midwinter 2006
breakthroughonskis.com   
above:Boot alignment specialist Jim Lindsay at work, at left, the tools of the trade
privatelessons

   

  

   

This boot alignment thing?

In this section of my web site, I answer the most interesting email questions that I receive every month. Here is a recent one:

J. L., an east-coast skier wrote me:

“Lito, in your latest book, and in in your New Skis video, you make a big deal about boot alignment. But I live in an urban area far from the slopes. And as far as I know, there isn’t a boot alignment specialist within 200 miles of my house. So how serious is this boot alignment thing? Does everyone need it or only ambitious athletes. Am I stuck skiing below my potential just because I can’t take a trip to Aspen to visit your favorite boot guy?...”

To which I would answer: No, or Yes, or Maybe. Which is not a very good answer to what I think is a very good question. So I’ll try to be a little clearer.

I have been skiing a long time, and most of that time I have been a professional skier, an instructor, and without ever being a champion performer, definitely an expert, all-mountain skier. Yet interestingly, during most of that time, I “suffered” from some serious boot alignment problems, long before I ever even encountered the term “boot alignment,” or met someone capable of doing it. Instead, for years, I had to compensate for a pronounced curvature in my lower right leg which made it difficult to edge my right ski. But as a result of the extra effort it took to get my right ski to behave like my left ski, I would always finish a long run with the muscles in my right leg feeling more tired than those of the other leg. But who’s complaining. Sensitive and skilled skiers always made adjustments, mostly unconscious, and mostly small adjustments, to compensate for anomalies and differences in their legs and feet... It was just part of the game.

I learned about the science (and magic) of boot alignment after I wrote my first Breakthrough on Skis book, after I made my first Breakthrough on Skis video, when I started my intensive ski courses in Aspen. Aspen boot wizard Jim Lindsay became my guru in this matter. At first I just sent him students who were experiencing obvious problems with their stance, whose skis couldn’t track equally, who were always over-edged or under-edged. But my friends and colleagues, the ski pros I worked with weren’t obviously over or under-edged, their skis behaved well, tracked and glided easily together...yet every year more of them would have Jim “do” their boots, and their reports of greater ease and efficiency on the slopes were matched only by their smiles. And of course, my own skiing was decisively changed for the better after Jim measured my stance and adjusted my boots. Maybe my skiing didn’t look so different, but it felt totally different. The same or better results with less physical effort, with no need for that awkward compensation for my slightly crooked lower right leg. Wow.

more images of boot alignment specialist Jim Lindsay at work. You can visit Jim's web site at
www.BooTech.net

So my first answer is, No, if you can’t find a good boot alignment specialist to “tailor” your ski boots to your individual stance or morphology, that doesn't mean you are doomed. You can still ski, ski better and better, still become a true expert. But you will probably be working harder than you need to.

Next, even if there is no really good boot alignment specialist in your neighborhood or region, don’t give up on the idea of custom alignment. Eventually you will track down the right technician, and when your boots are perfectly aligned, your skiing will become both easier and more polished. And most likely, when you finally get your boots perfectly aligned, you will discover some performance areas and possibilities that eluded you before. This is a sort of Yes. Meaning that I suspect you probably won’t reach your full potential as a skier without custom boot alignment.

And how about that Maybe? Here we enter the realm of statistics. How many people have perfectly aligned lower legs and feet? How many people really need custom boot alignment? My friend Jim Lindsay has been keeping records of the skiers he has measured and tested and aligned over a decade or so. He tells me that well under 10% of skiers have a “perfect” skiing physiology, with legs and feet that don’t need any special boot adjustment for a perfect stance. (The percentage varies slightly for men and for women, but for both it is very low). Are you one of those lucky few? Perhaps. I hope so. But I wouldn’t bet on it.

Sophisticated modern boot alignment is relatively new, and it is a quiet miracle. Make sure you are open to this possibility. I would love to publish a list of the names and addresses of skilled boot alignment specialists across the country, but I don’t have such a list yet. For now, my best suggestion is probably to talk to the instructors at your favorite area and ask them who does their boot alignment. You can bet they are into it. And that's a great place to start.

Good skiing and thanks for your question.

Litod s

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