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The backcountry explosion injected new life into boot tech. Freeride touring is the buzzword, and alpine and touring brands alike are jockeying for a piece of a market that values lightness, tourability, and downhill performance equally. Now innovations in boot plastics are letting companies shave even more weight while improving performance. Has the Holy Grail of light and burly been achieved? Manufacturers are closer than ever.
Last Width: 103 MM | $850
3,430 Grams per pair (size 27)
The Quadrant’s revamped liner retains the Boa tightening system but now has a plastic tongue designed to evenly distribute flex pressure. The shell sports softer, tour-friendly plastic in front and a stiffer frame in back and around the lower for downhill power.
Last Width: 100 MM | $850
3,632 grams per pair (Size 26)
This new Glen Plake–designed three-piece boot has two key features: a second hinge point on the tongue above the instep to provide increased cuff mobility in walk mode, and hard-plastic lugs placed in the Vibram sole to interface better with frame-style bindings. Plus, once locked into ski mode, it has that sweet, smooth-flexing cabrio feel on the descent.
Last Width: 98 MM | $1,000
2,100 grams per pair (size 27.5)
He-man cliff hucker? This is not your boot. But for a tiny sacrifice in strength, it provides huge gains in tourability. Remove the tongue before ascending for easy striding and then replace it for descending power. It’s light, stiff enough, and has a generous range of motion and an ingenious walk/ski mechanism integrated into the top buckle. The carbon-cuffed TLT5 has never met a trailhead it didn’t like.
Last Width: 103 mm | $1,000
3,180 grams per pair (size 27.5)
Dynafit pioneered the use of Grilamid plastic in its randonnée race boots. Realizing the material’s capabilities, it quickly put Grilamid in other products, like the powerful new Vulcan. This Eric Hjorleifson–inspired boot is a beast thanks to a robust carbon cuff and 45-degree instep buckle. The removable tongue takes some practice and adds a step to transitions, but it allows for a huge range of motion on the tour. The real beauty is the Ultra Lock System. Close the top buckle, and a burly metal pin securely locks the cuff for the descent. Open the buckle, and the cuff pivots freely. No more walk/ski mechanism to break.
Last Width: 103.5 mm | $700
2,900 grams per pair (size 27.5)
According to product developer Paul Parker, Garmont’s newest entry into the burgeoning group of freeride-inspired touring boots is the “lightest four-buckle ski-mountaineering boot on the market.” That’s thanks largely to its all-Grilamid construction. Grilamid nylon is exceptionally elastic, light, and stiff, which allowed Parker’s team to incorporate strategically placed ribs of thicker plastic to increase rigidity. In terms of performance, the brand built on its celebrated Radium, and when we tested it last spring at Mt. Hood, we were bowled over by the feather-light Cosmos’s ability to transfer power to the ski. It’s comfortable, too: the thermoformable liner fits well even when unmolded and the tough walk/ski mechanism allows for a natural stride.
Last Width: 102 MM | $899
1,900 grams per pair (size 27)
In tour mode, the Spitfire’s ankle movement is so unrestricted we were able to bike to the trailhead in it. Ski mode is plenty stiff for anyone accustomed to skiing in light AT boots. Transitioning between modes requires only one quick movement.
Last Width: 101 MM | $599
2,744 grams per pair (size 25)
While its new sibling, the Gea RS, is stiffer and more aggressive, the original Gea is proven on both the skin track and the descent. Its three-piece shell and medium fit make for a natural- and precise-feeling boot that can also be used inbounds. Plus, at $100 less, this workhorse is more budget-friendly.
Last Width: 101 mm | $699
3,140 grams Per Pair (size 27)
This season, Scarpa took its immensely popular Maestrale boot, built it with polyamide instead of Pebax, beefed up the buckles, and ended up with the Maestrale RS, a significantly more aggressive version that weighs a scant 108 ounces per pair more than the original. The stiffer polyamide shell slightly reduces the range of motion but delivers as much power as most alpine boots in exchange for only a few degrees of range of motion. The walk/ski mechanism feels a little flimsy, but its ease of use, paired with the four-buckle design, makes this boot a solid choice for aggressive alpine purists looking for a backcountry weapon.
Last Width: 100 MM | $800
3,220 Grams per pair (size 26.5)
Tecnica brings an impressive
offering to a category hitherto owned by companies with touring origins. The Cochise Pro Light is built from a unique Triax plastic noted for its strength-to-weight ratio and uniform flex no matter the temperature. Traditionalists will love the boot’s ability to drive the ski, but the overlap construction comes at the expense of some range of motion in walk mode. Using an Allen wrench, you can swap the tech-compatible, AT-norm sole blocks with alpine-norm sole blocks and click the boots into your resort skis. It melds a lightweight tourer and a versatile alpine boot into one.