Though he looks like a young man, our guy Pascal Pallatin (known as “Jo” around Salomon) has been working on ski boots since before there were chairlifts…not really, but almost. Jo is Salomon’s Advanced Project Manager for Alpine Ski Boots. (He’s also a bit of an expert on wine.) Anyway, we asked him to unload all the advice and knowledge he has about ski boots to help you, our loyal followers, understand what to look for when you search for new boots. Choose the video topic you’re interested in, or watch them all. Next time, we’ll ask Jo to include his favorite wines.
SKI BOOTS…THEN AND NOW
If you are young skier, consider yourself lucky to be shopping for ski boots in this day and age. Over the years, the weight of ski boots has been reduced by half and the comfort has increased threefold. Twenty years ago, ski boots were heavy and hard to flex. Today they are more anatomically designed and respect the position of the skier’s foot and leg. Older boots, like the red one in the first video were almost straight. Today, boots like the blue one, have a much more anatomical construction. Visually, the difference may not be very obvious. They are both multi-buckle boots made of plastic, but inside everything has changed—the shape and the material.
THE ART OF BOOT-FITTING
Boot-fitting is mainly about customizing the boot around the skier’s foot. We have two methods to do this. The easiest one is accessible in shops, when you buy the boot. The basic boot-fitting steps might involve heating the liner to fit your foo, using custom footbeds, using the spacer to make the boot tighter or looser, moving a buckle or buckle catch using a screwdriver or using the spare parts in the box. The other, more professional level of boot-fitting you can find in specialized shops and requires dedicated tools. In our boot-fitting workshop we have a wide selection of tools, much like a specialty shop. To make adjustments to the boot, we start by heating the plastic of the shell and then modifying the shape in specific areas where the skier has painful zones. We can also remove plastic if we need to. These finer details are the best that boot-fitting has to offer.
DETERMINE YOUR SIZE
The first and foremost tip I could give is to know your size. When you flex forward at the ankle, the heel should stay stuck to the bottom of the boot. You should feel how the rear part of the boot is holding your heel down. You should also be able to move your toes. That’s important both for comfort and warmth. But you should feel how snug the boot is holding your feet laterally. Choosing one size bigger is a bad idea. This may feel good at the beginning, but it will quickly get worse. After a dozen days of skiing, the liner will fit your foot, and you will need to tighten it, which could generate painful pressure points.
CHOOSING YOUR BOOT FLEX
The Flex Index is an important element in your choice of boot. Flex means the rigidity of the boot, and it’s often written on the boot. More than just the rigidity, the boot flex often defines your ski level. An important thing to know is that flex doesn’t have a norm, so it can vary from one brand to another and even between systems within the same brand. Flex ranges from 60 or 70 for the juniors to 100 for beginners to advanced skiers. A 100 to 130 flex index is for high-performance skiers. In racing, the flex can go up to 140 or 150, which is extremely stiff.
At Salomon, we have made a number of revolutionary boots in the fast-growing ski-touring category. A touring skier requires mobility to go up the hill, so the boot must have a Walk mode to free the ankle. To make walking easier, you also have a rubber grip sole. A walk/ski mode lever allows you to unlock the upper part and free its movement forward and backward. Everything I said earlier about the sizing and the fit of a boot applies to touring boots as well.
TAKING CARE OF YOUR BOOTS
A ski boot is an investment. It’s also fragile, so to keep your boots for a long time, here are a few pieces of advice:
Get rid of the humidity inside the boot after you ski. Whatever the weather, you’ll always get humidity inside.
After a day of skiing, take the liner off. To take the liner out of the shell, face the boot, grab the liner with one hand, push on the boot with the other, and pull… it’s that easy. To put the liner back in the shell, hold the heel of the liner and the shell of the boot, pinch the liner a bit, and slide it in. (The video above will show you how to do this.)
Remember, humidity, in the long run, will enter the fabric of the liner and age it quicker so drying the boots after using them goes a long way to preserving them.