I’ve been skiing over 35 years, and can state categorically that nothing — nothing — ruins a ski day faster than having unhappy feet. You can adapt to different kinds of skis. You can ski with or without poles. You can buy a hot chocolate or sweater on the hill if you’re cold. But if your feet are uncomfortable, your day is ruined. I gave some advice last year on how to arrive at the hill with warm boots, which helps. But that won’t go too far in helping with ill-fitting or cold boots.
To me, when you get into the sport and are buying equipment, you have to find boots that fit properly, and are warm, and you need to do it early. Good fitting boots are worth whatever price you pay to get them. You might be one of the lucky ones and find your feet easy to fit to a ski boot. But most manufacturers make narrow and wide boots, boots that fit tall arches or flat feet, stiff or soft shells — the choices are almost unlimited. A good boot fitter can make a ton of difference in helping you select the right shell, and making it fit properly. The shell controls the fit, which is why you always start fitting boots you’re buying by taking the liners out, and putting your foot in the empty shell.
Once you find a good shell that fits, the next step is to worry about the liner inside the shell. The shell controls the fit. The liner controls the warmth.
Most ski boot manufacturers have liners that will adjust over time to your feet. Many are heat mouldable to your feet. And most really aren’t that warm. My advice: find a good fitting shell. Then pull out the liners and throw them away, and start afresh. Over 15 years ago, I made the best investment I have ever made in skiing: custom 3rd party heat moulded liners by Intuition.
Intuition is a Vancouver based company. Their liners are awesome, and fit virtually any shell. For ~$200 a pair, I have boots that fit me like a glove, and keep my feet warm as toast on the coldest of days while using only the thinnest pair of socks. The liners weigh just 172 grams (6 oz!). I know many people with Intuition liners, and everyone (save one) swears by them.
The one person that doesn’t is my brother. He has spent more time (and money) getting his boots correct and warm than anyone I know. On my strong urging, he bought Intuitions, and had a terrible time with the boot fitter in his home town of Toronto. They went through multiple re-moulds to try and get them to fit, but never used proper toe caps and my brother hated the result. If you’ll notice on Intuition’s website, they now have only one dealer in eastern Canada, and he’s in Quebec. The dude that did my brother’s no longer does them. So I blame the fitter, not the liner.
There are 3 shops in the Calgary area that sell Intuitions, plus one in Canmore, two in Golden, one near Edmonton and one in Fernie. You can fit them at home (using instructions on the website), but I recommend making an appointment at one of the shops and getting a pro to do it.
It’s funny to see people’s faces when I pull my boots off in the parking lot at the end of the day, and they see my feet are steaming hot. Could be the aroma. Or it could be that my feet are hot, while theirs are not.