ROGER COX Gallery images

FOUR SEASONS: BOOT LOVE

Published: The Scotsman (TSMag) 14 Apr 2012

AFTER almost a decade of heavy use, my snowboard boots are looking a bit Worzel Gummidge. The uppers have been chafed to a pulp by various sets of bindings, the liners are held together with strips of brown parcel tape, and the laces, originally white, are now a mucky grey. Waterproof? Ha! These boots are about as waterproof as a paper bag. But comfortable? On a long hike through deep snow, they’re comfier than my comfiest trainers.

For the first few years of our relationship, I took my boots for granted – threw them carelessly into the back of the car in the morning, used them to get my cheap thrills on the mountain all day and then forgot about them until the next time they were needed. But all that changed a couple of years ago, when I was tempted to try out a newer, fancier pair straight off the shelf. I won’t name the manufacturer for fear of incurring an expensive lawsuit, but these boots cost me an arm and a leg and let me down in the most frustrating way imaginable.

The annoying thing was, they were almost perfect. Rather than closing with laces, like my old boots, they were fitted with something called a boa – not a bright pink scarf with feathers attached, although personally I think snowboard boots could benefit from more mildly titilating features – but a sort of twiddly knob attached to a wire lacing system. Turn the knob in a clockwise direction and you’d tighten the wire; push a button on top of the knob and the wire would release. Much quicker and easier than laces, and with a satisfying clicking sound, too.

On my first run down the mountain I felt in control of my board in a way I’d never experienced before – a mere twitch of my toes was enough to change direction, as opposed to the usual ungainly arm-flailing. By the time I reached the queue for the chairlift I was raving about my purchase to anyone who would listen – buzzing with boot-love. That was as good as it got, though, because Run Two wasn’t quite as successful. After a couple of turns I became dimly aware of a slight niggle on the inside of my right foot. By the bottom of the run, that minor niggle had become a major one, and by halfway through Run Three I was in unignorable pain. I hobbled off to the side of the piste to take off my boot and discovered a patch of skin about the size and shape of a 10p piece had been neatly removed from my foot and deposited in the bottom of my sock, leaving a little red-raw circle in its place. Refusing to accept the inevitable, I fiddled about with the inside of the boot a bit, put it back on and had another go. No joy though: after another couple of runs, the discomfort got the better of me and I limped to the nearest hütte for an early lunch.

Had I been thinking straight, I would’ve ditched my new boots there and then and rented another pair to replace them, but that night, while my friends drank themselves stupid upstairs, imbibing industrial quantities of dubious mountain hooch, I took myself off to the boot room – the stinking heart of our chalet – and fiddled about with my footwear. Inside the boot, just at the point where I’d skinned my foot, there was a little raised nubbin where the boa wire entered the liner. If I could only flatten this out a bit, I reasoned, all would be well. That first night I tried a nail file, but no joy. The next night: kitchen scissors, but the rubbing continued. By the fourth night (or was it the fifth?) I lost my patience altogether, grabbed a pair of garden shears and hacked out the nubbin, severing the boa in the process. At a stroke I had rendered my magic boots both supremely comfortable and utterly useless.

Since that regrettable attack of boot-rage, I have looked upon my old boots with new eyes. They may not offer the same locked-in performance as their would-be replacements, but they do their job just fine, and without slicing holes in my feet. So yeah, I patch them up with tape and, silly as it sounds, these days I place them gently in the boot of the car at the end of each day.

Leave a Reply