Category Archives: Skiing

The Art of Bootfitting

“I like to know that when someone walks out the door, they’ll have as good a time as I do. That’s what it’s about…fun,” says Corty Lawrence, left. “I enjoy it,” added his son Zach. “You apply what you’ve learned.” Both Lawrences are bootfitters at Footloose Sports in Mammoth.
“I like to know that when someone walks out the door, they’ll have as good a time as I do. That’s what it’s about…fun,” says Corty Lawrence, left. “I enjoy it,” added his son Zach. “You apply what you’ve learned.” Both Lawrences are bootfitters at Footloose Sports in Mammoth.

Corty and Zach Lawrence are artists. Most people think they are skiers and master bootfitters, which they are, but in their souls they are artists who apply their artistry to all their pursuits, with equal passion.

Corty has mastered the art of charcoal, pastel and pencil drawings and Zach is an accomplished musician; he plays guitar and trumpet, and records the music he improvises. “I play every day, I could play for five hours,” Zach said.

Consciously or not, both have transposed their artistic spirit into the art of bootfitting. They talked about art, business and sport in their lives early one December afternoon at Footloose Sports.

Corty started out working at Footloose 32 years ago when he asked owner and boot guru Sven Coomer for a job. “He taught me everything he knew,” Corty said.

“Sven brought bootfitting from caveman days to a science. He knew how the body worked biomechanically, and he came up with SuperFeet,” Corty said. With these insoles the feet are supported, stabilized and aligned from beneath. Thus … better edge pressure, better control, better balance. “What Sven understood was that the best solution is underfoot support.”

For both Lawrences, father and son, bootfitting is problem solving. “They both know how to listen, then they’re able to explain it back to the customer so they understand,” said Mary Lawrence, Corty’s wife. “People skills are number one: relate, listen and explain.”

The senior Lawrence is happy to have his son working in the boot department at Footloose, of which Corty is co-owner (along with Tony and Andrea Colasardo). Zach grew up in Mammoth, in Footloose, went to college in Durango, Colo., and he and his wife Shaina came back to Mammoth a few years ago when their daughter Andrea was born.

“The opportunity was available and I didn’t have anything else lined up,” Zach said, implying that music might not always pay the bills. “You can’t sell your own art,” Corty added, having spent about nine months in Southern California after college trying to sell his art before coming to Mammoth to work.

Zach was almost born at Footloose, where both Corty and Mary were working in the winter of 1983, a big snow year. “I worked until I was ready to explode,” she said.

“Zach came to work with us, stayed in his infant seat. He hung out with us, we took him everywhere. I suppose he learned the business through osmosis. We had to keep moving the merchandise, like sunglasses, higher and out of the youngster’s reach,” Corty said.

Tony and Andrea Colasardo’s kids, Michael and Daniella, as well as Zach, grew up in the store and worked there during Christmas, holidays and school breaks.

“We like to think of ourselves as a family store, so it’s a great thrill for us to have them come back,” Andrea said. “Zach has been great. He jumped right in. It’s second nature to these kids; they grew up in the store.”

Skiing is also second nature to these people named Lawrence. Corty’s mother Andrea Mead Lawrence, well known to Mammoth, was the first American alpine skier to win two Olympic gold medals (for giant slalom and slalom in the 1952 Oslo Olympics when she was only 19). Corty has been skiing all his life. “Skiing is like breathing. I don’t remember learning,” he said.

Zach “skied right off the bat.” In fourth grade he switched to snowboarding, but he’s been back on skis for four seasons now. Corty remembers that the two of them were riding up Chair 2 a year or so ago when Zach said, “Dad, this [skiing] is a lot more fun than snowboarding.”

Theirs is an extraordinary legacy. On the skiing side, the excitement the two men feel is palpable. At 60, Corty is as much of a nut for skiing as he ever was. He still gets that shiver in his belly on a ski day. And, this winter Zach, who is 32, will extend that legacy when he introduces his four-year-old daughter to the sport.

As they sat on their boot-fitting stools in the boot sanctuary at Footloose, finishing each other’s sentences, laughing and talking, it was clear they’re having a ball. Through the science and art of boot fitting, Corty and Zach get stoked when they can increase their customers’ joy in skiing.

Mammoth. Skiing. Heaven.

It’s curious how we alight in certain places.

From the moment I strapped on those long Northland skis at the age of 15, I was bitten, forever smitten with skiing. The sound of cold Vermont snow squeaking beneath my leather boots, the crinkling of little hairs in my nose as I sucked in that high alpine air and the mountains that rolled around me in shades of green to purple held me in the swirl of a hug.

That moment set a trajectory that drew me from the gentle mountains of Vermont to the Colorado Rockies and finally to the Eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada range.

I had tried following a traditional path set for me by my father, working in book publishing and radio in New York City, then law in Washington, D.C., but I kept escaping to Vermont in my VW bug for euphoric flights down the slopes of Killington and Mt. Snow. Around the corner from my house in Georgetown, a car’s Colorado license plates gave me such an itch to head for those mountains that it took only a few months to decide to quit my job, break up with my boyfriend and drive that Volkswagen straight to Aspen, Colorado.

Died and gone to heaven. Colder than Vermont but dry-not-bitter cold. Snow not ice. Wide-open fields of soft, airy fluff, uncrowded slopes, even elk standing against the mountains watching us ski by. And as if by magic, it snowed at night and mornings dawned clear and sunny and powdery.

Growing up in a small town on the East Coast, I had been steeped in frontier history and tradition and followed the call to the mountains in fine old explorer style. My Yankee sensibilities fit right into the Colorado ski town snugged right up to the mountains. Landing there was landing home.

My soul flew thermals with the ravens above the ski mountains. When I hurled myself from the top of Aspen Mountain to the base, I traveled through pine alleyways, swooped into bowls and gulches, dodged squirrels that shot out of the woods daring me not to run them over, grinned at the shrieks of glee lifting out of the glades…and at the end of the day, met up with friends for a beer and bragging rights.

I skied the Rockies for a lot of years, growing up there, really, married, and skied some more, hitting Vail, Copper, Breckenridge, Telluride, Winter Park, Steamboat Springs. I learned to drop my fear of going too fast. Especially if I wanted to keep pace with my husband who was an SST on skis. On 215 K2 downhills, he swooped the mountain from top to bottom like a graceful hawk chasing and toying with a mouse. We reveled in laps on the gondola. Up and down, up and down as the sun gradually filled the gulch with light.

I never wanted to leave my ski heaven, but there came a time when that idyllic existence gave way to another kind of adventure: moving to California.

The process of becoming a Californian was tortuous for me. I was happy in my life; being uprooted and hauled to a remote canyon in Los Angeles was unnerving. The PCH was a nightmare. After living someplace that was no more than five minutes from anywhere, the PCH strung out a line of sparkling cars whipping along at warp speeds, while the drivers ate, talked on phones, applied makeup, did not look at the ocean that sidled into shore. I couldn’t drive. I was trapped in a hot canyon where the air didn’t seem to move. At all.

I wanted to ski, to live within vertical horizons. We couldn’t get to Mammoth fast enough. The first time we drove up from L.A. – in the dark – we had no idea where we were going or what the landscape looked like. It was all we could do to keep focus while other, more excited drivers daringly passed us on the two-lane sections of freeway. But the second trip was in bright daylight, a breathtaking journey from desert up to mountains, and awed us with a sense of geologic time and volcanic movement.

We became permanent Mammoth residents within one winter. The bonus in discovering Mammoth was finding a town filled with great people, kind, generous and friendly, a town we never want to leave, with a mammoth ski mountain to explore in winter and neverending trails to hike in the summer.

Now, just a little snow to cover the dog poop and add to the great snowmaking done by Mammoth Mountain Ski Area and we’ll have a great year. Think snow.