Once youíre bitten by the urge to own, the first item on your list should be boots. No rental pair is ever as comfortable. At the same time, a boot that fits properly for your skiing ability - whether a rear-entry model or the kind with front buckles - will give you better control over your skis no matter what your level of experience.

For novices who can ride a chairlift, link wedge turns, and stop when desired, a soft-flexing boot is generally recommended for the first ski season. This boot will not only forgive your mistakes but also enable you to ski better and learn faster. However, I doubt youíll remain with this soft boot after your first season. Boots in this category are the least expensive.

Next come the boots for advanced novice/low intermediate skiers who can handle the green trails comfortably but have some difficulty controlling speed on the steeper blues. These boots have a soft flex but are more sophisticated than the beginner-level boot. Theyíre designed for comfort and work well at moderate speeds on groomed terrain. This is really the first boot Iíd recommend.

By the time you can ski a blue run with moguls and handle groomed blacks at moderate speed, youíve moved into the most popular boot models, the so-called sport boots. These have a moderate flex and are warm and comfortable.

Boots for the really good recreational skier who exults in skiing a wide range of slopes are similar to those for experts, but they usually have a wider last and a softer inner boot, with fewer microadjustments than are available for the mountain experts.

When the only thing stopping you on the mountain is lack of snow, youíve hit the expert level. The boots for this category of skier have a variety of microadjustments, stiffer plastic shells, and a firm inner lining to provide a lightening-quick response. These are almost all front-entry boots with four or five buckle adjustments.

Listen to the experts when shopping for boots. Check the specifications and recommendations given in the annual buyerís-guide issues of the ski magazines and know which boots youíre interested in before you walk into the ski shop. Next, tell the salesclerk how well you ski now and whether youíre aggressively pushing to improve your skill level, or are quite satisfied with your present one.

Even if the ski shop carefully measures your foot, thereís no gadget that can predict the perfect fit for you. Always try on at least two or three different makes of boot in your category. Another aid to judging a boot is wearing two different boots, one on each foot, while walking around inside the shop. After selecting your boots arrange with the shop to let you wear them around the house for a few days to make certain theyíre a good fit and, if not, to take them back and return your money.

Itís more difficult for a woman to get a proper fit in a ski boot than a man simply because not all manufacturers actually design boots for women; some simply mark smaller menís boots as womenís models. For more about womenís boots read the section of Chapter 5 on women skiers.

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