Note: Some modifications shown in this post
may effect the manufacturer warranty.
Getting to work with the Black Diamond Factor.
It’s always fun getting new gear in the fall and spring, and there’s always a ritual of getting familiar with it in front of the TV with a beer and some munchies. With some products, it’s just trying it on and working the zippers, but with others, like ski boots, it often takes more to get them to fit how you want them. There are many modifications to boots you can do to get them performing to your liking, like switching out tongues and liners, and playing with different combinations of power-straps, spoilers and footbeds. As a skier that spends 99.9% of the time in the backcountry, the following is what I’ve done to my Black Diamond Factors to get them spot on for everyday use and fitting like a glove for this upcoming season.
The process of fitting my ski boots began at the shop by molding some Zaps footbeds in the microwave. The footbeds that come with the Factors are thermo-moldable themselves, but we had some freebie Zaps lying around, so I opted for the additional support of an after market footbed instead. After trimming the footbeds to fit inside the liner, it was time to take the next step and actually put my foot into the boot. In a day when nearly all the top BC boots on the wall come with thermo-moldable liners, it is interesting that although the BD liners are also thermo-moldable, BD seems to be down down playing this fact and urging people to maybe by-pass this step since the liners are designed to fit a wide range of foot shapes out of the box.
Shaved off boot-board.
Once I put my feet in the liners and shells, I could feel that one foot, my right, was good and snug…but not too tight. However, the left foot felt pretty squished over the instep. The heel pocket is very pronounced in the BD boots, so I buckled the boots and walked around the house a little to allow for my heel to settle in a bit before I made any adjustments. After about 20 minutes, I still felt some uncomfortable pressure over my left instep, but instead of molding the liners, I pulled out the boot-board and shaved some material off the bottom below where it felt snug. I shaved material off the bottom, so I could leave the heat reflective material (which from my experience is not removable/reuseable) on the top of the boot-board. I started by only shaving off about a millimeter in the center of the board and then putting my foot back into the boot to see how it felt. After going back and forth a few times, focusing on where it felt snug, I eventually got the fit I was looking for. Snug…but not uncomfortably tight…while at the same time, forgoing the thermo-molding process. Here are some common questions about the Black Diamond liners.
For the entire Black Diamond Boot Tech Manual, click here.
Once I had the fit right, it was time to modify the boots more for mostly backcountry skiing use. First, I removed the rear spoiler and powerstrap. Both very nice features of the Factor. The rear spoiler is adjustable up and down on the shell of the boot (as opposed to being attached to a liner) and the power strap is wider than most, as well as having some grippy material on the back to keep it from moving around on the boot shell. However, I felt that since the Factor is way more boot than what I’ve skied in the past few years, I could go without them in favor of some weight savings. And I feel like powerstraps just tend to get in the way when you are buckling and unbuckling your boots all the time when ski touring.
Before and after grinding material off
to achieve more rearward travel in the cuff.
There is no doubt the BD boots have a really nice walk mode. The overlap construction allows for great freedom of movement than most tongue-style boots…especially when the boots are buckled. But I tend to be one of those backcountry skiers that takes long strides when touring (meaning my foot gets pretty close the tip of my opposite ski) and I thought the Factors could have a little more rearward movement in the cuff for this purpose. After examining the mechanics of the boots, I noticed that if I ground down some of the plastic on the shell, I could probably eek out a bit more travel. Tentatively, I removed the forward lean/ski-walk mechanism and started grinding.
First, I ground off some of one side of the plastic black piece, which is part of the ski/walk mechanism. The next step, was to grind off some of the plastic on the bottom of the back of the cuff…which looked to stop the cuff from moving backward more. Though I was nervous while I was doing this, since it would for sure negate any type of warranty, I felt like I was on the right track. After buffing out what I had ground off, I measured a gain of about 5/8” of rearward travel in the cuff…a noticeable increase.
The increase in rearward travel.
Anyway, that’s what I’ve done to make the Black Diamond Factors fit me like a glove and make them a little more user friendly for lots of backcountry touring. All I’m waiting for now are the AT soles so I can rock them with Dynafit bindings. And since all my skis are mounted with Dynafit, it’s a long and stressful wait. Ciao for now!