Wednesday, December 10, 2014

AT Ski Boot Choice

Hey MrPulldown,

I was hoping I could get a little advice from you on equipment.  The thought of touring as many miles as we are going to do in my downhill boots doesn’t sound like much fun to me so I’m considering buying a backcountry setup.  My thought was to purchase boots new since finding the right size would be hard to do used and then perhaps saving some money by getting skis/bindings used.  I picked up a few boots on sale at REI last week.  The one that feels/fits the best is the Dynafit Neo Px CR, which I got on sale for $445:

The other boots I tried were the Dynafit  TLT6 which were a little smaller volume and didn’t feel quite as comfortable but were a little lighter.  Much more expensive, $599 on sale.

I also tried a pair of Atomic Waymaker Tour 90 but they didn’t fit and weighed a ton.  Definitely the least expensive at $300 on sale.

So, I wanted to get your take on the boot situation and also ask you about skis.  I’m 5’9”, 165lb and nothing special when it comes to skiing ability.  I can get down most anything that’s groomed and really enjoy going off into the trees but keep it pretty mellow.  I’d like to get a setup that works for backcountry/touring but would like to be able to go to resorts occasionally as well.  Since I’m not that advanced and really don’t ski all that often, I think this one-size-fits–all approach might be fine for me?  Plus, my current downhill equipment is so outdated and beat up that it should be replaced and I’d rather spend the money on backcountry.  What length and width of ski would you think I should search for?

Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Skier Dude

Hey Ski Dude,

In the beginning (about 15 year ago), there were only three buckle floppy plastic alpine touring boots.  As skis became bigger and the backcountry became a draw to enter the sport of skiing (skiers became less skilled), the desire for beefier boot happened.  Now days boot design seems to be very polar: tour, or freerider.  The first two boots (Dynafit) listed would be of the lightweight tour side, and the Atomic the heavier free ride.  

Since the Dynafit Neos fit the best I would recommend those of the three options.  And here is a little more on why.

Tongue- Not only is it something that licks it is something that defines the basic structure of a ski boot.  The two most prevalent type are: Forward and overlapping.  The forward type is more back country friendly. Not only does it give a more gradual flex, it is easier to enter and exist, including ease of removing and installing the inner boot.  Overlap type boots are stiffer and provides better down hill performance at the price of touring comfort and weight.

Sole- A  standard AT sole does not work on a standard downhill binding.  There is a standardized friction standard between the sole and the bind in order for the release mechanism to work properly.  A new crop of AT ski boots have interchangeable soles that can both accommodate "tech" type AT bindings as well as standard DIN DH bindings. Most non-tech AT binding can accept both alpine and AT soles (Fritchie, Silvretta,...).

Sizing- Ski boots are typically sized in the Mondo point scale.  Shells are sized every whole size while inner boots are sized every half size.  Two fingers behind the heel is the standard for shell only fit.  For the inner boot the thickness of the material has alot to do with fit and comfort.  A thick inner boot might require custom fitting to fit right.  The sole length marking on the outside of the shell can give a decent indication of inner boot thickness.  Of the same nominal size which of the shells is the largest. The objective is to have a good fitting boot that is not too floppy. A good boot fitter can make a tight boot feel right, but not a lose boot feel tight.  Boot fitting runs between $50-100.  Being many miles from home in bad fitting boots in the past, the lack of pain is worth any price.  

Cant and Cuff Lock-The wider the range of flex the better.  The more forward the downhill lean angle the better.  Multiply forward lean angles allows for more options at the cost of simplicity.

Backcounty vs Resort- The balance between backcountry and resort uses, hangs precariously.  Many want a one ski quiver that can handle all their skiing needs.  Armed with the trickiest backcountry gear they hit the resorts.  Makes sense if you are only going to have one ski.  But if you are going to hammering out the vertical mileages, you better have a rig that can handle it. Old DH ski gear is cheap and bomb proof.  Punishing your AT gear at the resort uncalled for.      


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