While most backcountry ski boot manufacturers have been pursuing the “freeride backcountry” crowd, there has emerged another category of alpine touring ski boots. This category of boots are lightweight, comfortable yet still highly functional–and Outdoor Retailer was bursting at the seams with boots in this category from Dynafit, Scarpa, Black Diamond and Garmont. Each manufacturer appears to have independently chosen to bring to market their own flavor of the lightweight alpine touring-specific ski boot.
None of these boots are intended to be crossover alpine/backcountry boots–they are dedicated backcountry ski boots for soft snow and fast ascents.
Dynafit TLT 5 Mountain & Carbon
Available in two versions (Mountain or Carbon), this new platform is amazingly-light and comfortable. These were the only ones of the bunch that I was able to try on and I can’t tell you how impressed I am. They are minimalistic in design with a form-fitting shell, two buckles, a removable tongue and the best walkability of any backcountry ski boot I’ve ever worn.
Honestly, these boots are like a good-fitting pair of hiking boots as the fore-aft flex in walk mode is truly uninhibited (a full 60-degrees). Lifting my foot up in the air, I could flex the boot through its range of motion simply by pushing and pulling with my toes–try that with other touring boots!
The walk mode is engaged and disengaged by the dual-purpose upper buckle. There is a notch on the buckle that slips into the back of the shell to lock into ski mode. This dual-purpose buckle reduces weight and all-but eliminates the likelihood of skiing in walk mode (we’ve all done that).
Lateral stiffness is ample for pushing today’s lightweight fat skis and forward flex is sufficient, but make no mistake… these aren’t made to bomb groomers. They are made to take you to the goods. That being said, the Carbon version will provide more stiffness at a lighter weight (and an increased cost).
Liners are thermo-fit for customized foot-snugging comfort and the soles are Dynafit-only (the only bummer) for use with Dynafit’s full line of bindings.
Weight is just over 4 lbs per pair and MSRP will be $720 for the Mountain and $989 for the Carbon version. Availability will be Fall 2010.
Black Diamond Quadrant
The Quadrant headlines the new Efficient Series from Black Diamond. These boots are still pretty substantial, but compared to the BD Factor, they are decidedly backcountry-specific. While the color scheme might put off some, the technology built into these boots for the price ($649) is astounding.
Sporting a full 40-degrees range of motion, the Quadrant’s will be walkable and with a 120 flex rating, they will also be skiable in powder, hardpack and everything in between. Liners are cinched with a quieter and more efficient BOA system. Binding compatibility out-of-the-box will be with all backcountry ski bindings on the market–no DIN blocks here.
This is a really great new boot from BD and will compete with the likes of the Garmont Radium–meaning its’ definitely the burliest of this bunch. Tipping the scales at 7 lbs 10 oz, they are light, but not uber-light like the other boots you see here.
With a design that took its cues from Spiderman, the web-like shell design (Pebax Webframe) has been strategically-designed for support and stiffness while reducing overall weight (4.8 lbs per pair). Developed by Garmont engineers over the past two seasons, the Masterlite is intended for those seeking efficient uphill and dependable downhill travel.
I find it odd that the powerstrap is optional, but it is, so I’ll get over it. The new Light Thermo Liner should provide solid comfort for your foot with ample room for your digits. Forward lean is an aggressive 24 degrees and walkability should be superb. Speaking of that, the walk/ski mode toggle is a little different than most boots as it utilizes a little pulltab to engage the walk mode instead of the typical lever of sorts.
I didn’t have a ton of time to look these over, but they appear to be along similar lines as the Dynafit TLT5 series above. MSRP is $819.
Scarpa is completely switching things up for 2010/2011 by ditching the Spirit 3/4 in favor of an entirely-new boot platform called the Maestrale (GEA for Women). Tipping the scales at a respectable 6.75 lbs per pair, the Maestrale splits the difference between the Garmont Masterlite and the BD Quadrant while promising adequate power to drive today’s fatty fat touring skis.
A unique feature of these boots is the asymmetrical hinged tongue that flips out of the way for easy entry and exit. It also simplifies the buckling process by reducing overlapping plastic. This boot looks to be the everyman boot with enough power to drive any ski on the market, but with excellent walkability. Another great change is the new Active Power Strap that provides the same function as the previous ones, but in a simplified design.
As is typical with Scarpa’s boots, these come with the killer Intuition Pro Flex G liner and the price is unbelievably only $599–definitely the best value in the bunch!