Don’t read the 2021 Masterfit Buyer’s Guide in Partnership with Realskiers.com for its 62 ski reviews. I should know. I wrote or edited all of them.
Not that the ski reviews aren’t worth the read. But ski reviews on the web are as common as rice, while the Buyer’s Guide contains something no other publication, whether in digital, print or video format, can claim: the most respected, thorough and dependable boot reviews in the world.
This isn’t mere puffery. The Masterfit Boot Test is so well regarded by the supplier community that nearly every brand not only sends its following year’s line-up in four men’s sizes plus three for women, it also dispatches its top designers and/or product managers to a distant North American site for most of the test’s five-day duration.
The World’s Best Boot Reviews
The reason the Masterfit Boot Test gets across-the-board support is because it works for the manufacturers to have a single place where they can investigate the competition on snow; the reason it’s likely to remain unique is because they don’t need two such places. If you’re a prospective boot buyer, the boot reviews in the Masterfit Buyer’s Guide are a must-read, to the degree there’s little point in reading much else. Bear in mind, you don’t have to read all 67 boot reviews: they’re sorted by narrow, medium and wide fit environments and according to where and for what sort of skiing they’ll be used. Once you shrink the field down to what matches your needs, you’re looking at six reviews, tops. You should read every review in your genre, not just because knowledge is power, but because at this point you don’t know what model you’re going to end up in. At this stage in your search you’re only trying to cut down the field, not pick a hero boot that becomes your Grail at the expense of all other contenders.
The Masterfit Boot Test is the most comprehensive examination of the current boot market extant. While this year’s test protocol had to adapt to the coronavirus epidemic, it’s still the standard by which all others are judged.
2021 Boot Reviews and the Coronavirus Pandemic
This year, the Masterfit Boot Test never got off the ground. Test Director Mark Elling pulled off a fine recovery (A New Kind of Boot Test), but without head-to-head, on-snow evaluations, he deemed the methods left at his disposal didn’t justify ranking the results. (This decision echoes the manner in which Realskiers treated its ski test results.) In other words, while a few Editor’s Choice awards were doled out, for the most part it’s the narratives, not scores or rankings, that merit your attention.
One of the confounding aspects of the modern Alpine boot market is that while most boots look strikingly similar, the differences among them are cavernous. You really have to ski them to feel the crazy variations in how they fit and behave once in motion, but you won’t get the chance to do that. You won’t even get the opportunity to try more than a couple of boots on, so you have to consider your limited options very carefully. Elling’s granular reviews [see sample] dig deep into the peculiarities of each model so you can evaluate each one’s suitability for your foot shape and skiing style.
To be a good customer, and make best use of your precious appointed time, you need to be prepared. First, know the new rules of engagement, as presented in both the introduction to the Masterfit Buyer’s Guide and Realskiers’ first Revelation of the 2021 season. Second, share with your bootfitter your primary picks and why you selected the boots you did. This is the time to second guess assumptions and clear up any misconceptions.
Isn’t There an App for That?
Ski biz cognoscenti know there are a handful of sophisticated 3D scanners wedded to savvy software that can take an image of your ankle and foot and match it to the universe of available boots. (Fischer already does this for their line with a simple phone app.) Why not chuck all the research and just submit to the new, hands-free, guess-free reality?
Because while no one objects to a hands-free method for analyzing the skier’s lower extremities, most veteran bootfitters neither want nor need any suggestions about what boot might work best. There are several reasons bootfitters don’t want software to dictate their model selections, not least of which is the totally rational, empirically supported fear that whatever model the device selects won’t be available in your size.
Seriously, as this process approaches the finish line, the more essential human intervention becomes. Modern imaging technology is great at capturing dimensions, but there’s more to bootfitting than just matching morphology. The bootfitter has to fit all of you – your stance, your mass, your tolerance for fit tension, your kinesthetic awareness – not just your feet.
For the same reasons that bootfitters don’t want software making the final call, and Masterfit’s test director didn’t feel comfortable assigning rankings based on limited data, you, Dear Reader, aren’t expected to winnow your field of options down to one all on your own. The Masterfit boot reviews are a good starting point; they’re your best dryland education and should help you cut your candidates down to two or three finalists.
Ultimately, you and your bootfitter are going to figure this out together. To increase your odds of landing at the right and proper destination, it helps to start by heading in the right direction. Let the Masterfit Buyer’s Guide be your guide.
P.S.: Don’t forget to make an appointment with your bootfitter.