October 3 in Skiing Insights by Brion O'Connor Comments Off
Get the Ski Boot That’s Right for You
Admit it. When you start thinking about new purchases for the upcoming ski season, your thoughts wander right over to those new-fangled skis, don’t they? How many of us give serious thought to our boot choice? Even the legendary Lange ads – who can forget the classic “Keep Those Tips Up” poster? – had us (or at least the males in the audience) thinking more about the curvaceous models in those boots, rather than the boots themselves.
But ski boots are crucial to our performance, and in large part our enjoyment, on the hill. They are the primary connection between our bodies and our skis. If the boots aren’t right, everything else can go wrong.
Chris O’Donoghue, Kulkea’s National Sales Manager, has almost three decades of experience in the ski industry, working for both retailers and manufacturers. He readily admits “purchasing a ski boot is quite difficult for most people, as it is usually the most precise piece of footwear one will ever own.” Fortunately, he’s also more than willing to share some “insider information” for prospective boot customers. That starts the minute you step through the door.
“When you walk into a ski shop, watch how salespeople approach you,” said O’Donoghue. “The first thing that should come out of their mouth is, ‘Well, let’s look at your feet.’ Because without looking at your feet, they’re wasting your time. How could you possibly know which boot to even begin to look at unless you know what shape the foot is? How long is it, how wide is it, what is the instep height? You’ve got the Fred Flintstone feet, and the long, skinny paddle feet, and they all fit boots differently.
“The analogy I always use is, round peg, round hole. Square peg, square hole,” he said. “If you’re going to try to cram the square peg into the round hole, you’re going to be there a while.”
And, more than likely, you’re not going to be happy with the results. Don’t fall into the trap of buying the same pair of boots that a buddy loves, unless you have the same exact feet. Everyone’s feet are different. That’s why it’s important to deal with a salesperson/boot-fitter who understands that variety.
To find out exactly what type of foot you’ve got, and which boots represent the best option, the salesperson ought to have “an Old School shoe Brannock Device,” and know how to use it, said O’Donoghue.
“Brannock is a company that makes those silver foot-measuring devices. If the salesperson doesn’t use that device first, he doesn’t know your foot,” said O’Donoghue. “That device is the end-all, tell-all for the human foot. It tells you so much about the foot, and what you’re looking at. Not only your foot, but how your foot relates to everybody else’s foot, which is important to understand when you’re thinking in terms of the generic nature of boots and shoes.”
Speaking of shoes, make sure you don’t confuse your run-of-the mill dress shoes with ski boots. They are very, very different animals. That’s why it’s critical to have your foot measured without any weight on it, while you’re sitting.
“Ski boots are not shoes,” said O’Donoghue emphatically. “For example, shoes allow you to stand perfectly upright, while ski boots usually force your knee forward about 12 degrees, depending on the boot, so that your weight is balanced over the ball of your foot, not your heel.”
Essentially, you don’t want extra space inside the boot, because that allows your foot to move.
“When you stand up, your foot widens,” said O’Donoghue. “The shoe industry wants your foot to spread out, so they’ve trained you to buy your shoes loose. In a ski boot, that is a catastrophic mistake. You can get away with it most of the time in a shoe, but in a ski boot you create all kinds of problems.”
The same caveats apply to your ankles.
“If you don’t fit the foot inside the boot the way the engineers designed it to fit, then the boot shell is not close enough to the foot, it’s not immobilizing the ankle from lateral movement,” said O’Donoghue. “You want the foot to be able to articulate up and down, and you need to be able to move forward and back, but you really don’t want the ankle to roll inside the boot.”
Why? Because a ski boot is a performance piece of footwear, similar to any other piece of high-performance equipment, designed with a very specific purpose.
“In a ski boot, we purposely hold the knee right over the mid-body of the foot, so that you’re held in that locked position, and everything is about power transmission, through the boot, into the ski,” he said. “So if everything isn’t held just right, nothing works. And you’re at higher risk (for injury).”
Essentially, a good boot fit is snug, and takes into account the foot’s length, arch length, width, instep height, general shape, and tissue density (hard feet vs. soft feet). There can also be “personal quirks,” said O’Donoghue, such as hammer toe, pronation and supination of the ankles, poor circulation, athletic calves, and the like. The more experienced the boot fitter, the more likely he or she will take all these factors into account.
The next step is to match the boot with the type of skiing you want to do, and the type of skiing you’re capable of. These aren’t always the same. “A good salesperson will get you to describe many of the details of how you ski and what your goals are,” said O’Donoghue. “Buying a ski boot to make you a perpetual intermediate doesn’t make a lot of sense if you really want to become an advanced skier, does it?”
“(Salespeople) need to ask many very descriptive questions about how and where you like to ski. Attitude matters. Goals matter. Pure athletic ability is only part of the story here,” he said. “See if they ask you to describe your aggressiveness in sports in general. If you are timid at tennis, then you are likely to be cautious when you ski.”
Much like skis (and skiers), boots come in various performance categories, from “recreational” to “performance” to “advanced.” The high-end “advanced” boot will be stiffer, less forgiving, but far superior in precisely translating any exertion directly to the ski. So it’s critical to conduct an honest evaluation of your abilities, present and future, and then convey that to the salesperson. If you’re uncertain, don’t be bashful (better to feel awkward in a cozy ski shop than on top of a mountain in single-digit weather).
“Ask the boot-fitter what to be on the lookout for,” said O’Donoghue. “They will likely have a good idea of what you can expect.”
After a brief break-in period (typically two to three days), boots can be “tweaked” to further modify fit, such as adding material between the liner and shell, grinding material from the liner and/or shell, or adding a custom foot-bed (check out the moldable insoles by Footbalance) to enhance stability.
“Ask the fitter what solutions they may apply to anything they expect to see flare up, based on your conversation,” said O’Donoghue. “The good boot-fitter will know pretty well what they expect to happen, and will have the solution to those potential issues in mind already.”
Getting Ready for Ski Season
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September 10 in Skiing Insights by Brion O'Connor Comments Off
Recommendations from an Expert
For those of us who dream of jumping out of bed at the crack of dawn for first tracks, ski season can never get here soon enough. Yet there are times when the season sneaks up on us, catching us ill prepared for the rigors of the slopes.
Dr. Bojan Zoric is all-too-familiar with that scenario. A physician for the US Ski and Snowboard teams as well as the US Women’s national soccer team, Zoric is an orthopedic surgeon with Sports Medicine North outside Boston, and a former fellow at the renowned Steadman-Hawkins Clinic in Vail, CO. He knows how demanding these sports can be on our bodies.
“Everybody thinks that skiing a static sport, but it’s actually not,” says Zoric, an accomplished soccer player in his own right. “Essentially, when you go skiing or snowboarding, you’re doing squats the whole time.”
To get the most out of your cold-weather exploits, whether skiing or snowboarding, the good doctor recommends the following game plan.
A workout regimen that accentuates strength training, flexibility, and cardiovascular fitness is essential to enjoying your time on the hill, and making sure you’re not riding the pain train afterward. At home or at the gym, doing plyometrics – such as squats and lunges – will provide the explosive lower-body power that helps deal with the demands of linking turns.
“Telemark skiing is the epitome of doing lunges every time you turn,” says Zoric. “Traditional skiing isn’t quite so obvious, but every single turn you do, you’re at a 45-degree angle, bent at your knees, and you’re pushing into the ground, holding off centripetal forces while trying to hold your edge.”
A stretching program, including yoga or Pilates, will improve the elasticity of your muscles and connective tissues. That elasticity is indispensable when your edges and your limbs aren’t on the same page. Don’t forget your core (yoga, Pilates, planks), which is vital to keeping all those moving parts in sync.
“You don’t realize, unless you lack core strength, how much you really are using your core,” said Zoric. “With both skiing and snowboarding, you’re using your mid-body strength to be able to torque and balance yourself, and allow yourself to get ready for the next turn, and really propel yourself through the turn.”
“Everybody talks about lower extremity strength and flexibility, and that’s wonderful,” he says. “But a huge component of skiing and snowboarding is core strength.”
Since the lifts typically operate from early morning to late afternoon, you want to have cardiovascular endurance as well. Any activity that gets your heart rate up, including brisk walking, jogging, or hiking will help.
Mountain biking and cyclocross racing are both excellent two-wheel options for ramping up your preseason fitness and recovery. Unlike road cycling, mountain biking and the race-specific discipline of cyclocross are far more dynamic, requiring explosive efforts on a more consistent basis. Throw in some hills, and some tight twisty singletrack to challenge your balance proprioceptors, and you’ve got a full-body workout.
Don’t ignore more traditional individual and team sports. Tennis, racquetball, squash and handball, with quick bursts of action and plenty of lateral movement, are terrific choices. Team sports such as soccer, basketball, hockey, and lacrosse are also superb alternatives, since they develop both endurance and quick-twitch muscles. Be sure to follow proper stretching protocol while you warm up and cool down.
Start early, end early
Remember, even if you’re in decent shape when you click in for your first turns of the season, skiing and snowboarding will accentuate certain muscle groups in ways that are all but impossible to replicate during cross-training. As a result, you might fatigue earlier than you’d anticipate during your first forays to the hill. Zoric suggests moderation until you really get your ski legs (or snowboarding legs) underneath you.
“In my younger days, I wanted to be the very last skier taking the very last chairlift. I don’t feel the necessity to do that anymore,” he says. “The older I get, the less inclined I am to finish the day and be the last skier on the mountain.”
Granted, lift tickets are expensive. So is getting injured. Zoric recommends skiers and snowboarders err on the side of caution when it comes to quitting time.
“Don’t overestimate your abilities, because you’ll get in trouble. Even professional skiers get in trouble when they do that,” says Zoric. “Listen to your body. Ninety percent of our injuries, if not more, happen at the end of the day, when people are tired.
“Very rarely do we see injuries at 8 o’clock in the morning,” he says. “More often, we see those injuries at the 4 o’clock witching hour when the lifts are about to close, and people have been skiing all day and are exhausted. And they can’t make a recovery, or control a turn.”
To ensure that you don’t fatigue prematurely, take regular breaks during the day to recharge your body and your mind, grazing on foods that provide long-lasting energy and hydrating properly. Those breaks will also give you a chance to limber up.
“Priming your muscles before hitting the slopes will prepare you for skiing’s intense quad and hamstring workout,” says Zoric. “Be sure to take some time at the start of your day and after breaks to warm your muscles by walking and stretching. Do windmills with your arms, swing your legs back and forth, and do abdominal twists to loosen up.”
How to Buy Ski Boot: Tips From An Insider
Ski Gear Checklist
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July 14 in Adventure Sports, Product by Brion O'Connor Comments Off
Boot Trekker for Your Cycling Gear, Too
For powderhounds who can’t jet to Portillo, Chile, to satisfy their incline appetite, summer can seem like true dog days. But a quick attitude adjustment and two wheels can open a world of summer fun. And Kulkea’s Boot Trekker can help.
Cycling – either road or mountain bike – offers an outstanding off-season outlet for the endorphin crowd. It’s a great, all-body, low-impact workout (provided your not going over the handlebars), and it gets you outside, into the fresh air, whether you’re on smooth pavement, sticky slickrock, or sinewy singletrack. More and more, intrepid pedalers are turning to adventures that far exceed a quick spin around town.
For guided or self-guided tours, the Adventure Cycling Association is a great resource. The ACA’s Great Divide Mountain Bike Route is an epic ride, running from the Canadian border to Mexico. My top treks, though, employ the “play hard, rest easy” mantra. Places like the Maine Huts & Trails system in the Northeast, and the plush cabins of the 10th Mountain Hut Association that traverses Colorado’s Holy Cross Wilderness, are breathtaking destinations.
If you’re traveling to your marathon ride – whether by land or by air – you’ll want a rugged pack that’s as versatile as you are. Kulkea’s Boot Trekker can handle all the gear that a grand pedal requires. This isn’t a pack to use “while” you ride, but “between” rides (unless you stow it in a trailer) or as your travel to your cycling destinations.
And you’ll want plenty of gear. In addition to cycling apparel (bring rain gear, leg and arm warmers, multiple jerseys, cycling-specific shorts, socks, and shoe covers) and casual apparel (comfy cloths and shoes, bathing suit, and the all-important bandanna), your packing list ought to include refreshments, accessories, essential parts, and tools. Fortunately, the Boot Trekker has enough room for everything you bring.
- Quick energy. Powdered energy drinks like Cytomax and Endurox are high-powered, low-weight fuel options, while energy bars (Luna and Clif are good choices) and energy gels (Clif Shot Bloks and GU energy gels) will keep your motor humming.
- Water-purifying bottle. Running out of water in the backcountry can spell disaster. Check out systems like Katadyn MyBottle water purifier.
- Sunglasses (with interchangeable lens for different light conditions). If they’re polarized, even better.
- Ordinary glasses. If you need reading glasses, you’ll need them to perform basic repairs.
- Suntan lotion. Don’t burn in the saddle. Apply a sweat-resistant suntan lotion with a rating of at least SPF 30 (50 is better).
- Bug spray. Mosquitoes, black flies, ticks and a host of irritating critters are waiting in the words. Protect yourself.
- Hydration system. CamelBak is the gold standard, but there are plenty of options.
- Lights. Even if you don’t plan to ride at night, factors can put you behind schedule. A simple handlebar light can be a trip-saver.
- Spares. These include inner tubes and patch kits, chain (or chain links.) brake and derailleur cables, brake pads, and assorted nuts and bolts.
- High-quality chain lube.
- Plastic zip ties, for McGyver-type repairs.
- Duct tape. Thousands of uses.
- There are several good multi-tools on the market. I’ve always relied on Park tools (though my all-time favorite, the “Tool Wallet,” isn’t available anymore). A quality multi-tool will have hex wrenches, allen wenches, socket wrenches, a chain tool, flathead and Philips head screwdrivers, spoke wrench, and tire levers.
- A quality bike pump, or a compressed-air system like Genuine Innovations Superflate.
- If you’re doing a multi-day off-road pedal, consider a trailer (which you can use to haul your Kulkea Boot Trekker). The YAK trailer by B.O.B. (Beast of Burden) is one of the earliest, and still one of the best, single-wheel cargo-carriers.
If you’re flying to your next cycling destination, don’t ever pack your helmet in your check in-luggage. The friendly skies can be less-than-friendly to your skid lid, especially if you have soft-sided luggage (even a pack as tough as the Boot Trekker). That brain bucket is designed to crush on impact, and there’s a good chance that it’s going to get banged around during cargo “handling.” Always take your helmet as a carry on. Read More
April 25 in Skiing Insights by Steven Abramowitz Comments Off
Clean, Preserve and Store Gear Together
As we close out an epic season it’s nearing time to prepare and store ski gear for the off-season. Just as cars require the oil to be changed or a grill needs cleaning and covering for the winter, ski gear requires preventative maintenance and proper off-season storage. By following our simple guidelines for cleaning, preserving and storing gear together, you will prolong the life of your gear and be ready to go when the snow starts falling.
The level of attention skis require depends upon how much or hard they’ve been used. The easiest way to prepare skis for the off-season is to bring them in for a tune-up. The pros at local ski shops have the tools, work space and knowledge to do the job right. However, for those DIY types, make sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions and the tips below.
- Clean Skis – Rinse your skis with a hose or in the shower (be careful of the tile). Wipe off any remaining debris and water with a soft but durable cloth. Let the skis air dry.
- Remove Rust – Carefully remove rust from your ski edges with a Gummy stone, Scotch brite pad, or fine-medium steel wool.
- Remove Old Wax – Brush the base a few times with a brass, copper or bronze brush, or with a plexiglass scraper. If needed, use a mild citric solution/base cleaner.
- Apply Wax – Apply wax generously to base and edges to protect from moisture and rust. Hot waxing is best, but rub on waxes will suffice. Do not use liquid waxes for storage purposes.
- Remember to scrape off the excess wax before you ski next season.
Experts differ on their advice for storing bindings in the off-season. Some suggest to release the tension in bindings by backing them off to the lowest setting. This should result in extending the life of the binding. However, others advise leaving the bindings as is. Their view is that the tradeoff of having to reset the bindings correctly again before next use isn’t worth it. So, it comes down to which path you want to follow for next season.
Strap or tie your poles together. Hang, lay or stand poles up near your skis.
Ski boots should be wiped down and completely aired out. If boots are wet, remove the soft inner liner and lay them out to dry before reinserting for storage. Do not forget to inspect boots thoroughly for cracks, broken buckles or torn straps that may require repair or replacement.
- When dry, gently wipe the outer lens with a soft lens cloth.
- Do not touch or wipe the inside of the lens. Touching or wiping the inside of the lens will remove and smear the anti-fog coating and cause goggles to fog up in the future. If cleaning of the inside of the lens is absolutely necessary gently blot it with a lens cloth unless otherwise instructed by the manufacturer.
- Once clean, store goggles in a soft protective covering. A good storage option is the pouch they came in, or better yet, the designated area of a ski boot bag.
Inspect for damage, wash and completely dry all ski apparel. If damaged, it’s better to know this season for purposes of warranty and end-of-season sales. When cleaning, be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions as cleaning instructions differ per fabrics and materials. Avoiding that torn sock or rancid balaclava next season is well worth it.
Where to Store Skis and Gear in the Summer?
- Store skis, apparel, accessories in a temperature controlled environment; away from heat, sunlight and moisture. Heat will dry out the skis, plastics and fabrics. Moisture will promote rust on ski edges and other metals.
- Good storage locations are typically closets, spare rooms or even under a bed.
- Unfinished attics, basements and garages should be avoided because they tend to be either too dry, wet or hot.
- Do not store skis on concrete floors. Concrete is porous and can release moisture which rusts ski edges.
- To strap or not to strap? It’s may not be necessary for all skis, but strapping the tips and tails can help maintain the shape of skis. Strapping with a non abrasive material will help keep the skis together and prevent scissoring. Do not strap the camber or middle parts of skis unless otherwise instructed by the manufacturer.
- Skis should be laid down flat on their sides without anything on top. It is very important not to compress the ski’s camber unless otherwise instructed by the manufacturer.
Store Organized and Together
If you’re on top of staying organized during the season why would you drop the ball in the off-season? Keep your ski gear and apparel organized and in one place during the summer months. It’s almost more important for sanity sake to do so during the off-season than in-season. Storing gear and apparel where they should be will avoid the mad-September scramble for that missing ski sock, base layer or elusive glove.
Smart ski boot bags such as the Kulkea Boot Trekker, are great solutions for storing gear and apparel in the off-season. With its large capacity and Intuitive Packing System, the Boot Trekker makes the transition from surfing to skiing easy. From packing boots in ventilated side Boot Pockets, housing goggles in the soft Goggle Pouch, to sliding a helmet in the Retractable Helmet Sling; the Boot Trekker centralizes and keeps gear organized. Just pack it up and store it away in a temperature controlled closet or room and it’ll be all set for next autumn. If the Boot Trekker is showing signs of spring skiing, hand wipe it clean with water. Make sure your boot bag is completely dried out before packing. With your ski gear packed and stored for the off season, you can enjoy the summer knowing you’ll be ready to go when the lifts start turning again.
Ski Gear Checklist
Prepare to Ski
February 16 in Product, Reviews by Steven Abramowitz Comments Off
Men’s Journal Reviews the Boot Trekker
The Men’s Journal Gear Lab got their hands on the Kulkea Boot Trekker and gave us an “over-the-top” review. Hugely impressed, Greg Emmanuel, Men’s Journal Editor, said the Boot Trekker is, “the most thoughtfully designed ski boot bag we have ever used, this durable backpack has a solution for stowing everything you need on the mountain.” We at Kulkea could not agree more!
The Boot Trekker improves the ski experience and the Gear Lab got it. Instead of dealing with the “gnarly proposition” of hauling gear to the mountain, the Gear Lab found our ski boot bag “virtually eliminates the stress.”
“Beginning with your boots, two well proportioned side pockets house those cumbersome behemoths easily and have the added feature of Velcro vents that open to air out wet boots after a long day of skiing. The main gear compartment is large enough for plenty of extra layers and a three-course lunch, while a second front pocket is almost as big and includes a soft pouch that allows ski goggles to hang untouched by the rest of your gear.”
In addition to the smart design of the Boot Trekker, Kulkea’s commitment to quality and durability was also praised “the bag is equally impressive when it comes to sturdiness.” In particular, “the Boot Trekker is made of a water resistant nylon and the Tarpaulin-reinforced bottom that mean you can literally throw it in the snow and around the lodge without a second thought. Even the zipper pulls feel indestructible.”
Kulkea, lauded for its high quality and thoughtfully designed ski boot bags, continues to impress customers and even the toughest of reviewers, taking the snow sport industry by storm.
See the full Boot Trekker review in Men’s Journal
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