Breaking in the boots

So last year was another hellish Year of The Boots in ski world. I’d skied enough days in my trusty Atomic 80s to pack out the liners. Some people can get away with cruddy footwear but I’m not one of them–for me, boots that are too loose lead to lots of falls and lack of control. But the counter is that I’m hard to fit. I need room in the toe box with a snug heel. That means boots with a last designed for a woman’s foot. Add to that the reality that I wanted to move up a level in responsiveness–that meant a stiffer boot. The 80 in my previous boot’s name reflected a measure of boot stiffness called flex–most beginners ski a 60 or lower flex. I wanted a bit more control.

So I went out to buy a new boot in April. Ski boot buying in April, in my size, sucks. I had a spare pair of boots around the house I tried to make work but they were too big, didn’t fit my arch, hurt my feet horribly and made me trip on the stupidest inclines. A short spell in rental boots in the right size pointed that need out sharply. But when I went shopping around PDX, I literally could only find five pairs of boots in my size, with the requisite stiffness, in the local shops. REI had pulled their stock for the summer and–well, given my foot issues, I’m not about to buy boots online. Nor was I going to forfeit six more weeks of ski season.

Ergo, the Dalbello Electras. I kinda sorta got used to them, but the crappy thing for me in buying boots toward the end of the season is that they usually don’t work well. If my feet are already unhappy in boots, they want to stay unhappy, and while I could feel the potential in the Electras, the reality was that I’d upgraded a level of stiffness in a ski year that already sucked due to packed out boots, a bum hip, and lousy May weather. I packed the boots away for the summer in June, planning to take them into the shop this fall to get some adjustments made to the fit.

I still haven’t done that. Part of my rationale goes back to carefully thinking through the process. The Electra is not only a stiffer boot by level (90), but they were on the stiffer end of a 90. They’re a higher skill level boot, so, instead of merrily pulling them on and going skiing, or hauling them off to the shop, I decided to suck it up and dedicate my Thanksgiving furlough break to breaking in the boots (and acclamating my feet to the dang thing). I look at it as being like a version of breaking in high-quality riding field boots–the more time I spend breaking the boots in and conditioning them, the better fit they’ll have. Rather than try to break them in and ski with them simultaneously, maybe it’s better to spend some time clomping around the house and doing stuff to break them in.

After all, there’s only two feet of snow at Timberline. No precip in sight. It’s close to ski time but not there–and no way am I going up with levels this low. My character Melanie would, but she’s also a hell of a lot better skier than I’ll ever be (and much more obsessed).

Last night I made it to an hour after wrenching the boots on. They came on easily tonight, and I did a light weight workout wearing them and I’m at two hours. One thing I’m figuring out is that perhaps I don’t need the heavier socks I’d started wearing in the Atomics (ulp, perhaps that was a sign of upcoming liner packing out). I’m starting to get the ball of the foot to spread out in the toe box for optimal ski tip control (it’s how I visualize the control) and the heel cup in the liner, while tight on my heels, is about the only dang thing I’ve run into that nails down my wandering heels hard and keeps them from wandering.

This could work.

Hmm. Maybe tomorrow night I’ll move beyond working out and clean tack while wearing ski boots.

Meanwhile, I’m thinking snow in probably one of the few places in the US that isn’t wet and snowy right now….which is unusual for us. And that makes me nervous in various other ways.

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