Not all that surprisingly, Mount Bachelor delivered a mix of mostly wintry conditions, including some prime powder, as the Ski and Skiing Magazine boot testers went to work over the past eight days. Testing is mostly wrapped up, with just a skeleton crew on hand as of today.
The test is conducted for us by the guys at Masterfit University, who train bootfitters across the continent. This year, test director Mark Elling invited manufacturers to submit a total of 98 models. Some 300 total pairs were snowcatted up to the Pine Marten Lodge, midmountain at Bachelor, from which point testers were able access all of Bachelor's terrain easily. The test team numbered 40—local instructors, retailers and patrollers alongside the Masterfit instructors—and Elling collected some 800 test cards, the most ever for the test.
It's too soon to speak of test results, but Elling and Masterfit CEO Steve Cohen said one highlight from this year's test was the increasing number of custom-fit shells—from Salomon, Fischer, Atomic—along with increasingly sophisticated liner-customization technologies. It adds a degree of difficulty to the testing process (because the molding process takes time and testers can't just buckle and go), but testers seemed to agree that they're a boon to the customer, especially those of us with unusual foot shapes. Cohen somewhat ruefully reports that afternoons once spent biking, rafting and fishing are now more likely spent getting testers set up in custom shells for the next day's testing.
Props to Jim Schaffner, perennial winner of the Iron Foot Award for the guy who tests the most boots (and as any boot tester will tell you, it ain't easy). Schaffner, owner of one of the country's great shops, The Starthaus in Truckee, Calif., had tested 57 different models going into today.