THE LANGE USA CONNECTION


When I started working on Mur’s boots in 1977 I didn’t favour any particular boot brand. Mur was skiing in Langes even though Lange wasn’t in the National Ski Team pool of Official Suppliers. It was an interesting situation. The Crazy Canucks were garnering world wide attention. Mur’s position was that he couldn’t ski in any other boot. So he just skied in Lange’s and that was that. As best I can recall, back then there were maybe 4 boot brands in the pool. When a racer made the National Team they would be assigned to a boot and ski brand from one of the official suppliers. This didn’t work for every racer. If a racer ended up in a boot brand they couldn’t ski in their career could literally go downhill. Sometimes it did. But as the saying goes, “That’s racing!”

Lange USA had a solid racing program in a tech by the name of Alan Trimble. Even though he was assigned to US racers, Trimble was servicing Langes for Mur and a few other Canadians. When I hooked up with Mur he started getting me boxes of parts from the Lange factory in Italy. When Lange USA found out about me they started sending me anything I needed by courier. Ya gotta love those Yanks! The situation with Lange in North America seemed to be unique on the World Cup circuit. For example, the word was that Italian team racers were forbidden from having any alterations made to their boots. They just took them out of the box and went racing. Presumably, other alpine nations had a similar arrangement.

Once I figured out how to build a pair of Lange race boots from parts, I would make templates for each racer. Every pair of boots was different. Even though they looked the same as the ones you could buy at a retail shop, they bore little resemblance in the way they were set up in terms of cuff cant and forward lean. They were also usually expanded in the forefoot and the liners were gutted of padding. I had a stock of liners. So I usually used a liner up to one size larger than the shell size.

Prototype ski boots are typically made to a US men’s size 9 last and then scaled up and down. So a size 5 ladies boot back then was really a scaled down size 9 men’s boot. (Yes, it really is a man’s world ,at least in skiing ladies). Cuffs were canted outward about 3 degrees. Since the angle of the rear spoiler was fixed, the amount of forward lean as represented by the angle of flexion of the ankle joint was determined by the cross-sectional area of the calf muscle. Unless a female racer had a body close to that of man, stock boots were almost unskiable. If you had small feet (many female racers did) you were really in trouble. Trying to set up boots for female racers with small feet was a real challenge. It could take as much as 15 or 20 hours. But when I got the boots right the racers I worked with had a huge advantage over their competition. I didn’t give them anything they didn’t already have. I just enabled them to use what they had. When it comes to ski boots, ski racing is very much an unlevel playing field even today.