You know that box we’re living in? The one where we need to be wise with our spending, where we should be thinking twice about pulling the trigger on those impulse buys so as not to send our personal budgets spiraling into the red? I realize we don’t all live in that box, but for those of us who do, let’s think outside of it for a few minutes, shall we?
Let’s walk in someone else’s ski boots where money is no object, where we’re free to spend whatever we desire on whatever we desire.
Thinking this way isn’t too much of a stretch when it comes to supporting our skiing habits. We’ve all managed to numb ourselves to the sticker shock associated with every aspect of our beloved sport. And we all appreciate that quality comes with a price. This is what I discovered recently when shopping for ski boots, especially in the ski touring categories.
You get what you pay for. And if you want the best in comfort and performance — whether hiking up, skiing down or relaxing between runs or at the end of the day — here are several boots that most would agree are well worth your considerable investment.
Arc’teryx Procline Carbon Lite ($1,000)
Arc’teryx has pushed boot innovation with the development of Procline Carbon Lite, an extremely versatile ski boot that is effective both for highly technical climbing as well as for downhill skiing. The Procline Carbon Lite is created for an emerging category of earn-your-turners — ski alpinists — who are comfortable getting off the skin track to tackle far more challenging paths of ascent, often including icy, steep and craggy surfaces.
“Traditionally there is either a huge compromise of climbing in a ski boot, carrying two boots (ski boots and climbing boots), or terrible downhill ski performance,” stated design manager Greg Grenzke.
The Procline Carbon Lite bridges these gaps by combining a patented 360-degree rotating three-piece cuff with the strength and lateral rigidity of a carbon-fiber cuff in the rear. The design delivers a range of vertical and lateral ankle agility unmatched by other boots in the ski touring/alpinist class, while providing enough stability and stiffness in the flex to drive skis wider than 100 mm on the trip back down.
Dalbello Sports Lupo Factory ($999)
Dalbello has crafted a boot for backcountry touring that boasts incredible flexibility to dial in both uphill comfort and downhill power. It accomplishes this with a unique three-piece construction assembly of its shell, cuff and removable carbon tongue. With the tongue removed and the boot in hike mode, the Lupo Factory weighs in at 1,625 grams and provides 67 degrees of cuff rotation. With the tongue replaced and the boot locked into ski mode, it weighs in at 1,860 grams and provides a 130 flex for reliable freeskiing performance.
An additional feature that makes this boot unique from others in the class is its low cuff hinge point, mounted 10 cm lower than standard boot construction. This provides a longer range of forward and rearward hinging motion that more easily follows natural anatomic movement “for more efficient walking and gliding, increased power and control with less energy.” Underfoot, the boot’s Xtra Grip rubber toe is effective on icy ridges, and you can interchange them with alpine DIN or touring soles for versatility in or out of the resort.
Apex XP Big Mountain ($949)
Another novel approach to serve skiers who like to earn their turns without compromising their drive to rail powerful lines on the descent is the Apex XP Big Mountain. With an Open-Chassis system, the Apex XP combines comfort and walkability with power and precision.
The Apex system features two parts — a rigid chassis and a soft boot. The boot can be locked into the chassis or completely released to serve as a walking boot perfect for the lodge or on a ridge somewhere.
The chassis features an adjustable flex arm that will change flex options from 110 to 120 to 130. Constructed with nylon-resin material, the chassis isn’t as sensitive to changing temperatures, which gives reliable and consistent stiffness ratings. Additional adjustable flex arms enable skiers to dial in their stance options from 10-, 12-, 14- and 16-degree options.
DaleBoot VFF Pro ($833)
DaleBoot, the company that ushered in the foam-injected liner process among many other industry innovations since 1969, touts the technologies it features today with enhancing blood flow, maintaining consistent foot temperature and greatly improving overall fit and performance. Combined with its top-of-the-line VFF Pro, there may not be a more comfortable and powerful downhill charger out there.
The VFF Pro is designed for skiers who desire a more upright and stiffer-flexing boot. It offers a 10- to 18-degree flex pattern to dial in the sweet spot, and about 130 on the flex range coupled with unrivaled lateral stiffness to make this boot excel in the power transfer from edge to edge — whether driving a racing ski or a fat one. Its Heat Fit IV fitting process is available in three different Intuition liner options.
A modified three-piece construction employs a classic cabrio lower boot that relies on a spring-tensioned cable and rear buckle to restrain the cuff’s forward travel. That gives the VFF Pro its signature long, energetic flex pattern. Choose to mix in the spiral-wrap Intuition liner and you have the easiest entry and exit boot on the market.
Scarpa Freedom RS 130 ($830)
A beefed-up version of Scarpa’s popular ski touring Freedom SL, the Freedom RS 130 excels in downhill ski mode without making any major sacrifices to the ease and comfort of skinning up. The boot is constructed with a lightweight plastic in the lower shell with an over molded carbon fiber rail in the sole that is both rigid and light, delivering instant energy transmission to the ski and pushing this boot comfortably into the resort skiing category if need be.
The boot shell’s stiff upper cuff is linked to the lower via a bombproof metal-to-metal cuff release mechanism. It comes with removable boot soles (touring sole with pin-tech system for AT bindings or mountain sole compatible for alpine bindings). This boot is perfectly capable both in the resort and the backcountry.
More noteworthy boot options
Here’s a quick roundup of some other offerings. The Salomon MTN Lab AT($799) has just two buckles, but don’t be fooled. Its ultralight shell is reinforced with carbon spines for power transmission, and an oversized pivot for added downhill control. Lange’s XT 130 Freetour ($799), as you might imagine, brings the company’s legendary alpine performance into the world of free-touring. Its patented Power V-Lock ski/hike system offers 43 degrees of flexion for touring comfort.
At just 1,130 grams, the Dynafit TLT7 Expedition CR ($749) is a speed touring boot for the touring skier who wants to emphasize efficiency and speed on the way up. A carbon-fiber infused frame used together with a power strap brings improved strength and power transmission for the ski down. Scott Cosmos III AT ($749) checks in as a light boot with (about 1,400 grams) with serious downhill power.
Compatible with tech bindings, the Cosmos III is made of stiff and light plastic and features a 125 flex.
The Atomic Backland Carbon ($749) is among the lightest boots on the market (just over about 1,130 grams) and offers a wide ranging cuff motion. The Backland generally is skied with the removable tongue in place and skinned with the tongue removed. And the Tecnica Cochise 130 ($699) is a leading walk-mode boot with uncompromised downhill performance. The Cochise collection features a Power Light Design frame in race-quality plastics that reduce weight while improving performance. The Mobility Cuff System features a Self Adjusting System to eliminate any play in the cuff and offers 42 degrees of range of motion.