Located at Lake Tahoe, California, Sugar Bowl Academy is a fully accredited college preparatory high school for competitive skiers. It's a world-class ski academy for Alpine, Nordic and Freeride athletes.

How to Find Your Perfect Boots and Helmet

By Eric Harlow Coaches

As we put the finishing touches on both the SBA Europe Project (Oct. 7-22) and the SBA Colorado project (November 9-21), I’m reminded of two pieces of equipment, important ones, that can make a difference in a young, up and coming athlete’s season. You’ve likely been to the ski sales or shops and scooped up most of the bigger pieces, some new, some used; that’s good fun for everyone involved. Fresh gear is the best!

Two pieces of the puzzle that don’t get enough attention, but should, are ski boots and helmet. It’s critical that both fit well and for different reasons.

When it comes to ski boots, it’s rare that you'll meet a coach that doesn’t believe boots are the most important part of the equipment equation. This is the only part of the set-up that is actually touching the athlete’s body and thus is in charge of the interface between the ski and the snow. Making sure the fit is right isn’t easy… think Goldilocks; not too big, not too small, but juuust right!


Boots that are too big won’t respond to the athlete’s body as fluidly as they should and thus decreases the performance of the ski. It’s certainly alright to buy a pair of boots that the athlete can use for more than one year, it’s just good not to go overboard with boots they will “grow into." If that’s what you choose to do, an extra pair of socks can help take up some space. To take up a little bit more, grab a footbed that’s a little bit thicker than the stock one that comes with the boot. This will allow the boot to perform and maybe get you another year out of them. Keep this in mind when considering hand-me-downs or -ups!

Boots that are too small don’t allow the foot to stretch out and operate naturally. Imagine working out with your toes curled up in your shoes… it’s not going to be the best workout. As well, boots that are too tight in the area on the inside of the ankle can lock out the foot and prevent it from being able to roll the ski up on edge. Athletes in this situation lose control of their ability to progressively edge the ski: they’re either on the edge or off the edge, there isn’t much in between. This can also be the case if the footbed has an arch that’s too rigid, locking the foot in place between the arch and the top of the boot: there needs to be some play in there to let the foot and the ankle do its thing!


Safety is the most important part of ski racing; on this, we all agree! Making sure that a helmet fits right can be the difference between getting a concussion and not. The helmet should sit on the head with just a little bit of movement. If it’s too loose, the head can smack down on the inside of the helmet almost as hard as it would on the snow. Too tight and the head’s already begun to press into the protective inside layer. Again, back to Goldilocks… just right! Another thing to consider is how many impacts the helmet has been through and making sure that, when traveling, the helmet doesn’t get tossed into the bottom of a bag, on the floor of the trailer, beneath hundreds of pounds of gear, bouncing its way to Mammoth like a plastic basketball. It’s better to travel with the helmet as you would your laptop; keep it in the car with you. In order for a helmet to provide the best protection, it needs to be protected too!

If you have questions about boot or helmet fit, don’t hesitate to reach out to your child’s coaches. If you’re at a ski shop or a ski sale, just remember the Goldilocks Rule and you’ll be in a position to make the best choice for your kids!

Enjoy the crisp fall weather and see you on the summit very soon!

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