boots, if it's fit right and it's appropriate for your weight, your height and your skill is going to be more than adequate. If you're an absolute gear junkie, you may want to have a set of downhill boots for days that you're doing lift-operated skiing and you may want to have a set of alpine touring boots if you do get on that more adventurous side and want to do some skinning and do some non-lift service skiing.
S: Depending on how frequently you ski, the type of skier you are and how quickly you're progressing will all determine the frequency in which you should be boot shopping. Check out our blogs on skis.com for more information and also check out the vendor videos regarding the latest ski boots on the market. I'd like to thank Thom and Julie for their expertise and thank you for listening to the Summit Sports Podcast for Skis.com and Snowboards.com.