Yes, you read that title correctly! During the late 60s and early 70s, NASA was in the early stages of developing the modern spacesuit. During this process, they ran into a big issue with the design in that the heating, cooling and electrical lines that ran throughout the suits, which powered the suit and kept the astronaut alive. These lines would kink, crease and crimp when the astronauts would walk and flex their arms, therefore cutting off electricity.
Al Gross with Dixie Rinehart ultimately came up with a solution to include articulating hinges with ribs that allowed a natural flex in the astronaut’s ankles, knees, and elbows; preserving the shape and functionality around the joint. Think of these hinges acting like a bendy straw. They can bend and maneuver, without compromising the performance of the straw.
When Gross and Rinehart eventually left NASA, they knew they were onto something with their ribbed design. When they found employment with a small company in Aspen known as Comfort Products, headed up by former racer Eric Giese. At Comfort Products, Al Gross applied his knowledge of space-age technology to skiing.
Do these ‘ribs’ that allow a natural flex sound familiar at all yet? Try looking at the tongue of your Full Tilt Boots! Al Gross was able to take the ribbed design they used on NASA spacesuits and transform the design into a fully functioning ski boot.
The 3 Piece Boot Is Born
With a ribbed tongue, a ski boot has the ability to bend and flex without compromising performance or causing any distortion in the boot (think of the bendy straw example). Armed with this new revolutionary design, Al Gross, Dixie Rinehart, and Eric Giese paved the way for the 3-piece boot to be created and ultimately made history in the world of skiing.