Gear Guy

    Photo: Wildsnow.com

Q:

What should I know before getting my ski boots fitted?

Three tips from expert bootfitter Ari Goosen.

A:Ski boots that fit correctly are arguably one of the best ways to improve your performance and comfort on the slopes. Sure, you might have sick skis, but using them with poorly fitted boots is akin to driving a Ferrari with flat tires.

And, much like you'd take a luxury car to the dealer, your best bet for perfectly fitting boots is a specialty ski shop.

True, these types of shops are expensive, but let's face it, pretty much everything about skiing is expensive. If you're going to spend a few grand on a single ski trip, why not spend a little extra dough on the right gear to enjoy that vacation?

No one is more passionate about bootfitting than Vancouver-based Ari Goosen, who works as a consultant for professional athletes and ski shops. Goosen has been in the field for more than two decades, and has fitted members of past and current U.S. and Canadian ski teams. You can find his latest write-up of the season’s best boots in Outside’s Winter Buyer’s Guide.

"You can't control a $1,500 ski if the steering wheel isn't attached correctly," he says in regard to bootfitting. Here are his top-three tips for making sure your boots are dialed:

Research your bootfitter.
"If the bootfitter has been around forever and is still thriving on the boot fitting business, there is a good chance he knows his stuff," Goosen writes via email. At the shop, pay attention to how much action is going on in the boot-specific section of the store. “The boot area should be thriving—the busiest part of the store," Goosen says.

Geography can matter.
Although Goosen maintains that great bootfitting businesses do exist in big cities, your odds of better service go up in mountain towns. Goosen explains this with a river analogy: "You want to buy a kayak next to a river because the person selling it is on the river every day; the guy on the river is so excited about kayaking, that when a new one comes in, he has to get on it." This enthusiasm and familiarity translates into a more informed opinion on the products available.

If [bootfitters] have locations at multiple places that you like to ski, even better," Goosen says. "You will need some minor adjustments to your boots during their lifetime.  Being able to go in straight off the slope is a huge bonus."

Leave preconceived notions at the door.
Multiple times throughout his career, clients have assured Goosen that they want a specific boot from the Outside Buyer's Guide. But sometimes, Goosen thinks the customer doesn’t know best. So he points out that he writes the boot reviews for Outside. At that point, he can usually convince the person to consider another boot.

No matter what boot any media outlet tells you is sexy, you should have a two way conversation with your bootfitter—and be open to them disagreeing with you.

"Trust that your bootfitter is going to find the right boot for you," Goosen says. A specialty store will live or die based on word of mouth (and word spreads fast when you ride a chairlift with a handful of strangers every ten minutes). "They will do everything to make sure you are happy," Goosen says. "It does them no good to sell you the wrong boot."

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