Ski Boot Reviews

Atomic 2017 Boot Brand Profile

2017 Brand Profile

When Atomic’s parent company, Amer Sports, acquired Salomon from adidas, it forged a perfect marriage of skiing nobility. Salomon would benefit from Atomic’s acknowledged artisanship in race skis and Atomic would gain instant access to much better boot and binding designs.

The union continues to be a happy and procreative one. Atomic reaped the rewards of its synergy with Salomon 2 years ago when its Memory Fit system borrowed a concept or two from Salomon’s Custom Shell technology. Memory Fit is now standard on all Redster, Hawx and Backland models.

The Memory Fit process puts Atomic on a technical par with Salomon for in-store custom fitting, and the sustained success of Redster athletes like Marcel Hirscher and Michaela Shiffrin attest to unassailable technical bona fides. In other words, Atomic has arrived as a clicking-on-all-cylinders boot supplier, a worthy pretender to Salomon’s throne.

With the arrival in 2017 of Hawx Ultra, Atomic now has a single shell and liner concept spanning all fit possibilities, from narrow to ultra-wide. In addition to a narrow (98mm) last, Hawx Ultra adds reinforcement to the spine with Energy Backbone, an enhancement unbestowed upon Hawx Prime (100mm last) or Hawx Magma (102mm).  The debut of Hawx Ultra has sidelined the Redster Pro series in the U.S. market, as two 98mm-lasted performance boots is one too many, especially as the pure-race Redsters remain an option for the narrow foot in search of elite performance. (The Redster Pro remains in the global collection so it will appear in other markets in 2016/17.)

As a bootfitter, I’m relieved to report that Live Fit lives, albeit reduced to 100 and 80 flex iterations. The Live Fit panels in the forefoot really work to alleviate pressure across wide metatarsals, and the voluminous fit from the aperture to the toes is a blessing for skiers with Sequoias for calves.

The limitation of Live Fit is that its 2-buckle construction puts more emphasis on convenience than performance. The 4-buckle Hawx Magma series, also a 102mm last, is meant to contain the same, magnificent hoof, but with a traditional shell and cuff that don’t dilute performance.

Most boot reviews focus on 130-flex models as they usually represent the top of the recreational line and embody all the most deluxe features, but most skiers shouldn’t be in a 130. The trick is finding a softer flexing boot (that’s also perforce less expensive) that doesn’t diminish the fit and steering properties of the top model. The Hawx Ultra, Prime and Magna series retain a high cost/value relationship from their top price point to the bottom.

Atomic Hawx Magna

In the long, inglorious history of the plastic ski boot, the skier with the wide foot has had to content himself with either an Iron Maiden fit meant for a much slighter foot, or a pair of cavernous, collapsible pits into which he could pour both his feet and his hopes and dreams as a skier. The new Hawx Magna is one of the few boots built on a 102mm last that delivers the same performance and fit quality as the “100” (Hawx Prime) from the same brand. This may not sound like such a big deal, but trust us, the difference in forefoot width may only measure 2mm, but the performance gulf between “medium” and “wide” boots is immeasurable. All the features that made the Hawx a worldwide best seller are carried over to the Magna chassis: Memory Fit, that allows for selective shell expansion sure to cure any
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Atomic Hawx Magna W

Women with wide feet face the same litany of woes as men do, often ending up alleviating the agony by accepting a boot that doesn’t meet their performance expectations. The Hawx Magma 90W and 80W deliver performance perfectly pitched to the woman with so-so skills who wants out of the intermediate rut in a package voluminous enough to fit any full-figured foot. We can make this claim unequivocally because the Magna 90W incorporates Memory Fit, so the shell can expand several more millimeters past its pre-set 102mm forefoot width. The Magna 90W’s expandability works in all directions, even in the ankle area and over the instep, where women with wide feet often experience pain and circulatory constriction. Women with a sharp eye for value will appreciate that the Magna 80W will usually sell for $299, representing one of the best buys in all of boot-dom.

Atomic Hawx Prime

The original Hawx series, a medium-lasted shell without a lot of flashy features, became an international best seller for a lot of subtle touches – a domed instep, flexible sidewalls, an abducted stance – that added up to above-market comfort and support at every price point where Hawx competed. The first generation Hawx were particularly beneficial to value-seekers who wanted as much boot as they could afford on a tight budget. The current Hawx series, which debuted 2 years ago, upped the ante on every front: fit, performance and warmth. The liner and shell are heat-molded to the skier’s feet, for the current state of the art in personalization. Both stance and flex adjustments are integrated into the design and Thinsulate™ Platinum insulation (in the 130) should keep you warm anywhere below the Arctic Circle. The wheelhouse of the revamped Hawx series remains in the softer-flexing 90, 100 and 110
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Atomic Hawx Prime W

As good as the Hawx 2.0 series is for the male of the species, women might benefit even more from these special shoes. That’s because the boots don’t lose a lot of their quality features as they decline in flex index and cost, meaning that the Prime 80 W buyer still gets a lot of boot, particularly for the price. Since women tend to be lighter than men, a lower index boot is more likely to be appropriate for them. Women also have more problematic feet than men, presenting fit and alignment issues all their own. The Memory Fit system in the Hawx 2.0 series is boot-fitting magic, enabling customization of both the liner and shell to any fit anomaly on a woman’s foot. Women are more likely to suffer from poor circulation and cold feet, so the Thinsulate lining in the toes and Thinsulate Platinum everywhere else is a
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Atomic Hawx Ultra

A lot of boots made for narrow feet are minimalist affairs derived directly from a race boot. The Hawx Ultra, however, is based on a recreational boot, although the Ultra is more than just a narrower Hawx Prime. It uses a new shell design called Progressive shell that removes as much material as possible without compromising strength where required. (To pare even more weight, the cuff on the 130 is made from Grilamid.) The spine is reinforced with Energy Backbone, concentrating rigidity in the rear so the front of the cuff can be pliable and wrap the lower leg more accurately. All Hawx Ultra models use a 3D Memory Liner with preformed shape in the heel and ankle that locks down the fit in this critical area. (The stiffer the flex, the more area is covered by the 3D feature.) Of course the liner can be heat molded, as can
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Atomic Hawx Ultra W

High performance female skiers with narrow feet haven’t had a lot of options; now the Hawx Ultra W gives them a cornucopia of options in a single shell. Even if the skier never changes the flex or forward lean, never heats the customizable shell or even the moldable liner, the superlight weight, close fit, stout spine, short sole, abducted stance, cantable soles, 1mm offset shell and immaculate Thinsulate™ insulation ought to be enough to improve her skiing without ever invoking the Hawx Ultra W’s signature features. At the very least, the Hawx Ultra W models are worth checking out. You can’t find true love if you don’t try on a few ski slippers to find the ones that are worthy.

Atomic Live Fit

Some people with very large feet also possess equally impressive ankles and calves, all of which can be at considerable pains to insert in a ski boot. While Atomic’s Live Fit series can’t actually perform miracles, it may feel like the Promised Land to some extra-large feet who have yet to experience comfort in a ski boot. Everything about the Live Fit models aims to accommodate the XXXL skier. The two-buckle shell can’t get much easier to don and doff; the super-size buckles are easy and effective; and the soft, elastic panels (the “Live Fit” feature) on either side of the forefoot give bigger feet the room they need without pinching or cramping. Recently incorporated upgrades include Thinsulate™ Platinum insulation and a new buckle that’s lighter and easier to manipulate, making an already super-convenient boot that much more amenable. For 2017, the Live Fit 130 has been dropped from the
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Atomic Live Fit W

The beauty of the Live Fit W models is that they surrender all pretensions of trying to be close cousins of a race boot and instead deal directly with the problems of real skiers with outside-the-bell-curve foot and lower leg dimensions. The two-buckle shell design delivers best-in-show convenience without forgetting that the foot and ankle have to be held securely. The Live Fit 90W and 70W know something this skier doesn’t: what a comfortable, relatively neutral stance should feel like. What the lady with the XXL forefoot and/or calf will instantly recognize is that her feet don’t hurt, perhaps for the first time ever in a ski boot. If you’ve been slumming it in rental boots, or shying away from buying because nothing seems to fit and everything costs as much as a pair of Jimmy Choo’s, slip into a pair of Live Fit W’s and prepare to say, “Finally,
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Atomic Waymaker Carbon

At Realskiers, we confess that our interest in hiking is directly proportional to the quality of what we’re hiking to ski. Were we more dedicated to the touring culture, we’d be all over Atomic’s Backland, with its all-business touring sole, tech inserts and superlight shell. But we’re more into sidecountry jaunts that keep hiking and skiing in balance, which makes the Waymaker Carbon the ticket to ride. The bane of the backcountry boot as a downhill device is sloppy rear support, an issue the Waymaker Carbon confronts with a carbon mesh that reinforces the spine, just like the racy Redster. The Waymaker Carbon borrows another idea from Live Fit, putting a panel of elastic plastic along the outside of the forefoot, so this area can spread slightly during stride. The 35o ROM in the upper cuff is more than enough to get your butt uphill, and the Free/Lock hike mode,
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Atomic Waymaker Carbon W

Women who do mostly resort skiing but get the occasional itch to bust out of bounds should take a close look at the Waymaker Carbon 100W or 90W.   When you’re in hike mode, their 35o ROM allows for a long stride, and the Live Fit elastic panel on the side allows the foot to move dynamically. When it’s time to turn around and lay down some sweet tracks, the all-PU shell and cuff, reinforced by the Carbon Spine, transmit energy accurately and efficiently. One nifty feature of the Waymaker Carbon W models is they’re built on a multi-norm chassis that allows the standard, so-called DIN sole to be replaced with either a Walk to Ride (WTR) tread pattern or the full-on touring sole with tech inserts that meets ISO 9523. The beauty of this arrangement is you can buy a boot you’re certain will perform for everyday, in-bounds skiing, then
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Dalbello 2017 Brand Profile

2017 Brand Profile

No other boot brand has done more with the 3-piece, external-tongue shell design than Dalbello. Dalbello didn’t just copy the Raichle design they adopted; they improved on it. They optimized its performance properties by playing up its strengths: a stout spine and sidewall construction extending from the lower shell; correct pivot location, a key element in this design’s successful execution; and a ribbed external tongue to manage flex and forward energy transmission.

From a performance standpoint, the brilliance of the 3-piece “cabrio” design is the way it blends lightning lateral reaction with a progressive flex that’s well suited to handling the shocks of off-piste skiing at speed. If this doesn’t sound like your kind of skiing, fear not: Dalbello makes several very different flavors using the 3-piece shell as the foundation, from super cushy ladies’ slippers to rugged Alpine Touring iterations, in fits that range from tugboat wide to daringly close-fitting.

Dalbello would have a complete collection if they stopped there, but they also have an end-to-end line-up of four-buckle overlap shells for all-mountain skiing, a race boot series and a catalog of kids’ boots that sell like candy. The overall line accommodates so many foot shapes in so many different shell structures, it’s meaningless to say, “I like how Dalbellos fit.” With Dalbello, you have to be very specific about which shell and liner combo intrigues you, for they cover so many distinctively different fit environments and performance attributes.

In 2017, almost every model in the line will incorporate some degree of customization. The majority feature MyFit, Dalbello’s umbrella term for boots that include among their attributes a heat-moldable shell. (Note that any polyamide (PA) external tongue won’t be affected by heating, which is as it should be.) Any MyFit shell includes either a partially moldable inner boot (Instant Fit) or a 100% moldable EVA liner (Intuition Dalbello).

Dalbello’s take on heat molding is that it’s a fallback position when its already well-mapped boots aren’t comfortable right off the shelf, but it never hurts to cook shells and liners a tad to accelerate break-in and ensure a blissful first day. The MyFit package of heatable shells and liners are found across the high end of Dalbello’s 2-piece, four buckle boots and its signature 3-piece, 3-buckle cabrio models.

The most significantly altered shell in the 2017 Dalbello stable belongs to its 98mm, 4-buckle DRS race boots and their DMS clones. The basic stance geometry is patterned on the DRS World Cup (93mm), with a slightly less athletic stance but otherwise the real deal with a monoblock lower shell. The entire shell and liner of all DRS and DMS models are heat moldable. Women get their own narrow boot, the DMS W 100, with a Thinsulate liner for extra insulation.

Two other new models bear mention, the Avanti AX 120, a wide (103mm) version of the standard, medium Avanti 120, and the Lupo Carbon T.I., an unadulterated hiking version of the Lupo 130 T.I. in a Grilamid shell.

Many 2017 models with regular DIN replaceable toe and heel pads can be retro-fit with a heavy-tread, rockered WalkGrip sole that meets the ISO standard for AT boots, making it easier to walk even if you’re not an actual hiker.

Dalbello Avanti

The Avanti series, which supplanted the Viper line in the Dalbello collection last season, strives for neutrality and by and large achieves it. The stance angle of 4o is upright, or what is considered a naturally centered position. The shell has been contoured around critical fit zones so it won’t intrude on sensitive toes and protruding ankle bones, which makes the fit of the Avanti’s feel more generous than the 100mm last advertises. The overlap shell is softer right over the instep, which not only coddles this area but also eases the effort required to pull the boot on and off. The stock (i.e., non-Intuition™) liner is an improvement over earlier generations of Vipers, fitting both the foot and shell more accurately. Fans of a damp, plush ride in a stout, supportive shell get a lot of boot for the $499.99 the Avanti 120 will usually sell for with its
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Dalbello Avanti W

It’s no slander to say the Avanti W 95 and its little sisters, the W 85 and W 75, are simple, basic boots. The classic, 4-buckle overlap shell works best when tampered with least. The Avanti W models deliver on the fundamentals: a 4o ramp angle, 12o forward lean angle, pliable plastic to wrap the leg and forefoot securely, coupled with a cut-down cuff height so the calf is less constricted. The Avanti W 95 and W 85 both use heat moldable shells with different inner boots. All 3 Avanti W models use DIN soles that can be retrofit with GripWalk soles for ladies who want to walk more comfortably. An adjustable spoiler shim can be removed to more comfortably contain a larger calf. A new addition in to the Avanti W family for 2017 is a wide-lasted (103mm) option for the woman who wants 4-buckle support with a little
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Dalbello DMS W 100

Dalbello’s only women’s boot in a 98mm last and 4-buckle, 2-piece shell, the DMS W 100 makes a few routine adaptations for women – narrower heel, wider forefoot, lower cuff height – and a couple that aren’t so routine. The fleece in the liner is shorn from Tyrollean sheep, where presumably sheep know how to stay warm, and as added protection from the cold, the inner boot deploys a layer of Thinsulate, born from 3M chemists.

Dalbello DRS/DMS

Dalbello revamped its classic 4-buckle DRS race boots, dropping the Scorpion name but not the sting of its close-to-the-shell design. Customizable liners and shells are concessions to the Zeitgeist that demands this level of personalization, but the DRS and DMS models ski brilliantly even if these features are never invoked. To lift the Veil of Potential Confusion, DMS and DRS models are in all respects identical save for color scheme: DRS flies the Dalbello flagship green (visible from space) while DMS offers the much muted alternative of basic black with a bit of green trim. The reason DMS matters is it’s the only iteration made in a women’s model, the DRS W 100, a strong boot for the gal with a low-volume foot.

Dalbello KR W

The Krypton series for women brings the smooth shock-absorption and fierce lateral reactions of the Dalbello 3-piece shell to the female skiing population. All the toys the boys get in the Kryptons are found in the Kryzma (115), Chakra (95) and Lotus (85). Built around a narrow (98mm) last, the women’s Kryptons keep the close-fitting shell from feeling too intrusive by punching it out in four likely zones for bones likely to feel its pinch: the ankle, heel, fifth toe and navicular. If that doesn’t do the trick, the new MyFit heat-molding technology is available on all models. The Kryzma comes with the I.D. liner as standard equipment; the Chakra can be rendered more agile and more insulating by upgrading upgrade to the heat-molded liner. Whenever you make the added investment in a custom inner boot, be sure to maximize its capabilities by supporting the foot with a custom-molded insole.

Dalbello Krypton (KR)

The KR Pro and KR Fusion embody the best attributes of the 3-piece, cabrio shell design. One of the Krypton’s dominant traits is evident from the instant you lock in: the wrap around the steering column of the lower leg and ankle is ironclad, ready to respond at the first twitch of lateral energy. While boots with a ribbed external tongue are known for their long flex range, the Kryptons are no pushovers, but stout 130 and 120 flexes that retain terrific foot-to-shell connection throughout the mobile forward travel. The way the cuff moves in tandem with the tongue enhances the sensation of ever-present rear support. All this adds up to boots that beg to motor through battered terrain, be it wind-slab, stutter-step moguls or day-old chunder. All Kryptons are available with a custom-moldable Intuition I.D. liner, an advisable upgrade providing you like lighter, warmer, more comfortable boots, and come
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Dalbello Kyra

Boots made for wide female feet are often voluminous in every dimension, creating a comfort vs. performance conundrum for the woman with a big forefoot. The Kyra series (95W, 85W & 75W) solves this problem by mating a wide (102mm), women-specific last to a narrow heel pocket. The lower cuff height relieves pressure on a woman’s shorter calf, and the top of the spoiler can also be tilted outward if need be. Another handy stance/fit adjustment is a built-in heel-height adjustment that can elevate the heel up to 1cm.   Also integrated into the structure is an easy-to-activate ski/hike switch. While it’s unlikely the Kyra lady is going to hike very far, this feature does make it easier to walk around and facilitates slipping these special shoes on and off. Even the Kyra models without the Intuition ID liner (available only on the 95) use a heat-moldable lining material with excellent
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Dalbello Lupo

Sidecountry skiers who are fans of the stellar Krypton design will find the Lupos exactly as advertised: they’re Kryptons with a rock-solid hike mode integrated into the back of the boot. Because the Krypton cuff blocks rearward travel by sitting on a shelf on the lower shell, the addition of a hinged block at its base that can swing out of the way does little to change the flex behavior of the boot in the ski position, a function that remains controlled by the external tongue. New for 2017 is the Lupo Carbon T.I. (for Tech Insert) with a Grilamid shell for the serious, all-day hiker. The Carbon T.I. is a 130 flex boot, as is the standard Lupo T.I., a full-on AT boot that isn’t made from polyamide. The Lupo S.P. I.D. is a third option in a 130 flex with a 100% adaptable Intuition Hike Light wrap linter
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Dalbello Panterra

Take the Krypton 3-piece shell design, puff it out a bit until it’s 100mm across the forefoot, add a forefoot buckle that serves as a set-it-and-forget-it width adjustment and most importantly these days, add a hike mode to the rear spine, and you have the essence of the four-model Panterra family. (The Panterra 90 lacks the MyFit shell and its stock liner, like the 100’s, is only partially moldable.) Because the dynamic flex behavior of a Dalbello cabrio shell works differently from that of a classic 2-piece overlap, the insertion of a locking mechanism on the spine has minimal effect on the skiing properties of the boot. That said, the Panterras are more generous-fit all-mountain boots than dedicated hiking shoes. Their PU shells, while heat moldable in all but the 90, aren’t made of pixie dust, and the sturdy fittings aren’t pared to skeletal dimensions. The built-in ramp angle inclinator
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Fischer 2017 Boot Brand Profile

2017 Brand Profile

Fischer had a long and illustrious history as a ski maker before they decided to jump into the boot pool, despite said pool already being awash with brands. The focus of their debut models was an abducted (toes-out) stance, a clever idea they slightly overcooked, leaving some test pilots feeling like they were traveling in a downhill herringbone.

Undeterred by the difficulties of getting traction in an over-served market, Fischer pressed on, tinkering with their stance and story until a few years ago they went all-in on a fancy new system for custom molding the shell, Vacuum Fit. Vacuum technology had been part of Fischer’s manufacturing expertise for many years, so transferring this concept to ski boots may have been an easier step for Fischer to imagine than for other, tradition-bound brands.

Vacuum Fit was such a hit with specialty shops it enabled Fischer to steal the limelight from industry leader Salomon, even though Salomon was first to market with a shell-molding technology of their own called Custom Fit. The big deal about Vacuum Fit was that it didn’t just expand the shell (although it could); it could shrink it. Even the one-in-a-thousand shops with a history of boiling boots to modify them never had the means of reducing shell volume all around the forefoot like Vacuum Fit.

Like many first-of-their-kind innovations, Vacuum Fit didn’t get everything right immediately. The biggest limitation was it didn’t have much effect on the critical rear foot, but a second-generation Vacuum station corrected this oversight. Today, the Fischer Vacuum is a Full Fit process, and still the only heat molding technology that facilitates reducing shell volume.

Vacuum Full Fit is a standard feature on the RC4 series of narrow race boots, the new medium-lasted RC Pro 130 and 110 and the top model in the Ranger series of hike-mode (HM) boots.

For 2017, Fischer focuses on the critical medium-lasted (100mm) market with the totally fresh RC Pro series. While the shells retain their Vacuum Fit magic, it’s the Active Fit Zones (AFZ) built into the new liners that provide something Fischer’s been missing: instant gratification. Customers tend to judge a bootfit almost instantly, so Fischer concocted an inner boot with 3 separate fit zones that don’t require thermomolding to provide an accurate yet immediately comfortable fit.

The Power Zone in around the ankle is reinforced to transmit energy, the Flex Zone in the midfoot allows for subtle movement and the Comfort Zone in the forefoot provides elasticity, cushy materials and insulation. The AFZ liner is found in all RC Pro models and in the Ranger series.

The RC Pro shells are as new as the AFZ liners, featuring Power Lock, the stout cuff-to-shell connection of Fischer’s race boots, and race-class cuff canting. The RC Pro 130 and 110, as well as the women’s RC Pro W 110 and W 90, offer the full Monty, including Vacuum Full Fit, but the hidden gem in the series could be the RC Pro 120. This value proposition dispenses with shell customization in order to hit the $499 price point, or roughly $100 below the standard market price for a 120 flex, 100mm last boot. The women’s RC Pro W 100 offers a similar superior value.

All RC Pro models can be retrofit with rockered WTR walking soles ($60).

Fischer Ranger 12 Vacuum Full Fit

If you’re a serious backcountry skier, check out Fischer’s Transalp collection of alpine touring boots. The tipoff that the Ranger isn’t your shoe lies in the sole: the Ranger lacks the tech inserts and rockered, super-grippy soles that are the hallmarks of hiking boots. So who should be in the Ranger? A strong skier who spends most of his time in the resort but occasionally steps into a frame-style touring binding and heads off for a short jaunt into the sidecountry. The 2017 Rangers come with the new AFZ liner, so out-of-the-box comfort should be spot-on for anyone with a medium-volume foot. The Ranger 12 Vacuum Full Fit can shrink to a 96mm last or expand to a 106mm volume, which pretty much covers the known universe.

Fischer RC Pro Vacuum Full Fit

The new Active Fit Zones (AFZ) liner aims for an out-of-the-box fit that’s so auto-conforming that vacuum-fitting the shell becomes an option that can deferred to some future date. Semi-rigid around the ankle, pliable in the arch area and cushy in the forefoot, the sculpted AFZ liners are, like the shells, heat-moldable if need be. Fischer’s edge over other brands with heat-moldable shells is their Full Fit Vacuum is equally elastic whether they’re asked to expand or contract. This makes the new RC Pro Full Fit models ideal for a foot with a narrow heel and ankle that spreads into a flat spatula across the metatarsals. The RC Pro’s 100mm last can suck up any extra room in the rearfoot until it fits like a 95mm soft race boot, while allowing the forefoot to expand where the forefoot needs its lebensraum. Everybody likes a deal, and the best bargain in
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Fischer RC Pro W Vacuum Full Fit

There might not be another boot as female-friendly as the new RC Pro W Vacuum Full Fit in flexes 110W and 90W. Consider that the shell can be expanded or shrunk by 5mm; that’s a range that includes race-room tight 95mm up to bucket-big 105mm. The new AFZ women’s liners might as well have been conceived exclusively for women with their more confining fit in the ankle and roomy forefoot. Even the buckles are adapted for the fairer sex, with deep, easy to grasp levers that can be manipulated with mittens. Two of the best deals in women’s boots are the RC Pro W 100 Vacuum CF and its little sister, the RC Pro W 90. Both use AFZ liners with faux fur lining in the upper cuff to convey a sense of the comforts within. A Vacuum Fit boot in a 100 flex, the RC Pro W 100 will
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Fischer RC4 Vacuum Full Fit

If you’re getting a Fischer boot for the unique properties of its Vacuum Fit, namely the ability to shrink-wrap the shell around the foot, then it only makes sense to start with the narrowest shell you can slide into. This makes the RC4 series of race boots the models of choice to optimize Vacuum Full Fit. Because Vacuum Full Fit also allows for shell expansion, even if the shell impinges a bit out of the box, going tight turns out all right in the heat-molding game. The narrow, 98mm last of the RC4 comes in a no-wimps-need-apply 140 flex, a still plenty sturdy 130 and a more pliable 110 flex, which brings this unique and useful technology into the wheelhouse flex range for the weekend warrior. We cannot overemphasize the importance of accurately matching the contours of a semi-rigid, supportive shell around the lower leg, ankle and mid-foot. This is
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Fischer Trinity 110 Vacuum Full Fit

Boots that purport to support an expert lass are often less than advertised, but the one-model collection that is the Trinity 110 Vacuum Full Fit is the undiluted deal. Even if the Trinity didn’t have the remarkable Vacuum Fit embellishment, it would still be a stellar shoe for the woman who is as on her game as this boot is. But Vacuum Fit isn’t a mere lagniappe to sweeten the sale, for women, particularly very good women, have more to gain from Fischer’s unique shell-shrinking system than men do. Lower shells on 99% of all women’s boots are made for men, but the Trinity’s ability to suck up 5mm in the lower shell – particularly in the rearfoot – changes this shell from a dedicated men’s model to a sexual agnostic.

Full Tilt 2017 Boot Brand Profile

2017 Brand Profile

Full Tilt prides itself on maintaining close ties to its roots, so product turnover isn’t the priority it is elsewhere. The only change to the 2017 line is the addition of the Drop Kick, a slam dunk from a product development standpoint as it adds a spiral wrap liner to a Classic shell, or pretty much where both concepts began 25 years ago. The only change in our coverage from last season is this introduction.

To old-timers, Full Tilt boots represent Raichle resurrected; to today’s high-flying Pipe & Park population, they’re dope. Kids who cavort and contort in the halfpipe or on rails feel about their Full Tilts the way Charleton Heston felt about his rifle, although it’s actually pretty easy to slide out of any of their 3-piece shell models whether your feet are dead or alive. The external tongue rocks completely out of the way, and the open-throat shell likewise poses no obstacle for exit or entry.

The irony of what was once Raichle’s World Cup race boot now serving a generation that intentionally aims backward down the hill – while lining up for a launch pad – is immaterial to the daredevils who have embraced Full Tilts as their preferred footwear. Landing big airs in switch position asks a boot certain questions to which Full Tilts know the answer: have an elastic range no 4-buckle boot can match, supple at the top of its movement and consistently resilient thereafter.

The biggest influence on a Full Tilt’s behavior and a key differentiator among their models is the flex resistance of the external tongue, indicated by a flex number that works on a logical 10-point scale, with 10 being the stiffest. Should the standard issue be too firm or flimsy, any model can be retrofitted with a softer or stiffer tongue. What won’t change much is the fixed volume in the forefoot area, so be sure the Full Tilt you fancy is a good match for your foot’s widest point.

As Raichle did before them, Full Tilt has infiltrated Intuition heat-moldable liners throughout their line. Their Quick Fit™ liner will, in fairly short order, take an impression of your foot while you ski in it, a convenient form of auto-customization. Or, as with any Intuition liner, it can be heated up at the time of sale and the same process will be over in ten minutes.

Aside from their exceptional range of forward flexibility, another prized attribute of Full Tilt shoes is their weight, or rather, the lack thereof. Their lightest models feel like they don’t weigh more than a baguette, a feature you value if you have to spin your feet three times around your head before you land.

You have to give Full Tilt credit for focus: every boot in their line is built on the same principle and aimed at essentially the same audience. Some are wider, some are stiffer, some are lighter, some can suck up a little more shock; but all use the same fundamental architecture with a shared bundle of benefits. If you take to the air a lot, you’re bound to land one day in a pair of Full Tilts.

The latest development in the Full Tilt’s relatively stable world is the creation of a new model, the Drop Kick, by slipping a spiral wrap liner in a Classic shell.

Full Tilt Classic/Drop Kick

Just about every boot being sold today can trace its roots back to a handful of shell archetypes that were developed decades ago. But only one actually is the original – as the name for this Full Tilt shell implies – for the Classic is a faithful replica of the Raichle Flexon Comp. All the strengths of the Original shell are retained: a strong spine that travels with the leg, an external tongue that suffocates shock and an open-throat design that allows for optimal ankle ROM without impinging on the instep. A strong skier will probably want more flex resistance than the Classic’s stock 6, but this is easily remedied as all Full Tilt tongues can be swapped for a stiffer (or softer) version. The skier who remains firmly planted on terra firma will approve of the Classic’s rigid boot board. Traditionalists will also cotton to the Classic’s Old School
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Full Tilt Descendant

Full Tilt used to subject the wide-body foot to a flimsy bathtub called the Booter, but last season the high-volume foot was treated to a new wide shell called Evolution. The Evolution retains Full Tilt’s 3-piece architecture but uses a vastly improved buckle system that’s half-cable, half traditional buckle. The men’s Evolution models are dubbed Descendants, available in a stout 8 flex, a standard 6 flex and a 4-flex that’s aimed at the lightweight tweener who’s working on his pipe and park chops. The Descendants are the best collection of high volume boots ever offered by Full Tilt.

Full Tilt First Chair

Full Tilt didn’t stray far from their Original formula when they concocted the Soul, a similarly narrow-lasted shell with a touch more toe radius and high-traction, replaceable rubber soles. The Soul shell forms the foundation for Full Tilt’s stiffest tongue in the new 10-flex First Chair, and serves the same function for the slightly softer First Chair 8 and 6. Because Full Tilt’s signature ribbed tongue remains elastic in all its iterations, even the burly First Chair 10 has a high flex range, ideal for landing toxic airs. A shock-absorbing boot board also helps to dissipate the shock created by dropping out of the sky from four stories high. The First Chair 8 has all the same features in a slightly more forgiving flex.

Full Tilt Plush

Women’s models that use the Evolution shell as their foundation, the Plush 6 and Plush 4 provide plenty of room for the high volume fem foot, but with more built-in support than the Mary Jane’s they replaced. The Plush 6 has a functional forward lean adjustment to help women dial in their stance and comes with a Plush wrap liner that warms you up just looking at it. The Plush 4 uses a normal-tongue, Classic liner and a softer-flexing, external ribbed tongue with the same shell as the 6.

Full Tilt Rumor

The Rumor marries Full Tilt’s Original shell with a classic Intuition™ liner, i.e., one with a separate tongue. The cuff is cut a little shorter for a women’s less lengthy calf and the tongue is a relatively soft 4, but otherwise the Rumor is the largely the same boot as the Classic.

Full Tilt Soul Sister

Women suffer more from cold feet than men do, and if there’s one trait the Soul Sister has in spades, it’s warmth. The well-insulated Intuition™ liner is pre-molded for the narrow female foot and can be further custom molded with a dose of heat. The more rounded toe box of the Soul shell assists circulation to heat-deprived tootsies. As its name makes plain, the Soul Sister is built with the narrow-lasted Soul shell and a women’s specific cuff. The wrap inner boot has the same cushy lining as the aptly named Plush. To help navigate slippery acreage between the car and the lift, the replaceable soles are high-traction rubber.

Head 2017 Boot Brand Profile

2017 Brand Profile

Head’s 2017 collection provides an object lesson in how to build a modern boot line. For the vast majority of skiers who will be guided into a medium (100mm) or wide (102mm) model, offer total customization of the shell and liner so it’s all but impossible to fall short of a perfect fit, which happens to be Head’s trade name for its heat-molding technology. For the expert technical skier, start with the perfectly balanced shell close to the foot (96mm) and keep it there. Remember, we’re talking about Head here, a brand that knows a thing or two about what’s required in a high performance ski boot.

In 2017, Head capitalizes on the well-deserved laurels laid at the feet of the Raptor 140 RS to spin off two new Raptors. The Raptor Speed RS is for anyone who loves everything about the Raptor 140 RS but its white color. The Raptor 100 RS uses the same narrow last as its beefier brothers, but is otherwise significantly detuned to suit the recreational skier for whom it’s intended.

Head’s core collection remains Vector Evo, 100% customizable shells and liners built on the same fundamental stance angles as the Raptor RS family, but with a medium-volume (100mm) last.

The newest branch of the Head boot family, Advant Edge, supplants Adapt Edge as its best boots for wide (102mm), high volume feet. Advant Edge uses a bi-material shell loaded with subtle features that together actually aid the skier’s skill development. And that’s just the beginning: Advant Edge also uses Perfect Fit heat-molding of the shell and liner, an easy-entry shell design, Spine-Tech buckles and one of the niftiest closure features ever, Double Power buckles on all flexes.

Head Advant Edge

All the hubbub about heat-molding technology – wonderful as it is – tends to obscure the built-in virtues of the shell being heated. In the case of the new Advant Edge, such oversight misses what makes these boots perform like training wheels for intermediate skiers. Advant Edge shells are bi-material, with a stiffer rear and base and more supple and adaptable front, which rises all the way up the tongue, creating instant contact when the skier initiates forward pressure. The top of the front panels are soft, so the skier can shift weight forward effortlessly; once the skier is in an athletic stance, the cuff’s resistance kicks in and normal energy transmission takes over. All Advant Edge models feature one of the greatest ideas ever to adorn a boot, the Double Power lever. A discretely integrated, spring-loaded lever inside both cuff buckles extends the latch length, automatically multiplying buckling power.
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Head Advant Edge W

There are plenty of other options for the intermediate to advanced woman with a wide foot. Nowadays, several of those other options also have heat-moldable shells and liners, as Advant Edge W models do. But the Advant Edge 95W and 85W models have one feature not found on any other women’s boot, the Double Power lever. Women have a tough time exerting enough force to get the critical lower cuff buckle tight enough to retain the heel, but the Double Power level flips open to extend leverage by another 50%, transforming formerly strenuous buckling into a breeze.

Head Raptor RS

The Raptor 140 RS, new Raptor Speed RS and 120 RS are as close to World Cup race boots as anyone not wearing a start bib needs to own. Contact around the heel and ankle feels like a velvet vise before the boot is even buckled. Once cinched in with their low-profile buckle system, you feel welded to the monoblock structure, your every twitch instantly transmitted to the sole. The foundation of high performance skiing is the boot, which is why racers are notoriously hesitant to switch brands once they’ve tasted success. If you’re a fan of World Cup racing, you know that athletes with first-name recognition like Lindsay, Bode, Ted, Julia, Aksel and others are raising Head skis over their heads when they stand on the podium. They’re also wearing Heads on their feet, which tells you all you need to know about the racing bona fides of the
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Head Raptor RS W

Head has the unusual – but welcome – habit of referencing forefoot width by size, indicating just how scaled down this dimension becomes with each drop in shell size. Also unusual is a volume measurement for each model, which for the Raptor 110 RS W is 1800cc, or the same small interior as the unisex Raptor 140 RS. This confirms that the Raptor RS W is every cc the same shoe as the men’s boot, with its power and precision intact in the women’s version. Just a word of caution: it’s not enough for a women’s boot just to fit; the pilot also has to be able to generate the power to bend it. The Raptor RS W in a 110 flex requires the woman who’s driving to be comfortable at the speeds needed to make the boot responsive. The softer Raptor 90 RS W should be spot on for
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Head Vector Evo

The Vector Evo series blends race-bred fundamentals with fancy customization features to create a new series for the elite skier with no interest in running gates. The chassis is a relatively roomy medium (102mm in 27.5, 100mm in 26.5) that can easily be heated and expanded in any direction using Head’s Form Fit system. While the heat-moldable shell and liner are laudable features, what really makes the Vector Evo awesome boots are all the elements not affected by custom fitting. The Dynamic Frame shell directs more energy to the heel/arch area directly under the steering column. To achieve a natural, balanced stance, the Vector Evo borrows its 4o heel elevation and 14o spoiler angle from the Raptor, but the hinge point has been relocated 18mm rearward to create a more shock-absorbing flex range. The Vector Evo 130 is further embellished with the Raptor’s Booster strap, an extra touch that is
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Head Vector Evo W

Every so often boot designers come up with a feature that has more value for women than for men. Once in a blue moon you’ll find two such features on a boot, as is the case with the Vector Evo 110W. The boot components that the skier handles every day are the buckles, yet most buckles, particularly on high-end boots, are rudimentary affairs, often with short latches just to make closing them even more arduous. The two cuff buckles on the 110W incorporate Head’s proprietary Double Power buckle that extends to multiply the user’s closing force, a godsend to women who often struggle to get the fit tension they need to ski confidently. The other feature (on both the 110W and the 90W) that benefits women in particular is Form Fit, Head’s method for heat molding the shell and liner around whatever deformity needs extra attention. There’s a bone in
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K2 2017 Boot Brand Profile

2017 Brand Profile

As America’s preeminent ski brand, K2 has made the core recreational skier – not the race competitor – the focus of their best engineering. This philosophy has been extended to their boot line, where they’ve aimed at the all-terrain, big mountain skier as their top-end target. To take an obvious example of how this orientation finds expression in the new shoes, flip one over.   The sole of a race boot tends to be single, monoblock structure, but the Spyne series uses a grippy sole that’s a far better solution if you’re climbing a rocky ridge or riding a snowmobile in the backcountry.

The central feature from which the Spyne derives its name is the Powerfuse Spyne, a carbon exoskeleton that adds rigidity in the rear, allowing the rest of the boot structure to be a more effective shock absorber. This is a design element that, in conjunction with the Energy Interlock that controls the rivet-less rear connection between shell and cuff, makes the K2’s particularly well suited to charging through the irregular terrain features and broken snow conditions that prevail off piste.

In another echo of their ski origins, for every Spyne there is a Spyre, or a parallel women’s-specific boot made for the go-everywhere gal. Both the Spyne and Spyre flagship models use a Precisionfit Intuition® liner that takes full advantage of this heat-moldable, custom inner-boot technology.

K2’s freeride orientation puts an automatic emphasis on all things off-trail, so its version of a hike-mode model, Pinnacle, was integrated into its overall design plan from square one. Energy Interlock was conceived from the outset to accommodate a latching mechanism that would unlock the Powerfuse Spyne. To further facilitate hiking, the upper buckle connects to a broad power strap that will remain latched when unbuckled, increasing forward range of motion needed for steep climbs.

If the Pinnacle is made for sidecountry (lift assisted access to backcountry), the new Pinnacle Pro is made for the purist who begins his climb from the bottom. Made in super lightweight Pebax instead of PU, it has two long-bale buckles on the cuff as well as a Velcro strap. Like the Pinnacle 130 and 110, the Pro uses integrated Tech fittings so they can be used with regular DIN bindings or with Tech bindings.

K2’s other new models for 2017 serve skiers at the opposite end of the fit/performance spectrum. B.F.C stands for “built for comfort,” an unabashed play for the affections of the comfort-driven buyer. It’s high volume 103mm last and Cushfit liner won’t put a lot of pressure on a foot unaccustomed to the concept of fit tension. Soft, pliable plastic over the instep allows the lower shell to spread open for “hands-free” entry. In further acknowledgement of this skier’s less polished skill set, the B.F.C. hike switch is cleverly re-positioned as “A/M”, for “Après Mode.” K2 priced the B.F.C. models (2 men’s, 2 women’s) to target the skier buying his or her first pair of boots.

K2 deserves special commendation for introducing their boot into a brutally competitive market and never wavering on the first principle of their commercial plan: they would not, have not and will not authorize the sale of their boots on the Internet. K2 understands the special requirements entailed in fitting a boot properly, an exercise that can only be accomplished long distance with the intervention of a thousand angels. Since most angels are busy elsewhere, we wouldn’t count on them sorting out boot-buying on the Internet anytime soon.

K2 B.F.C.

K2 isn’t circumspect about who it made the B.F.C. for: it’s right there in the name: Built For Comfort. The C could just as easily stand for Convenience, for the B.F.C.’s are as easy to slip on as a 4-buckle boot can get. The latch on the spine that unlocks the upper cuff so it’s easier to walk is referred to as “Après Mode,” in recognition of the likelihood that this feature will be used more often on a barstool than a backcountry foray.

K2 B.F.C. W

One could make the case that if a boot holds you comfortably in the correct stance, it’s done its job. This is the modest ambition of the new B.F.C. models for women, wide-lasted recreational boots available in 90W and 80W flexes. Simplicity itself to slip on and off, B.F.C. boots nonetheless deliver 4-buckle support in a natural stance with a cuff alignment adjustment for good measure.

K2 Minaret

K2 has two different women in mind for its Minarets, the women’s incarnations of the men’s Pinnacle boots. The stiffer 100 aims at the skilled skier with every intention of hiking frequently, offering a choice of low- or medium-volume lasts in an accurate LuxFit Tour liner. The soft and wide Minaret 80 is for a lass who isn’t likely to hike further than necessary, but when she does have to hoof it, prefers not to walk like a zombie.

K2 Pinnacle

K2 had an advantage when they built their first hike-mode (HM) boot: they hadn’t made any boots, so they could build the HM model from the ground up. Since making a killer BC boot was central to their line from the outset, they built an alpine boot technology, Energy InterlockTM, which was easily adaptable to hiking. This is why Synchro InterlockTM, K2’s HM mechanism, has first-in-class rear support without losing the needed range of motion to make hiking feasible. K2 also concocted a replaceable walking sole that will work with any binding from everyday alpine to high-tech Dynafit, and they offer it all with a narrow (97mm) or medium (100mm) PrecisionFit Tour Intuition® liner in the top-of-series 130. The Pinnacle 110 comes in either medium (100mm) or wide (102), and the Pinnacle 100 gives big feet a chance to live the sidecountry lifestyle with a wide-ass 102 last. New to
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K2 Spyne

K2 deserves a lot of credit for resisting the temptation to re-invent the alpine ski boot. Not that they didn’t do their due diligence and re-think the requirements, but their thinking led them back to a fresh take on some well-established concepts. The Spyne 130, whether in its high-volume (HV), low-volume (LV) or relatively roomy medium issue, works because it meets every expectation for performance, and then adds a little extra feature/benefit that assists the all-terrain skier. Yes, the stance is spot on, but the rigid spine (its signature feature) coupled to a well-conforming cuff keeps the skier in a centered stance that is also elastic. The Intuition® inner boot does as much with the heat-moldable concept as any stock liner extant, although it feels skiable right out to the box. The flagship Spyne 130 doesn’t have any more built-in features than other boots, but every component from the sole
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K2 Spyre

K2’s line of ladies’ boots parallels the men’s collection in most respects, but instead of offering a full range of widths the women’s collection has only one or two lasts per model. The stout Spyre 110 offers a choice of narrow or medium, while the Spyre 100 comes in medium or wide. All get a shorter cuff and a women-specific, narrow heel pocket built into a moldable Intuition® liner. Otherwise the new K2 women’s models deploy the same well-conceived technology found in the men’s line. The sweetspot for value, price and performance – in addition to fit and function – resides in the Spyre 100. The boot retains the PowerFuse Spyne and Energy Interlock system that give the K2’s their personality, and a heat-moldable, LuxFit Intuition® inner boot is standard issue.  The Spyre 80 has been retired, yielding the soft-flex, wider-last market to the new B.F.C.’s.

Lange 2017 Boot Brand Profile

2017 Brand Profile

No other brand has remained as faithful to its roots, with as much sustained success, as Lange. From the outset, the brand was dedicated to enhancing energy transmission between athlete and ski. Lange has never strayed from a basic, four-buckle architecture, and neither have they rested on their considerable laurels. (Lange’s absurd lead in accumulated World Cup points speaks to their decades of dominance.)

A few seasons ago, Lange finally found a way to convert their medal count on the racecourse into coin at the retail register. They de-tuned their competition-class RS series by softening the flex, pushing the forefoot width out to a less confining 100mm and, critically, bumping up the instep height. Virtually overnight, Lange’s light green “race” boot led a brand renaissance that pulled the rest of the line after it.

While Lange’s resurgence was being led from the front by making their classic race boot roomier, at the lower price points where most mortals buy their boots Lange improved their position by offering lower-volume alternatives. Women with narrow feet, largely abandoned in a market shift to wider women’s boots, found the Lange “L.V.” suffix meant they’d found a boot made for them. Along with Lange’s already established following in the race community, the popularity of their lightweight, close-fitting women’s line and the near-universal appeal of their new flag ship, the RX 130, meant Lange was finally earning euros at the same pace as their race boots racked up World Cup points,

As evident by both their long history and their current collection, Lange doesn’t care to deviate from what they correctly feel is their heritage and their strength. When rear-entry boots were ubiquitous, Lange finally made a feeble stab at the concept as if to prove what an abomination all such silly boots were.

The current craze is the alpine hiking boot, a trend that at first caught Lange flatfooted. But Lange quickly caught up, producing first-rate exemplars of the budding genre by not corrupting their alpine structure much beyond adding a walk-ski latch to the rear spoiler. Last year Lange committed to the genre by making new, more hike-friendly molds for their top HM model, the XT, in both narrow and medium widths.

This year Lange finally dove into the deep end of the hiking pool, emerging with the 3-model XT Free Tour series with a Grilamid® shell, polyolefin cuff, Dynafit® certified Tech inserts and a WTR sole. The latching mechanism on the spine resembles every other Lange Ski/Hike switch, but it’s actually attached to a wider notch in the lower shell so the Free Tour’s total ROM is 23o in either direction. The radical switch in materials notwithstanding (1770g), the XT Free Tours look every inch like classic Langes. The shells that sit atop their rockered soles are monoblock construction, and all the stance angles and pivot points are pure Lange. As the true AT genre requires, the liner is minimalist, lace-up affair.

Lange RS

In some ways, the RS series hasn’t changed in decades, but 2017 interjects a different shade of blue with orange accents. While this commentary is a repost of last season’s report, the associated FIND buttons connect to 2017 starting inventory. Since the creation of the plastic ski boot, no single brand and design has proven as enduring as the four-buckle overlap Lange race boot. Of course there has been considerable evolution over 50 years, but the essentials have remained much the same: get the basic stance angles correct and cut out all frills. Today’s incarnation is the RS 130, the “true 130,” the blue boot that represents the gold standard in race performance. The RS 130 is a burly boot whether you opt for the narrow 97mm last or the medium (which Lange calls Wide) 100mm geometry. You don’t have to be racer to appreciate these shells, but it helps.
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Lange RS SC

This commentary is a repost of last season’s report, the associated FIND buttons connect to 2017 starting inventory. The “SC” stands for Short Cuff, meaning Lange lowered the cuff height on its SC series to suit the shorter length of a woman’s tibia. All other changes to their classic race boot design can be quickly summarized: zero. Okay, the shell material is PU instead of polyether, but that’s more a nod to reality than an act of condescension. These are not shoes for the faint of heart or weak of leg. Their 97mm forefoot will probably limit their appeal not only to women with narrow feet, but to those narrow-footed females who are very, very good skiers. The RS SC shell comes in 120, 110 and 90 flexes.

Lange RX

This commentary is a repost of last season’s report, the associated FIND buttons connect to 2017 starting inventory. Oh, the difference a couple of silly millimeters make. Several seasons back, Lange increased the instep height on their classic race boot and instantly earned thousands of new adherents who wouldn’t have worn a blue Lange race boot on a bet. The new green machine, the RX 130, took another clever tack, purloining a page from the women’s dress market. Men who didn’t really belong in a race boot could rock the RX 130, boosting their ability and their self-esteem in one blow. Befitting its runaway popularity, the RX 130 heads a large family of spin-offs. The flagship model is available in both the standard, medium 100mm last and a low-volume (LV) 97mm alternative.   The same range of choices is found in the softer-flexing RX 100. While the RX 130 doesn’t deliver
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Lange RX W

This commentary is a repost of last season’s report; the associated FIND buttons connect to 2017 starting inventory. The RX line for women doesn’t try to tilt women forward or fluff up the inner boot or otherwise patronize the female customer. Its only significant adaptation for a woman’s anatomy is a short upper cuff. The same improvements that were bestowed on the new RX inner boots for men also apply to the women’s RX’s. This is particularly noteworthy as the new Custom Tongue accommodates a high instep – a fit zone that is often a hot spot for women – better than previous iterations. Most of the features that make the RX 110W a great boot for very good skiers are still present in the RX 80W. This makes the exceptionally supportive RX 80W and RX 80W LV excellent game improvement footwear for the average skier.

Lange SX

This commentary is a repost of last season’s report, the associated FIND buttons connect to 2017 starting inventory. One has to admire Lange’s uncompromising standards. Many boots made for big, wide feet surrender any number of performance attributes to achieve a more immediately accommodating fit. Lange knows that for wide boot to ski like a Lange, it has to be built with the same stance and inner boot technology as their other models. This commitment to making technical products for all skiers makes the SX 120 (or the new SX 130) a standout shoe for any fellow with a big hoof. One of the secrets to the SX’s success is the shell allows for easier entry/exit without giving up the energy transmission of a mono-injected, polyether lower. Softer plastic flaps over the instep allow the wider foot to slide in and out without being sawed in twain by the rigid
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Lange SX W

This commentary is a repost of last season’s report, the associated FIND buttons connect to 2017 starting inventory. In the world of alpine boots, skiers with the widest feet get the narrowest number of options. At least at Lange, you know the limited wide-body selection will still retain the essential stance angles that deliver steering accuracy and reduce fatigue by helping the skier retain a more neutral, upright stance. The SX 90W and its softer sisters, the SX 80W and SX 70W, won’t sacrifice ski control on the altar of pillow-lined comfort. These are still at heart technical boots, albeit wider and inherently softer than the high performance models from which they are declined.

Lange XC

This commentary is a repost of last season’s report, the associated FIND buttons connect to 2017 starting inventory. Here’s the Reader’s Digest version of the XC story: it’s the SX family of 102mm lasts with the XT’s hike mode switch on the spine and the option of WTR soles in the box. Most hikers are a fairly lean lot and unlikely to need the XC’s extra-roomy interior, but another fit alternative for the high-volume foot is always welcome, even if the only “hike” the skier sets out on is from the lodge to the lift. It’s worth mentioning that a hike mode has other virtues aside from facilitating an uphill stride. Relaxing the forward tilt of the spine can be a relief in the liftline or once on the lift, and certainly feels more comfortable at lunch or après ski. An unlatched upper cuff is also easier to slip into
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Lange XC W

This commentary is a repost of last season’s report, the associated FIND buttons connect to 2017 starting inventory. The new XC W series gives women with high-volume feet another chance to excel, whether they deign to hike higher than the last lift tower or not. The mavens of Lange R&D probably already regard wide boots and walk-mode latches as forms of surrender. They draw the line at betraying their fundamental beliefs. Therefore, the foundation of any Lange remains unadulterated, despite the occasional accommodation for fat feet and/or uphill travel. The XC W boots still put the skier in a neutral stance laterally and don’t overdo the forward lean angle. If you own a Lange boot, you may think it’s adapting to you over time, but most likely it’s the boot instructing you. Better to get your lessons from a Lange.

Lange XT

This commentary is a repost of last season’s report, the associated FIND buttons connect to 2017 starting inventory. Last season marked the debut of the first, built-from-scratch XT, with its own mold and a new V-Lock Hike-Ski system that boosts the hike mode ROM to 20o. The XT’s off-piste chops can be readily raised by switching to the extra tread of WTR rocker soles, which Lange thoughtfully includes. Like XT 1.0, the current XT comes in both the regular, medium width and a low volume (LV) version for narrow feet. While the new XT’s make more concessions to the requirements of uphill self-propulsion, Lange would rather commit corporate seppuku than build a boot that violates their basic principles. The XT retains all the essential elements that make a Lange ski, well, like a Lange. Already one of the most powerful hike mode (HM) boots on the market, the 2016 XT
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Lange XT Free Tour

A true AT boot with the requisite Tech inserts and rockered WTR sole, the XT Free Tour lies outside our normal field of inquiry. We reference it here so those of you contemplating this activity – related to alpine skiing, but not to be mistaken for it – can find it among the Realskiers specialty shop network and sort out its suitability to your purposes for yourselves. Another precautionary note: the shell material (Grilamid) doesn’t lend itself to ready modification, so the choice of shell volume (97mm vs. 100mm) is even more critical than usual.

Lange XT Free Tour W LV

A classic, 4-buckle boot made with every adaptation a woman with a yen to climb can covet: ultralight materials, a longer ROM, WTR sole with Tech inserts, Ultralon custom-fit liner and, for the downhill portion the exercise, all the power and precision of a Lange.

Lange XT W

This commentary is a repost of last season’s report, the associated FIND buttons connect to 2017 starting inventory. As goes the RX W series, so goes its HM clones, the XT W’s. So when the top shoe in the women’s RX line was beefed up to a 110 flex index, the XT line was bound to follow. But not in lock step. The XT 110 W only comes in the narrow, 97mm width, making it one of the more bad-ass climbing boots for the woman who can hardly wait until it’s time to head downhill. The XT line got all new shells and liners this year, meaning that women, too, are recipients of more comfortable, more hike-able XT models. The addition of WTR soles as a more hike-intensive option should appeal to the ladies who plan to spend less time at the resort and more time in the backcountry. Women
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Nordica 2017 Boot Brand Profile

2017 Brand Profile

Last season Nordica revived its legendary Dobermann and Grand Prix franchises; this year the resuscitation trend continues with the reanimation of Speedmachine in a whole new package built on a medium (100mm) last. The new Speedmachine models would be comfortable and capable 4-buckle overlap shells even if they didn’t feature a trifecta of bonus features that Nordica bundles under the umbrella term Tri-Fit Technology.

The sexiest element in the Tri-Fit triad is a locally applied infrared heating system used to achieve quick and lasting shell expansion. An Infrared Heating lamp warms the shell from the inside out, then a suction cup is placed over the heated zone to initiate the shell’s distortion. After a few minutes the separately heated liners (the second element of Tri-Fit) are re-inserted and the skier puts the still warm boots on and wears them for 5 minutes.

The oven-heated inner boots use a cork compound to follow every contour of the heel and ankle area, a material that readily adapts to any foot shape. The third piece of the Tri-Fit tool kit is the ability to disassemble whatever parts of the boot aren’t molded together; buckles, power straps, cuff cants, soles and spine screws are all removable.

The new Speedmachine models should shore up Nordica’s position in the critical medium-last chunk of the market, and with all their fit malleability, performance-oriented skiers with wide feet should be able to fit into Speedmachines, as well. The skier who wants more convenience in a wide-body shell can opt for the new N-Move, a 102mm lasted boot with a walk mode. Note that we – and Nordica – don’t call their unlatchable cuff feature a “hike” mode, as this skier’s longest hike of the day is probably from the car to the ticket window.

Skiers familiar with Tecnica’s first line of Cochise boots will recognize the N-Move’s metal-to-metal latching mechanism on the spine and the way the Velcro strap serves as the top buckle. Used in tandem, the Ski/Walk feature and strap give the N-Move cuff a long range of motion for a more relaxed stride. Skiers who want to make walking in a ski boot feel almost natural can buy aftermarket, rockered and treaded soles useable with WTR bindings.

The arrival of N-Move has relegated the NXT family of basic, 4-buckle boots in a wide (102mm) last to entry-level status in 90, 60 and 50 flexes.

Anyone who races knows that Nordica doesn’t need to inflate its resume to establish its street cred. Great racers of a bygone generation hoarded secret stashes of the venerable Grand Prix, and if Nordica ever stops making their Dobermann line of undiluted race boots, they’re also likely to be black market booty the instant they’re officially retired. The GPX line fills an interesting market need: a really good boot for the thin-profile foot that, while imitating a classic race paradigm, subtly softens the vise-like grip of a true race boot.

Nordica is at their best when they don’t stray from their roots in traditional, overlap shell design. Purists will applaud how the new Dobermann GP 130 delivers the support and power of a true race boot in a flex more suitable for freeskiing on today’s rockered skis. Any skier who likes sensation in all his toes will appreciate that the rounder radius of the new GP’s toe box has room enough for five digits.

Nordica Dobermann GP

Neither the Dobermann GP family nor our 2016 assessment of its virtues have changed; while this commentary is a repost of last season’s report, the associated FIND buttons connect to 2017 starting inventory. If you fit ski boots long enough, you discover that people have vastly different tolerance levels for what we’ll call “fit tension.” Some feet crave the confinement of a shell measuring 92mm – 95mm at its widest point; others may love the extraordinary support the narrow shell provides but can’t tolerate the compression and don’t a need a flex over 130. The new (98mm) Dobermann GP was made for the feet in Group B, the slightly wider sort that still want to snake through gates. The Dobermann GP 130 borrows its fundamental features from the new GPX 130 but for a few subtle differences that together elevate the Dobermann into the race realm, where it belongs. Its
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Nordica GPX

The only change to the GPX family is the substitution of the 120 flex for the 110; otherwise, neither the line nor our assessment has changed. While this commentary is a repost of last season’s report, the associated FIND buttons connect to 2017 starting inventory. The focus of Nordica’s efforts for 2016, the GPX line of men’s and women’s boots, marries the take-no-prisoners attitude of race boots with the slightly more relaxed fit and shock-absorbing properties of all-mountain shoes. The inner boot and its attendant fit sensations are the biggest differentiators between the men’s GPX line and their race-bred spin-offs, the Dobermann GP’s. The GPX liners are imbued with Primaloft® so they’re automatically guaranteed to be warmer than the denser, bare-bones affairs that inhabit the insides of the Dobermann models. They’re also injected with a larger dose of malleable cork in fit pockets around the ankle and heel, so the
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Nordica GPX W

If you believe that classics never go out of style, the GPX W is your kind of footwear. The narrow, 98mm last was born in the race room, although the GPX 95W and 85W aren’t competition caliber. The flagship GPX 105 W is an all-business boot with a little more give over the instep, where women often have fit issues. The competition in the women’s narrow-fit, performance boot market has never been fiercer. There’s more of everything to entice the athletic lass: custom-moldable shells, powerful race boots, and hike-mode options up the ying-yang. What differentiates the GPX W’s from the pack of potent competitors is its inner boot. A cork-and-goo mix circumnavigates the ankle and heel, creating a custom fit that is both forever malleable and solid as can be once set. The liners are all outfitted with Primaloft® so even ladies with a history of cold feet should be
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Nordica N-Move

Skiers who prioritize comfort and convenience over precision will feel right at home in the new N-Move. Lifting a rear-mounted latch allows the upper cuff to hinge rearward, and opening the top buckle/strap arrangement provides enough forward give that a nearly normal human stride is possible. The substitution of aftermarket GripWalk® soles, which are rockered and treaded, makes the N-Move no more troublesome to truck around in than a hiking boot.

Nordica N-Move W

Die-hard skiers get over the fact that ski boots are problematic to put on and only slightly less difficult to walk around in. For those entry-level to intermediate women who aren’t willing to concede on either front, Nordica has created the N-Move W. Built on a wide (102mm) foundation, the hallmark feature of the N-Move series – its Walk/Ski adjustment – makes the N-Move models easier to put on as well as making walking seem like a more familiar activity.

Nordica Speedmachine

The name Speedmachine has been plucked from the past, but every significant feature of this series is brand, spanking new. Nordica’s entry into the heat-moldable shell market comes with a twist: an infrared lamp applies internal heat to a relatively small zone, then a suction cup is applied to expand the shell just in that area. The Custom Cork liner is separately oven-heated to make the cork compound in the heel and ankle malleable enough to move around the skier’s foot when he puts the heated shells and liners back on. It bears noting that the entire Speedmachine family, from 130 flex to 90, uses the infrared customizable shell. Other across-the-line features include Primaloft® insulation for superior heat retention, and replaceable heel and toe pads that can be upgraded to a fully rockered walking sole.

Nordica Speedmachine W

Look at all the flexes the Speedmachine W comes in. This carpet bombing of the women’s flex spectrum tells you Nordica expects a lot of women to gravitate to this medium-lasted collection. Already endowed with a fundamentally sound fit, the Speedmachine 115W and 105W embellish its accuracy with Custom Cork. Every Speedmachine W liner is insulated with Primaloft® and all shells can be modified with Nordica’s unique infrared heating method.

Rossignol 2017 Boot Brand Profile

2017 Brand Profile

For the past few seasons, Rossignol has exerted mighty efforts to revamp their boot universe. Acknowledging that even God took a rest, we do not judge but merely observe. As we do not archive our boot commentaries, we are reposting our 2016 brand profile in its entirety.

Rossignol hit a home run when they launched the Alltrack line of hike mode (HM) boots 3 seasons ago. In 2016 it essentially re-built the entire collection around the foundation laid by Alltrack, creating a parallel universe of classic overlap shells (i.e., no hike mode) dubbed Allspeed. Within its middle-of-the-bell-curve realm, Allspeed has all the bases covered: every flex from 80 to 130; narrow-, medium- and wide- lasted iterations and a choice of men’s and women’s models. The returning Alias Sensor and Kiara (women’s) models fill in the need for an ultra-wide chassis.

The standard-bearer for the new Allspeed collection is the narrow-lasted (98mm) Elite 130. Its signature technical feature is a trim, anatomical spine called Sensor Blade that serves as the boot’s power source. Sculpted cutouts reduce weight and reinforce the lean but muscular structure. The rear screws that connect the cuff to the shell can be rearranged or removed to alter the forward flex.

The keys to comfort are held by the inner boot, a Custom Liner pre-molded to retain the heel and ankle securely. Thinsulate™ insulation keeps feet warm and dry without adding bulk, so the liner can be close fitting for more sensitive steering. An Easy Entry Insert over the instep makes this area of the shell more pliable so feet can slide in and out without being pinched in the process.

All the Allspeed models can be retrofitted with Walk to Ride (WTR) soles that substitute a grippier tread pattern for the standard DIN sole. This modification probably makes more sense to apply to an Alltrack Pro model as the Alltrack is bedecked with a hike mode, but there’s certainly no harm in swapping the soles on an Allspeed if you want better traction when on foot.

Rossi has gone all-in with the Allspeed line, with 17 adult models spread across three lasts (Allspeed Elite/Pure for narrow feet, Allspeed Pro for medium and Allspeed for wide) parceled between men and women. A clean, classic collection, the Allspeed models will be the backbone of Rossi’s boot offering for years to come.

Rossignol Alias Sensor

This commentary is a repost of last season’s report; the associated FIND buttons connect to 2017 starting inventory. Rossignol has always made a home for the guy whose nickname is Bigfoot. Sasquatch gets a choice of high-volume boots from Rossignol, the Alltrack (referenced elsewhere) and Alias Sensor families. With a 104mm last, the Alias Sensor 120 definitely qualifies as big, and it’s also substantial and supportive, qualities big men require in their boots. The 120 flex feels supple enough for everyday skiing on any snow surface. An Alias model is a good fit for the fellow whose foot is large everywhere, past the ankle and on up the calf. The upper buckles have an impressive range of outward adjustment and should be able to close around a Sequoia.

Rossignol Allspeed

This commentary is a repost of last season’s report; the associated FIND buttons connect to 2017 starting inventory. Rossignol has always had a soft spot in its corporate heart for the high-volume foot, going back to its very first days as a boot brand. Maybe that’s why the narrow Allspeed Elite collection is two boots deep, the medium Allspeed Pro line presents three models, while the wide Allspeed contingent includes four models, in flexes from 130 down to 80. Or maybe it’s because Americans keep growing in every dimension, feet included, making the widest Alltracks the boots most suitable for replicating. Because the Allspeed line descends to an 80 flex, it drops correspondingly in street price to the $299 slot, making the Allspeed 80 a great value as long as you have enough meat on your hoof to fill it. At the other end of the Allspeed flex spectrum, the
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Rossignol Allspeed Elite

This commentary is a repost of last season’s report; the associated FIND buttons connect to 2017 starting inventory. The Allspeed Elite 130 sets the tone for the entire extended Allspeed family, even though from a sales standpoint the wider and softer Allspeed Pro 120 will probably be a hotter seller. The Allspeed Elite 130 has the accurate, low-volume fit the world’s best skiers are accustomed to, without the Iron Maiden aspects of true race boots. Rossi learned a few tricks when they concocted the original Alltrack Pro that they applied to the Allspeed Elite. The lower shell on the Alltrack is formed in a waffle pattern to create a structure that’s lighter, transmits energy better and looks cool. Rossi took a similar tack when designing the Allspeed Elite upper cuff, in particular the spine. Viewed from the rear, the back of the Allspeed Elite is a flat plane punctuated with
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Rossignol Allspeed Pro

This commentary is a repost of last season’s report; the associated FIND buttons connect to 2017 starting inventory. The key differentiator across the three branches of the Allspeed family is shell volume, which by current convention is indicated by forefoot width, measured in millimeters (usually, but not necessarily, in size 26.5). The Allspeed Pro fills the all-important “100mm” slot in Nordica’s 2016 line, the wheelhouse fit for the average foot.   Befitting their importance, all the Allspeed Pro models (120/110/100 flexes) are equipped with Thinsulate™ Platinum insulation. We wouldn’t expect to see all three of the Allspeed Pro boots at one dealer; it’s far more likely the typical retailer will sell the top model, the Allspeed Pro 120, by itself, or back it up with either the 110 or the 100, but not both. Whichever Allspeed Pro models a shop stocks, their stock, soft PU soles can be upgraded to the
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Rossignol Alltrack

This commentary is a repost of last season’s report; the associated FIND buttons connect to 2017 starting inventory. The Alltrack series comes in two widths, the medium-gauge 100mm last of the Alltrack Pro models and the wider, 102mm last used in the 3-model Alltrack pack. The two sibling series alternate flex indices as they cascade down the product/price waterfall. All the Alltracks include a hike mode, but that’s probably not the best reason to buy one. The 102mm Alltracks represent one of the best options for any guy with a big foot, even if his longest hike of the day is to the car. With a 120 flex that won’t fold like a cheap suit at the moment of truth, the flagship model is a bonanza for the big bruiser who has some skills.

Rossignol Alltrack Pro

This commentary is a repost of last season’s report; the associated FIND buttons connect to 2017 starting inventory.  The Alltrack Pro 130 emerged as 2014’s best in test for a medium fit (100mm last) in MasterFit’s on-snow evaluations, certainly a well-deserved feather in their corporate cap, but we suspect a measure of delighted surprise helped the Alltrack Pro over the top. One doesn’t expect a hike-mode (HM) model to offer first-rate performance in ski mode, nor does one hope a HM 130 will have the same flex resistance as an on-piste race boot with the same flex index, yet this new Rossi comes awfully close on both accounts. As a true 100mm last with a conforming inner boot set on a neutral platform, it’s instantly comfortable for many foot shapes, which never hurts first impressions. Part of the Alltrack Pro’s appeal is that it behaves like a non-HM boot in
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Rossignol Alltrack Pro W

This commentary is a repost of last season’s report; the associated FIND buttons connect to 2017 starting inventory. It looks as though Rossignol has a hit on their hands with the Alltrack Pro series. The signature feature on the Alltrack models is a hike/ski latch on the rear spine that they purloined from sister company Lange. The curious quality of the Alltrack Pro 110 W is that it skis brilliantly, not because of its focal feature, but despite it. Most hike mode (HM) boots lose some of their downhill flavor with a loosey-goosey flex that doesn’t quite live up to its numeric billing. This isn’t an issue with the Alltrack Pro W 110, but it you plan on spending more time going uphill than down, you might want a longer range of motion in the hike position. If you’re looking for superb fit and function when facing downhill, with toe
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Rossignol Alltrack W

This commentary is a repost of last season’s report; the associated FIND buttons connect to 2017 starting inventory. The chances of the classic 90-flex American woman climbing anything more demanding than the stairs leading to the upper deck at the base lodge is close to nil, but that doesn’t mean she won’t appreciate flipping into hike mode as she prepares her assault on the first flight. Back in the 1980’s we referred to such shell/cuff connections as a “walk mode,” and for models such as the Alltrack 90 W and its softer-flexing sisters, that’s the function they nobly serve. The generous, 102mm last of the Alltrack W 90 gives even the meatiest woman’s foot the chance to relax, and the 90 flex should be spot-on for the recreational skier who wants to feel good without the obligation to actually be good. Comfort is king for this skier, and in this
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Rossignol Hero World Cup SI

This commentary is a repost of last season’s report; the associated FIND buttons connect to 2017 starting inventory. The Hero World Cup SI 130 doesn’t take its cues from the new Allspeed Elite, but is a direct descendant of the real-deal Hero World Cup SI, a polyether shell in a bone-crushing 92mm last. The 97mm SI 130 is likewise made from polyether, but at 97mm it doesn’t require spending a day with a grinding tool trying to gouge out enough room inside for a foot to lay flat. This considerable concession aside, the Hero World Cup SI 130 otherwise comports itself exactly like a race boot. Women with real, race-caliber chops can have a rough time finding a sufficiently supportive shoe. The Hero World Cup SI 110 SC rides to their rescue. The SC stands for Short Cuff, the only adaptation meant to accommodate the shorter legs on the fairer
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Rossignol Pure

This commentary is a repost of last season’s report; the associated FIND buttons connect to 2017 starting inventory. Ladies with high-volume feet don’t get equal treatment, from Rossignol or anybody else. The flex range that rose to 100 in the Pure Pro line and to 120 for the Pure Elite skier with a tiny set of tootsies, tops out at 90 in the 3-model Pure branch of the family tree and its 102mm last. All pretense of delivering the ultimate performance experience is jettisoned in favor of getting a lightweight, warm and supportive 4-buckle shell to close around a foot that would rather be at the beach. Before someone posts an angry tweet maligning our monstrous insensitivity, we’re only observing that Rossi’s Allspeed boots for women with wide (102mm) feet, née Pure, are only offered in the soft-flex range from 70W to 90W, an acknowledgement that Rossi doesn’t detect a
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Rossignol Pure Elite

This commentary is a repost of last season’s report; the associated FIND buttons connect to 2017 starting inventory. Give a lady a lever that’s long enough, and she can move the world. Fortunately, the cuff height on the Pure Elite isn’t tall enough to shift the earth off its orbit, but it’s tall enough to deliver pristine power to the edge. Close-fitting yet still cushioned, the women’s version of the Allspeed Elite gets away with its tall upper cuff by flaring it enough to allow for a woman’s lower calf to be held without being pinched. There isn’t a world of options for women in the 120 flex range, so Rossignol should be saluted for giving the aggro gal a boot she can bend but not collapse. The liner on both the Pure Elite models is insulated with Merino wool, which wicks almost as well as it warms. The only
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Rossignol Pure Pro

This commentary is a repost of last season’s report; the associated FIND buttons connect to 2017 starting inventory. You won’t find a much more homogeneous line than Rossi’s 3-boot, Pure Pro collection of medium-lasted, recreational boots for the on-piste skier. Every model is a PU shell (yes, this matters) with a Merino wool insulated liner, built on a performance platform. The reason we’re leading with this observation is that when most boot families slip down the flex index, they jettison every performance feature along the way, until the last boot in the line-up is a feature-less “pure boot.” The Pure Pro line of made-for-women models avoids this pitfall by keeping their standards high even as the flex index slips ever lower. Even the Pure Pro 80 has Merino wool in the liner, a PU shell that won’t wilt as the skier advances in ability, and the same, comfortable, relaxed, 100mm
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Salomon 2017 Boot Brand Profile

2017 Brand Profile

[Full disclosure: your Editor worked for Salomon from 1978 until 1987, most of that time in product management. I don’t always agree with the path the brand takes, but I have a deep appreciation for how they conceive and execute their products.]

America is besotted by the lure of the backcountry. The amount of investment in making skis lighter – not just backcountry specific skis, but all (non-race) skis –and boots more suitable for striding far outweighs that spent in any other recreational domain.

You’d think the resorts would be deserted and every accessible acre of backcountry terrain would resemble an ant farm, swarming with skiers eager to endure 3 hours of slogging uphill for one well-earned descent.

This may be happening in some alternate universe, but not in ours. But while a mild dose of reality should inform us that America isn’t a nation of hikers, the allure of backcountry skiing is so appealing that many advanced skiers are looking for equipment they can use both within and without the resort.

Which brings us to the Salomon QST Pro, a new family of all-mountain boots that borrow heavily from Sally’s well-received MTN Lab BC boots introduced last year. To say that the QST Pro line is a departure from Salomon’s usual fare (e.g., X-Pro), is like saying the automobile was a departure from the horse.

It’s not just that the boots are absurdly light, use a 3-buckle shell design with a floating external tongue and a hike mode that doesn’t compromise rear support; it’s the slope of the forefoot, from the arch to the tootsies, that slaps your eyeballs silly and says, hold on, Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore.

With a forebody that looks low enough to be a track shoe with buckles, you’d expect the last geometry to be as narrow as a race boot, but “Pro” in Salomon-speak means “100mm last,” or roughly speaking, average volume. The butter-cream icing on the cake is that nearly the entire shell is heat-moldable, so it can be custom fit to a very wide – literally and figuratively – population of feet.

The principal contributor to the QST Pros’ featherweight design is the switch to polyamide (PA6) for the un-moldable sole and spine in its Twinframe2 shell. With the exception of the rigid, external Endofit tongue, the rest of the shell is made of moldable PU, so even if the QST Pro’s instep feels a little low, the pressure can be easily alleviated.

Twinframe2 and its polyamide elements are standard issue with the 2017 X-Pro family, so in-resort skiers also will get the benefits of lighter weight, more consistent performance across a broad temperature range and better snow feel. Also new this season are two X-Pro models, a 110 flex for men and a 90 flex for women, with built–in Custom Heat. Gals who like to gallivant in the backcountry will be happy to hear there’s a new member of the MTN family, the MTN Explore W.

Salomon MTN

If you’re essentially an in-bounds skier with the occasional yen to roam the backcountry, the new QST Pro is the shoe you’ve been looking for; however, if you regard riding a lift as weakness, the MTN models are right in your wheelhouse. If performance to weight were a standard metric, the MTN Lab would win hands-down. Made from Grilamid (PA12), a high grade of polyamide that can’t be co-molded with polyurethane (PU), the MTN lower shells as a result aren’t heat-moldable, but they are lighter than breath. The upper cuff is made from Pebax, a polyamide/polyether blend that Salomon first used in the 1980’s in co-molded parts of its then revolutionary X-C boots. The MTN uses a narrow (98mm) last similar to the one created for the X Max line, but with a little more headroom over the instep since this critical area doesn’t lend itself to modification. One of
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Salomon MTN Explore W

Women who don’t take their BC skiing lightly yet want a superlight boot should try the new MTN Explore W. The first option made for women in the MTN family, the Explore W weighs only 1,275g (24.5). When its Surelock mechanism is open, the total range of motion is a whopping 63o. When closed, Surelock lives up to its name, keeping the Explore W’s rigid Carbon Spine in a balanced and secure ski position.

Salomon QST Pro

The unusual look of the new QST Pro models suggest that they’re hybrids of a sort, and indeed they are. Made from equal parts of MTN and X Pro elements, QST Pro boots are an amalgam of on-trail and out-of-bounds properties. On the OB side, the skier is dropped as close to snow as he’d be in a rock-climbing shoe, and the Surelock hike-mode mechanism provides more than adequate range of motion when open and unyielding support when latched. From the perspective of the in-bounds skier looking to expand his options, the QST Pro is an everyday boot that’s equipped for those extraordinary days when the OB beckons. It’s like owning a BMW SUV: you might never take it off-road, but you’d be in good hands if you did. The tip-off that the stock QST Pro is made for an in-bounds skier with OB ambitions lies in its sole, made
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Salomon QST Pro W

The key features of the new QST Pro W family read like a litany of what women want: lightweight, warmth, convenience and custom-fit capability. That’s it’s also easy to walk in, whether it’s around the base area or across a ridge line, is a bonus. Most women who purchase a boot with a hike mode do precious little hiking, but the QST Pro W series can handle the occasional jaunt into the backcountry with the same facility it applies to skiing on-trail. Their PA/PU shells are warm and lightweight, with the QST Pro 110 W coming in at a mere 1.4kg. The Endofit external tongue provides a bundle of benefits, including easier entry, smooth flex and excellent wrapping of the foot and lower leg, the essential requirement for performance skiing.

Salomon Quest Access

Neither the Quest Access family nor our 2016 assessment of its virtues have changed; while this commentary is a repost of last season’s report, the associated FIND buttons connect to 2017 starting inventory. We love the understated irony in the name Quest Access as applied to this collection of roomy loungewear. Every detail in its design screams, “I deliver the comfort of a mukluk, the convenience of a clog and the steering of a Yankee Flyer!” The inner boot opens like a four-petal tulip, facilitating entry and exit to the nth degree. The lining around the tootsies is made of tufted wool and all around the foot a shield of metallic polyester traps heat, blocks cold and prevents the NSA from seeing your feet. The only untrammeled terrain this skier is likely to access will be due to a map-reading error.

Salomon Quest Access W

Neither the Quest Access W family nor our 2016 assessment of its virtues have changed; while this commentary is a repost of last season’s report, the associated FIND buttons connect to 2017 starting inventory.   We hope the main reason Salomon created the Quest Access line was so they could switch the cuffs and co-create a parallel collection for women. The advent last season of the Quest Access Custom Heat W ($549), gave women with chronically cold tootsies a reason to keep on skiing. Generally speaking, women are more likely to have some circulatory impingement that results in cold extremities. They’d have to swing their feet in a centrifuge to warm them up with blood flow. Now with Custom Heat they can just flip a switch and say, “Ahhhh…” Women with high ambitions should remember that the Quest Access is built on a big-bodied, 104mm last. “Accurate” and “precise” aren’t
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Salomon X Lab

We don’t normally report on honest-to-God race boots for several reasons, not least of which are that the fit is inhospitable and the flex unbudgeable for all but the most fit of athletes. But Salomon has brought race-room fit and function down to 130 and 110 flex indices, well within the realm of possibility for the “average” expert. There are four principal features of the X Lab design that distinguish it from its cousin, X Max. First and foremost, the X Lab shells and cuffs are mono-injected, rigid pieces, while the X Max upper and lower are made in a bi-material construction that can be readily reshaped. Second, the X Max starts at 98mm wide in a 27.5 and can expand 6mm from there; the X Lab is 95mm and any extra room you’d like will have to be carved out its PU ether shell. Third, the inner boot on the
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Salomon X Max

One of the most important reasons intermediates aren’t advanced skiers is because their boots are over-sized. If they would only get refit in a pair of X Max 120’s, they could shed the shackles of mediocrity instantly. This probably sounds like typical product puffery, but there are arguments to support this claim. A great fit begins in the heel and ankle area, where the X-Max’s narrow last ensures solid connection where it matters most. Everywhere else –toe box, instep, bunions on either side of the metatarsals, whatever, wherever – can be selectively expanded without losing the precision fit in the rearfoot. In the hands of the right bootfitter, it’s a game changer. Getting a great fit is of marginal value if it isn’t accompanied by accurate steering, so every X Max model (130/120/100 flexes) is sculpted close to the critical steering column, and the Oversize Pivot transfers energy efficiently to
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Salomon X Max W

Neither the X Max W family nor our 2016 assessment of its virtues have changed; while this commentary is a repost of last season’s report, the associated FIND buttons connect to 2017 starting inventory. Make no mistake, a 110 flex is a lot of boot for a woman who isn’t competing, but if you have the skills, you’re going to be insanely happy in the X Max 110W. The expandable shell can handle the most common complaints issuing from the female foot and is even elastic in the cuff area, a godsend for the athletic calf. Even if you already fancy yourself an expert skier, there’s an excellent chance the X Max 110W will make you better. There are so many subtle things this shell does to make it extraordinary that the heat-mold-ability – which is astoundingly effective – is just a bonus. All the essential features of the 110W
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Salomon X Pro

The most popular boots in America since their introduction two years ago, the 2017 X Pro models don’t tamper with the formula that made them so successful. They still start with a medium (100mm) shell that can be expanded up to 6mm in any direction, fitting all but the most problematic feet in a matter of minutes. The beauty of Salomon’s molding method is that while the entire shell is heated, expansion can be limited to precisely target any protruding bone without corrupting the fit elsewhere. So what changed? The material that forms the base and spine of the Twinframe2 shell went from polyurethane (PU) to polyamide (PA), a switcheroo that makes the new boots lighter and more responsive. Polyamide also is less affected by temperature changes and has superior insulation properties to PU. In the 5-model X Pro family, only the X Pro 80 ($299.99 at most retail outlets)
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Salomon X Pro Custom Heat

Imagine the identical comforts of the X-Pro 100 in a boot with its own built-in heat source, ready to begin pumping out BTU’s from the moment it’s donned. This isn’t some virtual reality future, but a new boot for 2017 with a slightly stronger 110 flex index and an integrated heating unit with a potential 18-hour battery life. The 3-position heating unit dispenses with the goiter-like appendage all after-market heating systems require.

Salomon X Pro Custom Heat W

This is the first X Pro W model made with an integrated heat system. Women are more likely than men to suffer poor circulation in their extremities, making the X Pro Custom Heat W a boot worthy of close consideration. The heat system has 3 settings and a long single-charge life, with no external battery pack. The extra $200 cost at retail is roughly the same as buying and installing an aftermarket device. Bear in mind the heat feature isn’t being applied to just any boot, but to the X Pro 90, with its nearly infinite fit versatility.

Salomon X Pro W

If the X Max W models are particularly adept at gripping the smaller female ankle area, the wider (100mm) X Pro W models provide luxury accommodations for wider forefeet that need their lebensraum. Expandable to up to 106mm measured across the metatarsals, the 90W and 80W can handle any bunion known to podiatric science. The X Pro 80W doesn’t have the moldable shell feature, but Salomon’s idea of a 100mm last for women is plenty wide enough for most ladies. Like the top men’s models in the X Pro series, the X Pro 90W and 80W now use polyamide (PA) in the non-moldable zones in the spine and lower shell, an upgrade Salomon calls Twinframe2. Lest this sound like a modest modification, switching to PA makes these models lighter, more responsive and better insulated, properties most women would put near the top of their wish list.

Tecnica 2017 Boot Brand Profile

2017 Brand Profile

Tecnica is much more than just a boot company, although to the boot buying public appearances remain unchanged. Tecnica’s alpine boot line remains a classic amalgam of narrow to wide lasts, with the obligatory option of boots with a hike mode (HM). What most skiers don’t know is that the folks behind Tecnica also own Nordica, a brand with its own storied history as a market leader, and Blizzard, a ski brand so hot it can’t keep its award-winning skis in stock much past Thanksgiving.

All of which is of little consequence to you unless you’re a stockholder in the Tecnica Group. As a boot buyer, all you need to remember is that Tecnica’s line is comprised of classic overlap, anatomically accurate 4-buckle shells in three different lasts and a full line of significantly revamped hike-mode boots.

Tecnica was the first brand to treat its HM offering as worthy of a full line extension by pushing their Cochise series to ever lower price points. For 2017, the Cochise series has undergone such a thorough redesign that about all that remains from the first generation is the name.

The Cochise 130, flagship of the new series, upgrades to a 4-buckle shell, incorporates the readily modified, anatomic contours of the Custom Adaptive Shape (C.A.S.) in both the liner and shell, boosts rear support in the spine and adds tech inserts to a DIN sole that can be swapped for a rockered touring sole if so desired. Most significantly, the shell material isn’t polypropylene, Grilamid or some other less sturdy stuff, but high grade polyether (PE) in a bi-injection that makes the sole and spine 2.5 times stiffer despite shell walls that are 30% thinner. This results in a boot weighing less than 2000g with the steering properties of a World Cup race clone.

One of the battleground issues in any serious HM boot is range of motion (ROM), or how far the unlatched cuff will allow the lower leg to travel in stride. Tecnica contends that the issue isn’t simply how far rearward the rear spoiler can rotate, but achieving a balance between fore and aft movement. Working with their stable of athletes, Tecnica arrived at two inescapable conclusions: 1) world-class athletes demand an equally elite level of support in their touring boots and don’t care to settle for less, and 2) on steep inclines, forward ROM is every bit as important as rearward ROM.

Since the new Cochise didn’t have to share its shell or cuff molds with other models, special accommodations could be made to address the number one criterion of all gear that will be worn far, far from home: it must not fail. The one element in a touring boot that can’t degrade or disappear is the hinge rivet, so Tecnica eliminated it. Instead of a squashed rivet that can impinge cuff travel, Tecnica molded a post into the lower shell for the cuff to fit around. This creates a more solid connection with no teeth or fittings to wear out. Don’t worry that the cuff can’t be canted, as it won’t matter in most Tech bindings and in the alpine arena of DIN soles and standard bindings, Cantology™ shims will suffice in most cases.

As we’re on the subject of soles, I should italicize a Cochise anomaly: the men’s 130 and 120 and women’s 105 W come with a DIN sole and Dynafit-certified Tech inserts. This is a very cool set-up for the resort skier with only an occasional sidecountry scratch to itch. A rockered touring sole (ISO9523) kit is available for those intending to do more long-haul hiking.

At the end of the day, the new Cochise is more an all-mountain boot with a hike mode à la mode than a touring boot with in-bounds chops. Perhaps the best way to approach the Cochise clan is as a fit alternative, particularly as pertains to the rest of the Tecnica line. The Mach 1 LV is on the tight side of the fit scale; the Mach 1 MV is a bit relaxed for a 100mm last. The Cochise slips in between the two, providing a 99mm last that is snug where it needs to be and easily opened up by a competent bootfitter using C.A.S. features to relieve pressure points.

Returning to the Tecnica fold are its benchmark in-bounds performance models, Mach 1 LV for low-volume feet and Mach 1 MV for the average-sized. Both boot families use the same features and components and are offered at parallel price points. Also returning are the more voluminous Ten.2 models for both men and women.

If there’s one feature that defines the new Tecnica – little is left of the line of 3 years ago – it’s C.A.S., for it’s the glue that provides the primordial connection between ski, shell, liner and skier that determines the success of any ski experience.

Tecnica Cochise

As noted in Tecnica’s 2017 brand profile, the new Cochise is a start-from-scratch shoe that addresses every foible in its predecessor from the foundation up. Most elementally, the lower shells are made from different stuff, polyether (PE), so they transmit energy better and are much easier to adapt. (The Cochise 130 also uses polyether in the cuff; the other Cochise models switch to Triax.) One reason the 2017 Cochise succeeds where its antecedent fell short – rear support – is attributable to a lower shell that extends further up without limiting rearward ROM. The link between the lower shell and HM cuff remains a metal-to-metal connection. Also contributing to both the sense of rear support and generally sharper snow feel is where and how the aforementioned PE is applied. The high density PE used in the spine and lower shell is substantially thinner (better snow feel) and 2 ½ times
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Tecnica Cochise W

Not to condescend to the fairer sex, but women might well appreciate the Cochise W family more for its everyday convenience, comfort and performance properties than for any purported proficiency for traveling off-trail. (The same could be said for all of the 2017 Cochise models, men’s or women’s.) Every member of this 3-model family is light, easy to walk around in, eminently fit-able to the female foot and more than capable of transmitting energy on any snow surface. All the substantial improvements applied to the men’s Cochise models are every bit as beneficial to womankind, particularly the more accurate fit and better edging properties. Women also benefit from Merino wool in the liner, a what’s-not-to-like enhancement, and a scalloped rear spine that won’t constrict the lower calf.

Tecnica Mach 1 LV

The Custom Adaptive Shape (C.A.S.) concept that is the key to the Mach 1 LV’s popularity with both bootfitters and their customers is a many splendored thing. Inspired by feedback from a cluster of America’s top bootfitters (including a few Realskiers’ test shops), C.A.S. prepares the shell for customization in problematic zones by perforating the rigid polyether shell so it will heat and cool faster if the area needs to be stretched. The C.A.S. liner is every bit as impressive. A semi-rigid exoskeleton adds greater structural integrity to the inner boot and gives the boot technician a preformed, 2mm shell they can cut, grind, punch, glue and/or heat mold. The C.A.S. tongue has a soft pocket over the instep, so it’s pre-adapted for a bony mid-foot. Once modifications are made, they’re stable, which is awesome. Even the boot board (aka zeppa) gets the C.A.S. treatment, with precisely spaced dimples that
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Tecnica Mach 1 MV

Tecnica’s Custom Adaptive Shape (C.A.S.) is an umbrella concept that influences how the shell, liner and other components are crafted. What C.A.S. enables are localized solutions that don’t require the entire structure to be stressed in order to relieve a pressure point that’s no bigger than a quarter. While superficially C.A.S. doesn’t sound as sexy as baking the entire shell, in fact it facilitates the implementation of artisanal bootfitting techniques that accomplish the same ends without the risk of structural damage. While any shell can be heated and deformed, no other liner has the anatomical C.A.S. exoskeleton encasing most of the lower liner behind the metatarsals. It tightens the link between liner and shell, improves energy transmission and creates a customizable interface between skier and boot. The result is a more accurate fit throughout the steering column of the lower leg and ankle on the medium-lasted Mach 1 MV. The
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Tecnica Mach 1 W LV

The best women skiers with narrow feet have a problem: stick with a true race boot that’s good for running gates and not much else, or step off a performance cliff and accept the norm in made-for-women all-mountain boots. The new Mach 1 105 W LV works hard to bridge that gap, with a stout shell and equally beefy inner boot that can be custom fit to suit all but the Lindsays and Michaelas of this world. While the focus of Tecnica’s Custom Adaptive Shape (C.A.S.) system is on fit, what makes the Mach 1 W LV’s such fine performance boots is the basic structure, with its relatively upright stance and polyester shell. The Crush and the Fling, that formerly occupied this slot in the Tecnica line, never had the total support that makes the Mach 1 105 W LV so macho. Of course not every woman with a slender
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Tecnica Mach 1 W MV

When we described Tecnica’s 2014 100mm boot for women, the Demon 105W, as “a fortress,” we weren’t being complimentary. Mercifully, the Mach 1 W MV models address our principal gripe, that the foot and the shell were too disconnected in the Demon W. One of the virtues of the C.A.S. liner, standard equipment on the 105W and 95W models, is to give the inner boot the same defined, anatomical contours as the shell, tightening the linkage between skier, shell and snow. Advanced women skiers with problematic pedal extremities should give a gander at the medium-lasted Mach 1 W MV in its stiffer incarnations. The C.A.S. customization tools these boots put at the disposal of the veteran bootfitter create a lot of options to cure chronic complaints. Of course even a great tool is only as great as the craftsman who wields it, so please click on the Find button, below,
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Tecnica Ten.2

The trouble with boots for big feet is they tend to overshoot the mark, making the boot so huge in all directions that, once set in motion, the skier feels barely held at all. The Ten.2 120 HV (High Volume, 106mm last) addresses the problem by making the liner and shell more anatomical and supportive. The 120 flex is plenty beefy for the big boy who belongs in this shoe, and the steering properties are accurate enough to keep any advanced skier happy who can fill this cavernous interior. If you own a ski boot jargon decoder ring, then you know the Ten.2 in the boot’s name refers to a last that measures 102mm, the dimension on the 90- and 80-flex models in the Ten.2 family. If you have a high-volume foot that never seems able to find a satisfactory fit, or if you found the fit but when you
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Tecnica Ten.2 W C.A.

A woman with big feet is justifiably afraid she’ll have a hard time finding a comfortable fit. What should cause her equal concern is whether the boot that seems to fit her can also provide the support necessary to convey her downhill. The Ten.2 W models address both issues. The fit is generous from the wide entry aperture, through the instep and down to the toes. An adjustment on the low-cut, scalloped rear spoiler allows it fan open an additional 12mm; if you need it, you know it and you’ll want it. Just as important as its relaxed fit, the Ten.2 W’s, particularly in their stiffer flexes (95W, 85W), are stout enough to make advanced technique attainable. Tecnica’s Ten.2 W’s are so well padded, they’ll feel perfectly marvelous on smaller feet that would fare better in a less oceanic environment. If you don’t really fill up the Ten.2, consider trying
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