Plastic Fantastic – Masterfit Day 2


Post by WildSnow.com blogger | October 23, 2013      

Conventioneering at Masterfit U boot fit seminar. Barge cement fumes and the roar of the grinding machines form a backdrop to the whine of the heat guns. And like the advice offered to Dustin Hoffman far far in the past while he was trying to deal with the Robinson girls and his future: Plastic.

Heating a Rossi boot (this fitters current fave, by the way) for a length punch.

Heating a Rossi boot (this instructor's current fave, by the way) for a length punch. The boot is literally screwed to a board to prevent distortion of the shell. At the WildSnow shop we do this with a fixture that actually has tech bindings on it. Inspired by what I saw here, the plan is to improve my 'tech' fixture with a 'rocker preservation' brace as well, so we can really yard on those boots.

New bullet points from yesterday’s chair time:

– Boot industry is going mad-dog over providing boots with a cuff latch they sometimes call a ‘hike’ mode. Most of these only allow the boot cuff to relax back to a vertical position. Perfect for standing at the bar or walking the parking lot, but not a ‘hiking’ mode by the standards of current AT boots. Push from the boot fitters here is they’d like to see the naming of these modes standardized, so consumers don’t get fooled into thinking some of these boots tour at all well by current standards. I’m not sure what those mode names could be. Perhaps “touring” for the real AT boots and “comfort” for the others?

– An issue that comes up here with Wildsnow is just how far do you go with fine-tuning things like boot fitting? The philosophy I like, and mentioned in one of the lectures we attended, is you want the feeling that your gear is a ‘clean slate’ so you’re not skiing uphill or down thinking “Man, if I had a little less heel lift, or a stiffer boot, or better buckles, or…I’d do so much better.” But instead thinking “Wow, my gear is dialed, now what can I do to gain fitness for the uphill, or learn a more comfortable and fluid ski technique?”

– Here at WildSnow we’ve recently had discussions of things such as the angle created by your binding toe holding your boot down lower than the heel, creating an “angle.” These guys like to call that sort of binding angle “delta,” and the angle inside your boot created by the boot shape as “ramp.” Editorially, we’ll do the same thing here at WildSnow and edit back through our writings for consistency.

– Some of these guys ski in a lot of boots. So I listen to their opinions. What keeps coming up regarding AT boots? Statements such as “Scarpa Freedom SL is the best Pebax boot we’ve ever tested,” and “Dynafit Vulcan — awesome thing skis just like a race boot!”

– And then we have plastics. Mainly, the gurus validate our take that Grilamid heat molds much easier than Pebax. Grilamid shells are usually quite thin (that’s why they’re light), so you have to be careful no matter what you’re doing, but the stuff gets easy to punch at about 220 degrees F and has very little problem with “spring back,” which is the bane of Pebax. Thus, if you’ve got fit issues that require boot punching and you want lightweight AT boots, bypass Pebax and go directly to Grilamid, for which your boot fitter should be thankful.

– I continue to be energized on what these guys are doing with boot testing at bootfitters.com. From what I heard, their on-slope testing methods are quite good but due to the work involved they have little to no on-site validated metrics, but instead are listing manufacturer flex ratings and last widths. That’s better than nothing, but let’s hope they find the will and warm bodies, along with methodology, to do some kind of independent boot flex testing. I’m so sick of this “my boot is 110” marketing drivel. It’s like nails on a blackboard. We need an independent metrics program — that’s not just tester opinions but rather a mechanical measurement.

One caveat: use the BootFitters.com website to read between the lines and figure out the better boots. Do so by looking at the ratio of positive and negative comments from the testers, as well as tester comments that related directly to your own issues. What you see in the print magazines, with their gear “awards” and “medals” can be B.S. that just confuses. Insider info.

More about boot metrics. Perhaps the reason these guys (along with the main skiing magazines) are leery of off-slope mechanical testing has to do with history. Turns out that back in the 1960s, a certain ski magazine decided to do a comprehensive boot test and review. Only they did the whole thing in someone’s New York City basement, with no on-snow evaluation whatsoever. This of course was roundly laughed off as one of the most ridiculous gear tests ever conceived by the human mind. And who wants to go back to that extreme? Thus, a mix of on-snow testing and bench metrics is the best. I’d like to see BootFitters.com get strong in both areas.

Lastly, it’s pretty funny how the term “A.T.” continues to be convention for describing alpine touring boots. We (meaning myself and a few other writers, along with Paul Ramer) came up with that term many decades ago, to indeed stand for “Alpine Touring.” I’ve never liked it. In Europe they just call them “ski touring boots” though you do hear “AT” once in a while. I’ve also heard the term “ski mountaineering” in use to describe AT boots. My humble suggestion is we keep experimenting with the terminology, and don’t get hung up on calling them “AT boots.”



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Comments

13 Responses to “Plastic Fantastic – Masterfit Day 2”

  1. Dave Field October 23rd, 2013 10:29 am

    Good to hear the latest tidbits regarding boot fitting. Its a topic we all need to aware of to get the most out of our gear. I don’t know why you discourage the use of the term AT for alpine touring. In my mind it differentiates from lighter ski touring boots (nordic style). Seems pretty logical to me. You tour in the boots and ski alpine style (fixed heel) then why not alpine touring? Ski mountaineering is a bit more specialized activity and you can use a variety of gear and boots for that.

  2. Joe John October 23rd, 2013 1:10 pm

    Thank you for sharing Lou! Do you have a preferred link to the Freedom SL for purchase, that also helps support wildsnow.com?

  3. Lou Dawson October 23rd, 2013 2:14 pm

    JJ, use any of the backcountry.com banners for shopping, such as the banner at upper left. Thanks, Lou

  4. jbo October 23rd, 2013 3:58 pm

    We just call them boots!

  5. RDE October 23rd, 2013 6:40 pm

    Lou,
    You mentioned that Grilamid plastic is optimal for punching/remolding. Does that hold true for the La Sportiva lower that seems to have quite a bit of carbon reinforcement?

  6. Lou Dawson October 23rd, 2013 6:54 pm

    RDE, I meant optimal in comparison to Pebax. PU is still in my opinion the easiest stuff to work with.

    As for Sportiva, it’s what they call a “proprietary” plastic and the characteristics will be unknown till we begin to explore what’s possible. Usually, “carbon” reinforcement is mostly PR and marketing, so we’ll see how the reality plays out.

    I’ve got a pair of Spectre here that I need raise up over the mid-foot, so that’ll be test 1 for me.

    Lou

  7. RDE October 24th, 2013 5:46 pm

    I’m just at the liner shell in the forefoot with my fat foot, so like any other boot I’ve ever tried on it would have to be punched. Let me know how your experiment goes—. Thanks.

  8. Tyler October 25th, 2013 5:57 pm

    Lou-

    Went to the K2 boot presentation a few weeks back, and in addition to a lot of Kool Aid, they showed some compelling flex tests (Nothing we could do without some specialized technology mind you.) Their machine can apply an equal amount of force in a 360 degree circle and measure the deflection of the boot. Not only do the deflection rates provide an interesting basis for a “flex index” comparison, but it measures lateral, medial and rear flex as well!

  9. Lou Dawson October 25th, 2013 6:22 pm

    Sadly, it’s worth nothing unless they show up a boot test with it, and have an independent party run the machine on a few hundred pairs of boots. Perhaps we could make it happen.

    But this is all so funny. I mean, who really needs to know if their boot is 110 or 120? It either feels stiff enough or it doesn’t.

    Lou

  10. Harry October 25th, 2013 7:39 pm

    Also you have to test the boots at a constant tempurature, or maybe 2 temps, say 38F and 15F, so that the test doesn’t flatter or dump on boots based on plastic tempurature sensetivity. I can think of some pretty high performing alpine boots that are noodles in all directions at 70 degrees in the shop.

    Heck at 5 degrees my old dynafit titans are stiffer than my dobermann 160’s are at 30 degrees. To be honest that is a problem…

  11. Jim October 15th, 2015 3:24 pm

    I have Scarpa Spirit 4’s. I have wide feet and my left pinky toe and metatarsal gets jammed causing pain skinning up. I’ve tried many boot fitters and never really solved the problem completely.

    I ordered the Toe Jam http://southernski.com/toe-jam-spreader-basic-tool.html from Mike. His service was great. I got a heat gun and IR Temperture meter. I spread both the big toe side, and the pinky toe side, and in the Living room it feels great. Great product. I’m surprised non of the so called “boot fitters” had one. Definitely a game changer for me and my boots from now on.

  12. Lou Dawson 2 October 15th, 2015 4:15 pm

    Jim, thanks for calling folks attention to that. Boot fitters such as myself and many others use a variety of tools to do the same thing, sorry to hear you couldn’t find a fitter who could do it, but you did the DIY and that’s great. That said, I like the look of some of those tools and the fact they are steel instead of aluminum is a big plus, I struggle all the time with aluminum absorbing too much heat. I’d caution anyone who tries to do this to realize that unless done well, you run risk of pulling the top of the boot shell down tighter as you make the shell wider. Much depends on what type of plastic you’re heating and molding. Polyurethane and Grilamid are easy to work with, Pebax is where you can run into trouble. Lou

  13. See October 15th, 2015 7:42 pm

    In my opinion, if you’re going to do your own boot fitting, you might want to consider making your dies out of wood or plastic.

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