Choosing The Right Class Of Boot For You
Ask yourself what kind of tele skiing you want to do. Are
you looking for boots to drive lightweight skis with a lot of
touring and relatively low angle turning? (Scarpa T-3 or Garmont
Libero type). Are you going to be skiing resorts as well as backcountry
and you are riding a short/moderate length but fat ski?(T-2 or
Veloce class boot). Or maybe you like to ski at the resort a
lot and your ride of choice happens to be some long and
fat boards. Or perhaps your idea of backcountry fun is ripping
45 degree chutes, jump turning no fall zones all day and you
want a lot of boot to help you ski at the max level, with weight
considerations being secondary to performance ( T-1 or Gara class).
Or maybe your a racer, if so you can skip this part altogether;
you know what you need.
The above paragraph has some basic things to think about,
but many people tour in heavy boots or rip chutes in light boots.
Style and personal preference have a lot to do with class of
boot selection. One mistake you do not want to make though, is
to ask a light boot to drive a too heavy ski. Choose carefully
here, those 200 cm Snow Rangers will overpower those T-3's and
maybe even T-2's. Length of ski does matter, the T-2's would
be fine on a shorter pair of 'Rangers. The light tele boots will
give good turn performance with lighter, shorter skis but remember,
the longer, fatter and heavier the skis the beefier the boot
should be. If in doubt ask around, see what others are using
who have the same or similar skis. The Telemark
Talk Forum is a good place to get some feedback on this.
When it comes to selecting the make of boots (rather than
the model) fit is the primary criteria. The Scarpa, Garmont and
Crispi boots are all quality boots. The Scarpa and Garmont telemark
boots have the advantage of numbers, a lot of tele skiers are
on them and the track record is good. Crispi is a rising star
in the tele-boot world and many people like their flex and thinner,
almost non-rockered sole for what they claim to be better feel.
The most important thing, though, is fit, fit, fit! Scarpas are
said to fit "normal" feet best and Garmont boots have
always been best for wider, high volume feet. I am told that
this will be changing as Garmont has been modifying their boots
to make them fit more like the Scarpa's. Anyway, once you decide
on the class of boot that is best for you, try the different
manufacturer's to see which fit the best. For example, big boot
tele-ers will want to try the T-1, the Gara and the Crispi CX-1
or -2, mid range boot buyers would want to try on the T-2, Veloce
and Cx-4, lighter boots to try would be the Scarpa T-3's and
Fitting Telemark Boots
Start by being aware that Scarpa boots run big. The sizes
are made to the British standard so you try about, or a little
more than, one full size smaller than your street shoe size.
Consult the chart below .
Getting the right shell size is more critical than ever
with modern plastic boots. The fore-foot flexes at a predetermined
point and no amount of break-in is going to change it. Having
the bellows at the fight place is very important to avoid toe
To see if the shell size is in the ball park, remove the
liner and insert your foot into the shell. Move your foot up
until your toes just touch the front of the boot. If the shell
size is about right, there should be approximately one and one
half to two fingers width of space from the back of your heel
to the back of the inside of the boot shell. At this point I
recommend that you are an active participant in the fitting of
your boots. Use your own hand to check the space, your fingers
are proportionate to the rest of your body (at least somewhat)
and it is your foot that is in the shell not the salesman's.
Also, you will get a feel for the amount of space there. If you
have two fingers width it should be a snug two fingers, not a
"loose" two. Try to stand flat in the shell, sometimes
this is hard to do while bending down to check the space but
try to have your foot in as neutral position as possible.
A word about sales people. As the resident web tele-industry
cynic, I have to warn you that you should be making the call
as to fit. Some of the people working in the shops out there
do know their stuff but even a good boot fitter is also a sales
person. They may be trying to get you into the perfect fitting
boot but they also may be trying to get you into a boot that
they need to reduce stock of. I know it sounds harsh but it happens.
Be prepared, proactive, and know your stuff when you go into
Back to fitting. Ok, you think you may have the right shell,
now put the liners back in (you did check both boots right? Most
of us have one foot that is larger than the other, in my case
my left foot is a full half size larger than my right, I go two
fingers on the right and the left ends up being one and a half!
Consider starting the fit with the larger foot). Now put your
skis on the floor (I forgot to tell you this... bring your skis
with you to the shop) and get into your bindings. The boots will
flex much differently in the bindings than they do without them.
Drop into several different tele stances including a real low
stance. How do they feel? If they are pinching your toes in the
shop they will do it on the snow too, so try a bigger size. Too
much slop? try a smaller size. Can't find a size that eliminates
toe pinch but still holds your foot snug? try another brand or
consider that you may have to go with the non-toe pinch boots
and use custom footbeds or other adjustments to tighten up the
If you are already using custom footbeds, by all means
use them while fitting. If you anticipate using footbeds such
as the Superfeet, then try the boots on with those in.
Wiggle your toes inside the boot with all the buckles tightened
up. If you can't wiggle your toes freely you should try a larger
size. Toes that are pinched tight in the boots will be cold toes
on the snow, among other problems. When I say wiggle, that is
exactly what I mean, just barely moving the toes is not wiggling.
Another thing I like to do is to simulate kicking steps.
Find a padded or carpeted wall or spot that you can kick (sometimes
shops have a high, carpet covered bench set up for boot fitting
that works), do this with the boots snugged up like you would
have them for hiking. That would be with the upper buckle and
power strap loose and the lower buckle(s) snug to reduce foot
movement. Give a few kicks and see if your foot slides forward
in the boot much. If it does and your toes jam up hard against
the toe box, you will be miserable kicking steps and downhill
performance is probably not going to be too great either. Try
a smaller size or different boot.
Many experienced alpine skiers will buy their boots really
tight to start, anticipating a lot of "pack out" of
the liner. Be careful here, my experience has been that telemark
boots don't seem to pack out as much as alpine boots (I have
no idea why). I fit my boots by using a single thin sock then
switch to a thick sock later when the liners have "packed
out" a bit and that is usually all I need to do. I have
also used a simple, flat neoprene innersole like you use in running
shoes, slipping it under the stock footbed to take up a bit more
room. Don't buy boots that are uncomfortably tight in the shop
and expect the "pack out" to make them more comfy...
it might not happen.
Some will disagree, but I would err on the side of larger
boots. Tight tele boots are not fun, your feet will always be
cold due to constricted circulation, toe pinch can be more of
a problem, and a host of other foot problems can occur if you
spend a lot of time in them. This does not mean that I think
you should get your boots so big that your feet are swimming
in them, just that given the choice I think it is easier to find
ways to take up a bit of room than it is to create more room
in plastic boots.
Remember, take your time in the shop fitting your boots.
Modern telemark boots last a long while so a little extra time
spent here only makes sense. Listen to the shop person's advice
if you think they know what they are doing but prepare yourself
and trust your own judgment as well.
Using Your New Boots
Many telemark boots have forward lean levers on the back
of the boots. These should be released when walking, hiking or
skinning. Not only are the boots more comfortable this way but
it is easier on the boot too. Some of these mechanisms are a
simple one position affair like on the T-2's while the T-1 and
Gara both have two or three positions. Experiment with the setting
to see how much forward lean you like when turning. I know a
guy that leaves them up even while skiing down, he prefers the
cuff to move. I don't recommend this but try the various settings
if you have them.
The simple forward lean mechanism of the T-2 (left)
and the more complicated, multi-position forward lean control
of the T-1 (right). Also on the T-1 note the cuff cant control.
This is adjusted by loosening the hex bolt then turning the outer
ring with the tool supplied with the boots.
Some boots have cant control settings allowing you to adjust
the cuff to conform to either a bow legged or knock kneed skier's
leg. These are located on the outer part of the cuff and should
be adjusted if you think you might benefit from it. I discovered
that I am a bit bowlegged when I noticed that the hair on my
shin was more worn off on the outside than the inside where the
cuff rubs! This method did not work for Laurie though (thank
goodness). There is more information on this in the "Canting for Telemark.." article
on the site.
When buckling up tele boots many of us like to start with
the power strap. This holds everything together while you do
the buckles, then you can come back and re-tighten the power
There are many things that can be done with ski boots to
make them fit better after you buy them but most of these things
are outside the scope of this article (and my expertise), you
will need an expert boot fitter to help here.
Many telemark skiers have replaced the stock liner with
Thermo-flex liners and swear by them for increased comfort as
well as weight savings. I have a partner who has put them in
his T-1's and they now weigh less than stock T-2's! These liners
are available at a lot of alpine shops, often at low cost. I
have always stayed with the stock Scarpa liner, arguably the
finest ski boot liner made.
I encourage you to ask for feedback from the telemark skiers
on our Telemark
Talk Forum, it is a great resource and a terrific place to
find out about boot/ski combos (as noted above) that others have
found work well.
Choose, fit and use your boots wisely and you will be happy
with this very important part of the telemark setup.
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Thanks to Steve Leung for sending this in!