Thirty-five years ago, I was doing most, if not all of the things that are promoted today as the state-of-the-art in ski boot modifications; custom footbeds, cants, varus wedges, valgus wedges, heel lifts, ankle padding, heel cups, foam liners, alignment, etc. You name it, I did them all. But I discarded most of them just as fast as I tried them. Why? Because, with few exceptions, I was working on the boots of World Cup racers or elite ski pros. Most of the mainstream ideas I tried, did not perform as advertised; they simply did not appear to produce beneficial results
My foray into ski boot modification started after I mentioned to a professional skier friend that I was trying fix my own boots. He asked me if I could help him with his. One thing led to another. Soon I had skiers calling me from all over the area asking me if I would work on their boots. After great success with the boots of my ski pro friend, he introduced me to Canada’s World Cup and Olympic medalist, Nancy Greene Raine. She immediately asked if I would agree to work on the boots of the racers of Canada’s National Ski Team. In all the years I worked on ski boots I never advertised or solicited work, not once. Every single person whose boots I worked on, came calling on me.
The reason I ended up rejecting most of what is promoted today as state-of-the art is that I was working on the boots of racers who were in the ranks of the top 1% of the world’s best skiers; the best of the best, the top guns of skiing. In those days, the racers I worked with had all cut their skiing teeth in low-cut leather boots. They not only knew right away whether something I tried worked, they didn’t hesitate to let me know in no uncertain terms when it didn’t.
If I asked, “How did that work out for you Dave?” Mur replied without hesitation, “It sucked”. When it came to choice of boots, they didn’t pull any punches either. If the boots of the official suppliers didn’t work for them, they skied in what did and ignored the official supplier team policy.
Crazy Canuck, Dave Murray, lived close to me. He probably spent more at our house than his own. Mur was a willing guinea pig for my boot experiments. But at the same time he was a stern critic. Today’s generation of skiers and ski racers have grown up in the ‘fix the foot in neutral and immobilize it‘ paradigm. Most have never skied in a ski boot without a custom footbed and a form-fitted liner. So they have never known anything different. With rare exceptions like Ligety and Shiffrin, when I watch ski racers today, even World Cup racers, I feel like I am watching athletes trying their best to compensate for an equipment imposed disability. In the brave new world of ski racing, the least disabled racer prevails instead of the best athlete.