We all remember rear-entry boots from back in the day—and chances are, we also remember why they went away. (They were about as effective—and as comfortable—as a pair of slippers.) But what if you could have the comfort of a rear-entry and the performance of a traditional overlap? Enter Nordica’s HF, a reimagined versatile offering that’s making skiing more accessible than ever.
Whether you’re new to skiing or a lifelong skier who doesn’t have the mobility you used to (let’s face it—getting cold ski boots on or off is hard), the new HF boot promises to keep it easy while allowing you to either improve or maintain your skills. “The HF is for folks who want a good ski boot that’s easy to get on and gets them out there doing what they love,” says Ethan Korpi, North American product manager. It comes in 3 women’s models and 4 mens models with a roomy 102 mm last that range from 75 to 120. One of them also boasts a heated liner that’s controllable from your cell phone.
To understand why this boot is so revolutionary, it’s important to understand why the old rear-entries offered such poor performance. A ski boot’s main job is to transfer power from your foot to the edge of the ski. The more seamless the transfer, the more responsive your ski will be (which is why the highest performing boots tend to be the least comfortable). The rear-entries of yore were plenty comfy, but they didn’t snug up the way an overlap does, so your foot swam around in there like a fish in a bucket. In short, your skis just couldn’t feel what your foot was doing.
The HF, on the other hand, mechanically solves all those power transfer problems. The first notable construction innovation is a gusset in the front of the shin, which is a 2 cm gap in the shell that, when buckled, reduces the volume of the boot and wraps around your foot. And, in addition to the main rear buckle, which tightens the cuff and can be flipped up or down Hands Free with your foot or the tip of a ski pole, Nordica designed a buckle over the forefoot to keep your heel snugly where it belongs. (The 120 flex model also boasts a power strap.)
“A heel pocket is the cockpit of the boot—if you don’t have connectivity, you’re never going to feel secure or be able to drive the ski,” says Korpi.
The liner, too, is an important innovation. Whereas the liners of old rear-entry boots acted more like a couch cushion than a gas pedal, the HF’s liner borrows technology from both high-performance race and alpine-touring boots. Made from hand-stitched cork and leather, the liner boasts stretchy material in the instep that allows for ease of entry while heat-moldable cork grips your ankle and keeps the heel in its pocket.
The result is a boot that will either allow newcomers to stay comfortable or keep older skiers pursuing their passion. And, judging by the sales numbers and the customer feedback, it’s struck a huge chord in the market.
“We’ve been selling out since we introduced them last season,” Korpi says. “In the first 12 months, we got all kinds of letters thanking us. These folks had written off skiing because they weren’t able to get the boots to work for them anymore. We’ve been able to allow them to continue doing what they love—click into a pair of bindings, feel the wind in their face, and just enjoy winter again.”