This article first appeared in print in the December 2018 issue of Revelstoke Mountaineer Magazine.
I’ve often said the second best thing about skiing, after the act of skiing itself, is taking off your boots at the end of the day. Ski boots are both arguably the most important piece of your equipment and the one that will cause you the most grief.
Kai Palkeinen knows all about it. He started working as a boot fitter in Whistler two decades ago and owned a shop in Chamonix, France, before making the move to Revelstoke. He and his partner Kelly Hutcheson opened Pulse Ski & Boot Lab in the fall of 2015 as a dedicated ski boot store. A year later they moved into their current location on Mackenzie Avenue and started selling skis.
Now, they’ve teamed with a software developer and business consultant to expand their expertise, creating the Pulse Fit System. The system combines an app, custom boot liners, and a boot fitting tool into a process they want to sell to other ski shops and they will overhaul the boot fitting industry.
“We’re not trying to take over the industry,” Palkeinen said. “We’re trying to improve the industry and recognize there’s flaws in the system right now.”
The Pulse Fit System begins by having a customer answer a few questions about themselves – height, weight, what type of skier they are, how often they ski, and more. They will then have their foot scanned so a boot fitter can access detailed measurements of their foot. That data will then be run through an algorithm Palkeinen developed, which will then recommend two boots for the skier, instead of having the boot fitter make their best guess.
“This is math-based, it’s not voodoo-based.” Palkeinen said. “You can usually nail it down to two boots in 15 minutes and it’s 99 per cent right. We can prioritize in terms of comfort, warmth or performance. That gives us an idea of how tight we go.”
The second part of the system are the liners, which they developed and designed themselves and have manufactured in Italy. The liners can either be a heat molded thermal liner, or a custom-injection liner, where the foam is injected into the liner while your foot sits in the boot.
“Being frustrated with the industry standard, we went to Italy and designed our own (liner),” said Palkeinen. “This is unique to us. It’s not another product with our branding on it – we designed, developed, and made it.”
The third element is the boot fitting tool, which Palkeinen designed and built. The foot scans means that when a client has issues with a boot, he can punch it with more precision. “There’s no more marking liners, there’s no more boot fitter judging,” he said.
To develop the system, Palkeinen & Hutcheson brought onboard Nathan Bertram to develop the software; and Matt Moor to work on business development as they expand.
They’ve been testing the system and will be using it in-store this winter. During my interview, I was shown the app and a foot scan and demonstrated how it all works together. Their goal is to have it running perfectly so they can start marketing it to other ski shops next year.
“We have all the elements, we just have to make sure it’s dialed before it goes out to the trade shows,” said Hutcheson.
Bertram and Moor both said they were excited to be part of the business. “I think it’s an opportunity to disrupt an industry in a good way,” said Bertram.
You can find out more at: www.pulsefitsystem.com.