PHOTO: Reuben Krabbe
There’s a difference between backcountry ski boots made to climb uphill and those made to ski downhill. Many sacrifice one for the other. We selected the following ski boots for their excellent performance in both categories. Certainly, they are not as stiff as a hybrid or resort ski boot. Nor are they as light as the slippers used by ski-mo athletes. These are ski boots for long walks into the mountains, to ski fresh tracks in solitude with no one but your ski partners.
The F1 is anatomically dialed for a narrow- to medium-wide foot. The stock Intuition liner, when molded, fit perfectly in all the right spots. For such a lightweight boot, it performed superbly with rock-solid heel and instep hold via its Boa buckle. Yes, it's softer than other touring boots, but the flex feels stiffer than a 95 and the lateral stiffness and Carbon Core Construction allow for smooth, predictable turns. Easy and efficient, the boot offers 62 degrees of motion while skinning. —Erme Catino
Scarpa F1 W (Women’s)
The F1 W is a minimalist boot that maintains Scarpa's standard for high downhill performance while weighing a mere 1,077 grams/boot. At such a low weight, it's no surprise the F1 stood out from the crowd when it came to long slogs in the backcountry. A single buckle (on the cuff) and Boa lacing system (on the forefoot) let the F1 wrap snuggly around my foot, helping to retain energy when power is transferred and ensuring stability when I need it. Word to the wise: Pair this light boot with an equally light ski for best results. —Crystal Sagan
Dynafit TLT 7 Performance
The next evolution in the magic elf shoe is here. Upgrades from previous TLT designs include Master Step fittings, which replaced the toe welt on the shell with a crampon adapter. The fittings are five millimeters farther back under the boot sole providing a natural pivot point for improved control—something I noticed immediately while touring across firm snow. (The new heelpiece can now handle the DIN 16 of the Beast binding.) The 102-millimeter last has the same shape as the new Beast boot with a pre-punch over the instep. A new liner rises higher up the calf to avoid a low cuff feel, and the ultralock buckle has a micro adjustment, which was helpful in icy scrambles. —Erme Catino
Salomon MTN LAB
Unchanged from last season's debut, the MTN Lab has become the boot of choice for many backcountry skiers for its low weight and high performance. The MTN Lab's oversized pivot, 98-millimeter last with 120 flex, and forward lean based off the X-Max series give it superb downhill capabilities, and the 1,500-gram weight and quick transition Surelock mechanism is incredibly smooth on the skin track. The stock moldable liner is best in its class, and with a few fine-tune tweaks delivers the best one-boot quiver in the industry. —Erme Catino
Salomon MTN Explore W (Women’s)
The higher and farther the adventure, the better for the MTN Explore. This lightweight tour-specific boot leaves you with no excuses to cut your day short. A simple two-buckle design helps keep that weight low, and moldable liners make for happy feet (though my feet were content straight out of the box). Streamlined and well thought-out buckles on the cuff make transitioning from walk to ski a piece of cake. In one fluid motion the ski/walk toggle, near the top of the calf, flips horizontally allowing you to close the top buckle in the same movement that flips the toggle to ski mode. Slight bummer: the women's version of the MTN Explore (preceded by men's 130 and 110 flex models), is only available in a 90 flex.
Tecnica Zero G Guide Pro
The Zero G is a four-buckle touring boot with interchangeable soles for Dynafit-certified tech inserts. Initially, the 130 flex felt like a 115-120, but the Power Light Design—allowing the overlap boot to weigh 1,545 grams—combined with the Light Grid Triax inner cuff material packed some beef. I thought the moldable Ultra-Light Palau liner was too soft. In tour mode, the cuff disengaged via a metal-on-metal connection with 44 degrees of rearward motion—which includes a spring eliminating slop. It was lighter and more powerful than previous versions of the Cochise, with power transition and pop unlike other touring slippers. One note: the heel pocket was too big for my chicken calves. But this shouldn't necessarily deter you. With some minor adjustments, it will make a great boot in and out of bounds. —Erme Catino