Ski boot innovator

Passing Date: 
Monday, March 31, 2014

Mel Dalebout

Ski boot guru Mel Dalebout, 86, passed away peacefully March 31, in Sedona, Ariz., where he lived with his daughter Jan.

As a first-string footballer, playing both offensive line and defensive back for the University of Utah, Mel Dalebout probably wasn’t supposed to go skiing. But during Christmas break in 1947, friends took him to the top of Peruvian Ridge at Alta. He got down in one piece, and spent the following winter working as a lift operator and training. He won his first race, the Snow Cup Trials, in December 1949, and raced nationally for several years. After college, he worked as district sales manager for Inland Steel.

In 1967, after seeing the first plastic boots, Dalebout was inspired to pour liquid latex into a fiberglass shell to take a cast of his foot. That led to cast-aluminum prototypes, and, in 1969, a production run of a hinged magnesium shell with a rubber closure over the instep. Dalebout patented the liquid-molding custom-fit innerboot. Daleboot USA was launched, both as a manufacturer and as a custom-boot retail store in Salt Lake City.

In 1975 Dalebout won a $250,000 patent-infringement judgment against a group of Italian boot factories, and he used it to make molds for the plastic Daleboot, still in production today. Along the way, Dalebout patented a number of important ski-boot innovations, including the detachable (and cantable) toe and heel outsoles later adopted for most European-made race boots.

Dalebout sold the company and retired in 2007. He lived for a few years in Jackson, Wyo., before joining Jan in Sedona. He was preceded in death by his wife Wanda, who died in 2003. They are survived by daughters Jan and Lyn, grandsons Liv and Forrest, granddaughter Grace, and great-grandchildren Lyrical, Taylor and Laityn. --Seth Masia