Winter is here! As I write in mid-November, ski resorts are opening their lifts in some areas and people will be taking to the slopes for the first turns of the season. Many will have new kit to try, and will be spending the first day or so getting used to the feeling of new skis or boots. We always encourage people to take it easy in the first day or so, to allow your right style to come back.
One of my ski instructors used to say; “It takes a lot of skill to ski slowly with correct style” (he may have said “Any idiot can ski quickly “ as well). I dare people to try it; make smooth linked turns at just over walking pace and make it look neat. It will really encourage good stance in your boots, and therefore a good balance point on your skis. This means your boots should feel more comfortable, as you will have to be sitting correctly in the boot to get the right movement. Poorly fitting boots can really make this drill difficult, as you will get less feedback from the subtle changes in position you need to make, and often find yourself in the back seat trying to steer (AKA “la toilette turner”).
A good fit means you can be comfortably supported as you flex forward without having to crank any buckles too tightly. In an ideal fit, one or two fingers should be able to shut the top buckles and never need more than one on the lower ones. Getting the right size and shape is the aim of the boot fitter, and better a well-fitting lower performance boot than an expensive boot with fit compromises. In fact, an overly stiff boot can put you in the back seat if you are not ‘on it’ enough with your forward stance.
To help with getting the right boot we have put together a broad range of options again this year, with a couple of interesting niches. Rossignol has brought out a new range called ‘Track’, which adds another width option to its freeride range. We are stocking the 110 flex version (£255) which offers a boot designed to accommodate the chunkier foot, but without having to trade off the performance that other wider models often do. For the female foot we have the revised Salomon Access, now called QST Access (£260) in an 80 flex and designed to give a little more space for the higher-volume foot but with enough bite to hold an edge at speed. And at the other end of the foot shape spectrum we have the revised Lange Rx 100LV which gives a neat fit with the new super-smooth flexing ‘Dual Core shell’.
Fitting boots may be the major battle for some, but some face challenges elsewhere in their pursuit of ski happiness. At the other end of the body, there can also be a challenge for some to get a good helmet and goggle fit. Heads come in all shapes and sizes, and to achieve the comfort and protection of a good helmet/goggle combo it can be worth spending a little time trying various options.
The temptation is to buy the option matching the outfit, or favourite colour (we all do it!) but that may be a costly mistake if you start to get a tight point on the head, or are unable to breath well, because the helmet has pushed the goggle too low on the bridge of your nose. I bought some goggles that fitted me really well a number of years ago, and I will not be parted from them. They were not the cheapest, but I rarely want to use my sunglasses, as I find them so comfortable and they never fog up.
If you do find you always ‘fog up’ no matter what, and that puts you off goggles, take a look at the Julbo Airflux (£105). Its hinged lens means you can open the windows when working hard and then batten down the hatches when the weather hits. You might want to team this with the Julbo Freetourer helmet, especially if you want a helmet for ski touring and mountaineering, as it is rated for both.
So, as a conclusion, spend some time thinking about fit before you go.