The acid test is when you sit down for lunch. Do you adjust your boots?

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The Independent Travel
I've lost track, now, of when it was that I was seduced by a pair of smooth-looking Salomon 92 Equipe rear-entry boots. Some time in the late Eighties, I guess. It was almost an impulse buy, but I have never regretted it. At the time, my skiing progress was being hindered mainly by persistent unhappiness with boots. I would set my boots loose in search of comfort, then tighten them until I was crippled by pain. However, my new Salomons put an end to all that, and allowed me to concentrate on skiing instead of adjusting. And boy, were they an improvement at the beginning and end of the day: whatever else you may say about rear-entry boots, you cannnot dispute the fact that they are easy to get on and off.

However, these days, rear-entry boots are highly unfashionable. By which I mean that equipment experts rate them technically inferior to more traditional boots - often referred to as "clip" boots because of the series of conspicuous adjusting clips on the front. The word is that rear-entry boots have not been able to match clip boots for complete control over the ski - racers have never adopted them, which is one clue - while advances in the construction of clip boots have made them more comfortable.

So complete has been the rehabilitation of the clip boot that Salomon, who originally made only rear-entry boots, now make none at all. So when the chance arose, a couple of weeks ago, to try out a pair of their new- style boots, I jumped at it.

One of the things I like about my dear old 92s is their considerable range of canting - the adjustment between the angle of your lower leg and the angle of the boot's sole. Although I consider my legs fairly normal looking, I discovered early in my skiing career that they are actually slightly bowed; the result in "normal" ski boots is that I'm always catching outside edges and falling over. (If you suspect you suffer from this, stand in your ski boots on a smooth, hard floor, feet hip width apart; rock from side to side, and see if the boots are flat on the floor when your hips are centred.)

Salomon's top-of-the-line Integral range of boots provides scope for vital adjustment through movable knobs on the side. These gadget are called Powerlocks and they are the key link between the main part of the boot and the back part, which is hinged to make getting your foot in easier than with a conventional clip boot. Once your foot is in, you close the boot and engage the Powerlocks. At first, I found this arrangement almost impossibly difficult on the Integral Equipe 9.2 boots I borrowed - the trick, I discovered, is to make sure the boots are warm the first time you put them on.

On the snow, I was immediately struck by how much stiffer the Integral boots were. It took me some time to get used to that, and I had a sore spot on one ankle for a day or two. But the new boots definitely gave more of a sensation of control, and I was soon enjoying that sensation without any reduction in comfort. The acid test is when you sit down for lunch and it doesn't occur to you to slacken your boots; the Integrals passed this test on day three. A very high proportion of British skiers are still using very comfortable, serviceable rear-entry Salomons they bought in the Eighties; my experience suggests many would benefit from a change.

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