Sometimes the quest for better comfort, more control, and good fit leads down the path of ski boot liners. ZipFit enters the touring boot liner game with a superb, durable, yet heavy and pricey aftermarket liner. Squirrel away the money you might otherwise spend on those triple-espressos.
Primer on Aftermarket Liners
Throughout the ski world, aftermarket liners seem to be a controversial subject. Some boot manufacturers annually claim that their in-house liners are so good that they don’t need replacing, and others (see Scarpa) use aftermarket Intuition liners standard in their boots. Anecdotally, most backcountry skiers in my orbit seem to be using some flavor of Intuitions in their boots, with some replacing liners more than once a season. This brings us to the crux of all-foam boot liners; packing out. The real liner beatdown occurs when touring uphill; the walking motion leads to significant wear and compression of the liner’s foam. While redoing the heat molding process can rejuvenate the foam and get more life out of a liner, they eventually pack out, get holes or abrasions from rubbing inside a shell, and end up in the trash.
Enter ZipFit – I had heard about ZipFit from friends that are dedicated resort skiers. While our gear preferences are generally completely incompatible, it piqued my interest to hear time and time again about great experiences with ZipFit alpine liners. Combine that with catching wind of a new touring liner, I had to get my hands on a pair.
Before this past winter, I had heard of ZipFit, but frankly had no idea what made them special or different from any other aftermarket liner. I imagine I’m not alone in my lack of knowledge on this subject, as they really haven’t been relevant to the touring market until this past winter.
Perhaps the biggest differentiator of a ZipFit is the materials used – there is no foam in these liners. They use microfiber, leather, and neoprene – then fill the liner with cork composite called OMFit. ZipFit claims their liners will last 300-500 days on snow, and I’ve heard stories of folks getting close to 1000 days from their ZipFit alpine liners. While I’m interested to see how that translates to a touring liner that suffers wear and tear from walking and rubbing, I expect a significantly longer lifespan than an Intuition or similar foam liner.
In addition to the durability aspect, there are a few other claimed benefits to ZipFit’s liners. First, the OMFit cork is held in four bladders from which one can add and remove the cork – this means one can finely adjust the volume in the Achilles, ankle, instep, and shin areas all independently. This adjustability allows people like me – with skinny ankles and heels – to secure my heels as I’ve never experienced in other liners. The forefoot area is constructed from lined neoprene that is thin and stretchy to give your forefoot space to stay warm and accommodate any bunions or sensitive spots.
ZipFit GFT – Touring Liner
Let’s get this out front: the GFT liner is heavy and $$!!. ZipFit did not compromise on materials or construction techniques relative to the alpine liners, which are also heavy. Here is how the weight compares to the other liners in my possession (All 28/28.5, no footbeds included, no cork added to ZipFit):
Intuition Pro Tour MV: 271g
2021 Tecnica Zero G Tour Pro stock liner: 236g
As you can see, this might not be the liner for the most weight-conscious sector of WildSnow’s readership, which I have, at times, strongly identified with. Cork and leather are simply denser and more robust than the foam used in standard liners, and there is no way around this.
I have been comparing the Dynafit Hoji/Radical line of boots and the Tecnica Zero G + GFT liner (this is theoretical/based on research/reading as I haven’t skied the Dynafit boot). The Hoji line comes in quite a bit heavier than the Zero G (w/ stock liner), but is widely regarded for having a much lower friction range of motion.
Assuming the boots’ ski performance is similar, the gut instinct to prioritize weight is questioned – what really matters here is the energy expended to move uphill. All this is to say the GFT, while heavier than the competition, walks about as well as the Intuition Pro Tour, and leagues better than the Tour Wrap. The nature of these beasts, the ZipFit GFT, is that the liner has a robust structure where desired but has thin and flexible zones where necessary to facilitate a pleasant and low resistance walking experience.
Beyond the flexibility, I appreciate the fit and heel hold of the GFT on the uphill as well. With my skinny heels, a 100-day-old intuition is often a mess of heel slop and hotspots during a lengthy spring tour. The combination of near-perfect heel hold and the stretchy forefoot of the ZipFit made for happy feet on hot spring days when swollen feet and hot spots have often had me counting down the minutes until I could get out of my boots at the end of a tour.
ZipFit GFT Tour Downhill Performance
Beyond fit, improved downhill performance is billed as a headline benefit of ZipFits. I’ll preface this by saying that I haven’t skied a proper alpine boot in my adult life, and the Tecnica Zero G was already a fairly groundbreaking performance upgrade in my world. Lately, though, I’ve been getting greedy – skiing bigger skis, maybe a bit faster (faster but by no means fast), and asking for a bit more suspension and stability from my boots.
The GFT liner is the solution I didn’t know I needed on this front. I got some late-season groomer days with the liners here in Jackson and was blown away by what I would describe as the liveliness these added to my boots and skiing. It was an awesome feeling of subtle rebound coming out of a turn and damping in inconsistent snow that had me skiing more confidently and aggressively on some variable early morning spring groomers that often have me a bit hesitant. A few times, the thought crossed my mind: “this must be what skiing a real alpine boot feels like….” I still can’t claim that for sure, but I have to believe I’m a few steps closer with the GFT in my Zero G boots.
In the backcountry, I found a similar appreciation for the liveliness and damping while skiing high-speed corn, as well as during some high consequence and scratchy jump turns where the added suspension helped me maintain a more forward, balanced stance in more 3-D conditions that tend to throw me off balance or backseat. In general, though, the downhill performance benefits of the GFT liner were subtle in high-quality, backcountry snow conditions – this to say, I’m not always convinced that stiff or high-performance boots matter much in these conditions.
Who would I recommend these liners to?
Let’s be clear; a $475, 577g touring liner isn’t for everyone. I believe the ZipFits will have a place in many folks’ lives as they solve a few important issues. First, I’m confident in recommending these as a solution for those constantly struggling with heel hold. The heel hold is off the charts good and should stay that way throughout the (long) life of the liner. Despite my skinny heels/Achilles area, I haven’t added any cork to mine, and they have the best heel hold I’ve experienced.
Second, guides and other heavy users – I have about 30 days on the liners pictured, and they are showing essentially zero signs of wear and tear. As discussed, the durability is truly off the charts – I’m excited to report back after a full season of use. It seems crazy financially and waste-wise to go through two pairs of intuitions each season – but for many, maintaining good fit and performance feels worth it. The GFT liner could be a good solution for some of these users.
Last, the GFT liner could be a great solution for a higher performance, one boot quiver. For all the reasons that a one-boot quiver is appealing to many skiers (perhaps excluding cost savings), the GFT can add performance to a lighter touring boot for resort use while walking really well for touring. Whether for travel, saving space in a small living area, or simplifying life, the GFT will strike a nice balance for some skiers and their one-boot quiver needs.
A few other thoughts
A unique aspect of the GFT liners and ZipFits, in general, is how they recommend donning/doffing the liner/ boot shell. The recommendation is to put on and lace up the liner first, then put your foot in the boot. This better preserves the heel/Achilles cup as sliding one’s heel into the liner while it’s in the shell displaces the cork and can negatively impact the nice, snug Achilles area. This method worked quite well with the Tecnica Zero G, and maybe made the on/off process easier than with a standard tongue liner living in the boot. I tried the liner a few days with the Alien RS, and it was a bit of a nightmare. Between the gaiter and BOA cables, it took a few tries to thread the needle without catching or snagging, and I often felt like I was going to break something.
At about the same time as getting the GFT, I also invested in a stack-style forced air/heat boot dryer. This purchase was a long time coming for me, but the few days I forgot to put the liners on the dryer reinforced my investment. The merino/Thinsulate/neoprene lower needed the extra oomph of the forced air/heat to fully dry on back-to-back wet/sweaty ski tours.
Speaking of the merino/Thinsulate insulation, I didn’t get the chance to put these liners through the full range of frigid Wyoming temps. I had a few chilly spring mornings in the low teens to single digits to see how the GFT liners fared warmth-wise. I would put them solidly between the stock liners and my MV Intuition Pro Tours – maybe not my top choice for an uber cold expedition, but good enough for my daily use in the often frigid Tetons. I’ll update this as I get more data points throughout the coming winter, but the main takeaway should be that they are a bit warmer than the stock Zero G liner, but can’t compete with the gold standard of dense, warm Intuition foam.
During my fitting session at Nomad Sports in Teton Village, I learned that ZipFit has a free trial/return period where one can have the liners molded and try them for five ski days before making a final decision. At Nomad, they had never had a customer come back unsatisfied after the trial period, but it’s nice to know that option exists when laying down the cash for such an expensive liner.
ZipFit GFT Conclusions
I’m sure I wasn’t alone when I first dismissed the ZipFit GFT liner upon seeing its weight. While the weight and price will dissuade many, hopefully, this review can shed some light on the utility of such a liner. Between the durability, better-than-expected walking performance, excellent downhill performance, and truly unparalleled fit and comfort, the GFT has many attributes worth a second glance. If there were a way to build some or all of these features into a weight-competitive liner oriented toward the 1000g boot class, I would be the first in line. As it stands, I plan to continue to use the GFT’s in my Tecnica Zero G boots for guiding days, and most of my winter day-to-day touring. I’ll probably keep a pair of Intuitions around for the fast-moving and big days where I prioritize weight. That being said, at some point, it seems necessary to ski the GFT (Grand F***kin Teton) in the GFT liners.
Gavin is a mountain guide and gear fanatic based in Jackson, WY. His endless pursuit of gear perfection led to starting a pack company, Apocalypse Equipment in 2019. He has a degree in Nordic skiing and mechanical engineering from the University of New Hampshire and worked as a ski shop tech prior to getting his dream job as a WildSnow contributor.