…and other first world problems.
If you love skiing and hate boots or simply need to do a lot of walking, read on.
In my late teens I bust my ankle badly. Not an unusual thing to do but without going into too much detail, all the soft tissue was annihilated and ultimately it was a career changing injury.
However, after fifteen years of rest (yes, I took the medical advice very seriously!) I recklessly undid all the hard work I’d done sitting on my ass, by slipping off a curb and we were almost back to square one. I’m resigned to the fact that I either take a considerable period of time out of normal active life to undergo reconstructive surgery or, I suck-it-up-buttercup. For now, I have opted for plan b.
What that does mean is living with a certain amount of background pain which is amplified when I do certain activities. Skiing is one.
I re-entered the world of skiing after a 17 year absence in January last year and vividly recall a teary phone call to an experienced (and equally battered) friend…“when is this going to stop? I can’t cope with this pain… seriously, I might have to chop my legs off if this continues”. The answer was as expected:
“ski boots always hurt. It’ll either wear off in a few days or you’ll get used to it”
Much, I am led to believe, like childbirth, the pain of wearing ski boots is forgotten because of the pure joy of bombing down the pistes; carving through the powder; and by the magic of mountain air, at that moment, there is no pain.
As I started my kit planning for this 6 month motorhome ski adventure, I thought that perhaps some shiny new boots with custom moulded inners and liners made from the fluffy aura of snowflakes would help. I went for a fitting. I went for two fittings actually, at two well respected ski boot fitters in the UK. Don’t get me wrong, they felt a damn sight better than the rentals I’d had in the past but they were by no means comfortable – particularly in my dodgy spots.
This concern actually started to preoccupy me a bit. I’ve only ever really done ski-in ski-out and I knew many of the places we’d be staying in the motorhome required a walk or bus ride to the slopes. Not only was I facing regular ski pain (that’s everywhere for those who haven’t skied before), but also the assault course that a leisurely stroll becomes when wearing ski boots.
A friend who I’d skied with in January reminded me of her boots – weird things with a shell and a soft boot like for snowboarding. They looked like a pain in the backside to get on and off. I messaged her. Are they all they’re hyped up to be? Yes. She very confidently replied. I didn’t believe her.
I went to my local Ellis Brigham to talk to Alex. The only real ski person I had managed to find who hadn’t poo-pooed Apex ski boots as a gimmick. He is actually a big fan and when I explained what our season-long road trip was going to look like, he was adamant that if they felt good in the fitting, they would be a brilliant solution to my myriad of challenges.
So these are the Apex XP-L top of the range ladies boots. Designed by bona fide ski experts who really know their stuff and with all the customer service and enthusiasm you’d expect from a US company. I know because I spent an hour on the phone to Brian at Apex HQ in Colorado. I instantly fell in love with the brand and was praying that the product lived up to the concept and its people. Brain was however keen to remind me, they’re not slippers.
Here are my thoughts on the Apex XP-L ski boots after a months wear.
How are they lasting?
They look almost like new – despite me flinging them in and out of the motorhome and strapping the chassis to my backpack for walking.
Are they stiff enough?
For what exactly? I never really understood that question. I’m not a downhill racer and they have two of the latest Boa fastening systems on each boot which allows for fractional adjustments. The spine of the boot is as firm as any regular boot I can remember wearing. I’m pretty sure I’m not planning to enter any competitions, so for me and the vast majority of skiers, I think they’re plenty stiff enough.
How long did they take to break in?
A fitting tutorial, heal raisers and insoles (I have flat feet) and three full days wear.
They’re not cheap – are they worth it?
Are you kidding? First of all, they’re not expensive but they are a lot of money. The amount of work in these compared to a ski boot is considerable and as my Mum has always told me, “spend what you want on haircuts, glasses and shoes” – cost per wear is negligible if you get it right.
Why isn’t everyone wearing Apex ski boots?
Cost and distribution. They are a big investment if you only ski once a year however, once you break them in, you’ll never regret spending the cash.
What about distribution? We in Europe are somewhat set in our ways and not early adopters when it comes to advancements in snow sports tech. A lot of the the bonkers innovation seems to be coming from the US. What that means is that you’re not going to find them in every ski shop and fitter. In fact, in the UK, you can only get them in Ellis Brigham (London and MK), SnowTogs and Finches in the UK. I believe part of the problem is a preconceived idea about their capabilities. I spoke to six different fitters who all said they were really for casual skiers who wanted something a bit cosy (and words to that effect) … drill down and it turned out not one of them had tried the product. Go figure.
If you’re a bit of a schlep from these retailers, you can also buy Apex ski boots on Amazon (links at the bottom of the page) – for sizing, all you need to do is watch the video Apex have put together and follow their instructions. Pretty simple and this is how I originally chose my size.
How do they ski?
Amazingly. Apart from the fact that I can actually walk about, take the chassis (or cage as some know it as) off and be a normal human – at lunch, a spot of après, in the supermarket etc, they are a really strong fit. I love the fact that I can tighten and loosen them by fractions using the Boa fittings which puts me in control and they have angle control which I haven’t played with because the fit I have suits me perfectly – thanks Alex.
- The boys colours are better than the girls.
- If you leave the chassis fitted in your binding, your skis try to escape because the stoppers are raised.
- Everyone looks at you funny
- Complete strangers quiz you on them
- Inners are super soft
- And you can, if you want, leave the cages at home and strap them onto one of those trays the kids are playing on.
Are they like slippers. Yes. Yes they are.
If you want to have a look into what Apex boots are (and aren’t) in more detail, you’ll find a lot of info here on their website. There are some competitors on the market – I didn’t try them all but I did a lot of research and tried a few. Have a look and see what you think and perhaps in time even the Euro-ski contingent might start taking notice of some of these innovations which are make skiing a more inclusive sport.
If you’re in the UK and you can’t get to any of the UK retailers, check out the boot fitting guide on the Apex website and you can buy online. We’d suggest taking them to a ski shop for a fitting – you might want a heal riser or an insole (I have both for flat feet) and they’ll be able to give you some advice on how to set them up properly.
A lot of days skiing. A lot of pounding the pavements of aires and ski resorts – I must have covered 10 miles in Chamonix alone so my Apex slippers are well and truly broken in.
I’m as happy now as I was when I got over the first few days of normal ski-boot breaking in. The only thing I’d do differently is have a custom moulded foot bed and probably get myself some DrySure Boot Dryers