Peter Clark’s family founded Jindabyne Sports in the lakeside ski town in 1967, over fifty years ago. The respected boot fitter has spent his life growing up in a ski shop. 

“Before that my Grandfather was a shoe maker in George St, Sydney” laughs Peter, now a Master Bootfitter who has worked around the globe. “So I guess you could say boot fitting is in my genes!”

While working in ski rental, Peter had an appreciation of how the fit of a customers ski boot can be the difference between them having a  great holiday or a terrible one if their feet hurt.

So, aged 18 he started boot fitting full time. Now 42 seasons and up to 10,000 boots later, he fronts his own family owned and run store, Gravity Thredbo in the village mall during winter with a ski demo centre at the base of the Kosciusko chair lift. The store’s boot fitting clinic is so popular they take online bookings to ensure everyone gets time.

You could say, Peter knows his stuff. So we asked him some questions.

Can ski boots really make a difference to how you ski? 

Peter Clarke at Gravity Thredbo.

If your foot is  supported by the use of a well-made custom insole you will find your foot is much more stable, circulation is improved and they will help with the alignment of your hips, knees and ankles.

Knee alignment is an often overlooked area, but it makes a huge difference having your knees centred over the top of your boots and hence your skis. Anyone with knock knees will find it difficult if not impossible to carve both skis as one, and this will inhibit your ability to progress.

A snug, good fitting ski boot can make or break your holiday. They are the most important piece of your ski kit.

So the answer is definitely yes, if you want to improve quickly and most importantly enjoy your time on the hill, an investment in a set of correctly fitted, quality ski boots should be your first priority.

Pete Clark working his magic at Gravity Jindabyne.

Most common boot fitting issues?

I find that most skiers are skiing in boots that are at least a size too big. This creates a myriad of problems such as lack of control, but more importantly can lead to very sore shins and black toes.

The skier hits a bump and their foot slides forward, the resulting momentum causing the big toe to hit the front of the shell, bruising the toenail. This slight movement forward and back, plus the heel moving up and down, causes the skiers shin to rub on the boots tongue and leads to sore shins.

What causes foot pain in boots?

Try to fit a square peg into a round hole and you’re going to have problems, a ski boot plastic shell is not going to stretch and become wider like your shoes will over time.

As boot fitters, our job is to shape the shell to match the shape of your foot, not the other way around. So we use tools to stretch or grind the boot shell and even modify the liners to try and adapt the shell to your particular foots morphology.

Inside ankle pain, forefoot area too tight, burning pain under the sole of the foot, these are all problems your boot fitter will be able to fix and ensure you have a comfortable day on the slopes.

Is it ever possible to get a boot straight out of the box?

The Holy Grail of skiing, if you can then you’re one of the lucky few with a perfect foot!

You’ll still need a custom footbed to stabilize and support your foot as when your skiing there is quiet a lot of stress placed on your feet as you steer and navigate your way down the slopes. If we come up with a shell that’s a good match out of the box, then yes its possible we won’t need to modify the plastic.

Also, you should insist the liners are heat moulded before you go skiing for the first time, the foam needs heat to adapt to your foot. The ski boot companies have spent a lot of time and money the last few seasons (3D fit liners) and simply skiing in them won’t create enough heat to do this.

The liner is the most expensive component of your ski boot, they take up to 50 hours to make, are mostly hand made, and are made from a multitude of hi tech foams and material’s.

What socks should you wear – thick or thin?

This depends on the fit of your particular boots fit, if its very tight then go for a thin (ultralight) sock. I sometimes start with thin socks for the first few days of skiing while my new boots break in, and after time I find a regular (light weight) sock works best for me.

Thick socks take up too much room in a correctly fitting ski boot and will cut of circulation making you feet go cold and numb. Once again, if you need to wear thick socks, or even two pairs, to make your boots tight, your boots are too big.

Consider compression socks as well. I find they are great for wide feet and large calves, they stop the foot from swelling throughout the day.

How long should a boot fitting session last?

Peter Clark on top of the Aussie snow world!

At Gravity Thredbo we allow 90 minutes for a new boot fit. You’re likely to try on 2 or maybe 3 boots, and your boot fitter will ask you which one is the most comfortable, which holds your foot securely etc.

He may break it down into 3 sections. Which one is best on your shin when you flex forward, then area 2, which one holds your heel down securely, and 3, the toe box, can you wriggle your toes. 

Your toes should lightly touch the front of the liner, moving back a bit when you flex forward, and hitting the front if you try and lean back. Try not to judge the boot in the first 30 seconds, some will feel better the longer you leave them on, conversely if they feel worse the longer they’re on, they are probably not for you.

How should you look after your ski boots for longevity?

Removing your ski boots liners will allow them to completely dry out, so never leave them wet, otherwise mold and odours can form. Then you can store them away for summer. You can wash the plastic shell with warm water and a little soap, and don’t leave them in direct sunlight, store them in a nice cool place.

Finally, what is a boot fitting no no?

Don’t buy your boots online! You’re not buying a jacket. Unless you know exactly what you’re after you are asking for trouble. “Poor man pays twice” my mother used to say!

Gravity Thredbo in the Village Mall, is open seven days a week during the ski season. Book online for boot fitting.

7 dynamic ski exercises to get you fit for the slopes