Rising up from the heart of New Hampshire, where the state\u2019s main highway intersects the Appalachian Trail, are the woodlands and ranges of the White Mountain National Forest: a mix of rolling hills blanketed by trees and exposed ridges dominated by the cathedral of Mount Washington. Standing 6,288 feet above sea level, it\u2019s the largest geological feature in the region, and the highest peak in New England by nearly 2,000 feet. Ever since the summit was first reached by the Englishman Darby Field in 1642, the mountain has been a lodestone and proving ground for hikers, climbers, skiers and every other elevation-seeking adventurer. Compared to the peaks of famous American ranges like the Rockies , the Sierras and the Tetons, Washington\u2019s height is modest. But the mountain is not to be taken lightly. For most of the 20th century, Washington\u2019s barren summit held the record for the highest surface wind speed ever recorded \u2014 231 miles per hour \u2014 until a tropical cyclone passed over a weather station off the coast of Western Australia in 1996. And despite its seemingly unimpressive elevation, the mountain is deadly. Washington has claimed more than 150 lives since 1849, making it statistically more perilous than Denali, which, at 20,310 feet, is North America\u2019s tallest peak. But when the weather is fair, Mt. Washington is an idyllic backdrop for the surrounding region. In the shadow of the mountain, 15 miles to the south, lies the village of Intervale. It\u2019s one of those waypoint towns common in New England\u2019s northern states: less a town, more a group of buildings along a major thoroughfare and a scattering of homes spread across a spiderweb of roads both dirt and paved. That thoroughfare is Route 302, also known in the region as the White Mountain Highway, or, deeper into the mountains, the Crawford Notch Road. And less than a quarter mile from 302 sits Peter Limmer & Sons , a decades-old, family-operated shop that makes what is possibly the most coveted hiking boot in the world. Limmer family history doesn\u2019t start in the White Mountains. It reaches far beyond that, across the Atlantic to the small Bavarian town of Peterskirchen, Germany, in the green hills that eventually rise into the Alps. This is where Peter Limmer Sr.\u2019s father, the original Peter Limmer, made footwear in his small shop and founded a tradition that would span four generations and counting. Limmer Sr. eagerly followed in his father\u2019s footsteps, earning his Master Shoemaker\u2019s Certificate from the shoemaker\u2019s guild on August 25, 1921 \u2014 a distinction that commanded the same respect as a university degree. Unfortunately, Limmer Sr. wasn\u2019t able to leverage this honor for very long. Germany\u2019s economy was devastated after WWI; hyperinflation and unemployment were on the rise as the government struggled to make reparation payments to Western nations. The political climate wasn\u2019t faring much better. Limmer Sr., in an effort to avoid a dire economic situation and a second war he saw as inevitable, packed up his family and left his home in Bavaria for the United States. The Limmer family landed in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts. Limmer Sr. immediately worked to get his trade up and running again. A certificate from the German shoemaker\u2019s guild didn\u2019t carry the same weight in America as it did in Europe, but the skill it signified shone clearly in the quality of the products he furnished. These included two styles of traditional European costume shoes and a hiking boot \u2014 each made by hand. The business lived on, and Limmer Sr. remained in the Boston suburb for the next 25 years. In 1939, Limmer Sr. was awarded the sole right to produce a new piece of footwear by the United States Patent Office. The design was for, as the patent states, \u201ca ski boot\u201d that Limmer made from stiff leather and custom fitted to the customer\u2019s foot. Limmer Sr. had been making these leather ski boots since his days in Europe, but the patent legitimized his work in the U.S. and gave him the important historical distinction of being the first in the country to \u201cofficially\u201d make footwear designed specifically for alpine skiing. The leather ski boot played an important role in getting the Limmer business to where it is today. For the elite members of Harvard\u2019s outing club, the top-of-the-line ski boot was a status symbol. \u201cIf you didn\u2019t have a pair of his boots, you weren\u2019t anybody,\u201d says the present-day Peter Limmer. But then, Robert \u201cBob\u201d Lange, founder of the Lange ski boot company and creator of the plastic molded ski boots still used today, glued strips of fiberglass cut from his boat to his pair of Limmers in order to further fortify and stiffen them. It was the first pair of plastic-reinforced ski boots ever made. Limmer Sr. quit making his famous ski boots when plastic replaced leather, narrowing his focus to costume and hiking footwear. But skiing remained an important part of the family culture. Limmer\u2019s two sons, Peter Jr. and Francis, regularly hauled their wooden skis, often mistaken for bed slats, through Boston on their way to the nearby Franklin Park, the city\u2019s largest public green space to this day. The brothers eventually ventured north and out of the city to New Hampshire, in pursuit of mountains. After the Limmers discovered the White Mountains, they made frequent weekend trips to hike and ski in the region, and in 1950, Limmer Sr. moved the family to New Hampshire permanently. The mountains and woods of Intervale and the surrounding region were a virtual facsimile of Bavaria, and every member of the family felt a natural draw toward the area\u2019s wilderness. \u201cIt\u2019s just amazing how much it\u2019s alike,\u201d says present-day Limmer. \u201cWhen I drive up Interstate 93, that\u2019s just like driving into my grandfather\u2019s hometown.\u201d When his grandfather arrived in the area, he bought a compound of houses on 20 acres, which eventually got divvied up. The shop is the one thing that\u2019s remained. It\u2019s here, in the mountains of New England, that the shoemaker\u2019s trade was passed from father to son twice over. It\u2019s here that the current Peter Limmer \u2014 no Sr. or Jr. added \u2014 carries on making the boot his family has made for a century. The Intervale workshop is easy to miss \u2014 its only marker is a small wooden sign \u2014 but most who visit seek it out as a destination. The barn-like building is an amalgamation of old and new; clapboards with peeling paint and a partially rusted sheet-metal roof contrast with those of the newer brewery that\u2019s grafted to its flank. The original structure was built in 1754 as a stagecoach stop and was accompanied by a four-story inn that was frequented by President Franklin Pierce. Today, the smell of barley and yeast permeates the outer entryway, but inside, the dim workshop is all leather, oil and dust. Sounds range from the clink of a mallet striking a lace hook to the roar of an industrial-grade sander trimming excess rubber from a new sole. The shop, and the majority of the tools inside it, haven\u2019t changed much since Peter Limmer Sr. bought it back in 1950. Limmer is an artisan. He grew up learning how to make boots and willingly accepted the task of perpetuating the family trade. He doesn\u2019t have a master bootmaker\u2019s certificate because his grandfather learned firsthand that, in America, they\u2019re insignificant. But he is a master. Limmer estimates that he\u2019s spent roughly 86,000 hours working on boots in his lifetime; if Malcolm Gladwell\u2019s 10,000-Hour Rule is to be believed, then that makes Limmer a master eight times over. He navigates the perceived clutter of the workshop knowingly and wields his tools with the same familiarity one might associate with taking up a fork or spoon. Hiking boots have a specific purpose, and it\u2019s to that purpose that he works. Limmer is also an artist. He builds metal sculptures out of old machine parts and interesting scraps encountered at the dump. That creative exploration is saved for home, though; Limmer has no plans to expand his offering with another style of boot. \u201cI\u2019d rather rebuild the motor in your car than make another pair of shoes,\u201d he says. He has built some experimental footwear, but only on very rare occasions, like when he needed to test out the leather from a new supplier. There\u2019s no reason to change or adapt the design of the Limmer Custom; the boot hasn\u2019t changed since 1950, when Limmer Sr. moved the seam from the heel to the side of the boot, where it still is today. The Limmer Custom hiking boot has endured because, simply put, it was built to. In appearance, the boot is simple enough: a black leather upper with a white interior welted to a sole made from a hearty chunk of Vibram rubber. (The Limmers became the first to import Vibram to the U.S. when they redesigned the hiking boot to incorporate a rubber sole instead of a metal hobnail one.) A closer inspection reveals some of the boot\u2019s subtleties. The construction uses as few pieces as possible; the exterior of the upper is made of one uncut piece of leather \u2014 which means there\u2019s only one seam (a natural weak point on any shoe). The boot is heavy in hand and sturdy, with leather whose exterior texture feels close to the cow skin it was tanned from, though the inside is incredibly soft and supple. The boot-making process begins when a customer walks through the door. Without asking, and without even the slightest exchange of words, Limmer gathers details on his customer, from their natural gait to which foot is bigger than the other; the ability is innate, like a sixth sense. Then he delves further with an immediately familiar interaction. The customer sits on one of the wooden benches in the retail area, and Limmer pulls up his well-worn cobbler\u2019s stool. The shoes come off. Limmer\u2019s voice drops from its normal boisterous baritone to a softer tenor. He gathers more details about the customer\u2019s walking and hiking habits and traces the outline of the customer\u2019s foot onto a standard yellow legal pad. He takes an array of circumference measurements and jots them down . Like a doctor, Limmer is methodical and direct. The entire process takes no longer than five minutes. That yellow paper, and the measurements it holds, is just one page in Limmer\u2019s guide to making the custom boot. Limmer has reams of these foot tracings in filing boxes stacked floor to ceiling in a corner of the workshop. Some pages go back 40 years. Each sheet is a map for constructing what\u2019s called a last: a model of the customer\u2019s foot, around which the boot is constructed. The last has to be a near-perfect reproduction of the foot in order to achieve the perfect custom fit that Limmer, like his father and grandfather before him, guarantees. There is no room for mistakes. \u201cIf it\u2019s not right, there\u2019s no sense in going any farther,\u201d says Limmer. His allowance for error is two millimeters \u2014 roughly the thickness of a vinyl record. \u201cReading the leather is just like reading wood when you split it.\u201d Limmer estimates that 10 percent of the workshop\u2019s total floor space is devoted to a library of lasts, and that doesn\u2019t include the storage container at his home. He has made thousands of them over his tenure. Most are made from wood; some are nylon; all contain a metal hinge that mimics the bending of a foot as it enters a shoe. To build a custom last, Limmer starts with one that\u2019s a size smaller than a customer\u2019s foot. He uses a moldable high-durometer rubber that softens with heat and hardens when cooled in order to sculpt a model that contains all the nuances of the customer\u2019s foot. It\u2019s the trickiest part of the entire boot build \u2014 and the most important. Once the last is complete, the boot can then be constructed around it. Limmer makes the upper first, layering it on from the inside out: soft oak-tanned leather, then the black, nigh-impenetrable chromium-tanned leather. Chromium, which is otherwise used as a coating for products like car bumpers and is a key ingredient in stainless steel, tightens the leather, making it more dense and resistant to puncture and dents. The resulting sturdiness provides the structure and support the boot is known for. \u201cReading the leather is just like reading wood when you split it,\u201d says Limmer, noting that each piece can behave differently. After the layup of leather is created, the other pieces are punched, stitched and sewn. The tongue is inserted, the hardware is punched, the heel pad is glued and the styrene toe cap is put into place. The leather, wetted with an alcohol solution, can be stretched over the other layers, as well as the last, before it\u2019s stitched to the sole. The entire process takes roughly 40 hours and Limmer typically works on 12 pairs of boots at a time. If the process sounds slow, that\u2019s because it is. Limmer estimates his output during an especially productive year to be between 150 and 175 pairs of boots \u2014 or, as he\u2019s fond of saying, \u201c What Nike does by coffee break.\u201d Because of Limmer\u2019s backlog of orders, the time between that initial legal-pad fitting and the beginning of production currently hovers at roughly two years. The price tag is also high; custom boots start at $750. For many, the wait and cost would be unsurpassable barriers to entry. But despite that, the wait for a boot has never fallen below a year. It\u2019s most functional to keep it around two years, but he admits it\u2019s been as high as four. Once, a customer offered Limmer $10,000 to be placed at the top of the list. \u201cI started laughing,\u201d he recalls, \u201cbut he wasn\u2019t joking.\u201d Limmer turned him down. That\u2019s not how it works. Limmer\u2019s okay with the fact that he isn\u2019t supplying his boots to everybody who wants a pair. \u201cOur boot\u2019s not for everybody,\u201d he acknowledges, fully aware that the heavy-duty hiking footwear \u2014 and the rigorous break-in period that can take weeks or even months \u2014 simply isn\u2019t suitable for every pair of feet. In fact, Limmer is likely to dissuade someone from buying the boot if he doesn\u2019t think it would be appropriate for them. He also has a keen eye for collectors, people who might view a pair of Limmers as a luxury item or a status symbol \u2014 and he\u2019s not afraid to turn them away. \u201cWith two years\u2019 worth of work, why make a pair of boots that are going to sit in a closet?\u201d he says. It\u2019s not about the money; that much is clear after only a few moments in the workshop. If it were, Limmer would\u2019ve sold the brand years ago. He would\u2019ve given up when he had to switch from a European tanner to one in Chicago, or any of the times the massive green Landis stitching machine decided to quit on him. To understand what it is about, one simply has to visit the workshop. It\u2019s about the customers whose photos cover the walls of the fitting area: photos of Limmer boots on summits just a few miles up the Notch Road and as far away as Kilimanjaro; photos of boots near iconic trail signs; even photos of grooms in suits and brides in white dresses, both with black boots on their feet. (\u201cOur boots have outlasted probably seventy percent of the marriages,\u201d Limmer quips.) It\u2019s about the boots, and the heritage embedded in their seams. \u201cI was never talked into or pushed into the business, so I never did that with my kids.\u201d Until recently, that tradition was uncertain. Limmer has two sons in their late twenties. They\u2019ve both spent time in the workshop learning the trade, but after attending college, they decided to enter the lucrative landscaping and timber businesses. \u201cTheir intentions at one point were certainly to come in here,\u201d Limmer says without remorse. He\u2019s happy to see them forging their own paths and finding success doing so. \u201cI was never talked into or pushed into the business, so I never did that with my kids. They understand the uniqueness of the business.\u201d Limmer found himself without a familial heir to help out in the workshop and carry on the business. But luckily, he had taken on an apprentice. Before taking up boot making, Ken Smith was employed at a pet store. He put his heart into the craft and worked alongside Limmer for 18 years. Then Smith, who is older than Limmer, reluctantly decided to retire, and the future of the business became uncertain again. Limmer\u2019s oldest son offered to take over when he was too old to haul timber. But at that point, Limmer feared he\u2019d be too old to teach him. A retired lawyer from Connecticut offered to work as an apprentice, but was unwilling to take over the business when Limmer decided to call it quits; he suspected she just wanted to mine the master for his skills. \u201cI was starting to think that this was going to be the end of the business,\u201d he says. In preparation for the worst, Limmer confided his apprehension in his local bank manager, Adam Lane-Olsen. \u201cHe started talking about how his boys were not really into the business,\u201d says Lane-Olsen, \u201cand how he wasn\u2019t quite sure how things were going to end up.\u201d Lane-Olsen, who holds a graduate degree in historical theology, had worked numerous jobs in numerous states before landing at the bank in New Hampshire. The White Mountains were right, and the money was sufficient, but he wasn\u2019t happy. \u201c is probably for some people, but it sure as hell isn\u2019t for me,\u201d he says. \u201cIt was killing me.\u201d When Lane-Olsen heard Limmer\u2019s doubts, his disquiet reignited in response to a perceived opportunity. A week later he approached Limmer about an apprenticeship. \u201cYou could tell he wasn\u2019t really sure. I was the bank guy,\u201d he says. Three months later, he quit his job at the bank in order to apprentice in what many would consider to be a dead trade. \u201cI\u2019ve never worked on boots before. But it just felt right,\u201d Lane-Olsen says. \u201cWhen I first walked into the workshop, there was something about it.\u201d When asked if he recognizes the significance of his commitment to perpetuating the Limmer tradition, Lane-Olsen is firm in his response. \u201cI don\u2019t look back for a second.\u201d What happens in Intervale, New Hampshire, at the Peter Limmer & Sons workshop goes against every characteristic of the outdoor-footwear industry today, and it\u2019s because customers know what they\u2019re getting: durability, longevity, character, history, tradition. These qualities define the boots and the motivation and process that produce them. They define the workshop itself, and are made tangible by Peter Limmer Sr.\u2019s ski boot patent and master bootmaker\u2019s certificate hanging framed on the shop walls. It\u2019s these things that bring customers whose grandparents wore Limmer boots to the shop to get themselves a pair of boots, or to fix up the pair that\u2019s been passed down through their own families. Limmer boots are a rare example of heirloom footwear: They\u2019re never broken \u2014 just beat up, and always repairable. Every so often, a customer walks through the shop\u2019s screen door with a pair of decades-old, worn-out boots made by Peter Limmer Sr., which Limmer identifies immediately. \u201cYou can feel him in there,\u201d Limmer says quietly. It\u2019s not just him, either. \u201cI came in here one day and Adam was a little bit ashen,\u201d Limmer continues. \u201cI looked at him and said, \u2018What\u2019s up?\u2019 And he goes, \u2018Man, there\u2019s just weird shit going on here.\u2019\u201d Lane-Olsen was working on a pair of boots that were made in the Jamaica Plain workshop back in 1948. Limmer\u2019s solution, whenever he feels his grandfather\u2019s presence in the shop, is to crack open a can of Opa \u2014 an Oktoberfest beer made at the brewery next door, and salute him. \u201cHe\u2019ll take off,\u201d Limmer says. Coincidentally, Opa, German for \u201cgrandfather,\u201d was Peter Limmer Sr.\u2019s nickname. Opa was a big beer drinker. Whether the ghost of his grandfather shows up or not, Limmer isn\u2019t opposed to cracking open a beer at the end of the day. It complements the genial atmosphere and unbuttoned pace of life in the workshop. Notably, the thoughtful process of the boot making, however slow, overrules any motivation for expansion and profit. \u201cI love the fact that it\u2019s laid back,\u201d Limmer says. \u201cI generally don\u2019t walk out of here pissed off. I walk out of here ready to go do something, give it my best, because my day was fun. A lot of people don\u2019t understand that. That\u2019s important to me.\u201d A version of this story originally appeared in a print issue of Gear Patrol Magazine. Subscribe today .