Boots: What You Need to Know

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Buy boots now › Boots are the conductors between your legs and your skis. A sloppy fit and— zap—the lights go out. (Frankly, we’re surprised newbies in rental “mush buckets” ever stick with the sport.) Boots are the single most important piece of ski gear, and getting the right pair will make you a better skier.

Now some tips. First, go to several shops you trust, preferably when you can get undivided attention. The salesperson should “shell fit” you, removing the liner and measuring heel space. (Experts should have a finger and a half between the heel and the back of the shell.)

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Try on as many brands and models as possible in your size and assess them when flexed—they’ll likely feel too tight when you’re upright. (Never buy too big for comfort’s sake.) When you get a good fit, find an appropriate flex within that line. You should be able to bend your knees without being knocked rearward.

Flex ratings › There’s no industry standard for measuring flex, but the number is still a good indicator. Pick a range and feel-test several boots within it.

140–150: Concrete blocks, built for elite male racers only.

120–130: Super-stiff. For pro women racers and heavy or aggressive high-expert men.

100–110: Solid, but skiable by mortals. For most expert men, heavyweight intermediate men and aggressive high-expert women.

80–90: Comfortable but structured. For intermediate men, expert women, lightweight or nonaggressive expert men, junior racers and expert teens.

60–70: Soft and extra-comfy. For novices, lightweight intermediate women and kids.


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Skis: What You Need to Know

It may seem like rocket science. But if you learn how to decode some basic information about gear, it goes a long way in helping you find your perfect setup. Here’s your key.

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Boots: How We Test

We returned to Mt. Bachelor, Ore., last spring and called in the pros from America's Best Bootfitters and Masterfit University—the guys who teach bootfitters how to fit boots—to help us evaluate the 2012 offerings.

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Boots: Test Team

Sure you want to be a boot tester? It’s a special breed, because testing can be an uncomfortable ordeal. But our testers are happy martyrs, since good boots are the key to every skier’s success.