Up until three or four years ago I wore Salomon rear entry ski boots and was reasonably satisfied with their performance; however, after receiving some good natured teasing from my friends and family, I decided to purchase some new boots. The trusty Salomon’s were obviously dated from a fashion perspective, and they were also somewhat compressed allowing more than desired movement.
During the annual T-Rex sale at Colorado Ski and Golf I purchased a new pair of Dalbello boots and while these boots definitely eliminated foot movement, they also presented a setback in warmth and comfort. Midway through the first season I took them to a ski shop in Vail that was connected with Colorado Ski and Golf and had a custom footbed added. This improved the comfort by eliminating hot spots and numbness, but I still experienced cold toes on below average temperature days. In addition I struggled to put the boots on and take them off as the rigid plastic shell pinched around the tongue and dug into the top of my foot.
I suffered with these problems through several seasons until last year when I looked up a custom boot fitter in Denver and paid him a visit. The individual that I consulted with performed some grinding on the plastic shell and suggested closing only the upper buckles until I was actually ready to ski. He suggested that keeping the bottom buckles loose would allow my foot to move and properly seat, and this would allow my feet to remain warm longer. This consultation took place at the very end of the 2012 season, so I didn’t really get to test the effectiveness until 2013.
Jane was fully recovered from her bicycle accident by the end of January and received clearance from the doctor to ski, so we rented a condo in Frisco, CO on the weekend of February 8-10 and decided to ski at Beaver Creek on Saturday. Jane wanted to stick to mild slopes, and we knew we could use free parking at Arrowhead and access Beaver Creek from there. Saturday February 9 was a very cold overcast day with snow falling regularly for most of the afternoon. The high temperature probably never exceeded the mid-teens. In short it was a good day to test putting my boots on and off and evaluate any improvement in the warmth of my feet. I’m disapointed to report that the advice and changes from the Denver boot fitting store were ineffective. The plastic shell continued to dig into the top of my foot resulting in pain, and my toes only lasted two hours maximum before I was forced to visit the Arrowhead base lodge to warm them.
While sitting in the restaurant at Arrowhead I met an elderly individual from Lousiana named Eddie. He was proudly sporting a LSU hat and told me he was a retired veterinarian. Somehow in the course of conversation Eddie informed me that he used “toesies” and his feet remained toasty warm.
After suffering for much of the day on February 9, I decided that I needed to address the ski boot situation before our next scheduled condo rental and ski outing so I called Larry’s boot fitting in Boulder, CO for an appointment. Heather answered the phone and told me that I didn’t need an appointment if I could stop in that very afternoon. I made a hasty exit from work, returned home and picked up my boots, and made the thirty minute drive to Boulder and Larry’s boot fitting. A young man asked me what my problem was and I described the boot shell issue and cold feet. He showed me a technique for entering and removing my boot that involves pulling the tongue at an angle to one side to block the shell and then using the other hand to hold the exposed shell edge while sliding my foot in. As to cold feet, he told me that my boots were the proper size and that I probably needed to put up with it. He said I could get neoprene covers or new liners, but this would probably only make a 20% improvement or perhaps add another .5 hour before I needed to go inside and warm my feet. The best solution was to purchase heating elements that fit inside my boot, but those typically cost $200 – $250.
I decided to try the toesies recommended by Eddie from Lousiana and the new method of putting on and taking off my boots during our February 23 ski day at Vail before resorting to heating elements. Jane and I got off to an early start on February 22 and arrived in Frisco early enough to take a walk downtown and stopped at the Prost Tavern for a Hofbrau Dunkel and a delicious massive soft pretzel with various mustard dips.
On Saturday morning we made the drive over Vail pass and parked at the Vail Village parking structure. The air temperature was moderately warmer than February 9th so the conditions were not quite as adverse. Step one was putting my boots on in the Vail heated parking garage and the new method worked quite well as I avoided any shell to skin contact. Jane and I began skiing using the Golden Peak lift and when we reached the top of the mountain near Two Elks Lodge we descended China Bowl and headed directly to Blue Sky Basin. We skied from 10:30 until around 11:45 and my toes did not reach the typical numb ice cube state. We chose to go in for lunch because we were hungry, not because my feet were frozen. I could feel warmth coming from the toesies mounted on top of my toes so I’m convinced that they were the source of my improved warmth and comfort.
Afer lunch we continued skiing until 3:15 and then returned to the parking lot to remove our boots. The new method allowed me to remove my right boot without painful contact, but I needed Jane’s help on the left foot as I didn’t have a way to hold the boot on the garage floor while I lifted my foot since both my hands were occupied with holding back the plastic. Once I removed my feet from the boot I touched the toesies, but they were no longer generating any heat. I suspect that they last for around six hours and then lose their effectiveness.
I went to Big Five Sporting Goods this week and picked up four more packs of toesies. Hopefully these devices will improve my comfort level and make skiing a fun activity again.