The season before last, a journalist revealed in Forbes magazine the aspect of skiing that has provoked the most complaints in the decade-and-a-half during which he had been writing about the subject. Queues? Lift-pass prices? Boarders? No, none of the above. “The number one complaint I’ve heard, over and over, is about the cold,” wrote Larry Olmsted.
You may find that odd; I certainly do, given that cold weather does go with the territory, so to speak. Do water-skiers complain about wet conditions? I don’t believe so.
Prior to the New Year, Olmsted can have had no complaints from Europe. But now that the weather has changed in the Alps, the slopes turning from brown to white, you might wish for warmer conditions, at least inside your socks.
That sort of microclimate is now achievable, with the advent of the centrally-heated ski boot. The idea of heating boots is not new. Somewhat unsophisticated add-on devices have long been available, usually consisting of power-packs hung on the top of the boots and connected by cable to thermal insoles; they have proved popular with anglers. There is also the alarming electric Powersock, made by Austrian specialists Therm-ic. More ambitious (and, at £180 a pair, about twice the price) is the Sidas Central Woman Heat, a boot liner designed for women which features an internal warming system.
The difference with Salomon’s new Quest Access Custom Heat boot is that it was designed (from the ground up, presumably) for skiers with cold feet. The company says that the shell is designed to promote blood flow, and uses the warmest insulation materials available; but its main innovation is the heating system, which is wholly integrated within the boot.
Apart from the tiny power socket at the back, through which 4.2 volts flow from the charger into the power pack, and the nearby heat-output switch, the boot barely gives a sign of its special powers: only the tiny red “power on” light catches the eye. But from the materials on the throat, it’s apparent these are premium boots; putting them on is like squeezing into a very compact Mercedes. For the first time ever, I tried putting ski boots on my bare feet.
Once charged up, the heating system – developed with Therm-ic’s help – will operate for up to 18 hours, depending on which of the three output settings is selected; on full heat, you get four and a half hours.
How well does the system perform? I wish I could tell you; but I was evaluating the boots in London, where the spring-like air temperature was high enough to render the warming effect barely discernible. It was annoying, so much so that I am going to send a complaint to Larry Olmsted about the heat this season.