The Light. The Capable. The Beefy.
This winters crop of ski boots reflects the growing diversity and needs of the ski touring market. We can break down the boots into three different categories, each which has an intended use and suits a certain category of skiers. Often, dedicated backcountry skiers may have more than one pair of boots to combat specific objectives, or to best prepare for snow conditions of the day. Below is a breakdown of a few standouts in each category.
The Light Boots
Lightweight boots are for the long days where downhill performance is balanced with ease of up hill touring. This selection of boots is optimal for long spring traverses, peak-bagging missions, and generally when a powerful boot isn’t needed. These boots are best paired with skis below 105mm at the waist. Riders that tip the light end of the scale may be better served by lighter and more nimble boots, as compared to heavier riders, or those which ski with a style of power and aggressiveness.
Scarpa F1 EVO ($699.99)
The F1 Evo is an evolution of Scarpa touring boots meshing qualities of their Alien rando race boot with the skiability of the award winning Maestrale. Tipping the scales at just over 1100g per boot, this is a lightweight boot which shines on the uphill that includes a hands-free walk mode and quick closure BOA buckle. A fully customizable intuition liner will provide the fine tuned adjustment needed for people with difficult feet. This is a fine boot for the vert killer who wants to get the most out of their day. This boot provides best in class performance with best in class weight. It’s no surprise that this boot has won awards.
Dynafit TLT 6 Performance ($1000)
The next iteration of the ultra successful TLT 5, this boot has best in class range of motion. The TLT 6 eliminates the much criticized toe flex area to widen its appeal. At 1050g per boot this leads the weight competition, but its carbon fiber comes at a price. It will handle more powerful skiers than the F1 Evo but is still suited to smaller riders and narrower skis. Those looking for the same specs in a more powerful package will be better served by the Vulcan. This boot is considered the gold standard in the light category for both its uphill and downhill aptitude. You can’t beat this boot… unless budget is a factor.
The Capable Boots
This category of boots treads the fine line between beefy and lightweight. This category of boots is the most popular because of its versatility and ability to satisfy most skiers needs for both larger skis but also being light weight. Most boots in this category can handle skis of 115mm and below. Good range of motion for walking in this category is considered mandatory. With the widest selection of products in the touring market, we highlight the standouts in this category.
Scarpa Maestrale RS ($699)
The Masestrale series consist of two boots, the RS and the Maestrale. The boots are almost identical in outward design, however the RS is geared towards the heavier and wider ski, and for one who wants a boot that is stiff, responsive and can handle anything thrown its way. The RS may very well be the most versatile boot in the entire 2015 boot lineup which covers so many types of skier and skis. The walk mode is smooth and the flex is progressive.
Scarpa Maestrale ($599)
The RS’s brother, the Maestrale, is lighter and will be at home with lighter more relaxed skiers. Be warned, this boot will be challenged with very wide skis (115 and above) and will be easily overpowered in bounds on hard conditions. This is still a great choice for many skiers as the RS may feel too stiff for many skiers. Scarpa very much understands that small touches between boots will make the difference and thus the two models of the Maestrale. It also must be noted that the stock Intuition liner and the deep heel pocket make this a boot easy to fit. Both boots for 2015 sport a walk mode bar that promotes better stiffness and durability.
La Sportiva Spectre ($595)
This boot feels good, real good! It is targeted as a competitor to the Scarpa Maestrale RS and tips the scales at around 1500g per boot (same as the Maestrale). La Sportiva knows the magic of keeping feet happy while making a stiff boot which is often a difficult task. Though minor, we found the only challenge with this boot was the finicky buckles. If this boots fits your foot it is worth a try. It must be noted that if you have a high instep this boot will be challenging to fit and may require heavy modification. If a stock Intuition liner was included this boot would be hands down best in class and possibly best touring boot period.
Additional boots from Dynafit were considered to fit in the Capable boot category, but I struggle recommending a boot in this range with pricing that is a bit out of line with the winners in this category. Looking at the value, features and skiablity it is hard to justify a $200 upcharge for only a marginal performance improvement.
The Beefy Boots
The beefy boots feature what I like to describe as a hike mode. The cuff articulation on these boots is best suited for a short hike rather than a long tour. They will drive skis as wide as you can find and are great for skiers riding lots of resort laps, and want to duck under the ropes for short laps out of bounds. This is where the mainstream ski companies (Salomon, Fischer, Lange, K2) start showing their faces as they see this as an easy way to capatilize on their faithful customers entering the ski touring sport. In this category, DIN soles and tech fittings are included via swap plates to accommodate traditional alpine bindings. I must be upfront in my distaste for swappable binding plates. They either feel sloppy or just become a hassle to change. I think the mainstream vendors still have a long way to go in this category to really capture the pure ski touring enthusiast.
Scarpa Freedom SL ($750)
If you haven’t noticed already, Scarpa knows how to build ski touring boots. The Freedom is a no compromise mesh of performance with an added hike mode. The swappable soles allow both tech and alpine bindings. This boot is for strong skiers with big skis (over 112mm) who are going to shred, launch, and otherwise destroy a lesser boot. The Intuition liner is a major bonus for fit and comfort. This is a class leading boot which captured many awards for its versatility.
K2 Pinnacle 110/130 ($690)
The Pinnacle is first and foremost a downhill boot, with hike mode as bonus. It has one of the most stable engagement systems of all ski touring boots, and can accommodate alpine soles and tech fittings without the use of swappable blocks. The draw back is there is very little tread built into the sole (to make it alpine binding compatible) thus rock scrambling with this boot could be hazardous. It has a very progressive flex downhill and drives bigger skis with confidence. Coming in multiple last widths, its fit range is unmatched in this category. One word of caution, this boot is not ideal for hiking long distances, but will make for hardcore charging sidecountry laps.
Technica Cochise Pro Light ($750)
The Cochise was the first mainstream boot to tackle the hike mode downhill oriented segment. It continues to be a favourite among ski patrollers and Whistler locals for its versatility, adequate hike mode and extremely capable downhill performance. Tech bindings are compatible via swap blocks (yep don’t get me started). This boot comes in many variations which up the stiffness but at the expense of hikability. This is a hard compromise to make as its hike mode is already operated at a bare minimum. The lightest boot in this category gives them a major thumbs up. It is very much a toss up between the Freedom Sl and the Cochise. If anything this boot may win on weight alone as the rest of the feature are so close. Ultimately you can’t go wrong as long as it fits your foot.
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