The BootDoctors: Perfect Boot Fit Every Time
“The (Boot)Doctor is in the House” is a series from beloved retailer, BootDoctors, about mountain lore and stories in which the good guys still win and get to ski powder. The Big Idea is to share the power of mountain life: style, gear, community and community outreach, and adventures of all kind. This week, once again, regular Telluride Inside… and Out contributor and accomplished local skier and cyclist Jesse James McTigue writes about BootDoctors elite boot fitting team, focusing on master boot fitter Sam Tishendorf.
Growing up ski racing, we had a few cardinal rules about equipment. One was to never check your ski boots on an airplane; always carry them on. Having any piece of equipment lost or delayed would be a bummer, but it was generally believed everything could be replaced but one’s ski boots.
And that was because each athlete, along with their coach, had most likely spent up to ten hours getting those boots to fit perfectly to their specific foot. The exercise did not only include blowing out or carefully Dremmeling the plastic shells to make room for wider parts of one’s foot and ensuring the flex was optimal, but it also meant ensuring correct alignment for the most precise touch on the snow.
Back then this type of fit was fairly exclusive to the competitive skier. However, in Telluride, with the expert boot fitters at the BootDoctors, this type of precision fit is available to anyone who walks in the door thanks to their team of expert boot fitters led by BootDoctor’s owner, master boot fitter and Ski Magazine ski and boot tester, Bob Gleason; and Australian-born, master boot fitter and podiatrist Sam Tishendorf.
In fact, it was Gleason’s work and reputation in boot fitting that drew Tishendorf from her native Australia to Colorado.
As a podiatrist working in the field since 2008 and an avid snowboarder, Tishendorf saw snow sports as an untapped resource for biomechanics.
“Running is so overdone,” Tishendorf says about creating sport specific foot beds, “but there is not a whole lot out there about skiing.”
Through what Tishendorf refers to as “a series of connections,” Tishendorf landed at BootDoctors in 2013 and has been working side-by-side with Gleason since. The two are both “professors” at Master Fit University, a boot-fitting training program in which masters travel around the country to educate other professional boot fitters in the latest technology and research about foot beds, techniques in evaluating feet, advanced boot fitting methods, and implementing out of the box boot modifications to accommodate those clients who have the most challenging feet.
And what all of this knowledge and training means for the BootDoctors’ clients is that everyone gets to work with what is arguably the best team in the industry.
A typical fitting with a BootDoctors boot fitter begins with questions about where you like to ski, followed by a scan of your body alignment and range of movement. They take different measurements of your foot looking at the length of your foot in relation to your instep. A high instep relative to foot length might entail sizing up; a long foot that is shallow through the instep may call for sizing down.
Additionally, Tishendorf explains they look for lumps and bumps and know what ski boot brands have wider toe boxes, are better for skiers with skinnier ankles, or for those with bigger calves.
As Tishendorf looked at my foot, she immediately noticed a difference in the movement in my left leg versus right leg (I hadn’t told her that I’d had four knee surgeries on the left) and commented on my “tibular boning” and “lateral malleolus.” I blushed as she commented on my “thin ankles” (that’s a compliment, right?) and how the shape of my rear foot, or my “core fit zone” would play into her boot selections for me.
After much speculation, Tishendorf brought out two pairs of boots: the Tecnica Mach 1 and the Atomic Hawk Ultra. As I tried on each pair, she had me click into a ski simulator to see how I moved in the boots commenting on the shell modifications she would make to customize each pair beyond the standard heat molding and building of a custom boot fit.
As I listened to her, I wished I had had her around during my ski racing days and dreamed of walking out of the store in either pair. I vowed to return and finally have the kind of boot that I’d once again never check on an airplane.
Boots fit by Tishendorf will definitely be carry-ons.
More about BootDoctors Ski, Snowboard & Bike Shop (from the desk of Penelope Gleason):
It was the winter ski season of 1985. Bob Gleason looked up from the boot-fit bench at Taos Ski Valley and caught the glances of the folks lined up out the door. Anxious faces of skiers.
“Bring us your sore, cold, numb, battered feet…and we will make them able to ski again,” thought the grinning Irishman as he labored to bend the stiff plastic of a ski boot to his bidding.
Ski boots in the eighties were only slightly better than torture devices. They had, in fact, improved substantially from the old days of leather, but hard plastics and packed-out liners more often than not tamped down a skier’s enthusiasm.
Bob Gleason had dedicated his professional life to making ski boots more comfortable and better performing.
After a stint at Hanson boots, where he addressed a number of key problems presented by skiers and many pro athletes, Bob was drawn to the emerging ski mecca of Taos Ski Valley by the famous ski pioneer Ernie Blake.
Now Bob Gleason and his partner Bob Reminger were struggling to keep up with demand for their boot-fitting skills. The need for a new ski shop with a focus on boot-fitting became glaringly obvious.
In 1986, the two Bobs started their own shop in Taos Ski Valley, with a central focus on the highest quality ski boot-fitting. They were joined by Linda Gleason and, later, by Kyle Reminger in the shop, where they added ski clothing and accessories into the mix. It was a smart business model: once skier’s boots came off, shoeless individuals were confined to the store for the better part of an hour. Why not pass the time browsing all the cool gear while waiting for your boots to be altered?
The original shop and the newer Telluride stores stand on a foundation built on the combined values of deep knowledge, quality workmanship and products, customer service, and personal passion for skiing and other mountain, trails, and river-based sports. All the folks who work at BootDoctors live in and love the outdoors and are always ready, willing, and able to share their expertise to help others have great outdoors experiences too.
The TSV BootDoctors store was at first inconveniently located, away from the Main Street traffic stream and across a river. Some devotees scrambled through the frozen river bed to reach the shop rather than hike around. That was remedied in the darkness of one night, when the landlord, JB Cottam, snuck in a new bridge, much to the surprise of the ski area owners and competitors.
The rest is history…
It is history that stretches over 30 years of world-renowned boot-fitting done on site at the highest quality ski shop, still owned and run by two families, the Gleasons and the Remigers. Many awards decorate the walls for “top boot-fitting” and “most knowledgeable staff” – many of whom have been with the business for more than 20 years.
Loyalty is the key element to survival. Loyalty has taken BootDoctors through droughts and fierce local competition, as well as competition from big sporting goods chains and the rapid growth of on-line shopping. Loyalty of the staff and loyalty of the customers, who return generation after generation, bringing children and grandchildren for gear and services.
In 1996, Bob Gleason, who had been exploring the landscape of ski area retail as he traveled teaching Master Ski Tech and Masterfit Bootfitting clinics all over North America, became enamored of the rustic town of Telluride, which was on the verge of a major revival with a new owner of the ski area. Gleason moved to Telluride and one year later decided to open a BootDoctors store in the quickly growing Mountain Village. The need for quality boot-fitting and a homegrown, old fashioned, owner-operated ski store fit his skills well.
Over 20 years in Telluride, the BootDoctors grew to encompass a large storefront in Mountain Village and take over the Paragon Sports stores, another locally owned sporting goods outfit. The expansion allowed BootDoctors’ customers to benefit from the master boot-fitting and high-quality products on both sides of the mountain.
In 1998, Penelope Gleason joined the crew as marketing director after a stint in retail and inventory control. The Gleasons’ daughters, Kelli and Galena, joined the business after college and rose to the ranks of management and top buyers.
Purchase of the Paragon stores allowed the merchandise mix to reflect another of the family’s passions: cycling. Biking had been one of Gleason’s summer recreational passions – along with river-guiding since the 1970s.
BootDoctors also grew their summer offerings in Telluride to include rafting, paddle boarding, mountain bike rentals, retail, repair, and tours. In Taos, they added a store in the downtown in collaboration with the area’s top fly fishing outfitter, Solitary Angler.
The same quality and passion found in the boot-fitting department permeates the other departments, from ski rentals to outdoor clothing, bikes and guided adventure tours.
Never known to rest on its laurels, BootDoctors became the first entity in Telluride to offer Fat Tire Bikes for rent, sale, and tours.
Quality, knowledge, passion for sport and personal service are values being carried forward by the awesome staff at all five BootDoctors stores today.
The same big grin that sparkles on the ski slope, under his bike helmet, or in the boot-fit room shines as Bob watches his daughters Kelli and Galena continue the traditions while buying hard and soft goods, managing different departments in the business, and excelling in skiing, biking, and river-running.
Bob knows the future looks good for the next generation of BootDoctors and their loyal customers.
Jesse James McTigue
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