photos by Josh Kato
My Dynafit Zzero boots, ski and binding setups have allowed me to satisfy my long quest for the perfect ski touring setup. Admittedly, I have some level of addiction to owning randonnee ski gear since that perfect setup, rather than one rig, is in my case, three separate combinations of boot, binding and ski. Those rigs are:
– Zzero4 C TF, Comfort, and FR 10 178 cm, with Coll Tex 60/40 mohair/nylon skins for powder as the widest and “biggest” rig in my ski touring quiver
– Zzero3 C TF, Speed ,and Seven Summit 178 cm with Coll Tex nylon skins for wet/ granular snow is the versatile all-around rig
– TLT4 EVO TF, Speed, and K2 Chogori 174 cm with nylon Ascension skins is my lightest and most comfortable, but still capable and versatile, rig.
As the culmination of my ski touring gear quest I feel that these boot and ski combinations are all well-matched and give great performance.
My use of the gear is for randonnee ski touring in the Washington Cascades, mostly in the Wenatchee Mountains to the east of the crest. I enjoy traveling through beautiful and elegant mountain terrain equally as well as skiing powder. When skiing downhill in the backcountry, I am conservative and have never been injured throughout more than 1000 ski tour days since my first skinny-ski touring in 1976. Thus, I am not pushing much on my ski touring gear as far as style is concerned. I like to be smooth, but I am a bit large for someone that ski tours this much at 225 pounds plus a well-packed ABS backpack on powder days. The gear on my feet is certainly tested for durability.
The 88 waist FR 10 seems to be as wide of a ski as I want to walk around the mountains on, and except for powder skiing I prefer a narrower ski for mountain travel. Starting in March when my tours will include ski carry and walking on hard snow, rocks, and dirt I prefer the 3-buckle boot.
Some individuals (my wife?) may view the purchase of the Zzero4 and Zzero3 as, uh, extravagant or worse (along with another snowmobile purchase last spring). Having done so and now having used the gear for many days in various snow and terrain conditions, I am very pleased and feel that the choice is justified. That is a good thing, since I promised said wife to buy no ski gear for myself for at least three seasons (except in the case of replacement of broken gear — amazing how that occurs just when you need something, is it not, dear?)
|Backcountry skiing in the Wenatchee Mountains.|
In regard to the Zzero4C TF I will confirm all of the superlatives directed toward the boots thus far, and will respectfully disagree with the few less than glowing comments. The Zzero4C TF is indeed light, powerful, well made, smooth-functioning and comfortable ski touring boot. The buckles and walk/ski lever function well and are of high quality. The boot fit me so well out of the box that I did not heat the liners, and it continues to fit well after 50+ ski tour days. At this point after many great powder days, I almost take for granted the stiff, powerful performance of the boot, similar to a lift-gear feel, applied to my moderately stiff FR 10 ski.
In my use, the Zzero4C TF does feel a bit tall for walking and side hilling. This tall feeling is not really an issue during powder snow season, but is noticeable on steep side hilling when the base is a firm crust and somewhat more so with the 88 mm waist FR 10. This condition also accounts for my continued use of narrower-waisted skis such as the 80 mm Seven Summit and 70 mm Chogori for some crusted snow or tour conditions. The Zzero4C TF is noticeably light. However my size 29 pair still weigh 8 lbs on the local shipping store scale. It appears that the increase in size from the usually advertised size 27 boot to my size 29 results in a significant comparable weight increase in all of my various boots.
The Zzero4C TF replaced my 3-buckle Aero TF which is a significantly stiff 3-buckle boot that weighs 8.8 lbs. for the pair. While significantly lighter, the Zzero4C TF compared to the Aero 3-buckle gives easily 30 to 40 percent more power for downhill skiing. Before owning the Zzero4C TF I sometimes wished that my FR 10 ski would be easier and more versatile, but the powerful Zzero4C TF boot with carbon-stringer stiffened cuffs now pretty much has its way with that ski. To summarize my take on this boot: Get some.
Below the cuff, the Zzero3C appears to be much the same boot as the Zzero4C — light but solid and stiff. The lateral cuff carbon stringers found on the Zzero4C are not on the Zzero3, and the feel of the cuff is less stiff as one would expect. I would expect that if the Zzero3C cuff was carbon-stringer stiffened it may be uncomfortably stiff for such a shorter (than the Zzero4C) lever. The shorter cuff makes for a much different boot feel that is excellent for my use. The fit was the same, I did not heat the liners since it fit so well, and continues to fit well. The buckle and walk/ ski lever are of similar high-quality.
One small problem with the Zzero3C is that the overlapping shell under the top buckle tends to override itself when the top buckle is left open for walking. Aside from that, I really like the Zzero3C TF on my Seven Summit skis. With the Zzero3C TF and Seven Summit skis I have skied corn, powder, crust, breakable crust, wind pack. That rig does well in all conditions.
My bigger rig, FR 10 and Zzero4C, have more power but also more weight for walking and for me the higher cuff of the Zzero4 is noticeable and at times less comfortable than the Zzero3C. So, to restate it, the Seven Summit and Zzero3C perform solidly in all conditions, no complaints, with excellent all-condition versatility. With the shorter cuff on the Zzero3C I find my self bending my knees more, perhaps getting more of the comma body position in tougher snow conditions when compared to the stand up and point ’em capability of the heavier rig, the FR 10 and Zzero4C.
Ski touring side hill on crusted snow, walking and kick-stepping on snow, and walking on rocks or dirt is considerably more comfortable and efficient using the Zzero3C when compared to the Zzero4C. The light weight of the Zzero3C TF on one’s feet is impressive. My size 29 Zzero3C TF boots weigh 7.3 lbs for the pair. The comfort and light weight is the big advantage, however the power/ performance of the Zzero3C is also impressive. The 7.3 lb. Zzero3C TF is a leap forward improvement in both weight and performance over my 8.8 lb 3-buckle Aero TF. I am pleased to own the Zzero3C TF, and I find it to be my favorite for the intended-use/conditions.
|President, CEO and chief bottle washer for the RRC (Republican Randonnee Club), how does the club sticker look on the 7 Summits?|
For comparison I should discuss and contrast my TLT 4 EVO TF/ Speed/ Chogori 174 cm rig. Yes, my third, lightest weight rig has a place for ski touring, and I truly enjoy it. The boot and ski are well-matched for balanced performance. I have enjoyed turns in all conditions including some powder with the setup. The Chogori is a very capable and versatile ski, it carves well carrying my large carcass even at 174 cm length. The size 29 TLT4 EVO TF boot weighs 6.7 lbs., just 0.6 lbs less than the much-more powerful Zzero3C TF.
Less weight isn’t everything — the TLT 4 EVO TF boot is also much more comfortable for walking on skis, or on snow, dirt, rocks, or just standing around. The flexible cuff of the TLT 4 EVO TF is quite comfortable,though it does yield less turning power for the downhill. In spite of the lack of power, I enjoy making turns using a different style while using the TLT 4 EVO TF, compensating for more powerful (and heavier) gear with technique, style, and less speed. For walking around tight terrain, covering miles, and skiing downhill on moderate terrain this rig is excellent.
So which boot would I pick, more, which rig would I pick, if I could have only one? Difficult question. All three of my setups are well-balanced and I can have fun skiing my usual tours in any condition on any of the three. I recall transitioning away from lift gear and lift ski-style when my randonnee skiing displaced lift skiing, so I understand that some skiers accustomed to lift gear, or more hardcore downhill skiing, may prefer the bigger, stiffer gear in order to enjoy the tour. Without a snowmobile to cover the road miles to get to the good stuff, I would less prefer the Zzero4C TF, but when the powder is steep and deep the Zzero4C TF is the boot to have. Perhaps the logical answer for me would be the Zzero3C TF and Seven Summit, a rig with excellent capability in all conditions. But, perhaps not….luckily I don’t have to decide.
|Blackie tries to show Rob he doesn’t need all that gear. But then, who’s in front?|
(Guest blogger Rob Mullins lives in the Washington Cascades with his family. His life has included a succession of careers that allow him to live in the mountains and ski tour a lot.)
Rob Mullins lives in the Washington Cascades with his wife, daughter, and a black lab avalanche dog in training named Blackie.