Great Northern Cycles owner Craig Prather decided to expand his specialty cycling shop by adding skis to the inventory, he knew it would be a good fit for the Flathead Valley.
His confidence is bolstered in part by longtime “master boot fitter” Duie Millette, whose expertise in fitting boots and all other manner of performance footwear to locals’ feet is unrivaled in the Flathead Valley.
Millette brings Whitefish its first customized and comprehensive ski boot fitting and alignment service.
Millette, a licensed architect who began boot fitting full time when the market crashed, has been involved in the ski industry for more than 30 years, having studied the art and science of ski boot fitting alignment under famed World Cup boot fitter Jim Lindsy of BOOTech.
An accomplished cyclist and member of the Professional Ski Instructors of America, Millette has completed the Master Fit school of advanced boot fitting and has been fitting feet since he was 15 years old.
“A lot of people come in here and their boot is not fit for their foot structure,” Millette said. “The whole idea is to get you skiing better and more aligned, and the outcome is pretty comfortable feet.”
Millette begins his work with a foot assessment and knee tracking exercises to determine a client’s needs, then takes a mold of the foot before constructing an orthotic-grade customized foot bed, which is the key component to a comfortable boot, nudging the skier’s feet toward a more neutral position.
The customized foot beds provide the foundation to improve comfort, performance and efficiency in all activities, whether it’s skiing, cycling, hiking or running. The shop’s TEKscan computer pressure mapping system also helps improve technique.
“You can’t buy a boot fit on the Internet. When you buy a boot off the shelf, it’s molded to everybody, therefore nobody,” Millette said.
To complement the comprehensive boot fitting service, Prather has added a fleet of all-mountain skis and snowboards that function well on the type of terrain found in the Flathead Valley.
The shop features lines of skis like Salomon, Head, Dynastar and Rossingnol, which are elected by the shop’s staff to match the region’s climate and conditions, Prather said.
“We were able to find a niche for another ski shop in town that complements the other ski shops as well as our ski terrain,” Prather said. “We wanted to offer something that really fit our mountain terrain.”
While the shape of skiing has trended toward fatter, wider skis designed for deep powder skiing, Prather said the terrain at Big Mountain, which doesn’t often accumulate the powder dumps seen elsewhere in the western region, is better geared for a narrower ski, though not always.
A decade ago, most skiers were on something that measured 72 to 82 millimeters underfoot; 92 to 102 millimeters is now the underfoot average.
“Most of the skis we offer, on the other hand, are between 85 and 95. We don’t offer much over 100,” Prather said.
And that’s what makes Prather’s shop unique while not stepping on the tips of other local ski shops.
“We noticed some people buying skis built for the kind of snow they wanted to be skiing, but that weren’t necessarily representative of what they were skiing on a regular basis in the valley,” he said. “Our lines of skis are meant to complement your big powder boards, because most skiers have two or three pairs of skis that they rotate through based on the conditions. You’ve got your all-mountain skis and then your fatter skis for the glory powder days.”
Prather’s shop also offers something unique for the snowboarding set.
Brittan Ellingson, owner of Notice Snowboards in Whitefish, started his custom snowboard shop online three years ago.
Prather took notice of the custom design and, when he decided to expand the shop’s inventory, decided to carry a selection of Ellingson’s top-selling boards.
“We liked the custom designs of Brittan’s boards. He’s been a friend to the shop for a long time and we really thought his custom product would be a good fit.”
Call Great Northern Cycle and Ski to set up an appointment with the Fit Architect at (406)-862-5321.
A fitting generally takes about 1.5 hours, but customers can enjoy an espresso from the shop’s coffee bar, The Daily Habit, while they wait.
Check out more about Great Northern Cycle and Ski’s winter and summer products on their website at greatnortherncycles.com.