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Q: I recently relocated from Steamboat, Colo. to the Denver area and am looking for a good bootfitter. I had a bootfitter in Steamboat who always made sure my boots fit like a glove, and I want to make sure I find a shop in my new area that I can trust. What’s the best way to find a skilled and trustworthy bootfitter? —Steve B.
The search for a good bootfitter can be tricky. I always recommend that people go by word of mouth from friends who have had a great experience, and I tell people to go to a new bootfitter with an open mind. But if you’re new to your area and don’t have an established network yet, the next best thing you can do is run through the following checklist in your search for a new, trusty bootfitter.
There are pros and cons to working with bootfitters in metropolitan areas vs. in ski towns. In some metro areas, you may have access to more ski shops and bootfitters than you would in some ski towns, and sometimes it’s vice versa. More options mean more choices, which is usually a good thing.
But the biggest downside to working with a bootfitter in a metropolitan area is that it’s trickier to get out and ski the product after it’s been worked on. I’d say if you have a favorite resort you ski regularly, work with a bootfitter there so you can ski the boot, pop back in to see the bootfitter, then ski the boot again after it’s been worked on. That can be really helpful for making sure you get a great boot fit.
If you’re not sure where to start your bootfitter search, have a look at the America’s Best Bootfitter (ABB) website. It’s a great resource for finding bootfitters who have attended a two-day Masterfit course, as well as useful information about ski boots.
Any bootfitter listed under the ABB banner has gone through Masterfit’s accreditation process and proven their skills. They know how to create custom footbeds for customers, how to accurately measure a foot, how to punch, grind, and stretch a boot without damaging it, and have shown understanding of the various ski boots on the market and how they should fit the foot. The Masterfit course is a strong foundation for all bootfitters, and requires bootfitters to do continuing education.
Boot Fit Guarantee
Boot fit guarantees are pretty standard across bootfitters these days, but you should check that the bootfitter you plan to work with offers some form of fit guarantee. Terms of the guarantee will vary from shop to shop, but most bootfitters offer boot adjustments and modifications free of charge or half price to customers who buy a ski boot or custom footbed and liner from their shop. Adjustments might include tweaks to the footbed, adding some extra padding to the liner, and punches, stretches, and grinds to the plastic shell.
Most bootfitters guarantee their fit for a certain period of time. Some companies say 12 months from the purchase date, and others guarantee the fit for one winter season. We at Christy Sports guarantee the fit for the “reasonable life of the ski boot,” and we typically consider that to be 12 months.
Some boot fit guarantees also allow you to return your boots or exchange them if they don’t end up working out for you within that first year. If you’re working with a good bootfitter, it’s rare that you would have to do that. But in the event that a bootfitter can’t get the boot you bought from them to work for you, it’s nice to know that your boot fit guarantee covers returns or exchanges.
On that topic: Custom injected ski boot liners and the assurance of fit
Some bootfitters can be old and crusty and have particular opinions as to how things should be, and that includes me. That said, good bootfitters know how to talk to customers about what’s happening in their ski boots.
A bootfitter should ask a lot of questions about your skiing and your boot preferences, and listen to your answers. They shouldn’t be trying to get you in a boot as soon as you walk in the door. And they should be honest and transparent with you about their boot inventory. Some of my customers come in during the off-season and I tell them honestly that I only have one or two boot options in stock for them, and I recommend that they come back during the ski season when I can have them try on three or four different boots that may be more tailored to them.
If you go into a shop and feel like you’re not being listened to or your needs are not being met, you might want to see if there’s another fitter within the shop you can work with, or you may want to just look for a different shop altogether if you feel there’s just too much of a personality clash between you and the bootfitter.
Long story short: Finding a good bootfitter can be tricky, but it’s worth taking the time to do some research. You spend a lot of money on your ski boots, and you should expect them to fit to a certain level. They’re never going to be perfect—they’re still ski boots, after all—but a good bootfitter will try to get them to fit as snugly as possibly and keep working on them until they do.
Sam Tischendorf is one of the very few professional female ski bootfitters—or as she likes to say, professional feet ticklers—in the industry. She currently works at Bootdoctors in Telluride, Colo., is a member of the Masterfit University teaching team, and collaborates with Blizzard/Tecnica on the Women To Women gear project.