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Update: I was under the impression that Garmont’s new overlap cuff Radium and Argon were in their Freeride category and had pretty much the beef of the Axon, but Garmont’s boot man Paul Parker informs me that all three Garmont overlap cuff boots are in their “Ski Mountaineering” category, while the Axon is somewhat stiffer and is indeed in their “Freeride” category. Mostly semantics and somewhat confusing, but indeed important to know that the Axon is their stiffest non-overlap Dynafit compatible boot, while Radium/Argon are the stiffest of their new overlap boots, more downhill oriented than the popular Mega Ride, and actually fairly close in downhill performance to boots in Freeride category. This morning I edited following to clarify this.
Ski boots, boots and more boots. I felt like a manic cobbler’s apprentice at the OR show, trying to keep track of all the new offerings. Today, Garmont. Remember this is a first-look, reviews will come later.
|The lineup. From left: Axon, Radium, Argon, Helium|
Basically, what Garmont did for next season is round out their “Ski Mountaineering” boot category with three new overlap cuff boots, and added the beefy Axon (not an overlap but rather a tongue boot) to their Freeride category. The idea appears to be that overlap boots offer some advantages. They still serve as real touring shoes and may even have better ankle articulation than tongue style shells, but also may ski better. Downside? Some folks get more shin bite with overlap boots, they can be tougher to put on, and they may be slightly heavier for equivalent downhill performance.
The new Garmont boots comprise four models, three of which offer overlap cuff construction:
Axon is the beefiest of the new Garmonts. It does NOT have an overlap cuff but rather the common tongue style cuff that allows a tour boot to be built lighter (albeit without the fluid ankle movement that an overlap cuff may provide in tour mode.)
In overlap design, the most tour biased shoe is the Helium, a 3 buckle Dynafit compatible model that still has a high cuff but is softer in overall flex. This could be a truly nice boot for those who like a tall overlap cuff but don’t need the weight and stiffness of a testosterone inspired “foot cast.”
Offering more downhill performance than Helium would be Radium and Argon. These boots are nearly twins; main difference is that Radium has Dynafit fittings. They’re about the same weight as the venerable Mega Ride, but are said to “use the new overlap design is to get better walking, with improved downhill performance; to improve performance at the two opposing extremes of the spectrum. The Radium tours better than a Mega Ride, yet has even better downhill performance, close to that of the Freeride category.”
|Something interesting that Garmont boot guru Parker pointed out: With a tongue style liner (right), you can’t get the fourth buckle as far down toward the toes as you can with an overlap cuff boot (left). Aha, now I know why I always end up removing that 4th buckle on boots such as Zzero; it’s so close to the third buckle that they’re frequently doing the same thing.|
First off, I was impressed with the overall build quality and careful use of dual density plastic in the Garmont shells. The buckles have a little doodad called an “Easy Lock Catch.” This consists of tiny grabbers that lock your boot buckle hoop in your chosen slot. It can’t come out till you press a button on the buckle. This is a 100% solution to annoying “buckle flop” and will be appreciated by many skiers. Another buckle plus: All are user removable so broken ones can easily be replaced (sigh, why don’t all boots have that feature?)
|Check out how Garmont shaped the overlap cuff. The high part not only provides more progressive forward support, but as demonstrated above it’s a good handle for opening the boots. The intermediate layer of plastic is a gasket that seals everything up nice and watertight; perhaps we won’t have to duct tape the overlap to keep water out? If so, then indeed this is a revolution (though I’ll kinda miss having that bit of duct tape on my boots).|
In terms of fit, these boots appear to have a bit more volume than the Megaride last, but time will tell where they fall in the scheme of things. More importantly, the new Garmont boots have “pre punched” shells that are more anatomical than most ski boots. Provided your foot is close to the average shape used to design the “pre punch,” (most are close enough), you’ll get an outstanding fit once you mold the liner. Speaking of which, Garmont’s liners for these shoes matched the shells in quality and workmanship. They’re tongue style liners rather than overlap, a matter of personal preference and easily swapped for a Scarpa aftermarket overlap if desired.
Interestingly (at least to gear geeks), the liners have a Palu brand label but Garmont says that’s only there because of a patent, and the liners are designed and made by Garmont in a Romanian factory. Of more importance to actual skiing, I like the Pebax plastic reinforcement on the Radium liner tongue — music to the legs of one who for decades battled shin bang in overlap cuff boots.
|And check this out. A totally user serviceable lean lock presented in “industro design” style on the outside of the boot. Love it. But how did they ever convince Italian boot designers to do such a thing? Lean lock on all boots but Axon has just one forward lean locked position (24 degrees), thus eliminating the guesswork and possible quad blowing of the dual position type (which we’ve always disliked intensely).|
|Another view of Radium. This is one fine hunk of shoe. We’re acquiring a test pair ASAP, so stay tuned.|
For the total take, here are some official details from Garmont, lightly edited:
Garmont’s new a.d.d. Wrap Overlap ski mountaineering boots… Their unique overlap closely follows the anatomy of the foot and lower leg for crisp, precise downhill performance, while cradling it comfortably and securely for touring comfort. The unique overlap design eliminates the restrictive tongue to allow more independent movement between the cuff and lower shell. That means better walking, climbing, and skinning, with a progressive downhill flex.
– Better downhill performance with a more progressive flex: the overlap design follows the contours of the foot and ankle more closely than other tongue-type designs for the best downhill performance with a smooth, progressive, responsive flex.
– Flex Insert: The extra-high overlap supports the lower leg for bomber ski control, while its flex insert makes it easy-walking. The multi-injected flex insert is tuned specifically for different models’ use and performance. (Editor’s note: This is simply an area of plastic in the shell that’s of different density.)
– With no tongue that must be flexed backwards with each step, the overlap lower shell and multi-injected cuff can operate more independently for more walking freedom and comfort.
– The High Overlap Panel spreads contact evenly for a progressive forward flex and the most responsive ski control. 4-buckle models have superb shin comfort and downhill performance, while the 3-buckle Helium skis like a 4-buckle boot, a big step in 3-buckle performance.
– Easy entry with the High Overlap Panel: The Panel provides a “handle” that can be spread for very easy entry.
– Soft, silicone-like Water Seal Gasket between the shell’s overlaps seals out snow and moisture.
– Men’s models have a height-adjustable spoiler to accommodate different leg shapes for maximum rearward support and contact.
– Multi-injected Shell Bumpers protect the buckles and lower shell.
– Multi-injected cuff has a very stiff frame for leverage and support, with a softer overlap that contours closely around the leg for quick response and comfort.
– New Rapid outsole is designed for maximum grip, with the proper contact area as determined by the new ISO norm for the best step-in binding function. The Rapid sole has self-cleaning lugs. Its unique rubber compound is grippy yet highly durable, with the maximum toe thickness allowed within the ISO Norm for longevity. It extends under the instep for protection and grip when rock scrambling.
– Wide-Open Buckles and Easy-Lock Catches for easier, unrestricted touring. The Wide-Open’s levers are designed with an off-center pivot that opens as wide as is possible while they are held securely by the Easy-Lock buckle catches.
– Cuff buckle catches are movable to custom-fit different sizes of lower legs.
– Buckles are all field-replaceable. (Editor’s note: Nice!)
– Bomber walk mechanism is clean, simple, and solid.
– The G-fit Rapid and G-Fit Flash are the only thermoformable liners on the market with a plastic T-Bar Reinforced Tongue for leverage and shin protection. This unique T-shaped Pebax tongue reinforcement provides the leverage and protection of a traditional liner, with full thermoformability.
– Silver Fibers in the liners’ wicking lining material serve two high-tech purposes: They are both anti-bacterial and retain body heat much better than normal wick-able synthetic fibers.
– Double Pull Loops facilitate easy entry, exit, and carrying the boots.
– Lycra “Slide Zone” on the rear of the liner further facilitates easy entry and exit. (Editor’s note: This is a Lycra patch at the upper rear that your heel slides against on entry. Nice touch.)
WildSnow.com publisher emeritus and founder Lou (Louis Dawson) has a 50+ years career in climbing, backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering. He was the first person in history to ski down all 54 Colorado 14,000-foot peaks, has authored numerous books about about backcountry skiing, and has skied from the summit of Denali in Alaska, North America’s highest mountain.