Jim Cooper has been a professional boot-fitter for the last 22 years. Even in casual conversation, Jim’s enthusiasm for skiing and boot-fitting subconsciously flow from his personality. We headed over to Double Diamond Ski Shop in Vail, Colorado and sat with Jim in the shadow of the gondola to talk shop.
What are some of the common misconceptions associated with boot-fitting?
In my mind’s eye most boots are oversized for comfort, a slipper-like fit translates to a sloppy and painful fit after about 10 days on the hill. I would say that about 60 percent of the boots I see are at least one size too big. People will often try and rush the process. I try to slow them down and be a good interviewer, one of the most important parts of the process is for the boot-fitter to ask questions.
Is it possible to buy a boot right out of the box?
Absolutely. But you will not be as happy when other things start to come into play. Lots of skiers can throw boots on and go. Boot-fitting is about performance and comfort. It’s that type of thing where if people have never had it they don’t know what they’re missing.
How do you use the information you are given to align someone with the right boot?
Boot-fitting is kind of like a physics equation, I’ve realized. There are a lot of things to take into account. Besides taking height and weight into consideration, I will try and gauge the type of skier that I am dealing with and how often they ski. Based on that basic information, I can usually make an educated decision on which boot to pull first, after that it is somewhat systematic. Double Diamond is at the base of the gondola in Vail, so we have the ability to get incredible same-day feedback.
Do you find more people are concerned with comfort or performance?
Everyone wants comfort and warmth. I would say that about 75 percent are also looking for performance. Often people see a buyers guide and take that information to heart. They may come in with a preconceived notion of what they want. Sometimes I need to be assertive enough to recommend something else that the customer will ultimately be happier with.
Do people ever find the right boot and realize that it’s not as aesthetically pleasing as they might hope?
All the time. It’s a bigger problem than you would think. Luckily, it’s not as big of a nuisance as it once was. These days if someone doesn’t like a boot there is usually a second or third rational option. There is usually one boot that is the best for a specific person, but companies are now making comparable alternatives to one another. Most of the time we can find something that works on all levels.
You have fitted boots for some high profile skiers, do any specific fittings stand out?
A gentleman walked into the store a few years ago and described to me how his son had lost his leg in a motorcycle accident and was having a hard time being off the mountain. He became part of the Vail Adaptive Ski Program and was skiing on a regular ski setup with an artificial leg from the knee down, basically jamming his prosthetic into a ski boot and trying to link turns. It was trying to say the least. We ended up retrofitting a prosthetic device to fit in his ski boot. We set a boot up for him and two hours later they both came back in tears. It’s not necessarily about the boots as much as where the boots take people. I’m glad I can be a part of that experience.
For more info check out:
Double Diamond: Vail, CO
Larry’s Boot-Fitting: Boulder, CO
Certified Boot-fitter Directory