We pulled off a mission up to Colorado’s Montezuma Basin yesterday. Figured we’d find some snow to ski on the permanent snowfield for testing the Dynfafit Zzero backcountry skiing boots. More, we figured the 4×4 access trail would be a good test of just how much our media loaner Toyota Tundra is a street truck. Mission team: photographer AJ Smollen, Louie, Lou.
I wasn’t exactly flying down Montezuma auditioning for a TGR movie yesterday. The snow was difficult and being in a pair of unfamiliar boots with un-molded liners made it tougher. But note I was actually able to put the Zzeros on and go skiing without custom fitting them. I’m not a big fan of evaluating boots by their out-of-box feel (main problem with magazine boot reviews) as I believe all boots should be custom fitted, but it’s worth mentioning my “out of box” experience as it indicates these shoes have a surprisingly neutral last, meaning with competent fitting they’ll work for just about anyone.
As for the experience of skiing the Zzero carbon: First off, I have to tell you the carbon fiber exoskeleton “Power Stringer” delivers, it is definitely not cosmetic. These are honestly the most laterally stiff AT boots I’ve ever been in — at this weight it is amazing I can make that statement. The cuff feels high (even though it’s virtually identical in height to my tried and true pair of Scarpa Matrix). The boot is quite rigid rearward and has plenty of resistance forward for a skier like me (not overly agro). What I found interesting is that a boot this stiff is going to take some getting used to, they’re that different. But it’s a familiarization process I’m looking forward to.
Other things noted: Zzero includes a touring catch on the upper cuff buckles that allows a loose but still buckled position (identical to Garmont). Power strap, for me, is about as necessary as a propeller on a fighter jet, but it’s there if you need it. Lead-in notches on front Dynafit binding sockets do cut fiddle time by a small amount. Buckles are easy to operate compared to others in recent memory, and the spring loaded action keeps them from flopping around and getting caught on stuff if they’re left unhooked. Jury out on liner with conventional tongue, as a wrap-around thermo-molded liners are just so comfy and reliable as to how they interact with our shins. Bright green color burned out 16 pixels in AJ’s camera sensor, but that sort of thing comes with the territory when you’re a photog. Well developed heel pocket in shell should make heel retention better for folks for whom that’s an issue. Shell volume is definitely less than Scarpa, fairly similar to Garmont. Shell last has a lower arch and thus flatter footboard.
In all, Dynafit has come up with something that’s definitely not your run of the mill AT boot and might even be a trend setter. I’ll now spend some time fitting the boots, customize the overall feel a bit, and report back soon.
|Our loaner Tundra got us up the Montezuma 4×4 trail. The truck was at its limit here so it was a good test. As it’s set up, the 2008 Tundra we’re borrowing from Toyota is primarily a luxury street pickup, so we were getting a bit out there taking it up in the mountains. But what’s a gear test if you don’t wring out the goods? I was anxious to try the 6-speed automatic transmission off road, using the “sequential shift” which acts somewhat like a manual. This did not disappoint. Once you drop into 4-low it pretty much acts like a manual, providing an obvious lockup of the torque converter in first gear so you can crawl downhill with plenty of engine braking. And having six gears to row through with a flick of the wrist? Awesome.
As for the suspension offroad, well, it’s a street setup for cornering at 85 mph so what do you expect? Combined with a frame as stiff as the Zzero carbon stringer and a front swaybar as thick as my forearm, we were lifting tires on 12 inch obstacles and getting a bit tired of the challenge by the end of the day (don’t tell my 4×4 buddies I needed a spotter on a 12 inch ledge). But the suspension did work, and could probably be softened up enough for average trailhead-approach use by swapping in a set of adjustable shocks and using a swaybar disconnect. Overall comfort level of the drive on dirt was slightly more harsh than I expected but still comfortable — for proof just ask AJ, he was kicked back in the rear seat watching a video while we descended the jeep trail. We definitely got a laugh out of that.
Of greater concern is the truck’s 9 inch (optimistically put) ground clearance under the front belly pan. Combined with independent front suspension (which effectively drops the belly in rough terrain rather than raising it as a solid axle does), that type of minimal air under your expensive mechanicals makes for nerve wracking driving once you’re in even moderate rough stuff — and for folks in the trades could be a concern while maneuvering in jobsite driveways and such. The stock tires are optimistically 31 inches tall, and there is little room in the wheel wells for an upsize. Thus, for use on moderately rough dirt roads a moderate lift to fit taller tires would be mandatory.
|With AJ and Louie handling front seat duty, I kicked back and viewed the new PW07 flick, so what it’s a bunch of crazy telemarkers? As always, PW made me smile.|
|Tailgate time in the Rockies. Thanks for the Grana cookies AJ!|
|A few of the rocks that showed us the truck’s limit. All it needs is taller tires and a moderate lift and look out!|
Montezuma conditions report: Thin snow over glacier ice. Lots of weir holes in the ice, some large enough to ski into and get hurt. Vertical axle shaft from old rope tow is exposed so know where that is so you don’t hit it. We need to go up there with a couple of hacksaws or a cordless grinder and get rid of that hazard. Heavy snow this weekend will probably produce excellent conditions up there starting early next week.
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.