Boots remain one of the most boring and static segments of backcountry skiing gear design. That’s my take this winter, anyway. What’s yours?
Consider the last few years. What was hot? Mama mia, overlap construction! But wait, wasn’t that around 35 years ago? Oh, and wow, some boots were made in China instead of Italy. And whoops, almost forgot, I can stick alpine soles on my touring boots. Excuse me while I pass out from my footwear climax.
Nonetheless, bright spots of innovation exist in the mainstream boot makers (and of course small shops are in the mix as well). Scarpa has stellar performance in their Maestrale, which is admittedly a synergy of incremental improvements to a fairly conventional boot, but end result is the real deal. Garmont is doing a nice job of trying the minimalist approach with their Masterlite. Less is more and all that. Black Diamond is giving freeriders the beef they desire.
But the clear winner in the innovations department has to be handed to Dynafit. They’re still buckle boots. They’re still made in Italy. But with features such as one-motion closure, low volume lasts, use of nylon plastics, carbon fiber and other knicknacks, I’ll admit that despite my yawning cynicism, this Dynafit shoe stuff has been pretty interesting for the last couple of years. The coming season is no exception.
Yes, while the Red Machine of 1976 looks amazingly familiar, incremental evolution is indeed happening in randonnee AT ski boots. (And to the credit of boot designers, I’ll admit that making the better AT boot is no simple task.) Today, check out what Dynafit is doing to that end.
After having seen all of Dynafit’s new product in one place (European product launch press event, Austria), I’m here to say the boot lineup is their most impressive product category this year for changes, design, and overall improvement (that is unless the Dynafit binding Power Towers really work, and in that case it’s a tie).
Indeed, with the addition of their Evo race boot (see below) as well as improvements such as a lighter weight Titan 4-buckle, Dynafit is raging. Even so, I’m not sure I’d call this (and what other companies are doing) a macro evolutionary event of cataclysmic import (that red Dynafit still looks awfully familiar), but it’s certainly a bit more interesting than things were in the boot world a few years ago.
First up, as in photo above, Dynafit has split the ever popular four-buckle “Green Machine” ZZero 4 into two boots. What was formerly the green Zzero is now white with red highlights but functionally the same as last year (photo to right). Now they’re doing a green ZZero with what is essentially a carbon fiber cuff. This shoe appears to be a truly sweet item. Still easy to customize, but yielding even stiffer performance at 1,580 grams per boot (size 27.5, thermo liner). That’s at least 10 grams lighter than the stock Zzero last year. Not a quantum change, but noticeable especially considering the boot is obviously a bit stiffer due to the added carbon fiber.
It’s been a hoot watching AT boot makers play around with the “freeride” market. I’ll just say that at this recent press event, I’m not sure there was one skier who I’d call a “freerider.” Even so, the concept of freeride tour skiing, meaning you use gear that can perform on the down in a more conventional sense, (rather than, for example, making survival turns on 65 mm waist rando race skis), is a solid idea. Thus, Dynafit’s freeride boots continue to be a terrific area where they’re combining almost alpine-like performance with touring walk modes and reasonable weight.
In the freeride category, last year’s Dynafit offerings were headlined by the ZZeus and Titan. This year they’ve lightened the Titan a bit with some carbon fiber and a few other tweaks — they’re calling this iteration the Titan Ultralight. At a claimed 1,750 grams (size 27.5), if this boot skis as stiff as last year’s Titan, then it is indeed impressive and could be THE go to shoe for those of you who want a beef boot that still tours.
Know that last year’s Titan model also continues, as does the ZZeus (the latter in a changed color scheme of grey with yellow hardware, while Titan continues with white and red color scheme.) For the ladies, ZZeus is available in the Gaia model, in off-white and grey with the women’s shape spoiler and liner cuff.
Last season’s big Dynafit boot hype was of course their TLT 5 variations. TLT 5 provided super light weight along with nearly one-motion mode changes and a metatarsal hinge/bend. I’m still planning giving these guys a go, but am finding the concept a bit of a yawner since the company is obviously going the direction of no metatarsal bend, while racing towards weight targets that can only be called emaciated — but in a good way.
The start of the trend is the new Dynafit Dy.N.A. Evo race boot. Carbon cuff with Pebax front straps, nylon plastic lower shoe that’s obviously engineered to the ultimate minimum possible thicknesses that injection molding allows, one-motion mode changes but of course, and weight significantly less than 1,000 grams per boot (size 27 range).
I spent about three hours in the lab where they’re developing the Evo, and I can honestly say the technology is impressive. Still, it’s interesting to note that injection molding thin plastic ski boot lowers out of harder plastic to save weight is not a new idea. Scott did it just after the pyramids were constructed, and Dynafit’s own boot guru, Mario Sartori, was working on the same concept with Garmont back in the 1970s. He even has a catalog from that era he enjoys sharing and chuckling over. Indeed, Mario has about 30 years experience with this type of boot construction — the Evo is dialed!
What else? Here is the outline:
– TLT 5 series is comprised of three models (or four if you count a TLT 5 Mountain with a different liner): TLT 5 Performance (carbon cuff), TLT 5 Mountain (nearly same boot, around 200 grams heavier with thermo liner), TLT 5 Mountain Women (I like mountain women, and I hope they like their boot. Essentially a TLT 5 with off white body and purple accents, enlarged spoiler area for calf shape some women have that’s different from men.)
ZZero4 PX — The Zzero-like boot with a PU plastic stringer instead of carbon fiber, now yellow for men, white and grey for women. Really quite a nice boot with a better price point than full-on ZZero with carbon stringers.
Zzero 4 U — Urethane versions of above ZZeros, men’s is red, women’s is off white and black, with some little green leaves so you can presumably look down and know you’re covered.
ZZero PX –Budget three-buckle boot models, male and female, without stringers on cuff. A totally viable option though it’s weird they have two buckles on the tongue and only one on the cuff. Seems to me it should be the other way around.
Well, that’s it, let the comments commence and we’ll flesh out the details as much as is humanly possible.
Bonus video, Franz Klammer finds the line no one else could hold, and yes, he’s in Dynafit boots:
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.