Jan 27 2014

Backcountry Boot Roundup for 2014/15


Got walk mode?

Got walk mode?

When you look at sales of ski boots with a walk mode it seems like everybody is going into the backcountry. That conclusion assumes everyone who buys a ski boot with a walk mode is using it to go ski touring. In reality, a lot of folks are simply using it to make walking to the lifts more comfortable, and why not? Even if the option to let the cuff shell pivot backwards compromises a 130 flex boot to something like 125, or even a 120 flex rating, that’s still plenty of power for advanced and expert skiers to drive any size ski on any angle slope. Perhaps the bigger question is, except for racers, when are the rest of the skiers going to wake up?

At this point in time the list of brands not offering a boot with a walk mode is shorter than those who do. Although there are plenty of boots being sold with a walk mode that may not ever see a wild snow snake, the ones that come with Dynafit inserts are the ones to be taken seriously in the backcountry and that realm continues to expand.

Black Diamond

Quadrant gets a new liner and more cuff ROM.

BD Quadrant for 14/15.

BD migrates the improved walk mode from the Factor MX throughout the rest of their alpine line. The Quadrant, Prime and Swift now all deliver excellent touring range of motion in the cuff, plus an improved, heat moldable liner without the BOA lacing. Last widths remain a wide 102 mm, making these a good fit for average to high volume feet.


Dynafit Radical - bigger, roomier.

Dynafit Radical – bigger, roomier.

Dynafit adds a model aimed at the budding backcountry aficionado who isn’t quite ready to fully embrace the light is right paradigm, but does want a boot with solid downhill performance, Dynafit compatibility, and a comfortable fit. The Radical is reminiscent of the 4-buckle Titan, only with a new Motion Lock System that makes transitions fast, especially when combined with their Ultra Lock Strap System. Less obvious, but perhaps more important, the Radical has a roomier, more adaptable last than the TLT lines which favor low volume feet or require more bootfitting acumen than just molding the liner. The Radical will give Dynafit something to offer folks with wider feet who aren’t counting grams.


Fischer Vacuum Transalp Lite.

Fischer Vacuum Transalp Lite.

Fischer will add to their Ranger series with the TransAlp series, four models of AT boot that have 3-buckles, heat moldable liners, their proprietary heat moldable shells and genuine Dynafit inserts. Out of the box they all have a roomy 102mm last, but with vacuum molding that can expand or contract up to 5mm. For those with hard to fit feet, Fischer’s vacuum molding process offers an unique solution, although the vacuum equipment isn’t exactly cheap. And for those who aren’t ready to embrace the light is right mantra, but still want bigger and beefier, Fischer continues with the four models of their Ranger series, sans tech fittings.


K2 Minaret.

K2 Minaret.

K2′s return to the boot world was a hit, especially their backcountry models the Pinnacle 110 and 130, so the line expands with two new women’s models, the Minaret 90 and 110. These boots will come standard with tech inserts and a WTR pad in the sole, plus lower cuffs to accommodate ladies calves with shorter legs and a removeable spoiler at the back of the leg. A heat moldable Intuition® liner adds the finishing touch to a comfortable, out-of-the-box fit.


Quest Max BC 120.

Quest Max BC 120.

Salomon continues to expand their backcountry boot line with two more models. The Quest Pro TR 110 and Quest Max BC 120 will be equipped with 2-pin tech inserts and a WTR pad in the sole. The Quest Pro TR 110 uses polyolefine for the lower shell and cuff, with a 100mm width in the toe box and a thermomoldable liner. Salomon claims a cuff range of motion of 47 degrees. Not the highest, but good enough to be comfortable on a long climb or walking dry trail. By comparison the Quest Max BC 120 has a few degrees less motion, and is stiffer overall. It uses a Pebax lower shell with a narrower last of 98mm. Plus Salomon also adds a few more models with a walk feature and a WTR sole, the Quest Pro 130 and Pro 100 W for those who aren’t ready or willing to embrace the 2-pin tech system.


Scarpa F1 Evo.

Scarpa F1 Evo.

After demonstrating with the Freedom SL that they can produce a ski with downhill chops and an exceptional tour mode, Scarpa relaunches the ground breaking F1 as the F1 Evo, tipping scales at just over two-and-a-half pounds per boot. The forefoot is secured using a BOA lace system on the shell, and the cuff holds steady on weight with a beefed up cuff with zero metal ladders, only a buckled strap and a power-strap at the top. The ski/walk mode is triggered automatically based on whether the heel is latched in to a tech binding, or not.


At first look it appears Scott isn’t doing much new for next year except a few minor improvements to the Cosmos and Orbit, adding Roman numeral II to indicate revised tech inserts and a tongue that flexes easier for better touring comfort. However they are paying attention to the deficit in telemark offerings and will be introducing the only new 75mm telemark boot for next year, the Synergy. This boot is not to be confused with the former Garmont SynerG, but is more on par with a 4-buckle boot Garmont fans knew as the Gara Ener-G, or Genesis.


Cochise gets a new lower shell and color.

Cochise gets a new lower shell and color.

The popular Cochise has a completely reshaped lower shell for next season with a wider profile at the front, a lower instep, prepunched navicular and styloid zones and a bright orange paint job. The Cochise Pro 130 keeps the buckled power strap while Pro Lite gets an improved Palau liner that is on par with competitors Intuition ® liners. However, Tecnica continues to miss the mark by not including the buckled power strap on the Pro Lite because they think it adds 40 grams too much weight. If the Cochise Pro Lite were really in a super light, gram counting, rando race type boot I would agree. In reality, at nearly 4 pounds per boot (3¾ lbs.) an extra 40 grams to improve transition times and downhill power seems like a worthy addition.


The backcountry boot category continues to expand and offer new choices from every manufacturer who can afford to build ski boots. If you’re looking for a boot that offers better performance and a better fit, something out there is bound to fit your fancy. Finding a shop that provides all these options under one roof remains a dream, but at least the options exist.

© 2014

  • Dave

    Pro Ski and Mountain Service in North Bend WA carries BD, Dynafit, K2, Salomon, Scarpa, Scott and Tecnica. Every boot mentioned above and more in those brands. Highly recommended.