Selecting the right ski boots is essential

Buying boots is a rite of skiing that produces more skier anxiety than most of the world's headwalls. To begin with, there are hundreds of different models at prices that can vary more than $250. What do you get for $300 you don't get for $100? How high should boots be? How many buckles are necessary? If it feels tight in the shop, will it be uncomfortable on the slope?

The questions sound reasonable, but practical answers can only be made on a case by case basis. No other piece of skiing gear is more critical to comfort and performance than boots. Hence, skiers must be willing to invest time and effort to make sure that the rigid plastic boots that they buy fit their particular feet and skiing style.

Toward that end Salomon, the boot and binding maker, has some sensible suggestions. Find a qualified ski shop known for its boot-fitting expertise. If you can get the name of a recommended fitter, so much the better. Plan sufficiently ahead to allow for second and third fittings if necessary after trial ''wearings'' around the house. Visit the shop during off hours, such as mid-morning or mid-afternoon if possible. Tell the fitter what you can spend, any previous problems, and the kind of skier you are. Learn about the fit adjustments and modifications possible for each model you consider. If you're a new skier and in doubt, rent a few times until you begin to learn what feels good and works for you.

Ski boots don't have to be the highest priced to fit. But the right fit is just about priceless.

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