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Boot fit vs Technique

SkiSci

Certified Ski Diva
#1
I finally bought boots and skis this year after renting for ages. Perhaps naively, I thought that any boots would be better than the random rentals. I was very excited about the new gear, but I've felt completely out of kilter a lot this season, much more so than last year. I'm wondering just how much of a difference boot fitting can make- or if it is just my skiing ability. My skiing is slowly getting better as I think more about getting my weight forward. I used to be a ballet dancer in a previous life and have a hard time leaning forward. I also have to fight that bit of free fall fear when I get off the edges in the middle of the turn. On groomed slopes I do better and can move more smoothly from ski to ski. Our local hill is cruddy because they are straggling to keep snow on it. I am completely thrown off moving through crud to ice to heaps of meltier stuff.
My feet do feel a bit loose in the bottom of the boot. I found that thinking about keeping my whole foot pressed down helps. I tend to grip my toes and let my heel come up (more remnants from ballet- always on the balls of the feet). Lifting my toes up periodically to get my weight forward also helps.
I am wondering if my boots just don't fit properly. My husband says I am blaming my problems skiing on the gear when my technique is really the issue. He is at least partly, if not completely, right. But, I am wondering how much so. The nearest reputable boot fitter is nearly 2 h away. Our local store is willing to work with me on inserts, but they really aren't the best boot fitters. Is it worth taking a day and a lot of driving to visit the boot fitter? I've heard that he adjusts canting, etc. How long does boot fitting take? If it is worth it, is it something I could do when we go to a larger ski area over spring break without losing too much time skiing? I am also perfectly willing to accept that I need to work on technique and not worry about the gear.
 

litterbug

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#2
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but if you have room below or around your feet, the boots are probably too big. The only way to find out is to go to a good experienced and devoted boot fitter. If I'm right, there's really no way to make a big boot fit, so let's cross our fingers. The good news is that if they're too big you can tell your husband he's wrong, because boots that move on your feet won't communicate your movements to your skis, and that's what boots are for.

As for whether it's worth it: Yes. Absolutely. No bout adoubt it. Get custom insoles and have the liners molded to your feet while you're at it; you won't be sorry. I'd find out whether the 'reputable' guy 2 hours away is good; perhaps a Diva knows of a good boot fitter near you. Let us know where you're skiing on spring break, too. Boot fitting can take a few hours, but once the initial fit is done you can ski and then go back for tweaks, which usually don't take long.
 

SkiSci

Certified Ski Diva
#3
My son just joined the local ski team this year and several of the parents, including someone who used to be a serious racer, recommended Mountainside in Mechanicsburg PA. On their web site under boot fitting, it says that they do custom footbeds, cuff adjustment, and canting. We are not sure where we are going for spring break, perhaps to the Diva East gathering at Whiteface. If not there, then probably somewhere in Vermont.
I got the boots on sale last spring and they felt good at the time... It may end up costing me more in the long run, if I end up ditching the boots. But, if I get boots to last for years, it is worth it.
 

maggie198

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#4
I too am concerned that they're too big because: your foot feels loose; your heel comes up; more crud = more foot movement (ask me how I know this one!). A boot that is too big won't allow your movements to be conveyed to your ski.
 

SkiSci

Certified Ski Diva
#5
After reading more about how boots should fit and boot fitting in these forums, I do think that my boots might be too big. Ugh. I wish I had found Ski Diva before I bought the boots. I think I might try to sneak out of work and see what the boot fitter has to say.
 

contesstant

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#6
I have struggled with poor-fitting boots for years. I have incredibly low-volume (read: narrow) feet and ankles and low instep, etc.

I finally got a good shell fit overall last year in a Salomon Instinct CS in a size 22. I have barely a finger's width behind and not much around my foot at all, and yet with the stock liners, I got slop, especially in the heel.

Yesterday, I went to a really good fitter here in Mammoth and was fitted with Zipfit liners to put into my boots. Today--best day skiing EVER. My heels were locked down tight but never hurt. When I put pressure on my big toe to make a turn, my heel didn't lift up and therefore I stayed in great contact with the skis. It was fantastic. I finally started letting loose a lot more on some of the steep-ish terrain and was so proud of myself!

I still suck on hard pack. :D That's just me--I'm working on it and am taking a lesson tomorrow.

Anyway, I am a firm believer that YES, boots absolutely have a HUGE impact!
 

Christy

Angel Diva
#7
My husband says I am blaming my problems skiing on the gear when my technique is really the issue.
This attitude drives me nuts. I struggled with boots and skis that weren't right for me when I was learning and I was told--by instructors!-that gear doesn't matter. Funny, once I got into boots and skis that were more appropriate for me my whole world changed.

How long does boot fitting take? If it is worth it, is it something I could do when we go to a larger ski area over spring break without losing too much time skiing?
Whatever time it takes, it's worth it. You might have to do multiple visits. My guy starts with an hour session, and he can do a lot in an hour. In fact, my last pair, which fit really well to begin with, he did everything in an hour. But if your boots are too big, I don't think they can do anything. You can consult with them about what kind of boots you should be in, though. You should be able to sell your current boots if they're in decent shape.
 

AliceH

<span style="color:#F89F07";">Angel Diva</span>
#8
Speaking from recent experience, I prefer a good boot-fitter somewhere where I can immediately go ski and make sure that what was done worked. I had some boot work done last week by a shop that is closer to where I live than where I usually ski. I went out to ski Saturday (at a ski area I'd never been, that doesn't have bootfitting services on site) and had to stop after an hour because of horrible arch pain in one foot. It killed the day, and I had to drive all the way back into town to get my boot fixed. I drove back out Sunday to ski and, although the problem causing the arch pain was solved, my boot still wasn't right - but Sunday I went to where I usually ski, where they have bootfitters, and we were able to do corrections where an adjustment was made, I'd go ski some to see how it felt, and come back for more adjustments. Overall I think we spent a couple of hours, maybe three, some of which involved undoing the work that the previous bootfitter had done that was causing the problems.

It's not as expensive as you'd think, either - I got really awesome footbeds (I went with the high-end ones), fitting, and alignment that made huge wonders in how I ski and how my boots feel for about $165. (I spend quite a bit in their sport shop anyway, so it's possible they didn't charge me some of the hourly rate - but I wouldn't think it would be too much more expensive unless you're going to a super-premium shop.)

Unless your husband really knows ski gear, I wouldn't take his word on it being technique rather than gear. Properly adjusted boots can make a world of difference, from making it so you can manage your edges more easily to keeping your skis from crossing to keeping you out of the backseat. The wrong level of skis can keep you from progressing because they're taking you for a ride (somewhere around here is a thread about that - it took me a year of not knowing why I couldn't ski more than a bunny slope, despite skiing every weekend, before someone pointed out to me that my skis were too advanced for my level. I got into some beginner skis, and a year later I'm on good intermediate skis and can ski middle-range blues and handle bumps and small moguls and am considering moving up my skis again.)

If you really have a question about it, ask the head of the ski school at your home ski area to hook you up in a lesson with someone who really knows gear - I took a lesson a couple weekends ago and the instructor pointed out that I was overpronating and was going to have a hard time advancing until I got that corrected in my boots, I got that corrected and, although I haven't had a huge amount of time to test it out, it does already seem like I'm skiing with less effort. And that was the first time I had an instructor point out a gear problem, despite having taken lots of lessons.

Can you choose your spring break destination based on proximity to a good bootfitter? That really does sound like an ideal time to get a fitting done, so you're not trying to make sure you've fully tested your boots and end up mistaking end-of-day fatigue or strain for a poor fit.
 

SkiSci

Certified Ski Diva
#9
Alice H. and all, thanks for your advice. I will definitely check into boot fitters when we decide where to go. I'm thinking we may do a last minute trip depending on where the snow is.

It is a royal pain that the local ski place doesn't know much about boots. I am torn between going to the place that's 1.5 h away and having it done near a resort. If I do it in PA I would have a somewhat local contact, especially if I need new boots. The local ski hill is 5 min from my house so it would be relatively easy to try them out (assuming they can keep some snow on the slope), just a trek to go back for adjustments.

I am going to try to make it to a women's clinic at the hill near me this weekend and will talk to the instructor. The last time I went to the clinic, I was the only skier and ended up with a private 1.5h lesson for $15!
 

vetski

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#10
Is it worth taking a day and a lot of driving to visit the boot fitter?
One word: Abso-freakin-lutely. Only thing you may regret is not having done it sooner :smile:.
Listen, don't feel too bad. I also bought way-to-big boots before finding Ski Diva and was in denial about it for a short period of time! We won't even talk about all my other inappropriate gear. :embarrassed: But your boots are such a huge, HUGE deal. I think they are the second most important piece of equipment, next to your helmet. But even boots that *fit* can be improved by a good bootfitter. Mine fit, but needed some tweaking. Now I am in love with my boots.
 

Kano

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#11
a note about buying boots when you're out of town ---

I was at my boot fitter's yesterday, for a minor tweak on my amazing brand new boots. When I walked in, "my guy" was busy with a young couple from out of town. "My other guy" was also busy, with a gentleman considering replacing some rear-entry style boots. As I waited my turn, I heard the young man (who was holding the very small baby) mention it had been about fifteen years since his last boot purchase. There had been talk of custom foot beds, and I sensed sticker shock. I'm guessing there was sticker shock on the other side of the bench too, for the older man.

We must remember that our boot fitters are in the business of selling boots. Other ski stuff too. It's how they keep their doors open and feed their children, and yet, even in this horrible retail season, here's my guy, as he's trying boots on this young woman, explaining that since she's from out of town, she may be better served by buying her boots closer to home if she can locate a good bootfitter there. Not that he didn't want to sell her boots or couldn't fit her, but when, as in my case, a little post-purchase service is in order, it's nice to be able to deal with it without an eight hour drive (each way) or waiting for the next ski trip. He talked about having customers who were just CERTAIN they HAD to go to the boot shops at the big-name resort a couple of hundred miles away because in a famous place like that, they had to be good, eh? They ended up bringing their boots in to be re-fitted, because in resort areas like that, the focus is different. They're not necessarily going to see that customer again.

On the other hand, local boot guy, one gets a relationship going -- I've purchased my second pair from this gentleman, have had my husband purchase boots from him, he knows what I want to be able to do on the mountain, and what's going to give me that fun!

The woman did not leave with a pair of boots, she could be back, who knows -- but he was really cool with teaching her what to be looking for in her next pair of boots.

My tweak -- once I got a turn with one of the guys -- was minor. I was done in about five minutes! Then, dude and I had a few minutes of fun chatting about snowboarding, and how some days, it's a really good thing to have the skis along when going snowboarding, because when it's crusty, and you're learning, snowboarding hurts!
 

litterbug

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#12
They ended up bringing their boots in to be re-fitted, because in resort areas like that, the focus is different. They're not necessarily going to see that customer again.
Good point. I wonder if that's been a little bit of my issue at my bootfitters' (now plural!) shop. I do know that most of their business isn't local. They never even mention that I might want to talk with the same guy when I come in or want to know what's been done so far.

Back to the original topic: on Sunday, after remolding the liner with a toe cap which improved the room at the sides of my toes, I felt a lot more confident. I'd already been skiing faster but was nervous about falling. Now I still freeze up sometimes because my old fear of catching an edge would intrude, but I felt more in control and balanced. And this was after a 4 week layoff with an injured shoulder, where I lost some conditioning for the first 2 1/2 weeks resting the arm (and thus the rest of my body). I can't wait until I work out the other issues to see what else will happen!
 

VickiK

Angel Diva
#13
Hi, it sounds like the OP issue is resolved or on the way to being resolved, but earlier this morning I read a thread on Epicski and lo & behold it is relevant to this very topic. On Epicski, the thread is called "Burning Quads.... Training problem, or binding/boot related?" Here's the link: http://www.epicski.com/t/105219/burning-quads-training-problem-or-binding-boot-related

Really good advice (I think). I even copied & pasted sections into a Word document so I could keep it for my own reference. Bud Heishman posts his opinion. He is one of the top bootfitters around, per some ski mag. In December I bought boots at his shop, not cheap, ouchie. But what an improvement! Like a whole size smaller on the shell, amazing.
 

SkiSci

Certified Ski Diva
#14
VickiK, Thanks for the link to the Epicski thread. I really liked what Heishman had to say. I'm quoting it here because I think it is important - and because there are a few things I don't quite understand.

"he is a perfect example of "skiing the fast line slow" and his intent is to use turning his skis to slow down rather than turn. If we can change his intent for turning to an offensive intent we can change his technique... ski the slow line fast rather than the fast line slow. The intent should be to ski a slow enough line yet ski around that line as fast as possible, when possible so the skis are moving forward more than sideways. His reason to turn should be to go where he wants to go rather than to get his skis scraping across the direction of travel to control his speed. This is a paradigm shift in thinking for many"
post #19 at http://www.epicski.com/t/105219/burning-quads-training-problem-or-binding-boot-related

I totally get the turning to slow down and why that isn't right - I am guilty guilty guilty of this one. What I don't understand is what he means by skiing the slow line fast. Is sounds good. What is the slow line compared to the fast line?
 

VickiK

Angel Diva
#15
I have seen that terminology before (skiing the fast line slow, vice versa) but I am in the same boat--am not sure exactly what he means. That's gonna take a little research, unless someone here can explain. I think it's used in a book that I own, so maybe I can track it down over the next few days. Yeah, I liked that thread a lot, it was worth saving.

The guy who posted the question originally--it's clear to that he is obviously in good physical shape despite the posters who nattered on about doing squats and walking backwards on the threadmill (not that there's no value in those suggestions, I'm not questioning that) plus he's got the vigor of youth on his side (looking at him from the other side of 50). But his question is so relevant to me. :smile:
 
#16

volklgirl

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#17
Skiing the slow line fast = using the shape of your turns and changes in terrain to control your speed. There no specific braking movements in skiing the slow line fast.

Skiing the fast line slow = scrubbing speed by using braking turns while maintaining a more direct route down the hill. This is all about braking movements.

You can easily cognize the difference between the 2 by watching skiers from the chair lift. You'll see the racer types making clean, round turns at very high speeds while still maintaining total control of speed and direction (skiing the slow line) and they'll appear to "flow" smoothly down the hill, not always in a direct line. You'll also see the recreational types skidding and sliding, making "z" shaped turns, trying to control their speed using abrupt braking movements while still basically headed straight down the hill (skiing the fast line).

It really is a complete change in mental state to make the jump to skiing the slow line fast. You have to really trust your self and your equipment and understand/visualize the changes in terrain and snow conditions that are your friends.
 

whitewater girl

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#18
This attitude drives me nuts. I struggled with boots and skis that weren't right for me when I was learning and I was told--by instructors!-that gear doesn't matter. Funny, once I got into boots and skis that were more appropriate for me my whole world changed.
same here...for years! Once I got into boot that fit (well, sort of fit - but sort of was enough!), suddenly I could ski. (then my boots packed out after one season, and it took me another two before I realized it was again the "boots-not-me", I've been so indoctrinated :doh: ...currently shopping for new boots....and boot fitter....)
 

SkiBam

Angel Diva
#19
Skiing the slow line fast = using the shape of your turns and changes in terrain to control your speed. There no specific braking movements in skiing the slow line fast.

Skiing the fast line slow = scrubbing speed by using braking turns while maintaining a more direct route down the hill. This is all about braking movements.

You can easily cognize the difference between the 2 by watching skiers from the chair lift. You'll see the racer types making clean, round turns at very high speeds while still maintaining total control of speed and direction (skiing the slow line) and they'll appear to "flow" smoothly down the hill, not always in a direct line. You'll also see the recreational types skidding and sliding, making "z" shaped turns, trying to control their speed using abrupt braking movements while still basically headed straight down the hill (skiing the fast line).
I've read this stuff about skiing the slow line fast and while I can understand the concept when you're on flatter terrain, it's not really clear to me how it applies on the steeps.

I've been in a couple of instructor clinics recently where we spent time on speed control. I can carve well on lots of terrain, but on a very steep run, I sure wouldn't want to be just carving – no speed control there (I'm not a racer!).

What we focused on was more or less gliding through the top of the turn, increasing pressure and edging at the bottom, then releasing into the next turn. Way more steering than carving in this case. We weren't "braking" (though there are times you want to brake!) and our turn shape was supposed to be round, not "z" shaped. I'm curious if this approach would be considered skiing the slow line fast – or vice versa.
 

litterbug

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#20
Bob Barnes posted some great explanations of the slow-line-fast concept on the instruction forum on epicski. My memory--which is full of holes and things I make up--is that part of it is using a flattened ski--whether you call it smearing or slarving or whatever--to eat up some speed. Turns always slow you down, no matter whether they're carved or not, and edge control to use smearing while completing your turns is key.

This is not skidding!! Fast-line-slow refers to skiing straight down the fall line and controlling speed by throwing your tails out in a short braking skid. Slow-line-fast is about using turns to control speed. You start by completing turns to control speed after crossing the fall line, until you're going a little uphill if necessary. As you learn edge control, you can use a flatter ski to slarve your turns so you don't have to turn level or uphill. And as you become more confident going faster, you carve more and more of each turn because you don't need to scrub speed like me, who's still paranoid about catching an edge.

I've been trying to practice this, but it requires slightly better skills than I have to smear less of my turn on narrow runs or in traffic.

In an interview a few weeks ago, Ted Ligety talked about a good slalom performance and pointed out a turn he'd slarved after going over a roller in order to scrub enough speed to make the next gates. In the replay you could see that the turn wasn't carved and that he'd had to flatten the ski in order to take a break from carving.
 

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