Why Racers Marry Their Ski Boots

By Peter Oliver

Ski racers take extreme measures to get—and keep—a winning boot. 

Ingemar Stenmark spent almost his entire World Cup career in Caber’s blue Alfa boot (top of page). He ran his first World Cup race, at age 17, in 1973. The Alfa was introduced in 1974, and Stenmark won his first slalom championship in 1975. Caber killed production of the Alfa in 1979, but when he ran his last World Cup race in March 1989, Stenmark still wore a banged-up pair of Alfas. Cindy Nelson, another Caber devotee, held onto her Alfas past her own retirement in 1985.

That kind of loyalty isn’t exceptional. Dozens of racers swore by the original Nordica Grand Prix, introduced in 1972 and gone from the market by 1976. But over the next decade, Nordica was forced to run off a few dozen pair each year to keep its contracted racers happy. Into the 1990s, guys like Felix McGrath were still scrounging around for original-stock examples of the GP. “When you get a pair of boots right, you don’t want to give it up,” he says. “There was something about that plastic that I preferred.” McGrath could nurse a pair of GP shells through two seasons, and he learned to grind and shape each new-old shell to fit. Eventually, in 1999, Nordica revived the GP design elements to produce the Dobermann—a boot still in production today...

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