8FF7D874-6AB4-42BE-A93E-4FC85FECDE3C.jpeg
Like any craftsman -- oops, craftsperson -- you can only get better at your job if you are willing to keep an open mind. This is one of the reasons that organizations such as Masterfit have continuing training programs: there is always something to learn. Masterfit has a simple mantra: “Do no harm.” I take it as, “Just because something is correct does not mean it is right.” We need to get a person comfortable in a boot without risking physical damage. A bootfitter can do everything "correctly," yet it still won't be right for that particular skier.

I am a firm believer that the more tools you have in your kit, the better you will be at your craft. I had a recent fit where I knew I would not be successful using traditional methods. I will start with a little background. The client is in her mid-40s and wants to get back into skiing. There is no expectation that she will be doing the cliffs or even a black trail at a most any resort. All she wants to do is ski a few greens and easy blues with her kids and extended family. This person measures a 23.5 on the Brannock and has a vamp of 29 cm; Brannock and vamp measurements should be within one or two max. Her calves are about 45 cm (17.5 in.) at the boot cuff. Obviously, this is a significant circumference; no manufacturer makes a boot that can even remotely accommodate a calf of this size.

B918D84A-A385-490F-9847-60B1CD574DA3.jpeg CC140AE8-C117-4E0D-BC59-F6F6370B2E24.jpeg B49779E4-E72D-4B04-96BA-1A6A38F590D5.jpeg

At this point a bootfitter usually has two options. The boot will require significant modifications, which will involve many hours and probably repeat visits, and therefore will cost money. So who is paying for the time to do this much customization? You can either charge the customer $500 for the boot and lose money in man-hours it takes to modify it, or you can charge the customer a labor rate on top of the purchase to the point that the $500 boot could end up having a comma in the price. You won’t know what your results will be until the client goes out and skis, so either way is a risky and costly undertaking.

Well, I came across a third option. A year or so back, our shop was sent one of those “frames” that allows someone to use a snowboard boot in a ski binding. Yes, unorthodox, but I happened to have access to it, so what the heck. Let's try it.

[Bootfitters, you are welcome to stop reading here and go mock this in the private bootfitting group on Facebook. Or, if you are open-minded and remember the mantra of not doing harm and doing what we can do to keep your customer skiing, keep reading.]

I asked the client what she was willing to do to get out on the hill, she said she was open to pretty much anything. I asked again, “So you have an open mind?” She said “Absolutely.” Since I really had no idea if this would work or not, I went over and grabbed a pair of rental snowboard boots and returned. She immediately said, “No, I am not snowboarding.” I chuckled and said, "I am not asking that; just put these on." She had no problem putting the boots on and lacing them up. I asked how they felt, and she said, “Fine, but I am not snowboarding.” I said I would be right back; I returned with a pair of Envy frames and had her put them on over the boots. We strapped her in and she smiled and said, “I see where you are going with this." I explained the limitations of the design and emphasized that this would not have the connection of a traditional boot, but she realized it might be her only option.

1F49A8AB-BCF5-41AD-A6D0-8CA1652B3250.jpeg D7258E7F-EADF-4185-8641-8AA03A0B8612.jpeg 06FF84AC-000E-405F-A4CC-2DDE7A14DEB8.jpeg

At this point, we set her up in some Burton snowboard boots (which she purchased at this visit). After making some buckle adjustments, we strapped her into the frames again. She said, “I think I can ski in these.” This whole process took maybe 30 min. If I was going to modify a ski boot to get it even near to this comfort, it would have taken hours of work.

Since we didn’t have her size Envy frame in stock, she ordered one from Amazon and came back a week later to get everything fitted. On her return, we fitted the boots into her frames, grabbed some rental skis and poles, and had her click in. At this point I knew we had a winner. She immediately got into an athletic position, showing us that at one point in her life, she had indeed been a skier. She rolled her ankles from side to side, and I could see she was mentally edging the ski. A huge smile came across her face as she knew she was going to be out on the slopes with her family.

A992C2D5-D82B-44EF-B11F-CEEA2A7D6036.jpeg Envy_Snowsports.gif A89D0AB2-7450-465D-AA0F-3D3A2513AF28.jpeg

The total investment was $200 for a snowboard boot and $250 for the frame, so for less than the price of a mid-range boot and about 30 min of time, we have a happy skier.

If you are a bootfitter and are still reading this, thank you for having an open mind. I am not saying that this is a fit for everyone. You might only do one or two of these a year, but it is a viable solution to an existing problem. It is a minimal investment for your shop to keep a couple of these frames in stock.

Please don’t be an ego fitter who must prove that you can put any square peg into any round hole, cost be damned. Be a hero to the customer who just wants to ski a couple of runs on a bluebird day with the kids or grandkids. Sometimes the best solution can be the simplest.

[Disclaimer: The customer has given me permission to write this and use pictures. If it helps get others out on the hill, she is glad to be the test person.]
About author
Philpug
I started skiing in the mid-70s in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania; from then on, I found myself entrenched in the industry. I have worked in various ski shops from suburban to ski town to resort, giving me a well-rounded perspective on what skiers want from their gear. That experience was parlayed into my time as a Gear Review Editor and also consulting with manufacturers as a product tester. Along with being a Masterfit-trained bootfitter I am a fully certified self proclaimed Gear Guru. Not only do I keep up with the cutting edge of ski gear technology, but I am an avid gear collector and have an extensive array of bindings as well as many vintage skis.

Replies

@Philpug well done. About time a ski/boot professional thinks out side the box to provide a solution. Even more so documents it to encourage others.

This shows the true professionalism in the work that you do in finding the best solution at the best value.

Congrates Phil and more importantly thanks to your customer for allowing this to be shared to help others.
 
The only picture missing is the giant smile on her face when she felt the edging in this set up. She was/is elated!
 
Well done Phil. I like your attitude that you don't care what other boot fitters thought, as long as you could provide a real solution for this client. Heroes don't always wear capes, but I think you might look good in a cape anyways.
 
I was wondering what the backstory to those were! Cool!
 
Super well done!
I am a bike fitter, and see similar things in the bike world.
All to often the shops and people with the knowledge and skills are focused on setting everyone up like a pro athlete, and going for the max performance. At the same time, they forget that for many, many customers, that is not something they are even interested in, let alone is it achievable for them.

if you are truly a good fitter, you are going to do like @Philpug did here, and look at what the customer wants to do (cruise easy runs at a resort), and what is needed to achieve that (a boot that will tip a ski, not hurt, and not cost $2000).

The only time we should refuse to do something out of the box like this is if it creates a safety hazard (in my world that would be putting a steering tube extender on a DH mountainbike).
 
I think this is great. While many Pugskiers are what some folks would term hardcore, with well beyond the average ski days per year and probably above average skiers, we must remember (to paraphrase Revenge of the Nerds) there are more of them than there are of us. By that I mean truly recreational skiers who may only get out a few to several times per year. They want to be comfortable and have a good time. Anything that a fitter or shop can do to achieve that is a job well done.
I know two people off the top off my head who could possibly benefit from this frame system more than they would with traditional boots.
 
Pretty cool.
I take it Apex was not an option.
There’s another gizmo that allows the use of hiking boots in bindings.
 
This is a neat story! Thanks for sharing!
As @Andy Mink said, we often forget that there are many people who just want to cruise, or slide around with, their loved ones on the hill. They should be able to do so in warmth and comfort.

I like the idea of the Envy frame to use with the shop’s existing inventory of snowboard boots; this allows the skier to choose a boot that fits their foot and their budget, rather than be limited to the Apex boot.

I am hoping that @Philpug ’s customer finds lots of fun and happiness on the hill....what a lucky customer she is!
 
Well written and kudos to the open mind. Getting people on the hill and enjoying themselves is priority #1.
As an additional selling point for the frame set up, a number of Talon Crew volunteers and Mountain Ops at Beaver Creek were using this set up. My section chief was one in that number. "Alaska Don", is in his mid-60's. He was on the mountain walking up and down icy pitches for 8-10 hour days. He says he wouldn't be able to keep pace in traditional hard shell ski boots.
 
Well done - always thinking outside the box -
 
This is great work by the fitter understanding what the customer wanted to be able to do and finding a way to get them to be able to do it comfortably and safely.

It may show my ignorance but what is vamp?
 
That’s amazing! Even at my lowest weight I’m a hard fit for two reasons. One my legs tend to be muscular or as I dad says about me “Suzanne can kick the $#*t out of a mule” and two my left foot is a freaking disaster with multiple fractures that haven’t exactly healed correctly. My Ortho says he doesn’t know how I can walk. Jeff can tell you it’s not pretty. My mogul hopping air time time flying down the mountain days are over but I’d love the opportunity to ski some champagne power on a blue bird day with Jeff and my grandchildren. Frank in Snowmass alway did our setups. My customized, punched out tweaked boots alway ran me close to 1k by the time I was all done. It was well worth it to me because I lived to ski for four decades.
Thanks Phil, I’ll be watching with keen interest.
 
That’s amazing! Even at my lowest weight I’m a hard fit for two reasons. One my legs tend to be muscular or as I dad says about me “Suzanne can kick the $#*t out of a mule” and two my left foot is a freaking disaster with multiple fractures that haven’t exactly healed correctly. My Ortho says he doesn’t know how I can walk. Jeff can tell you it’s not pretty. My mogul hopping air time time flying down the mountain days are over but I’d love the opportunity to ski some champagne power on a blue bird day with Jeff and my grandchildren. Frank in Snowmass alway did our setups. My customized, punched out tweaked boots alway ran me close to 1k by the time I was all done. It was well worth it to me because I lived to ski for four decades.
Thanks Phil, I’ll be watching with keen interest.
This could be your sweet set up for that kind of experience.
As Phil stated in the article. The woman came in looking for something that she could be comfortable in, enough so that she could ski a couple runs, if not a half day of skiing with the kids and grandkids. At that point, we had no idea how much of a skier she was, but the minute we had her click into the bindings in the set up, she was edging like someone who was a skier, not just someone who skied.
This could really be an answer to "your" question.
 

Article information

Author
Philpug
Views
8,052
Comments
28
Last update

More in Gear

More from Philpug

Top