Friday, December 10, 2010

Getting Geared Up: Skis and Ski Boots

Knowing that ski season was soon upon us, I took the kids one rainy afternoon to see Erin Shedd at the Bretton Woods rental shop. Erin has been at the resort since 2001 and has been at the rental shop for five years. She was really sweet with Bridget and Erin's questions about Bridget's excitement over the upcoming ski season made her feel at ease. I highly recommend seeing a professional boot fitter/ski technician, for a few reasons. First, as much I want to encourage Bridget to understand how her boot is supposed to fit and to be comfortable, a three-year-old can sometimes be an unreliable witness. Sometimes she confuses “too big” with “too small,” or she just might have something else like hot chocolate on the mind. Second, skis can rust over the summer, and kids can have big growth spurts since the skis were last set, so it’s a good idea to get the binding tested and reset at the beginning of the season.

I knew that Bridget’s tiny little feet certainly had not outgrown the smallest boots and skis that are made, but she had grown, and I wanted to be sure that everything was fit correctly and so we’d be all set when it was time to hit the slopes. It also gave Bridget a chance to re-acquaint herself to the feeling of ski boots and skis, to practice walking around in the boots, and to shoosh around on the carpet with the skis.

Knowing that we’d be trying on ski boots, Bridget wore the wool/poly blend socks that she would normally wear skiing. Smartwool makes breathable socks that keep her warm. But more on clothing choices in an upcoming blog!

Erin first measured her feet on their boot-sizing chart. The “mondopoint” size is the length of the foot in centimeters, and this size does not necessarily correlate with regular shoe size. We took the liner out of the boot and had her put her foot in to see how much room she had. Ideally there’s about an adult finger-width in front of her toes, so there’s room to grow and air can circulate around her feet to keep her warm. Then we put her feet into the empty boot shell and looked for about two fingers to fit behind her heel. More room than that and the boot is too large. If the foot can rotate in the boot, you could end up with an injury.
Next, we had Bridget try on the boots and see how she felt in them. Remember to keep all long underwear, pants, and ski pants outside the boot. Excess clothing tucked in the boot just cramps the ankle area. The boot should allow her to walk around pretty normally; if her toes are pointing way out or in, the boots are probably too big. I learned that we didn’t want to crank the boots super tight, as I had been… one time last year I hadn’t tightened the boots enough and the whole ski and boot fell off while we were on the chairlift, and I had to carry her half way down the bunny slope to retrieve it. Erin suggested we should be able to put a finger into the top of the boot while she’s wearing it. Too tight and it could wrench her little growing leg.

Before you rent or buy, you should know your kid’s height and weight. Looking at a combination of Bridget’s height, weight, boot size, and skiing ability, Erin was able to determine what the binding’s release would be set at. This setting determines how much force is needed to be exerted for the boot to release from the binding. For a young kid with soft and growing bones, it’s important that her boot will release easily if she falls, so that the ski torques off her boot rather than turning her leg in uncomfortable or possibly dangerous angles.

If you are lucky enough to be able to get another year’s use out of the skis you already bought for your kids, it’s still a good idea to take them in to the ski shop and have a professional ensure that everything is safe and ready to go for the new season. We know kids grow exponentially, so the technician can check the release setting on the skis, check to make sure the boots still fit properly, and to make sure the skis are tuned properly – if the bases are low and the edges are high, it could put her on edge all the time and make it hard for her to turn. Making sure there is a coat of wax on the bases is not just about going faster, but it will also help the ski pivot and turn easier, particularly at slower speeds.

Not only did this exercise set my mind at ease that the fit and settings were safe for my little girl, but it also gave her a chance to see another aspect of the ski resort. She’s still too young to understand the technicality of it, but I’m sure she got a sense that it was important that things feel comfortable. Not that this three-year-old would ever miss an opportunity to let me know if she wasn’t comfortable! And she got another little taste of anticipation to get out on the snow!

We are looking forward to checking out the newly opened Nordic trails this weekend as well as some alpine turns. And a treat for the kids… Tea with Mrs. Claus and Breakfast with Santa at the Omni Mount Washington Hotel!


  1. Great post! and very educational...i had no idea so much was involved!
    and tea with Mrs. Claus??? i am there!

  2. Martha, this is exactly what I need to read right now since we're taking Tommy to lessons for the first time through Sunnybrook! I am not a skier, so it's quite a learning curve for us both!