A skier dressed in black spins in mid-air off a snowbank.

Riding the Bootfitting Wave

It's Never Summer for "Steezeninja"

- | 7 min read

Never Summer

“Summer?” For freeskier Robbie Forbes, a Taos local born and raised, it’s “Non-existent!”

In 2023, Forbes went down to Australia to spend his second summer there. One of his boot fitting mentors Charlie Bradley was like, “If you’re sick of landscaping, this might be something you want to do.” Bradley was clearly on to something. 2023-24 Taos ski season is Forbes’ 5th consecutive winter thanks to this tradecraft. You can currently find him wielding his skills at Taos Ski Valley shop, Bootdoctors.

A ski boot fitter smiles as he helps a customer.

Boot fitting is a pretty specialized line of work. Forbes explains that there is a network of well-respected shops around the world that act as a co-op of sorts. “Every shop needs boot fitters” explains Forbes, “You just have to tap into the Matrix and you got a gig somewhere.” That’s what Robbie did. In constant pursuit of pow as the year-long ski season, he flips hemispheres each year.

“Playing in the off-season training spots with pro skiers like Henrick Harlaut, Noah Albadejo, Taylor Seaton, and Alex Hall was always a dream,” Forbes reflects.

New Zealand

New Zealand had always been on Forbes’ bucket list. It’s the home country of his late best friend, Cooper Beacom, and the current residence of Coop’s brother, Keaun. He was itching to get out of Dodge and a season somewhere else was needed for a change of scenery. All things pointed south. In Australia, the place to be is Thredbo in New South Wales, and the place to boot fit is Gravity Thredbo, a shop locally owned and operated by Peter Clarke and his family for over 30 years. “You get to ski alongside your idols, and it opens your mind as to how they treat skiing and what freeskiing truly is,” he says. “Off-season there’s less pressure, and I’m there with my homies and mates! It’s just a completely different vibe. The best counterpoint to how we go hard here in Taos during our winter.”

In September when he’s done with his contracting in NZ and can just ski for fun, Forbes heads out to hang with his Taos “Shire Rat” crew across the Tasman Sea in New Zealand. His buddies, Keaun Beacom and Julian Rane, who all grew up in Taos, can come back together on new ground to do the thing they love together; soul skiing.

“It is literally the most beautiful place in the world. 360º of jaw-dropping beauty,” Forbes recalls of New Zealand. “The first time I went there, and I saw the mountains appear as the daylight lifted the fog, I was drawn to tears, it was so beautiful! It truly takes your breath away, how the land just juts from sea to piercing peaks… crazy mountains springing up from the ocean in dramatic fjords and then marked by these calm lakes and crystal clear rivers in between. Truly majestic!”

Taos

Forbes was born to ski and raised on Taos mountain. His dad would hide him in his backpack and take him up as an infant. He’d open up the flap, his little head would pop out, and they’d go skiing. He couldn’t get enough.

“If I had to pick a word, I’d say my style is ‘unorthodox’,” Forbes says. “I guess I go against the grain, because I can’t conform to a certain way of skiing. When I see something, I look at it in a different way, like an open book. Sometimes I think my style is a little older. I feel like I’m getting older. It’s important to me to keep it interesting and fresh, but always loose and relaxed.”

Tricky

Forbes likes parks. It may go back to being launched into the air on trampolines as a kid. Executing tricks sure has to do with muscle memory, and it’s always about that weightless, floating, flying feeling for him. When he’s mid air, he is laser focused on executing his maneuver, as precisely as he envisioned it.

A skier dressed in black spins in mid-air off a snowbank.

“The Cork 7 is the one I’ve been working on lately and trying to dial in,” he explains. “Sometimes they’re too flippy and don’t look right. Like more D spin than corked. But, it is the funnest trick to do! It’s like, if you don’t have one in your bag you’re not that good. When it comes around and just clicks, it feels so good! The Cork 3 is even harder because there’s more “G’s” in it as you pull around. Switch Rodeo 5 is a fun favorite for me. It just feels so blind and mysterious to me, but looks so damn good.”

JP Auclair, one of Forbes’ coaches back in the day, and his Back Flip Mute grab are inseparable.

“It’s always hands down a solid trick. A classic, super stylish and the most photogenic, for sure! Always something fun and playful. It’s the f-n Cadillac of tricks!”

Ski with a Buddy

During the season here, most of the time Forbes is going out on his own simply because of logistics with a two hour break on work days. So he’ll go out and see who he can link up with on the fly. The most serendipitous of encounters, turn out to be the most memorable on the mountain.

Five sets of skis point in towards one another as a group meets on the mountain.

“I’m always down to ski with someone, because it always makes skiing better,” he explains. ”What makes skiing so fun is being with your crew, being with your buds. When we do coordinate, the level of fun is unmatched. Like the best ski day every time, and the most memorable. We find a spot, we do some tricks, and we’re always going big to step it up. That’s where you become a better skier, gaining confidence and strength in the group, because we believe in each other’s ability. Nothing can touch you with that good energy.”

A Boot Fitters’ Perspective

When it comes to boot fitting, being comfortable takes on even more meanings.

“You are developing a relationship with your customer because they need to confide in you. You are going to tell them things they don’t want to hear. This report is essential or you won’t get a good fit,” Forbes says. “It’s not cheap, and they’re going to be in the boots for a while, so it’s understandable that people are going to be demanding. It’s also in our nature to be set in our ways, so being patient and listening is important. But maybe even more key is taking the time you need. Each case is going to be specific. I think four hours was about the longest ski boot fit I had done. Maybe more. It was exhausting, but you can’t rush it. Otherwise, you are going to see that person again, and you don’t want to see them again.”

With all the baggage that the process comes with, communication is key, as is setting the expectations beforehand. And a “we will get through this together” kind of vibe. The more and more he does it, the more he gets to share his passion for skiing and hopefully that passes onto the next customer. “Trust me, I’m a boot fitter” is his favorite thing to assure timid customers.

Always Coming Home

The culture of skiing in Australia is more of a counterpoint to surfing, a little more easy going and leisurely maybe more akin to European ski culture than the core-crushing steeps here in the West. And for Forbes, you can’t beat that Kachina face. It’s huge, and it scares him each and every time. He scopes the line, visualizes it in his head – where every turn is, his take off and every landing. To have a consistent run without stopping he says is a very strategic endeavor, like playing a game of chess “I try and just go T to B without stopping on Kachina. Scare myself just enough to get the heart pumping and hit that ‘hyper-focus’ mode where you are super dialed. That’s why Kachina is the best here. So challenging and demanding of you. You really have to bring your ‘big-boy pants’ when you are seasoning Kachina.”

A lone skier stands on a barren mountain top with cold smoke blowing in the morning sun.

“You can go anywhere in the world and still can’t beat Taos. But, when you grow up here, you get accustomed to the place, a bit ‘biased’… until you leave.” Forbes says. “That’s why I always come back to this mountain. It is incomparable; amazing and beautiful in its own special way. Has a magnetic draw to it that keeps me coming back. There’s always something to do… a different way to ski any number of trails and find new ones. This mountain remains an untapped resource of fun. Like a fountain. Taos is about finding the terrain park in the mountain.”

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