In the telemark line, one of the most obvious visual elements of this ongoing refinement in performance is the elimination of the toe buckle. Sporting only two buckles, Kenai is the replacement for the SynerG, a svelte mix of power and touring pragmatism. So the question is, are two buckles enough?
In downhill mode they’re the only two that really matter, holding your heel in place above and below the ankle. For extra power, the cuff is as high as EnerG, but with a nice fat power strap to secure the upper lip. It adds enough leverage to handle mid-phat to full-phat. If you insist they can drive super fatties, but Garmont’s Voodoo makes more sense in that case. As you would expect, the flex is smooth, thanks in part to a new progressive bellows that collapses at the rear first, then the front. The bellows is curved to conform to the metatarsal line so you can weight your pinky toe better. All in all, excellent improvements throughout Garmont’s new tele boot line.
One of the coolest items is the new Easy-Lock cuff buckle. This utilizes a rib of plastic down the middle of the latches that grabs the mating hook and holds it securely in the groove. With the hook effectively locked in the groove, to switch from fully clamped for turning, to loose for skinning, just unflip the buckle. No need to take the time to hook it into a special touring tooth, or worry about it flopping around. Just flip the buckle open and it hangs loose without letting go. To completely unhook, or to even catch the hook, press down on a button at the end of the grooved side of the buckle to pull the plastic fingers back and let the wire go. This is far and away my favorite feature Garmont’s newest generation of ski boots, tele and AT.
Though narrower than models of yore, these boots still favor those with a higher instep foot. Those with a low instep like yours truly will need to fill the extra space above the instep with extra foam rubber so the lone foot buckle can hold your heel down better.
Regardless of whether you have a low or high volume foot, the lack of a second buckle practically guarantees more heel movement in the shell. This isn’t noticeable while turning, but is especially true in tour mode where you want your upper leg to be able to flex fore and aft. As soon as you release the cuff buckle, the only thing attempting to hold your foot in the boot is the foot buckle. When you’re skinning, this is simply insufficient and your heel will lift with each step. On a long tour, that spells blisters – the longer the tour, the badder the blisters. On the positive side, the tour/turn lever that releases the cuff allows a lot more movement than its predecessor, the SynerG. It may move more, but it doesn’t feel any more free, owing to the higher cuff.
I agree with Kenai’s premise that the front buckle of most ski boots is vestigial. Unfortunately the lone buckle is not far enough back to keep my heel in place, especially with the cuff buckle loosed. Those with a higher instep, or a higher volume foot will probably not notice.
In downhill mode Kenai skis more like a T1 than a T2 or T2X. The closest boot in performance is probably Black Diamond’s Seeker, but even here, Kenai’s stiffer frame and cuff offer more. Bottom line, I’m not sure two buckles is enough to hold your foot secure enough in all modes of travel. For those who tend to judge a boot based on criteria like the number of buckles, Kenai delivers far more than you would expect. However, considering how little an extra buckle weighs, I’d recommend Voodoo over Kenai, not so much for turning as the ability to hold your foot in place for touring.