Why Strolz ski boots from Lech in Austria, with their foam-fitting technology, are worth the money – and the wait.
A version of this article first appeared in the Financial Times of 23 October 2004 under the title “Sole Mates”.
They may be pricey, but Leigh Turner finds some boots were just made for skiing.
Financial Times, October 23 2004
In the basement of Sporthaus Strolz, a man and a woman stand at a bar in a state of immobility, their feet are clamped into ski-boots filled with slow-setting liquid foam.
“How much longer will this take?” the man growls at a waiter.
“About ten minutes longer.”
“Bring me another schnapps.”
Descending the Valluga 2 from St Anton towards Lech. I was wearing my Strolz boots. You can read about it in my piece “Ski-ing with a guide: where experts fear to tread“
The family-owned firm of Strolz, based in the Austrian resort of Lech, is famed for its custom-made ski boots. But are they’re also known for a hefty price-tag and a foaming process for which you have to stand still for 30-60 minutes.
“Some people resist foam fitting because they’ve heard horror stories,” says Jay Cowan, a former ski instructor from Snowmass, Colorado, who once described the process as ‘feeling like a truck has parked on your feet’. “But it’s not that bad. They ply you with alcohol to distract you.”
“It’s true the foam exerts some pressure,” says Daniel Strolz, President of the company and the third generation to run the business since 1921. “But it’s less painful than a sore foot.”
Everywhere in Strolz’s wood-panelled fitting rooms, feet are being measured and analysed. Boots are custom-made on the basis of an initial consultation, during which feet are measured for footprint and volume. At the second consultation the hand-crafted leather inner boot is fitted, and the foaming takes place. Around 12 hours later, the boots are ready for use.
“A lot of boots fit in the shop, then don’t feel right on the slopes,” Jay Cowan says. “My Strolz boots were good the first time I took them out, it was a revelation. Since then, I’ve worn them for over 200 days of ski-ing. I think they’re tremendous.”
Preparing to tackle some not-too-challenging powder in Lech.
Back on the mountain, I ask my ski instructor Robert whether he’d recommend Strolz boots.
“Well,” he says, “they’re expensive. But if you can afford them, they’re worth it.”
He looks at my ancient Dachsteins and grins. “Of course, if the boots you have are comfortable, there’s really no need to change them.”
Stop press: I was back in Lech in 2019 and decided to pop into Strolz to get my 15-year-old boots, bought in 2004, serviced. The gentleman behind the counter admired their condition (“like new”) and took them in overnight, refurbishing the lining to make it softer. I picked them up in the morning. No charge.
Strolz, s.Hd Frau Annelies Bernsteiner, A-6764 Lech 116, Austria. Tel: +43 5583 2361-0, web-site: www.strolz.at
P.S. My satirical speculative thriller Eternal Life features a character who lives and works at Aspen 4000, the imaginary HQ of the all-powerful Central Authority. He skis every day in the Montezuma Basin but never masters powder… until it is too late. Take a look: