evo’s 2018 One Boot Quiver Picks – Bootfitter’s Notes
You may have seen it coming for some time now, or it may be news to you, but the era of having a single pair of boots to meet both your inbounds and out of bounds needs is upon us. Our customers are increasingly telling us the same thing – they want to participate in two distinctly different kinds of skiing and need the gear to do both.
The prevailing wisdom has been that lift skiing and touring are so different that they require separate ski setups altogether, and those who can justify it tend to own two or more complete setups. That’s fine for some, but what if you didn’t HAVE to?
Over the past five years, “backcountry” has become a buzz word in the ski industry, and touring-oriented products are one of the most prominent growth areas in the sport. Manufacturers recognize this and have responded with a major push to produce lighter, more versatile gear that skiers could take into the backcountry and on shorter tours without sacrifices in downhill ski performance. These advances have taken several forms – we call this new class of boots “crossover” ski boots, but the reality is they ski really well and tour pretty damn well too.
Our Picks for 2018
Our criteria for picking these “Quiver of One” boots are fairly straightforward. For starters, they need to ski as well, or very nearly as well, as a conventional 120-130 flex expert level alpine boots. Weight should be ≤1800 grams per boot in a size 26.5. The walk mode range of motion and smoothness should be good enough for vigorous tours. Finally, they need come with standard tech fittings and some sort of grippy sole that will provide traction while booting on snow and ice. Note that several of these boots are new for the 2017-2018 season, but we’ve already skied, punched and toured on them and are confident in their capabilities. Most of these boots are available in a women’s version with the same features and sometimes a slightly softer flex.
Atomic Hawx Ultra 130 XTD / Hawx Ultra XTD 110 W – Much talked about, the new Hawx Ultra XTD is the lightest of the category. Made of minimal, sculpted Grilamid, the XTD uses the proven cuff pivots and walk mode hardware of the Backland Carbon boots, but with a conventional 4-buckle overlap design. The XTD uses a WTR sole and weighs in at a reported 1420 grams in a 26.5 (our sample weighs 1406 grams). If the 130 seems a bit too much, they also make a PU-cuff version with a 120 flex. Though fairly narrow at 98mm, the Ultra XTD shell has average volume and is heat moldable using Atomic’s Memory Fit process to fit most average width feet.
2018 Scarpa Maestrale RS / Scarpa Gea RS – Scarpa has knocked it out of the park with their re-design of the Maestrale and Gea. Now made of Grilamid, the RS 2.0 drops roughly 150 grams, loses the janky flip-over tongue, and skis better thanks to a snugger fit around the ankle and lower leg. With an improved walk mode, this is also a true touring boot (ISO 9523 sole) that skis well enough for many people to use all the time, including the likes of pro patrollers and ski coaches. The women’s version, called “Gea RS,” seems just as stiff as the men’s model.
Dalbello Lupo AX 120 / AX 110 W – A completely new design that borrows almost nothing from the old 98mm Lupo except Dalbello’s acclaimed 3-buckle cabrio construction, the AX 120 features a forgiving 100 mm last that will comfortably fit most average width feet out of the box. Dalbello is using a new plastic from Francesco Franceschetti Elastomeri called Irfran, which drops the weight to 1788 grams (the old Lupo Ti weighed 2139 grams by comparison). The new walk mode is a huge improvement over the older model as well, and the AX comes equipped with GripWalk soles. Also of note are the Grilamid and carbon Lupo Factory and 130 C, which take advantage of the new walk mode while maintaining the Lupo’s classic 98mm last and super burly ride feel.
Tecnica Zero G Guide Pro / Tecnica Zero G Guide Pro W – Hugely successful in its inaugural year, the Guide Pro returns for 2018 in a Grilamid construction (last year’s was Triax 3). We expect this will give the boot better cut resistance and make it easier for bootfitters to modify. With a weight that hovers around 1500 grams and a progressive flex that rivals many top alpine boots, a number of evo staff members made the ZG their go-to choice of winter footwear last season. A smooth walk mode with low profile hardware and the option of swapping for flat ISO 5355 alpine soles (standard on the heavier Cochise boots) are bonuses. The women’s version claims a flex of 115.
Lange XT 130 Freetour / XT 110 Freetour W – The XT Freetour may be the best skiing boot in the bunch, with a full Grilamid shell and cuff that brings the weight just under 1800 grams. Lange offers a choice of 100 or 97mm (LV) fits for the Freetour, and both are a bit roomier than their alpine counterparts due to a lighter liner. The XT Freetour comes standard with a WTR sole and Dynafit certified tech fittings.
Salomon S/Lab MTN – Formerly known as the MTN Lab, this true touring boot was designed in conjunction with ski touring overachiever Greg Hill, goes uphill like mad and still skis as well as most legit 120 flex alpine boots on the market. The excellent walk mode features a low-profile switch that can be operated through the fabric on your pants. The MTN comes with a full ISO 9523 touring sole, so if you’re using it with both tech and alpine bindings you’ll have to choose your alpine option carefully. At present there is no women’s version of this boot, though there is a more touring-specific model called the MTN Explore W.
So what makes these boots so special?
Lighter Plastics and Thinner Shells – Traditionally, boots at the stiffer end of the spectrum were made from either polyurethane or polyether (relatively heavy plastics) with little regard for shell thickness. In recent years however, the use of proprietary polyamides like Grilamid, Pebax, and Irfran, though more expensive, have allowed boot makers to drastically reduce the overall shell thickness in certain areas while maintaining their bottom-line stiffness. Top “crossover” boots are now in the 1400 to 1800 gram range – a pound or more lighter on each foot.
Integrated Tech Fittings – If you want to use one of the new wave “freetouring” tech bindings like the Marker Kingpin, Fritschi Tecton, or Dynafit Radical 2.0, you’ll need boots with the appropriate fittings molded into the soles. In the past, some boots offered a swappable tech sole option, but new crossover boots generally have full time tech inserts from the factory. Depending on the sole type, you may have to be selective about which alpine binding you choose, but bindings using a tech toe and/or heel will work straight out of the box.
Better Walk Modes – You don’t have to skin more than a couple hundred feet to realize that cuff mobility plays a big part in how well a boot tours. If the range of cuff motion isn’t enough to permit your full stride, efficiency becomes limited. Look at the walk modes in any of the new crossover boots and you’ll see that they’ve improved drastically from the first generation models by the same company.
More Fit Options – More manufacturers getting into the game has resulted in a greater variety of lasts and improved chances of finding a boot that fits your foot. Powerful, lightweight walk mode boots are now available in several narrow, 97-98mm models as well as average and mid-wide versions.
Improved Binding Compatibility – All of the boots mentioned below are designed to function seamlessly with tech bindings, but you may have to consider sole compatibility if you have a second pair of skis with ISO 9462 alpine bindings. A few years ago, most alpine bindings would not accept an ISO 9523 touring boot sole, so if you wanted to ski full time on a touring boot you had to use either a frame AT binding or a tech binding. The first option was very heavy and the second had questionable performance and durability for sustained lift-served use. Now, there are several alpine bindings on the market that will accept the added height and sticky rubber sole of touring boots.
There you have it. To help fine tune your decision, we strongly suggest visiting a shop that carries these boots and trying some or all of them on. Leave them on your feet for at least 10-15 minutes, and move around in both ski and walk modes. Keep in mind that even though all of these are rated “stiff” or “very stiff”, they are not as powerful as a riveted 130 alpine boot. Ask your bootfitter about the possibility of modifying the boot if you have issues with fit or flex.