I tapped my small network of skiers, and narrowed down boot fitters to a branch of Cripple Creek Backcountry and The Boot Lab, both at Vail Village. It turned out the two businesses were next to each other, and by luck I ended up at the Boot Lab. I figured it was worth another shot at remolding the liner and heating the shell and “punching” the hotspots.
I spent a couple of hours at the Lab, and while I waited, I found a pair of boots for sale on Facebook MarketPlace. It turned out the boots were literally across the courtyard where the woman selling them worked. I walked across the courtyard and tried the boots on. I could tell right away there were no pain points but they were also too wide. I wasn’t going to settle for just OK. I went back to the Lab.
The Boot Lab finished up their molding and punching, and I took my reworked boots for a run at Vail. I had parked at the two-hour free lot right at Vail Village and ended up circling once to restart my two hours.
One run. 2177 vertical feet. Excruciating pain. I quit in exasperation. I could tell right away that the boots were still killing. I was so disappointed.
The next day I returned to Vail. I wasn’t going to let crappy boots and foot pain stop me. After all, it only hurt when I walked, when I wasn’t walking or when I was on the lifts. Once I was skiing, I forgot the pain…
As it turned out, Tanya was chaperoning a group of Eagle Valley Middle School kids, so she and I met up on the mountain. She took me to the back bowls into another couple feet of new snow. I followed her down Dragon’s Tooth, and fell once in the deep powder. It was a struggle getting up and digging for my ski which had popped off. I made it through Jade Glade and then got bold. We saw some virgin powder as we went up the Orient Express Lift, and decided we would take the Chopstix run through the pow. Tanya turned off the top to cut to the untracked powder and sank down four feet. She struggled up, and headed down. I followed her off the top, and started my own tracks down.
It became apparent in an instant why there were not skiers making fresh tracks: the snow was hip deep and the slope wasn’t enough to build momentum. Essentially, I pointed my skis straight down and still plowed to a slow halt. Tanya was doing a little better, she had taken a track towards some trees and was able to get out of the deeps. I shuffled forward, laughing out loud. I tried to bring my tips up, marginally successful, and slowly let gravity take me down. We had a good laugh together when we finally got out of the powder and onto tracked snow.
The lift lines to Blue Sky Basin were huge, so we stayed out of that area. Seven runs, 9500 vertical feet, Lunch at Two Elk Lodge, a little more skiing and we were done for the day.
My feet were killing me, but I had a smile on my face.
I had parked on the west end of Vail Valley, and had taken the free town bus to Vail Village. I limped to the bus stop and considered for a split second going into the Ski Museum housed in the parking ramp. But I wanted to get these boots off, and that meant getting back to my truck. It was about 4 pm, and I knew it was time to take care of these boots, once and for all.
I made my way to Christy Sports between McDonald’s and Safeway. Christy’s is a chain of sports stores that dot resorts across Colorado. I talked to the boot man about 30 seconds about remolding my boots, but then transitioned quickly to buying new boots. Christy’s marks down virtually everything, so the boots I ended up looking at were marked from over $600 to low $400’s. Ouch. Now it wasn’t just my feet hurting.
But I was only halfway through my Ski Sojourn, and I knew I couldn’t do the trip in boots that made my teeth (and feet) hurt. I ended up buying a pair of last year’s model of Atomic’s, with mold-able liners and shells. The boot guy took pity on me and gave me a little discount which amounted to about the sales tax. I also knew that if I needed work done on these boots, there were Christy shops all over the state.