Saturday, December 7, 2013

Follow your INTUITION…

Click here to see the "after 100 days" update of this post

INTUITION Sports out of Vancouver produces world class liners. These are premium liners that, when used right, will do a whole lot for your skiing no matter what type of skiing you’re into. Not only are they a godsend for performance, they are also a lot warmer than the typical stock liners. I use them in the BC for touring and on the rare occasions I ski in resort. My son Max, a U16 on the Park City alpine ski team, uses Intuition’s HD Race liners in his Salomon Custom 130 race boots. This year I am testing the brand new Pro-Tongue liners. But before getting into the liner review let’s take a quick look at boot and fit.

Step #1: Make sure you have the right shells 

Poorly fitted boots is probably the main turn off for most beginners in our sport. Having your feet in an ice cold and hard vice for endless hours does not necessarily develop the kind of passion our sport deserves. So here are some basics on getting yourself into a great fitting pair of ski boots. The main factors determining fit and performance are:
  • Size
  • Shell and cuff shape
  • Flex and your ability as a skier

The sizing proper is relatively straight forward. There are basically three different sizing charts that you will encounter when sizing (I do have a favorite but more on that in a bit): U.S. size – Euro size – Mondo size. This last one is a disarmingly simple measurement based on the metric system and measured in centimetres. For those that need a refresher on metric, an inch is 2.54 centimeters and an imperial foot (i.e. the measurement unit) is about 30 centimeters. Under this system a Mondo size 25.0 is simply a 25 centimeters long boot (i.e. about 10 inches) measured from the heel to the toe inside the boot. Click here for a good Mondo to “regular” conversion chart.
Once the length is established, width is the next important measurement. This is the width of your foot at its widest (the experts talk about “metatarsal” width). As an example, if you are a US men’s size 10, then a foot width of about 3.8" is considered narrow, 4.0" is considered pretty standard and 4.2" is considered wide (for all other sizes see table below). Knowing which width you are will allow you to zoom in your choice on boots known to be narrow, medium or wide.
Now to the reason the Mondo is my favorite system: Whether you are buying/renting boots in Alta, Chamonix or Rusutsu, as long as you “speak mondo” you’ll be able to get what you need no matter where you are on planet earth!

For shell and cuff sizes all boot manufacturers have a “standard” foot and lower leg shape they model their boots on. The problem of course is that feet come in all sizes and shapes. With each brand of ski boot having a unique configuration of shape, volume, and geometry your challenge is to find the manufacturer whose “standard” foot and lower leg shape matches yours the closest. The only way to find out is to spend the time trying them out and looking very carefully for pressure points. To figure out how a shell fit pull the liner from the shell, insert your foot so the toes are just barely touching the front of the shell, and measure the gap left behind your heel. A gap of less than 1 centimeter (a bit less than half an inch) is considered a snug race fit. A gap between 1 and 1.5 centimeters would be a normal, high-performance fit for advanced to expert skiers. 1.5 to 2.0 centimeters would be considered an ample fit for the skier that prioritizes comfort over performance. At more than 2 centimeters of gap you probably need new shells. However, and although not guaranteed, if you were to pick a high volume, high density INTUITION liner you may be able to “save” such a shell. That’s how determining these liners can be.
When trying out boots in the store don’t loose sight of the fact that a subtle pressure on your ankle in the shop can turn into major torture session after a few hours on the slopes... Know also that if you find the 99% perfect fit but the boot fits a bit too snug in a very specific area then heat “punching” the shell out to fit is a very easy and fast step to take towards perfection. For the lower leg shape a good thing to do if you find the boot is either too hard to buckle on the cuff or too loose, is to unscrew the buckles on the cuff and move them one hole or two either direction. This will typically just require an Allen key (sometimes offered as a give-away with the boot) and can easily be done at home and can make a huge difference in lower leg fit. Finally one word about half sizes: They don’t really exist… The shell size doesn’t change and contrary to popular belief neither does the thickness of the liner. Remember how we said that Mondo sizes are one centimeter per size (a Mondo size 25.0 is 25 centimeters long)? Well then a 25 and a ½ would be 25.5 cm i.e. a difference of 5 millimeters (1/5 of an inch). The manufacturers feel that that difference is too small to justify anything but a difference in the thickness of the insole. This is somewhat understandable given the cost of a boot mould.

Finally, as far as Flex and your ability as a skier are concerned know that these two factors are closely linked. Typically the more advanced skier in any given weight category will need or want the higher flex. However when it comes to backcountry boots it seems there are precious little standards to define the flex. So far I have always found that for the exact same flex advertised on a resort or free ride boot I get a stiffer boot than its corresponding ski mountaineering boot advertising the same flex. In general true ski mountaineering boots, because of the requirement to keep the weight down, are going to be less stiff than their beefier brethren in resort or sidecountry.

The liners

One key to Intuition’s success is its use of a special formulation of the Intuition foam. Many years ago that started in collaboration with Ultralon, a brand of EVA (Ethylene Vinyl Acetate) thermoformable foam. Nowadays Intuition does it all on its own and has developed the only foam formulation specifically fabricated for winter sports (snowboarding and skiing). As a result, this foam is more resistant to heat-related shrinkage and pressure related “packing out” than other types of foam.

Intuition liners are designed to improve on stock boot liners by:
Being lighter and warmer
Being longer lasting
Offering a better fit and being tuneable

The Intuition liner, once heated, will take the shape of your foot and your shell. Why does this matter above and beyond comfort? Because with no empty spaces left between your foot and the shells there is now a perfect transfer of energy from your foot to the liner to the shell. This gives your ski set up an ultra-responsive feel, because no energy is lost in open spaces or sloppy cushioning. I can say that this is no exaggeration: The Intuition liner is really that good. Now, these liners are no give-aways; at close to $200 I wouldn’t throw out my brand new Garmont liners if the only thing the Intuition did for me was to offer some vaguely improved comfort. For me the attraction is improvement in the performance (and efficiency) of light backcountry boots that need all the help they can get in that area.

For a bit over ten years now I have exclusively been using INTUITION liners in all my ski boots. For resort skiing (rare) I use them in my Salomon X-Waves. In the back country I use them in my old Garmont MegaRides 5my current “rock boots”) with Intuition Pro-Tour liners and on my new Garmont (RIP) Cosmos with Intuition Pro-Tongue liners.


The model that Intuition designed for back country skiing is the Pro-Tour, not this new Pro-Tongue. In my old MegaRide I used the Pro-Tour which is a great, pretty high volume liner. That liner was so good it absolutely extended the life of these boots. When I needed liners for these MegaRides I bought a size 28 Mondo liner for my 28 Mondo size boots. The MegaRide size 28 has a sole length of 320 millimeters
Pro Tour liner in MegaRide
Pro-Tour liner
For a reason that escapes me the size I need in the Cosmos is different so I ended up with a boot size labelled 27.5 (just the 27) with a sole length of 306 millimeters. These boots are lighter and narrower than my MegaRides but stiffer (advertising a flex of 130). I clearly was going to need a lower volume liner for the Cosmos. I picked the Pro-Tongue because they are thinner in the body and forefoot, with an extra thick dense foam around the cuff and down the full length of the tongue. The 2mm thick rubber ensures I am keeping overall volume in line with the tighter boots (the Pro-Tour sole is 7mm). At the same time they are dense and stiff enough in the cuff that I get really good support on the downhill. I have been out on four outings so far and this liner is shaping up to be the most responsive tongue liner I have owned. It reminds me of the high performance feel I had a few years back in the Power Wrap (too voluminous for these boots).  So far I am very excited about the responsiveness and performance I get out of these in cluding a week ago at suicide chute. I was also just a couple of days ago out at Alta in 4° and the warmth and comfort of these liners were irreproachable. I will do a more in depth analysis of these after a full season with them but so far they feel like quite the winners.
Pro Tongue liner

Pro Tongue in Cosmos


The liner my son uses right now is the HD Race liner. This tongue liner is classified as a low-volume liner. It is designed for low-volume and race-fit boots and that’s what he is using them for. Interestingly enough he has been told his boots are too large and he should go down a size. What he did was to get these liners that are thicker than the stock liner and after heatmolding they filled up any open spaces and he regained the level of responsiveness required of a race boot. The feel as well as the training times he achieved so far in this pre-season are very encouraging. I will get back with more towards the end of the season.
HD race liner

HD Race in Salomon World Cup
Custom 130 race boot

Where to buy these? For online ordering click here for US store locator click here.

Where do you fit in?


  1. How are you liking those Pro Tongue liners for your touring boots? I've heard some people say those liners are too stiff (all relative and subjective of course). Since they dont have the cutout by the Achilles that most touring boot stock liners come with, do you feel like the touring range of motion is limited?

    1. Hi "Anonymous", no I don't feel restricted at all. I am using them in a pair of Garmont (now Scott) Cosmos which is a light grilamid boot. I get a feeling that once I buckle up and ski down, the Pro Tonge gives me more stiffness and a so a more controlled and fun ski down. I don't miss the achilles cutout as I don't feel a difference in motion with or without it.

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  3. Thanks for the reply (I'm AKA anonymous). I've used plenty of power wrap liners and they ski great, but but do restrict the touring range of motion a good amount. I've tried other intuition tongue liners (luxury liners) but I felt like I was giving up a bunch of power with the tongue/cuff of those compared to wrap liners, they just didn't provide enough consistent contact and support in those areas. Sounds like you're pretty happy with them, maybe I'll give them a go. I think I saw some Park City references in another post, I live in Summit Park. If you are from around here, who did you have mold them?

    1. Hi Justin, I have update this post with a "100 days later" piece that you can see at Also, I am not sure if I ever told you where I had them heat molded, it was at Cole Sport at PCMR. Finally if you want to tour Empire Lodge to Empire Express I am going tomorrow at 2:30 pm and Friday at 7:30 am. You are welcome to join any of those workouts, this is what that looked like on Saturday:

  4. Hi Justin, because the Pro Tongue is as stiff as it is, and with the help of my booster strap, I do feel I have it all on snuggly enough at the chin to get a the sense of conrol I am looking for on the down. Having said that, it took a bit of breaking in to get that nice sense of feel on the chin and at the ankle. I thought it all worthwhile though and, as things stand right now, my next liner will just be a new pair of Pro Tongue. For the fitting I went to Cole's at PCMR.