Ya can’t get to the goods if your toes are turned to frozen hot dogs. Liners keep your dogs toasty and can mean the difference between a blah and whoopee! day
Customizable ski boot liners, do they matter? Won’t any liner do? Take it from Scarpa CEO, Kim Miller: “I’ve known too many friends that have turned back from a summit or a line six months, hell, six years in the making because their feet got too cold. That is f#cking unacceptable.” Yes, liners matter. They matter a lot.
When a Whistler, British Columbia skier mixed necessity with a little ski bum cunning he created something that’s done more for the modern skier skid than oyster crackers, hot water and ketchup packets: Intuition liners. Twenty-five years ago, in the time of airplane turns and neon, Byron Gracie wanted to improve his skiing experience. His first thought, I should make a better boot liner, one that seamlessly transfers power and has no slop or play. His second thought, I’m a little hungry. His third thought, I should start experimenting with and testing thermoplastics and EVA foam. He partnered with like-minded ski bum, Herb Lang, and entrepreneur, Rob Watt, sourced the materials and began testing.
Early experimentation was, well, challenging to say the least. Foam would shrink when heated, then harden and result in a material that couldn’t be re-molded and didn’t hold a custom foot shape. Glues wouldn’t stick, which is the only job glue has. Fabrics and stitching were limited to the formability of foam that wouldn’t hold its shape. It was a frustrating process. Watt says that, “trying to replace a 27-piece liner with a single piece of foam was insanely difficult,” akin to picking a combination lock. After a great deal of trial and error, things started working. Watt then began carving wooden feet on which to build the prototypes so that Intuition liners had an “off-the-shelf” commercial fit. This proved to be a breakthrough; the liners finally held their form.
Gracie, Lang and Watt got liner performance feedback from actual skiers who used the product while they were actually skiing. The response: they’re warm, light, quick-drying and they’re comfortable as hell. Intuition’s first big contract came with Raichle. Watt bought Gracie and Lang out and continued pursuing partnerships with boot brands and aftermarket liner business. Today, Intuition liners come stock with Full Tilt, Roxa, Daleboot, Nara and Scarpa—the latter of which just inked a second 10-year exclusive contract with the liner-maker.
“Scarpa and Intuition are like Ferrari and Pirelli,” says Scarpa’s Miller. “When you think of one you think of the other. Why would you use anything else?” Like Kleenex replacing the term “facial tissue,” Intuition has become almost completely synonymous with the product. Miller points to unwavering performance as the reason. “Design is not about adding more,” Miller explains. “It’s about only using what is necessary. Intuition liners are lightweight, super durable, warm, comfortable, customizable and re-moldable. These are field tested, tried and true, kick-butt liners.”
Ian Kirkwood has “Franken-feet.” He’s been ski patrolling in Telluride, Colorado, for 17 years. Four years ago, Kirkwood bought a pair of boots that came with Intuition liners; it was his first time ever using the product. “I work five 10-to-12 hour days every week, all winter long,” he explains. “I’ve been really impressed with those liners. They were easy to fit up, they haven’t worn down, ripped or torn, and I’ve never had a day where they’ve been cold, wet or frozen.” Kirkwood put his own footbeds in the liners, removed the laces for a looser fit—“I’m built for comfort, not speed,” he explains—and molded the liners to his monstrous hooves.
Kirkwood’s customization was done at the local ski shop, Bootdoctors, by ski empress Galena Gleason. Gleason graduated from Masterfit University, bootfitting’s Harvard, in 1999 and has been working on skier paws in her father’s shop ever since. “Lighter is better these days,” says Gleason. “Intuitions are definitely light; plus warm and internally and externally moldable. The inside contours to your foot and the outside fits into the shape of the boot shell, which helps with smooth power transfer from the leg and foot through the boot and to the ski.” Gleason also points out that stock liners can have a less than stellar body-boot interface due to breaking down and packing out too quickly. “Intuitions are great for people looking to get more days out of a boot. Like, three more 100-day seasons,” Gleason says. “I’d expect to get 360 ski days out of a pair of Intuitions, at least.”
Intuition liners help more than your everyday ski bum and resort employee. Professional skiers have been onboard with the brand since its inception. “I can honestly say that Intuition liners have been a complete game changer for me,” says pro ripper, Josh Daiek. “For years I suffered from the cold and gnarly foot pain associated with a race fit. A typical stock liner can pack out in a matter of weeks. My Intuition liners have given me a more comfortable and responsive fit than I could have ever imagined. You can’t really put a price on being warm and comfortable in the backcountry, so any way you look at it, it’s money well spent.” Daiek says that the first week of breaking-in Intuition liners can be trying, but adds that patience is key. After a week of skiing, they’ll be fully molded to your foot. The snug fit will help you step up your touring, pow slashing and cliff sending. Custom boot liners are not the sexiest part of skiing, but just like wearing freshly washed long johns after a hut trip, you’ll notice the difference. Warmth, comfort, a remarkable meshing of body and material, extreme performance… because liners, man, they’re important.
Luxury Liner, by Intuition — $198
Luxury liners are ideal when trying to take up a little room and add a bit of stiffness into your shells. Available in 3 Volumes: HV (High Volume, thickest), MV (Medium Volume), and LV (Low Volume, thinnest), to accommodate a range of shell fits and providing superior custom fit and comfort. These lace up, tongue style liners are constructed with a dual-density foam lay-up, feature a roomy toe box for maximum wiggle room, and a 9mm high-density sole that can be worn with or without additional foot beds.