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Alpine Ski Boot Buying Guide
Choosing Alpine Ski Boots
Finding the perfect fitting ski boot can be quite difficult. Trying to find that balance of performance along with maximum comfort is probably the biggest challenge of the ski buying experience. Believe it or not, your ski boots are the most critical part of your whole ski package, being the contact point from skier to ski. Having a ski boot that fits well and is properly suited for your foot type and skier type will allow you to have a great day skiing the slopes. On that same note, if you have a poor-fitting pair of boots that are either too big, too small, or too soft or too stiff, it is safe to say that you may not have a great experience.
Just like when choosing skis, you want to keep in mind the type of terrain you’ll be skiing on and use that to determine the style ski boot that suits you best. Different style boots have different flex ratings and other features that may better suit your skiing style.
Similar to all-mountain skis, all-mountain boots are designed to do it all. You will see a blend of carving and freeride characteristics allowing the skier to use the boot for varying types of skiing. This category is very broad and you will find boots suited for beginners and experts alike.
Freeride boots will typically put the skier in a more upright stance and have more shock absorbing features for those airing it out and smashing through rough terrain. Boots in this category will also tend to have a stiffer flex curve similar to a race boot to be more stable at high speeds. A freeride boot is better suited for someone who tends to not spend as much time on the groomers as they do in the trees or moguls or similar terrain.
More commonly known as AT boots in the industry, touring boots are best suited for those looking to slap some skins on the bottom of their skis and hike to the untouched pow lines. Featuring a lighter construction, aggressive soles, walk mode, and pin style binding compatibility, these boots are most commonly seen among those seeking the absolute off-piste terrain.
These boots are specifically designed for those skiers looking to air it out off the biggest jumps in the park or stomp some spins off the rails. They will typically have a more roomy fit, upright stance, and softer flex. You will most often see a 3 piece design boot in a park boot since they help hold your heel in place a little better than a traditional 4 buckle boot.
Boot Stiffness Explained
Almost every ski boot will have several different variations of the same boot with different flex ratings. Flex ratings on boots will typically range from 50-130, 50 being the softest boots (kids boots, beginner boots) and 130 being the stiffest (race boots, other boots geared toward expert skiers). The proper ski boot for you is determined by skier ability, skier type, and weight. A more advanced skier who skis faster and more aggressively will be more comfortable in a stiffer boot as it will give them more stability and control. A beginner skier who may not ski as aggressively will likely be better suited in a boot with a much softer flex as it will have more forgiveness and comfort. You also need to consider your weight, if you are a beginner skier but on the heavier side, you will probably find a stiffer boot will better suit you as it will have more support.
The last width of a ski boot is the widest part of the shell in the forefoot and is one of the main measurements when sizing a ski boot. Ski boots range from about a 97mm last to a 104mm last. While you don’t need an exact last measurement match from your foot to your boot, it is good to get it close. For example if your foot measures at a 98mm last, a boot with a 102mm last will likely be wider than you need.