In the movie world, sequels don’t often measure up to the originals. Need I say more than “Little Fockers” or “Grown Ups 2?” Occasionally, though, the sequel knocks it out of the park to become the new standard, like “The Godfather Part II” or “The Empire Strikes Back.”
In the world of ski boots, that blockbuster hit from the ’80s and ’90s — rear-entry boots — is making a triumphant return to market after a decades-long slumber, much to the delight of a surging demographic of older skiers who struggle getting their boots on and off.
Early reviews indicate this is a sequel that might just outperform the original cult classic.
“We are seeing the rear-entry trend in the store,” said Tom Favro, store manager at Northern Ski Works in Ludlow, Vt. “People are calling and stopping in looking for rear-entry boots. We’ve sold quite a few of them.”
Favro, a master bootfitter with more than three decades of experience in the ski business, said the rear-entry-inspired Nordica HF (hands free) series that he sells in his store appeals to a specific skier with a specific need. “The customer buying them is 50-plus, looking for ease of entry, and still getting a good experience on the hill.
“The biggest difference between the old one and the new ones is the liner. In the old version, the liner was split. With the new ones, the liner in the HF is the same liner as in a four-buckle boot. This provides better heel retention and a better fit in general. There are fewer fit adjustments because of this … just one lever in the back and an instep buckle.”
While not technically a rear-entry boot, Nordica terms its next generation design as “easy-entry” — the HF model improves on all the comforts delivered by the original rear-entry concept together with a quantum leap in performance. The boots are built with a comfortably liberal 102 mm last and they flex at a forgiving 110 in the men’s models and 85 in the women’s models.
“We have redefined the concept of modern ski boots to cater to those who just want to keep skiing,” Nordica states. “Extremely intuitive, stepping in and out of the new HF boot is as easy as sliding in and out of your favorite slippers. Never before has performance brought so much comfort.”
The key to the design, Nordica states, is its anatomical, patent-pending one-piece customizable Primaloft 3D Cork Fit liner. “It wraps around the heel and forefoot like a traditional boot and has an extremely large opening of 40 degrees to easily slip a foot in or out.”
A double-axis pivot aligns the rear cuff and shell while delivering lateral support to boost ski response and performance. The HF Elite models come with Therm-ic heating elements built into the insoles that can be controlled from your smartphone. The Wonder Lock buckle system allows these boots to be closed hands-free simply by pushing down on the rear buckle with a ski pole or the other boot.
“Ridiculously easy to get on and off — without hands, really!” writes Mark Elling, boot tester for America’s Best Bootfitters who is a PSIA Level III alpine instructor and a former board-certified pedorthist. “The ski pole tip buckle release is a slick feature for the bend-over-challenged. Wide and high instep fit but with adequate ankle and heel retention and a couple easy buckle adjustments.”
Bruce Mendelsohn is a Mount Snow regular with Reynaud’s syndrome who suffers from cold toes. His quest for a warm and comfortable boot led him to the Apex open-chassis system, which he described as a durable, high-quality rear-entry “hybrid” that delivers warmth, comfort and convenience.
“Apex boots have simply transformed my skiing experience,” he said. “I slide into the inner boot at home (no more forcing my feet in), drive to the mountain, slide on the exoskeleton, buckle in, tighten the boas, and ski all day — warm and comfy.”
Boots like Nordica’s HF series are good news for skiers who have been fiercely loyal to their rear-entries of old, nursing them through season after season, or scouring the garage sale circuit for a vintage replacement pair that still might have life in them. Hanson Industries produced the first rear-entry ski boot in 1971, a model that featured a split front with a sliding clamp to adjust flex. The Salomon SX Equipe line, Nordica N957s, and Raichle RX line are among the old-school standard-bearers.
“I’ve been using my 1980s vintage Nordica rear-entry boots my whole life,” Youtuber William Lau wrote. “They are awesome and super comfortable. I’ve resisted getting new boots for years because of the comfort factor. They are finally at the end of the road and, just in time, Nordica comes out with an updated rear-entry boot. I’m in for a pair.”
Another reviewer ordered the HFs after becoming fed up with her old boots. “The comfort and ease of adjusting these boots made the last two months of ski season a lot more fun,” she wrote. “I am an advanced skier and skied about 90 days last winter. These boots were great for me. Perhaps not enough boot for an expert that likes to bomb down the mountain, but great for me.”
Matt Boxler can be reached at [email protected].