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What ever happened to rear-entry ski boots?

I may have grown up skiing but I’m a youngin’ compared to many of the skiers I know. My parents have been skiing for over 20 years, for instance. I’ve heard their tales from their colleges days about sneaking gulps of beer in the glade trails and whipping through moguls without tearing up knees – hallmarks of their glory skiing days, no doubt. One of their biggest gripes is the apparent discontinuation of rear-entry ski boot manufacture.

We still have a couple pairs of old rear-entry boots at home. My mom was skiing in them for years, and she’s said they’re the most comfortable boots she’s skied in. I personally have never tried them, but among older skiers, they’re quite popular.

A pair of Salomon SX 92 Equipe rear-entry ski boots.

Before rear-entry boots, skiers often hurt their shins because the plastic top of their ski boot would rub right against the skin and over the padded tongue of the ski boot. Ski boot designers and brothers Chris and Denny Hanson came up with a new design to relieve the stress on skiers’ shins. The answer was simply to get rid of the tongue altogether, thus creating a rear-entry ski boot.

Paul Hochman writes in a Ski Magazine online article,

“It was consumer friendly for sure,” says Dan McKenna, product manager for Dolomite, about rear-entry boots. “It was so much easier to put on in the shop. But it wasn’t exactly performance-friendly.” In other words, putting your foot into what amounts to an oversize bedroom slipper and clamping it down with cables doesn’t give you much snow feel.

Rear-entry boots entered the market in the early ’70s and were especially popular in the ’80s. Thanks to technological innovations since then, there’s been a shift back to front- or “middle”-entry ski boots.

According to a Squidoo.com ski blogger, old rear-entry boots from the ’80s and ’90s have some safety concerns because they could break at any time:

At this time the manufacturers were doing a lot of experimenting with plastics technology in order to come up with the best solution for the intense thermal stresses a ski boot is put through, i.e. under direct heat on the floorboard of the car on the way to the resort, and then directly out into subzero temperatures for a long day on the slopes … a common problem with older ski boots [is] explosion or cracking. That’s right, due to the design flaws in the older plastics they are breaking down at a rapid rate … more and more people who insist on skiing their old boots are experiencing this plastic explosion problem on the hill. This obviously could be quite serious depending on how and when the boot breaks.

But even despite this, companies are still rolling out rear-entry ski boots because there’s enough of a demand. But as long as rear-entry isn’t the norm, older skiers will preach the way of the rear-entry boot, probably loving it more for its nostalgic factor than its comfort.

Photo (cc) Maury Markowitz and republished here under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.

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1 Comment

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