Gear: Going Soft


It was a left brain/right brain thing. "Your boots are too stiff," said the voice of my logical, analytical left brain. "Your pathetically skinny ankles are pushing too much plastic."

"But I've worn race boots for 25 years," said my intuitive, emotional right brain. "Without race boots in electric blue, yellow, or orange, I can't swagger through the base lodge, and my testosterone level drops to the pink zone."

"Testosterone preposterone. Get softer boots," my left brain said.

So I went to several ski-industry trade fairs and demoed a variety of models. I settled on the Lange X Zero 9, a boot that achieved four perfect 10s in our boot test last year; a boot described as "the defining all-terrain boot." It fit, it skied well, and it was bright blue. The guys at Lange said I could keep it for a few weeks.

Then I took my X Zero 9s skiing on one of those days in Vermont when your nosehairs freeze. "This boot is too stiff," said my left brain. "You can't even pry it open to get it off your feet at lunch time." My right brain wept, but in the end the left and right brains made a deal: I'd keep looking for a softer boot, but I'd stick with Lange. "Just the name itself carries the heft of serious cojones, said the right brain."

I went to another industry trade fair and demoed the Lange X Zero 8. Good boot. Softer, more comfortable. "Not soft enough. Keep going down the line," said my left brain. The right panicked. "But we're getting into wimp country," it said.

I reluctantly tried the X Zero 7 ACD, which our testers called a "smooth and forgiving boot, ideal for...improving intermediates."

"Oh God, it's a recreational model," said my right brain. "Forget the labels," said my left brain. "Just try it and see how it feels."

For an overlap boot it was easy to slip on and off, no matter what the temperature, and it gave me plenty of support for the kind of all-mountain cruising and narrow-track arcing I like to do. In bumps it was perfect, a jockstrap for my feet¿it supported me ably when I needed it, yet was stretchy when absorption was called for. And because my feet felt cuddled instead of compressed, they were warm beyond my wildest dreams, even in eyebrow-icing weather. If the boot had a fault, it was the color: K-Mart-vinyl-raingear blue, my right brain called it. But it still carries the Lange name, and it has the same silhouette as the X Zero 9, so it's almost cool enough.

Now, if I could just find one in screaming orange...