NW SnowSports: Expert Boot Fitting Tips

Interview with Alpine Hut’s Kyle Fisher

By Hilary Meyerson

Photo at right: Kyle Fisher helps Melissa Younkins find the perfect fitting boot. Photos by Drew McKenzie, www.drewmckenzie.com

Kyle Fisher knows ski boots. Born and raised in Seattle’s Sunset Hill neighborhood, Fisher grew up in his dad’s ski and bike shop, Alpine Hut. He started selling boots when he was 15 and fitting boots soon after that.

After a four-year, self-imposed apprenticeship in Utah working in various ski shops, crafting custom footbeds and learning new skills, Fisher returned to Seattle where he now owns and operates Alpine Hut, a Magnolia neighborhood staple.

Although Fisher has completed all the master fit classes on boot fitting, it’s his experience that can’t be gained in a workshop. He’s faced every sort of challenge with difficult feet and still manages to send away happy customers. He’s got such a following that customers who live in New York or Los Angeles fly to Seattle just to get custom fitted for boots by Fisher. Word-of-mouth keeps bringing in new folks who want to ski in comfort.

“You don’t want to go to someone who wants to sell you a pair of boots,” he says. “You want to go to someone who wants to fit you for a pair of boots.”

A good boot fitter has a wide range of options to customize your boot for you, from custom footbeds to semi-moldable insoles to boot shell modifications. Alpine Hut is the only store in Seattle doing the new Fischer Vacuum Foot Technology, where the shell of the boot is fully custom molded to the shape of the foot. Gone are the days of one-size-fits-all ski boots.

Kyle’s best advice is not surprising: “Having a good ski or snowboard shop is key. You need a store that has the knowledge and expertise to follow up with customized attention to your boots.”

It just may be time to give your old ski boots the boot!

Kyle Fisher’s Boot Fitting Tips

Plan on spending some time with your boot fitter. It will take at least an hour, maybe more, to be guided through the process of finding the right one for you.

• Be careful of sales. Often, a retailer might be trying to move a certain line of boots, regardless of whether it’s the right fit for you.

• Don’t listen to your friends. Ignore what you think you know about Brand A or Brand B or what other people tell you. Every foot is different, and every brand makes a wide range of boots.

• If your toes are close to, or touching, the front of the boot, that’s fine. It’s going to feel tighter than your shoe. Your heel should be tight to the back, and the instep tight across the top; firm and solid all around. Remember, it’s a piece of sports equipment, not a shoe.

• Boots shouldn’t hurt. Don’t believe anyone who tells you that.

• Don’t wear multiple socks—this will not make a boot fit better. It’s not a hiking boot. Make sure you have a high quality sock that is tight around the foot, with no bunching. Do not tuck your base layer into your boot! Pull it out, or better yet, wear a knicker-length base layer.

• When trying on a boot, stand in it and simulate the skiing movement. Walking around the store isn’t helpful, as that is a different movement, where the heel strike movement pushes your toes to the front of the boot.

• Don’t take new boots out on a five-day ski trip on their first outing. Over 60 percent of the time, you’ll need to come back to the shop for some tweaking after the first use. A good boot fitter will make adjustments and will ensure a perfect fit. How many times should you come back? “As many times as you need,” says Fisher.

Hilary Meyerson is the editor of all Price Media, Inc. publications including Outdoors NW, NW SnowSports and NW Cyclist. She is a lifelong skier.

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