It's about time to start getting geared up for what we promise is going to be an amazing winter (we just feel it in our bones!). With that goal in mind, we went out and found one of the top ski boot-fitters in the state. Veteran ski instructor, boot-fitter extraordinaire, and all-around great guy, Doug Stewart is the ideal person to help get you started from the ground up. Here he gives Vermont.com the inside scoop on how to get the ski boot fit of your dreams.
From December to March, as a boot-fitter and ski instructor, I spend just about every day working with skiers to maximize their skiing fun on the hill. And from the first-time skier, to seasoned professionals, I am always amazed at how many people suffer from ill-fitting ski boots. Nothing ruins the sport of skiing quite like a painful boot! While boots on their own are rarely bad boots, the actual problem is the compatibility between a skier and his/her boots. Connecting a skier with the proper boot is the process of boot fitting, and it is the art of making your skiing experience the best imaginable. A great boot fit is always available, you just need to know what to look for.
‘Please’ in French is s'il vous plaît (often abbreviated S.V.P.) This is the Acronym I use to help people remember the important parts to getting a quality boot fit. S is for size, and is a very important part of the process. During my lessons on the hill, it is amazing how often I find a skier who is in a boot one or two sizes too big. Many skiers who either “self size” or don’t get true expert advice, keep their toes too far away from the front of the boot, as they would size their street shoe. While this may provide a comfortable fit when the boot is brand new, as the boot breaks-in, this room is amplified and a poor fitting boot is the result. Your toes will usually touch the front of a properly sized boot a little when you are standing tall, and will have some room when you are in a flexed, athletic stance. A good boot-fitter will usually start by measuring both feet on a Brannock device, and will also put your foot in the shell, without the liner to assess the proper shell size. Being in the correct shell size is the foundation of a good boot fit.
The V in S.V.P. stands for Volume. Ski boots are commonly grouped by width (also referred to as last), and this is a crucial consideration in the fitting process. Roughly speaking, boots are narrow, medium or wide. Most brands of boots will make models in all three lasts. It’s important to measure the width of your foot, and work with a boot that is the proper width. In addition to the general width of your foot, it’s important to determine where the volume is on your foot and ankle. Perhaps your heel is narrow, but the front of you foot is wide. It is up to a good boot-fitter to know the shapes of the boots they sell, and to match the foot and boot accordingly. Having the correct volume in your boot is going to make your skiing days much more comfortable, and is the standard for a solid boot fit.
The final, and most involved component to a professional boot fit is the P from S.V.P, and that stands for Performance. This is where you really have to understand the mechanics of good modern skiing, in order for the boot to get the job done on the hill. A good boot-fitter will select the proper boot stiffness and stance adjustments to make sure you are in the proper position for your body to make the moves you want to make for the type of skiing you like to do. This is the step that can be covered about 90% of the time in the shop, but may sometimes require some feedback from actually skiing in the boot, to get it 100% right. This is also the step where some boot-fitters can truly shine, and take your skiing to the next level.
So, make this your best season yet by working with a professional to maximize your time and money and make sure your boot fit is right on. All you have to do is say “s'il vous plaît”!
You can find Doug helping folks get the ski boot fit they desperately need at The Skirack in Burlington. Located at 85 Main St. Burlington, VT - The Skirack is open Monday - Friday from 10AM - 7PM, Saturday from 10AM - 6PM, and Sunday from 11AM - 5PM. Stop in and gear up - your feet will thank you.