Backcountry gear selection is expanding at a rapid pace. One side of the spectrum offers boots so specific to the ski, style, and terrain you ride, and now, more than ever, on the other side we witness the emergence of the one-boot-does-all, for touring and alpine days. I never stop asking myself the question, do I want two or three sets of boots that are exceptional in specific conditions? Or do I want one boot that does everything just OK? Well.. I still don’t know the right answer. But when I saw the K2 Pinnacle 130, I was immediately intrigued with its integrated tech fittings on an alpine sole. K2 knows skis and they have experience with boots (Fulltilt) so their entry into the boot market wasn’t a hasty one. It sought to consolidate the brand and allow for dedicated K2 people to buy skis and boots to compliment their on snow experience.
The boots are available in a low-volume and a regular-volume fit which is a welcome option in the market. The low volume model (the boot we tested) has a narrow fit in the heel which makes for a very secure, and snug feeling. It is narrow in the forefoot but with a good amount of instep room. Overall they fit very well and the Intuition liner helps customize the fit even further. The liner is custom made with reinforcement in the tongue and cuff providing an overall stiffer feel than typical Intuition liners (save the race plug liners).
The top strap is aided by a buckle closure, which is a nice touch but can become challenging to adjust the tightness at the top of the boot. The lower buckles, although function well, we wish theyhad a little more of a lip to facilitate adjustment with gloves on. Getting your foot into this boot at times can prove challenging. A little larger opening would be welcomed.
Downhill Performance – Alpine Binding
When using this boot in an alpine binding the Pinnacle likes to be pushed and skied aggressively. It is at home with larger skis and feels confidence inspiring when pushed to its limits. Being a lighter skier (160lbs) at times it felt too stiff when a fine touch was needed to navigate tighter trees. If you are a bigger rider this will be less of an issue. When riding these boots with lighter touring skis, the skis felt easily overpowered.
Downhill Performance – Tech Binding
This binding has tech toe inserts which leads you to believe that it could be used for ski touring. To reiterate, this boot is not meant for long epic tours. In resort when riding with a tech binding the boots stiffness does nothing to dampen vibration. At the best of times a tech binding in bounds can feel harsh. Riding a technical line however would be confidence inspiring due to the very positive response this boot provides when skiing.
There have been many reports of broken pieces and cracked walk modes. I must note that I didn’t have any issues with the gear. The majority of the time, I never have problems with my gear beyond general wear and tear from use. I am a relatively light rider that doesn’t tend to keep gear far beyond its usable life. It is comforting to hear that K2 was very proactive and accommodating in insuring affected people were taken care of. With brand new products there are bound to be challenges and undoubtedly the 2015 models will see the issues addressed.
I was happy with the K2 Pinnacle boots because I was realistic in my expectations of its performance. I knew I wasn’t going to get an ultralight boot to fly up the hill in tour mode. I wanted a boot to ski with confidence at the resort, no matter the ski I picked from my quiver (carbon touring skis, or fat powder skis). I wanted a boot that didn’t come with the hassle of switching alpine soles. I have always felt a certain amount of slop when boots use sole blocks which no doubt hampers the ski performance on snow. Not to mention the time and care needed to swap soles. This is the first iteration of a category that is bound to see more growth as the combination of versatility and skiability come into demand. I would love to see more boots with both alpine and tech compatibility without having to use removable sole blocks.
Who Should Buy These Boots?
This boot is clearly targeted to the skier that is riding in bounds more than out, and a rider that isn’t prepared to own at least two sets of boots dedicated for each activity. If you are a skier that is looking for one boot for both tech and a full alpine use, are predominantly riding slackcountry, and love to ski with power, strength, and aggression, this boot is probably a good fit. Keep in mind these won’t be winning and competitions for weight. They are heavy further reinforcing their resort tilted focus. For the smaller skier I would likely recommend the softer 110 flex version. For those who can afford or want a specific tool for the job, you may be better off with a dedicated alpine boot, and a dedicated touring boot.