(This post sponsored by our publishing partner Cripple Creek Backcountry.)
Flip a single easy lever to transition your ski boots between uphill and downhill? I never considered that a deal breaker, but after skiing a prototype of the Dynafit Hoji Pro Tour last winter, I’m reconsidering.
Skimo racers have for decades sought the ideal of “leaving pants down,” as fiddling with clothing and boot adjustments during transitions will lose a race. In ski touring, “pants down always” has not been as big a deal (at least while skiing). But take my word, once you try a system that eliminates silly hacking with your pant cuffs, buckles and power straps, you won’t want anything else. That is, if it works — and keeps working.
Enter Dynafit’s new Hoji PX and Pro Tour boot models. Four years in development, due to retail 2018-2019, design philosophy here is a boot that not only allows you to keep your pants down, but skis powerfully — and tours. Sure, all of that is grail stuff that’s been tried by various brands, sometimes with success, but how many times combined in the same boot? Barring unforeseen manufacturing challenges and that sort of thing, I think Dynafit might have it nailed. We’ll get more certain on that this winter, when a limited run of the boots will be seeded out for testing and feedback. Let’s do a first-look.
(Note, the Hoji boot is indeed a ski touring boot that touches the freeride realm. I’m told by insiders that a stiffer version might be in the works, but that Dynafit has somewhat of an identity crisis when it comes to how much they want to embrace the realm of the beef boot. This especially so when numerous other companies are pumping out big boots. Fact remains that building a shoe that tours well and skis decently enough is still the sweet spot in the ski touring business — despite a few recent stutters, Dynafit continues to possess major brand equity in that arena.)
There is spirit in this boot. Just a few years ago, Eric “Hoji” Hjorleifson met tech binding inventor Fritz Barthel at a Dynafit press event. Hoji was up to his usual tricks, not only on-snow shenanigans, but modding and designing ski boots. Fritz invited Hoji to visit his workshop in Austria. The two hit it off as friends, as well as having a mutual interest in making better ski footwear. Forthwith, the two embarked on a project to create the shoe they always wanted.
Fritz and Hoji have somewhat opposite approaches to design. Both sides enhancing the whole. Synergy.
“Just as with the tech binding development,” says Fritz, “I had laziness driving me — I simply wanted a boot that did not require lifting up the pant cuff, and with a ski lock lever that could be kicked down without bending over, that would lock everything into downhill mode.” Fritz goes on to explain that “Hoji comes from the opposite side, he wants a boot that skis downhill well, and tours, though he worked hard on the ‘Hoji Lock’ system as well — if for no other reason than to make apres ski beers more comfortable.”
Another interesting aspect of the Hoji Pro Tour development is the introduction of quite a bit more testing and mathematics into the development process than is often the case. While testing methods and engineering concepts have always been available and used to various degrees, the most common way of developing ski boots remains more art than science. That’s been somewhat fine up till now, or has it? The landscape of ski touring boot development is littered with failed products — expensive shibboleths that broke, did not ski well, or both (not to mention the recalls…). From the start of the project, Fritz assisted Hoji with extensive testing, engineering theory and materials science. I’ve been around the process in person, during visits to Austria, and can testify that this has been a major deal — to the extent that Fritz built his own boot flex testing machine and invoked math chops that caused Grilamid and Pebax to quiver in supplication.
A few more factoids: PX models are made from Pebax plastic, while the Pro models are Grilamid. We’ve been delighted over the years by the “punchability” of Grilamid, good to see that continue. As with other Speed Nose boots, you can use an adapter from Dynafit to mount clip-on crampons that normally need a toe shelf. Cuff rotation is said to be “55 degrees,” in practical terms I can tell you the touring articulation is adequate and possibly excellent — depends on the final retail liner — so we’ll withhold our exalted judgment on that one. Last width is said to be 103.5, I’m not sure when the industry began specifying last widths to the 1/2 millimeter…let’s just call it 103 and remember that with a well made liner and some boot fitting, last width is only one of dozens of factors that help a boot fit your foot.
Our sample is shell size 27.5, BSL 300, 1528 grams (53.9 oz) with liner, 1232 grams without liner. I’d call this an average or slightly below average weight boot for what it is, or to be more complimentary, excellent weight considering the complexity of the lean lock system as well as the stiff flex. For sake of comparison, a much simpler boot in another brand comes in with shell weight of 1476, 52 grams less.
Clearly, if the Hoji boots deliver as intended they’ll be incredibly desirable. Some of you will be on the Hoji side of the equation, asking for a boot that tours — and goes downhill good. Others will be on the Fritz side of the project, you’ll enjoy leaving your pants down, always, while simply flipping a lever to transition between climbs and descents. In both cases, brilliant. My take after skiing in the proto and working this review? Stiff flex, and my pants were always down.
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.