What It Takes

What It Takes

Tighten Your Boots

By Callie Oettinger | Published: February 10, 2012

“You need to tighten your boots

“They hurt.”

“They’ll loosen once you get going.”

“No they won’t.”

My son and I hate putting on our ski boots. We want to hit the slopes, but there’s still that boot hassle.

He screams and complains.

“These boots are soooo stooopid. This is the worst day of my entire life!” (He errs on the dramatic side. . .)

I practice the breathing exercises I learned when I was pregnant and try to avoid pinching my fingers, catching my skin between a fussy latch and boot.

He wants his boots loose.

I want mine tight.

I tell him to tighten his boots.

He says no.

I shake my head and remember the same conversation, decades earlier, when my father provided his two cents on boots.

We make our way to the lifts, place our skis side by side on the ground, step into them, and exhale. There’s something magic about hearing the click of the boots into the bindings. The annoying boots are forgotten and we’re on our way—until he loses control.

Have you ever driven a car with a loose steering wheel? You turn the wheel and the tires don’t follow. There’s a disconnect. It takes excessive turning of the wheel to make something happen.

That’s what happens when you wear loose boots. Your feet are the steering wheel. When you turn your feet, your boots, like your car wheels, should turn. If the boots are too loose, your feet move within the boots, but the boots don’t go anywhere—which means your skis (or your car) won’t follow.

I sit with my son and try to explain that if he can get through the tightness in the morning, he’ll be good the rest of the day, but I know it’s a lesson he’ll have to learn on his own.

You have to choose discomfort before you can take a sweet ride down the mountain.

I don’t know when I started tightening my boots as much as possible. It’s just something that happened. One day it clicked, like my boots into my bindings, and I exhaled. I got it. I learned to breathe through it because the joy on the other end was worth it.

I’m still practicing my form—and find myself cursing fear when I crash on a run and then avoid bumps the rest of the day—but I’ve got the boot thing down.

If I can get through the boots in the morning, I can choose the runs the rest of the day.

I’m looking forward to seeing my son tackle some of those runs, too.

Whistler, British Columbia. Photo credit: Callie Oettinger

Posted in What It Takes

10 Responses to “Tighten Your Boots”

  1. February 10, 2012 at 3:51 am

    You’ve put a big smile on my face. What a heartwarming, delicious vignette. Your writing certainly ‘clicks’ with my sensibility. Fran

  2. February 10, 2012 at 5:08 am

    Love it Callie. Getting comfortable with discomfort until it becomes habit. Your son has a great teacher.

  3. February 10, 2012 at 5:14 am

    LOVE this, Cal! You are a wise bird. xo

  4. Basilis
    February 10, 2012 at 5:38 am

    Sweet and True…

  5. February 10, 2012 at 7:55 am

    Great post. True on many levels.

  6. February 10, 2012 at 11:38 am

    Excellent post, thank you! I’ve long shared John Wooden’s maxim from his championship coaching days that before practice and games, his players needed to 1) straighten their socks (no blister-causing wrinkles)and 2) tie their shoes well. You can’t play the game on sore feet!

  7. Tina
    February 11, 2012 at 6:44 am


    Sweet post!! The foot subject would make for a good War Story — healthy feet — is so important for the soldier in war.

  8. February 11, 2012 at 7:29 am

    I’m sure this applies to figure skaters as well. Can’t imagine the pair on my home page pulling off their maneuver with loose skates.
    Hmm, enduring discomfort for bigger success later. “Tighten Your Boots” would make a good name for a writer’s critique group, no?

  9. February 12, 2012 at 5:32 am

    I don’t know much about alot of things,I do know I love this website.I guess I could classify myself a “FAN” but I believe this to be a intellectually inspirational website being created by some people whose writing I have grown to admire,aspire to,and do not want to do without.With all that let me say “Callie is The Bomb!” I am reminded of Alexander nonchalantly being the last to “tighten his boots” at the last minute before the greatest battle(overwhelming odds).In the “Virtues of War” Alexander’s boot tightening was when he apparently ceremoniously put on his gear or his page handed the bridle of Bucephalus.In those moments Alexander tightened everyones boots. Yeah! I’m trying to stretch Callie’s simple and profound child lesson learning story into dramatic warrior inspiration but I’ll bet you would love the I told you so moment after the battle of ski play.Preparation is everything in the moment before the real hard work is done.Make the preparation ceremony- I AM READY- thanks Callie warren

  10. February 13, 2012 at 10:58 am

    An apt metaphor for discipline that can apply to many areas of life. You left it rather open-ended, which I like. I may just print this up and stick it on my wall for motivation. Thanks.