Glide & Slide

This month welcomed the Jet2Ski Snow report back into my inbox.

As a young boy, I first strapped on skis at a dry ski slope in Queensbury.

Howling winds, driving rain, and not a clue what I was doing, left me bundled into the passenger seat of the manager’s Triumph Spitfire, heading to the Bradford Royal Infirmary with a multiple compound fracture.

Time (and orthopedic surgery) is a great healer, so I decided to give it another bash in Chamonix and have never looked back.

Swooping down a mountain on skis lights up every fibre of my being. It’s chicken soup for my soul with a shot of adrenaline for the heart, the very essence of living in the moment.

Last year, I made a promise to treat myself to my own pair of ski boots and so last Monday, headed off to Glide & Slide in Otley to be kitted out.

Like my own business, the service is ‘by appointment’ and takes two hours for the consultation process and fitting.

With over 16 years experience of fitting ski boots, my dainty sized seven feet were to be left in the hands of their manager, Ally Bolton.

Ally Bolton

If Robocop had a shoe fetish, the boot room was how I imagine his walk-in-wardrobe would look, with row upon row of sculpted neon plastic footwear.

Seated on a raised throne, I was asked to remove my ski socks and adopt the downhill position so he could examine my feet and lower legs.

From the ankles up, I’d like to think I’m in pretty good shape.

Whilst I don’t wax, pluck, exfoliate, or buff my nails, I take the view that two showers a day, a splash of Acqua di Parma and a smear of Kiehls skin balm, is more than enough for any self respecting, clean, lean, tailoring machine.

It’s below the sock line that I need to raise my game.

With the tan of Summer long gone, brown toes have faded away to a sickly yellow colour, more akin to Donald Trump’s toupee, my nails in desperate need of a trim ‘n’ edge.

Ally dug deep and surveyed my hobbit like trotters with an eagle eye.

As a bespoke tailor, it’s vital to get to grips with a customers posture (erect, or, stooped) and shoulder line (sloping, square) as a swerve away from the ‘norm’ (which in most cases is everyone!) must be reflected in his pattern.

Likewise, a high arch, slim foot, bow legs, all have major implications for a chaps ski-boot.

Whilst not quite a hunched-back bell-ringing freak, staggering around like Douglas Bader, I’m not exactly straightforward.

It’s a running joke amongst my friends I don’t actually have any visible calf muscles, and this combined with a relatively wide foot, was going to make things a little tricky.

When it comes to brand selection, it’s a bit like Ollivanders wand shop in Diagon Alley – you don’t pick the wand (boot), the wand (boot) picks you.

As ‘Barbie’ are yet to launch a range of ski-boots, I was given a couple of pairs to try-on, and told to have a wander about in each.

Like John Cleese from The Ministry of Funny Walks, I goose-stepped around the shop like a Brown Shirt at The Nuremberg Rally, settling for a pair of Lange, that despite being the same size as another pair, were definitely more comfortable.

Then the crucial fine tuning began.

My made-to-measure line starts with selecting a jacket, or, ‘master-model’ that gives the best fit on the chest, and then this ‘block’ pattern is manipulated and moved to reflect the actual posture, body shape and requirements of the customer.

It’s a very effective system that provides me with a real understanding of what the customer is looking for in terms of fit, and is similar in some way to the process of having a boot fitted.

Ally then put the mouldable liners (that fit inside the hard outer shell of the boot) into a heating oven for around 10 minutes to soften.

It’s at this stage, if required, that a customised insole is produced – it’s a bit like an orthotic – but as my arch was pretty normal, we cracked on.

He then padded out a small lump / pressure point on the top of my right foot with a neoprene patch, and fitted me with a neoprene toe-cap, to force my feet back into the liner and allow wiggle room for my toes.

It was then back on with the warmed up liners, and ten long minutes doing a bad impression of Eddie the Eagle flying down a ski ramp, to give time for them to mould to my feet.

Finally, patch and toe-cap removed, everything back on again, and man-hugs a plenty.

Naturally, there are more involved and expensive levels of customisation available, including a foam injected system and fully bespoke, but I think these new wheels will do me just fine.

Like my own business, it’s not really a product you are buying but a service – initially a little intimidating, having your own ski boots made is actually a highly interesting and thoroughly enjoyable experience.

Like every Saturday night after a hard days tailoring, I can’t wait to get on the piste!