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Confessions of a Hardboot wannabe


JohnE

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Here's my story. I'm not trying to tell anyone else how or what they should ride. This is just how it worked out for me. 

I began my snow-sliding life as a skier. I skied from about age 12 to my mid-30s. I got bored with this and started softboot snowboarding. I gradually skied less and snowboarded more. I loved snowboarding in soft snow but not so much on hard snow. I saw some riders at my local hill (Loveland in Colorado) who were on hardboots. They looked like they were having a blast on snow that was at least 2 weeks old. I got some hardboots and a carving board and worked and worked at hardbooting. I road softies in new snow and hardboots on old snow. I took many clinics and took pointers from whomever would help (lots of folks). I worked and worked but never got above an intermediate level. 

In hero conditions, I could pull it off pretty well. When conditions got firmer or steeper, I would skid. Also, the hardboot stance usually made me feel like my lower legs were cast in concrete at an unnatural and unstable stance. 

This season I watched some of Ryan Knapton's videos and decided to give softboot carving a shot. Sean Martin loaned me a Saber and a Flux to try out. I got some new Flow Talon boots and Flow NX bindings. On these boards, I was able to ride much shallower angles (less than 30 degrees) because of their width. I immediately felt more at ease and more natural. The lower angles felt much more stable to me. I LOVED the Flux and ordered one. I've concluded that driving my knees side-to-side never felt natural to me. Driving my knees forward for a toeside and pushing my butt back on a heelside feels much more natural to me. My Flux carves great on groomed snow and rides great in soft snow & powder. I never find myself thinking "I should be riding my ??? board". 

I realize that I will never be able to carve well on steep hard slopes. I really admire and envy those hardbooters who can. But I will never be one of them. And I'm OK with that. I'm having a blast on my new setup and in the end, isn't that what it is all about? 

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I’m kinda on the same boat. I really want to hardboot as well as the other LCI members but so far it’s slow going. 

In the meantime I’m doing much better on softboots. 

I’m not giving up on hardbooting. Far from it. All I’m doing is expanding my quiver and learning more. 

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1 hour ago, JohnE said:

I really admire and envy those hardbooters

Hey JohnE, erazz.....   I've tried  to soft boot carve the last two seasons and have failed miserably!   I really admire You Softboot Carving Guys that can do it!!

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Another wannabe (I feel I am a little better than a total wannabe but not a lot) story. I have a lot of respect for soft boot carvers too but have no interest in being one. It's hardboots on carving boards on groomers that interests me. For all other conditions I'll ski. I have done some bottomless pow heli-boarding and enjoyed it too but I used hard boots on a Tanker board.

Skied pretty hard from age 10ish to 60, several years heli-skiing in BC, Canada in the mid '70s, and then watched Cliff Hamada on a VHS in about 2000. I was instantly hooked and determined. I rented softies for one day and then bought carving gear but stuck with my SX91 skiboots which worked pretty well. Never had any interest in softies and never wanted to "snowboard" but I  was bound and determined to seriously rail. By about '05 I could lay down some decent, linked-up pencil-line trenches but only on a couple of runs, i.e. Quicksilver at Crystal Mt and one run under a chair at White Pass. When I tried at Sun Valley or at Aspen where the runs were just a little steeper or, in some cases, a little narrower I  couldn't hold a carve. I became very frustrated and quit carving in part because of that frustration and in part because no matter how cool I thought carving was not a single one of my ski buddys shared my enthusiasm. For the next ten years I went back to skiing with them.

When my grandkids wanted me to take them skiing I became bored standing around watching them snowplowing and I decided to learn a new sport (carving) while they were learning to ski. They laughed endlessly at all of my faceplants so we had a great time. For the past two years I have totally devoted my Mt time to carving with all of the best equipment  and I'm about as good as when I quit in '05.  I am determined to get to the point where I can lay down non-skidded turns on a variety of groomed terrain, especially a little narrower and a little steeper stuff.

Low down, dirty, board bending, feelin' the Gs turns are my goal. I have found one other guy who can do that at Crystal and hooking up with him next year is in my plan. Changing edges, in a zero-skid turn, after crossing the fall line or even when going a little back up hill is a component of a real carved turn I was recently reminded of on this site somewhere. (Saturday April 28th 2018.  I just added this which I read somewhere on this site but can't now find it.  I remember looking down at my tracks, in 2005 when I had a rudimentary carve down and the Quicksilver chair was on the edge of the run rather than over in the trees where they moved it to, and I was pleased to see pencil-line arcs interrupted by an apparent total disengagement from the snow when the edge change occurred perpendicular to, or just past that, the fall line.  I was happy to be reminded about that aspect of the carved turn.  Almost anybody can carve turns pointing down the hill but changing edges after crossing the fall line is one of the hallmarks of a well carved turn I had sort of forgotten about since getting back into carving during these past two seasons.

New boards on the way...RC8s are dialed in.. churning the quiver...etc., etc. will keep my interest up until I run out of B-days which is creeping up rapidly.

Thank you to all if you guys for indulging me.

Edited by 1xsculler
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Thanks Colozeus. We had a great time riding with you. You did great on the off-piste in hard boots and a narrow carving board.  

 

A bit more about my boots: My hard boots were Head Stratos Pros. In order to get a good fit without heel lift, I had to size down a bit to a mondo 27. My toes were always jammed. The boots weren't painful but definitely not comfortable. I thought that was just part of the price of snowboarding. 

My new soft boots are Flow Talons. When I first got them, I thought they were too big. However, after a bit of tweaking and riding, I think they fit pretty well. They are the most comfortable snow-sliding footwear (ski boots, soft snowboard boots, hard snowboard boots) I have ever worn. My toes have plenty of wiggle room but the heel hold-down is great. They are pretty hard to get into and really hard to get out of but really comfy when I'm riding. 

With my hard boots, my big toe toenails were so bruised by the end of a season, it would take until the beginning of the next season before my nails would out-grow the damage from the previous season (and I kept my nails trimmed almost to the quick). 

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19 minutes ago, JohnE said:

Thanks Colozeus. We had a great time riding with you. You did great on the off-piste in hard boots and a narrow carving board.  

 

A bit more about my boots: My hard boots were Head Stratos Pros. In order to get a good fit without heel lift, I had to size down a bit to a mondo 27. My toes were always jammed. The boots weren't painful but definitely not comfortable. I thought that was just part of the price of snowboarding. 

My new soft boots are Flow Talons. When I first got them, I thought they were too big. However, after a bit of tweaking and riding, I think they fit pretty well. They are the most comfortable snow-sliding footwear (ski boots, soft snowboard boots, hard snowboard boots) I have ever worn. My toes have plenty of wiggle room but the heel hold-down is great. They are pretty hard to get into and really hard to get out of but really comfy when I'm riding. 

With my hard boots, my big toe toenails were so bruised by the end of a season, it would take until the beginning of the next season before my nails would out-grow the damage from the previous season (and I kept my nails trimmed almost to the quick). 

You should try UPZ boots. From what i have read on these forums, they usually eliminate heel lift for those that have it with deeluxe boots. Feet that hurt will kill any enjoyment. I know from experience. I only came to be pain free this season after i had my boots widened and punched out and i got a custom footbed made. You can ask @big mario and @Corey how much my technique improved at the unofficial ATC once i got my boot issues solved and my feet weren't yelling at me. 

But, you were looking really good on softboots. Do what works for you. 

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20 hours ago, JohnE said:

Thanks Colozeus. We had a great time riding with you. You did great on the off-piste in hard boots and a narrow carving board.  

 

A bit more about my boots: My hard boots were Head Stratos Pros. In order to get a good fit without heel lift, I had to size down a bit to a mondo 27. My toes were always jammed. The boots weren't painful but definitely not comfortable. I thought that was just part of the price of snowboarding. 

My new soft boots are Flow Talons. When I first got them, I thought they were too big. However, after a bit of tweaking and riding, I think they fit pretty well. They are the most comfortable snow-sliding footwear (ski boots, soft snowboard boots, hard snowboard boots) I have ever worn. My toes have plenty of wiggle room but the heel hold-down is great. They are pretty hard to get into and really hard to get out of but really comfy when I'm riding. 

With my hard boots, my big toe toenails were so bruised by the end of a season, it would take until the beginning of the next season before my nails would out-grow the damage from the previous season (and I kept my nails trimmed almost to the quick). 

FWIW, I basically cut the toe portion off of my Deeluxe 131 liners in my UPZ RC8, size M28, boots and finally acheived total toe comfort and didn't get cold toes as I feared.

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23 hours ago, JohnE said:

Thanks Colozeus. We had a great time riding with you. You did great on the off-piste in hard boots and a narrow carving board.  

 

A bit more about my boots: My hard boots were Head Stratos Pros. In order to get a good fit without heel lift, I had to size down a bit to a mondo 27. My toes were always jammed. The boots weren't painful but definitely not comfortable. I thought that was just part of the price of snowboarding. 

My new soft boots are Flow Talons. When I first got them, I thought they were too big. However, after a bit of tweaking and riding, I think they fit pretty well. They are the most comfortable snow-sliding footwear (ski boots, soft snowboard boots, hard snowboard boots) I have ever worn. My toes have plenty of wiggle room but the heel hold-down is great. They are pretty hard to get into and really hard to get out of but really comfy when I'm riding. 

With my hard boots, my big toe toenails were so bruised by the end of a season, it would take until the beginning of the next season before my nails would out-grow the damage from the previous season (and I kept my nails trimmed almost to the quick). 

@JohnE If you still have your Heads you should try the mod I developed to shift the third strap. Search for Head Stratos Pro mods on Vimeo. That fixed my heel lift issues in them.

When my Heads died I bought UPZ RC10s and did a similar mod on my rear boot to get good heel hold. There are images in a recent thread on RC10 mods. Both mods allowed me to have good heel hold and wiggle room to keep my toes comfortable. Both mods were designed to produce the ankle strap angle that Northwave 950s and Mountain Slope 951s have.

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Glad you are getting your carve on with softies and a sweet sb-carve deck from Donek.  However I wish you had come to us sooner, before reaching the stage of "I quit, here's why".  I think I'm hearing a few fixable issues that could open the door for you on hardboots.  1, your boots sound like they are a "performance fit" (or maybe just too small) but this could be totally fixed by molding or even cutting the liners, and having the shells stretched by a good boot fitter. 2, I'm guessing you were riding hardboots with flat bindings (not tilted with cant or lift - more on that here) or just a flat front binding.  I and many others also find this uncomfortable because the built-in forward lean of the boots cocks your lower body forward into a weird position.  Adding toe lift to the front binding and heel lift to the back binding should make your hardboot stance much more comfortable, centered, and natural. 3, you might just need more mileage on easier terrain where you won't be riding in self-defense mode, so you can really feel what is going on and master the technique.  Skidding and steering a snowboard in hardboots is awkward until you've really adapted to it, because you're fighting against the equipment.  The good thing is, carving on easier terrain is still lots of fun.  I think you should keep at it, you should try these remedies before throwing in the towel.

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Jack - thanks for the suggestions. 

1) My boots are a performance fit. My local bootfitter (Larry) said that I needed a smallish boot because I have a "low volume" (narrow) foot. He and I both made many modifications to my shells & liners in an effort to avoid heel lift without jamming my toes. I re-molded my liners many times. They would feel OK for a while but I was always trading off heel lift for jammed toes. 

2) I was riding TD3s with 3 degree front foot toe lift and 3 degree rear foot heel lift. This helped but I still didn't feel stable or natural. 

3) I did get a lot of mileage in and under perfect (for me) conditions, I could link a bunch of great feeling carves but when conditions fell below my ideal, my technique fell apart. 

Foot discomfort was part of the problem but not the only problem. Bottom line - carving in soft boots has allowed me to re-discover my joy of snowboarding and carving. About the only place I ride is in Colorado. We rarely have east-coast conditions and often what I think are ideal conditions I hear others complaining that it is too soft. 

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Having ridden with so many awesome people...on everything except snow bikes this season. I’m just thrilled that no one cares what boots I wear. Carve hard. Without this site  (past and present) I would not have been able to share sunburned smiles with people I plan to be lifelong friends with. And continue to meet more as a direct result. 

Just my two centavos...

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