New ski boot to be comfy but pricey
September 5, 2009
BOULDER – Skiing, fun. Walking in ski boots back to the lodge, not so much.
In mid-September, a company in Boulder will start selling a ski boot it says is so comfortable that skiers accustomed to having their feet clamped into rigid plastic shells will be able to walk around in their boots like snowboarders and maybe even drive.
Comfort and convenience come at a price: $1,295. That’s at least a few hundred dollars more than a pair of high-end ski boots.
“We’ll be the most expensive boot on the market,” said Jim Malmgren, director of operations for Apex Sports Group.
The company hopes to sell 1,200 pairs this season.
For years snowboarders have enjoyed softer boots whose main focus is keeping them centered on their boards, but skiers have to be able to apply pressure through their boots to make a turn.
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“It’s trying to keep the ski part of your skeleton,” said David Ingemie, president of SnowSports Industries America.
The Apex ski boot is basically a heat-moldable liner fit inside a less bulky snowboard boot, with a lacing system by Boa Technology. The “walking” boot then slides into a trim but rigid two-buckle carbon-fiber chassis that fits into a ski binding.
The whole system weighs less than 9 pounds, or about 2 pounds less than a pair of traditional ski boots often made of polyurethane. The walking boot potentially could also be used to snowboard if the board’s bindings are adjustable enough to hold it.
“Our whole design concept is first and foremost to have a boot that’s comfortable,” said company founder Denny Hanson, the man who launched Hanson Industries in 1970 and helped pioneer rear-entry ski boots. “Comfort and warmth are important to our target market.”
That market would be a recreational skier, intermediate to expert level – with enough cash to blow on ski boots made partly of pricey carbon fiber.
The 65-year-old Hanson said when he started working on the boot about three years ago, several of his friends were giving up skiing, partly because of age but also because they were tired: tired of being cold and of ski boots that hurt and were difficult to get on and off.
“They didn’t want to put up with it anymore,” said Hanson, a former ski racer who graduated from Harvard Business School.
The boot got an “interesting” reception at a trade show last January, he said.
“We’ve got a very, very difficult economy, a high-priced product. There’s some skepticism around making this price point work for us,” Hanson said. “We didn’t come out of that a with tremendous order book, but we did make our point that there are some other ways to make ski boots.”
This season Apex is selling its boot online and in specialty shops, focusing heavily on Vail, Beaver Creek, Aspen, Telluride and Steamboat Springs in Colorado. All are home to destination ski resorts that draw monied customers from around the world.
While the walking boot is made in China, the chassis is made in Boulder County. The boot is the company’s first product.
Ingemie, of SnowSports Industries America, said all ski boots can be comfortable if skiers take time to get them fitted properly. He said the market for the Apex boot will be tough among skiers looking for high performance, but the boot could draw customers looking for comfort straight out of the box.
“It’s hard to put a price on convenience or comfort,” Ingemie said.