These boots are made for snowsports |

These boots are made for snowsports

Sam Bauman
For the Nevada Appeal
Cathleen Allison/Nevada Appeal

Last week we got skis and boards ready for the snowsporting, but that’s only part of the job. Ski boots and, to a lesser degree snowboard boots, also need prepping.

For soft snowboard boots there’s not a lot you can do other than making sure the laces are good and that there aren’t any rips or tears in the riding footwear. If you ride in hard boots, read on.

Ski boots are another task, however. Boots are probably your most important ski gear; if they don’t fit correctly skiing is less than a joy.

Boot fitting can be complex, or dirt simple, depending on how far you want to go. For the casual recreational skier taking the blue runs and avoiding bumps and power, what you’ve been comfortable with should work. You do need to inspect toes and heels for wear. When those sections get worn down, the safety release bindings may not do their job. Most boots have replaceable toe and heel sections that can be swapped out using a Phillips screwdriver.

When you take skis in for a binding safety check, the techie will warn you if the wear is unsafe. That’s about all you need to worry about if the boots were comfy and warm last season.

New boots are a complicated buy. Traditionally, after determining your skiing level, aspirations and fitting you with a boot, a boot seller will ask, “Can you wiggle your toes?” An important question. If you can’t wiggle, your feet will get cold and the boot will be uncomfortable. In the past the solution was to go to a size larger, but that may not work. Many bootfitters these days will suggest first trying a smaller size. The first boot may have been so big that the buckles had to be over-tightened, forcing the foot forward. A smaller boot will work because the buckling with hold the foot back and allow wiggle room.

As with skis, today’s boot manufacturers are good; bad boots don’t last in the showrooms. So brand is a personal choice. Fit is paramount, and when trying on boots be sure to wear ski socks. The old days of taking whatever was in the locker are over. Today’s ski specific socks do a fine job of keeping your feet warmer and make getting in and out of boots easier. Experienced skiers know that thick, heavy wool socks are not for Alpine skiers, nor is tucking in the ski pants of skins a good idea.

Be sure and take a few steps in new boots; if they hurt forget them.

If you have special foot problems, as I have, make sure to discuss them with the bootfitter. In my case I’ve had a cyst on my left ankle for years; it protrudes about 3/4 of a inch. When I bought my last pair of boots from Peter (pronounced Pater) at Heavenly’s Cal Base, he put me in a pair of Rossignol women’s boots because of my narrow foot; then he had to blow out the left boot side for my cyst.

Whatever you do if you’re buying new boots, fess up to the bootfitter what kind of a skier you really are. Don’t pose as a racer if you’re not. If you do, you’ll get boots so stiff and tight you won’t be able to spend a day on the hill in them. And don’t plan to grow into boots by improving your skiing. Improve your skiing then get a boot that’s appropriate. I remember when I was selling boots in Chicago how the macho guys would come in and demand the toughest race boot we had. Didn’t matter that they would never run gates; they thought there was magic in a racing boot.

I always buckle my boots after a day on the hill; I’m not sure but I think that helps them hold their shape.

A nice add for any new ski boot is a footbed, something that is molded to your foot and will help you control your turns. I’ve used the same pair for years and they work well even in the new boot. Skip the mass produced ones, get a bootfitter to make them for you.

If you’re renting boots, good luck. I’ve never had much luck doing so. It’s easier to ski on a poor ski with a good boot then vice versa. Beginners struggle through on poorly fitted boots. After all, when the rental shop techie is facing 100 anxious customers he rarely has time for a bootfitter’s Q&A.

If you’re serious about upgrading your skiing and gear, by all means find a pro bootfitter. Ask around; they’re out there but they don’t advertise.

Next week we’ll look at the ski situation, from old straight skis to shaped or parabolic to the new and exciting Rocker skis.



With the recent warm spell much of the existing snow has vanished. Looking at Heavenly’s Nevada side from Highway 395, the former white trails are now all brown. Boreal and Mt. Rose are operating under limited conditions, and we haven’t heard from Mammoth this week. Best bet is to check on the Web for your favorite resort and hope.

• Contact Sam at 841-7818 or