Once you've narrowed down your buying choices to a few comfortable pairs of boots, it's important to make sure they're performance-matched to your anatomy so you can ski with a balanced stance. Because the geometry of every boot is different, your physique determines which boots work best.
From The Ground Up
Well-crafted custom footbeds are the first building block to a balanced stance. They provide a solid platform for foot-to-ski energy transfer, as well as balance and comfort.
The Cuff Is Important Stuff
Studies at our test camps have shown that good cuff fit is a boot's most important performance quality. Skiers have greater stability and ski with increased confidence when their boot cuff fits snugly along the lower leg, without their having to batten down the buckles too tightly. Clamping the buckles too tightly deforms the shell and changes the boot's flex pattern.
Just as important is the angle of the cuff in relation to your skeletal structure (see photos below). More than 75 percent of skiers have bowleg or knock-knee tendencies, which make it nearly impossible to build a balanced stance in boots without a cuff cant-what we consider a "must have" feature.
Cuff height also dramatically affects your stance. Even identically-sized boots can have substantially different cuff heights (see inset photo). Short, bowlegged or knock-kneed skiers may have difficulty balancing in models with taller cuffs and should try boots with a lower cuff design.
What 'Seams' Like Center, Isn't
The foot has an invisible "balance line" that bisects the heel and runs through the center of the second toe. In an ideal stance, there's equal weight on each side of this line. Ski boots have a visible balance line, a mold seam at the toe area that appears to run right down the center of the boot. In reality, though, this line is 1 to 2 degrees inside of center, intentionally placing the foot mass outside of center. This is good for skiers with a neutral stance or knock-knees, but bad for those with bowlegs.
Bowlegged skiers will balance better in boots that can make big cant adjustments-such as Sanmarco's Symflex cuff cant or Dachstein's Servo Curving System heel-or have a small sole angle (1 degree or less). Small sole angle boots include: Alpina's A2s, all Dolomites, Dachstein's DZR, Nordica's Exopowers, Raichle's Carver and F-Ones and Salomon's Performa Prolinks.
As with side-to-side balance, fore/aft balance dramatically affects your skiing. Fore/aft balance can be achieved by installing lift wedges under the binding toes. Once you narrow down your choices based on fit, have your stance measured in each boot to identify the one in which you balance best.
It's crucial to work with boot fitters who've been trained in current techniques. For a list of fitters who've completed SKI Magazine Master Fit University training, visit us at www.skimag.com .