The most important equipment purchase you will make, ski boots demand your time, consideration, and maybe a little bit of pain. But it's worth it to find the right boot. To help your quest, we asked five skiers to test the year's new crop of boots over the course of the winter to determine the best hybrid boots of the year.
Erme Catino: Based in the Wasatch, Catino appreciates a snug alpine boot that can turn on a dime, but with a progressive flex that responds through varied terrain. Narrow lasted boots work best, and his touring boots need to be able to walk for miles without hesitation on the down.
Ryan Rubino: With a medium wide foot and slightly higher instep, Rubino, who skis Vermont's Green Mountains, prefers a 98-100mm last, tight heel hold, and room for pesky sixth toes.
Matt Hansen: Out of his Jackson, Wyoming, home, Hansen's medium to narrow feet and high instep need boots that hike and skin, drive aggressively through variable snow, and can run for the bus.
Crystal Sagan: Based in Boulder, Colorado, Sagan, who alternates between resort and backcountry, has a low volume, narrow-ish foot and often throws an extra shim under the footbed to take up a bit of space.
Kenzie Morris: From Tahoe City, California, Morris prefers a 98mm last and enough space to fit a medium to high instep with narrow ankles. With a background in racing, she'll happily take performance over comfort.
(Click on boot to skip down to review):
LANGE XT Free Pro
FISCHER Ranger Free 130
ROSSIGNOL Alltrack Elite 130 LT
FULL TILT Ascendant
LANGE XT 110 Free W LV
ROSSIGNOL Alltrack Elite 100 LT
ROXA R3W 105 TI
The XT Free Pro is a juiced-up version of the Lange XT 130 Freetour. Its 140 flex was fluid and more robust than the XT 130, and combined with its narrow 97mm last, it felt like home to my narrow feet as it powered through the resort.
Equipped with Lange's Dual Core shell [ultra-light Grilamid lower and high performance Polyolefin on the cuff], the innovative construction utilizes soft and stiff plastic where they are needed most: stiff along spine and lower shell, and soft along the overlap to provide easier entry, less bite on the instep, and fewer tears when pulling them off in cold weather.
The XT Pro inspired confidence while navigating a whiteout Alta (i.e. when you have to trust your feet as you ski by brail), and the built-in spoiler made the boot ski aggressively down the fall line.
The liner was comfortable yet burly and is a nod to the manufacturers who have been addressing this across the board. Its patented V-Lock walk-mode system needed a bit of forward flexing to snap back into ski mode from touring, and strides with ample rearward mobility (47 degrees of motion) for short tours, but may not be the best for super long days on the skin track since it weighs 1900 grams.
However, if you need one boot to tour a little [the boot comes stock with Alpine and Walk To Ride Soles along with Dynafit Certified Inserts], boot pack to stashes, and shred the resort with the feel of an alpine plug, then look no further.
There was a time when 1500-gram touring boots were the standard when hybrids weighed substantially more and toured less efficiently. (Remember the Black Diamond Factor? The boot that started the hybrid craze back in 2009 weighed more than 2000 grams).
All of that seems to be changing now--touring specific boots are lighter and four-buckle do-it-all boots, like the Fischer Ranger Free, are blending the category lines. At 1540 grams, this four-buckle hybrid was svelte on the uptrack and on the descent.
Like other touring boots, it has a notch behind the cuff that opens for touring, but Fischer managed to make this unhinging lever next to the top buckle--so when you open the lever [similar to opening a boot buckle] a flap inside the cuff unhinges, allowing the cuff to tour with 55 degrees of touring motion.
This design was incredibly easy to operate. Furthermore, the lever had tension that differentiated it from the top buckle when snapping down to ski.
The Ranger Free felt locked in while skiing, with not much play in the flex. The shell construction of Grilamid and carbon-reinforced cuff provided a smooth flex off the shin, and it handled everything from mixed icy conditions, powder, and skiing through whiteouts.
It surprised me with its lateral power akin to an alpine boot and sturdy flex. (The Ranger Free also comes in a 120).
This 100mm lasted boot is accommodating to a wide range of skiers. The heel pocket carving wasn't box-like--keeping my narrow-lasted foot secure, and the breakpoint didn't leave too much of a gap. The liner out of the box was also comfortable yet stiff and supportable.
Though the power strap was paper-thin and I thought I was going to rip it, but if you add a booster strap it could be an everyday crusher at the resort and outside the gates.
Rossignol's Alltrack LT Elite 130 is a major upgrade over previous years' Alltrack boots, which all seems soft and heavy. But the new 130 flex, combined with a narrow last, snugged up around my foot and provided edge-to-edge power that was spot on and comparable to Rossi's storied alpine heritage.
The Grilamid plastic shell follows a similar trend to Lange's dual injection technology, providing power and support where it's needed yet maintains the lightweight and supple feel you need when outside the gates.
Weighing in at 1690 grams, the new Alltrack walks the line of a resort and backcountry boot, and is well suited for someone who rides the resort yet will walk for a few laps of vert maybe once a week. The walk mode has a reasonable articulation of 50 degrees--and handled a couple nasty icy side hills--but it really shined on the descent as it powered through variable terrain with ease.
The 98mm last also seems like it can handle a wide range of feet, and I found that I needed a bit more heel filler to perfectly set my foot, so don't let the narrow last frighten you. The new shell and upgraded Thinsulate liner brings Rossi's hybrid boot game up to snuff with the rest of the market.
Full Tilt enters the hybrid game with the Ascendant, a three-buckle, three-piece shell now available in a walk mode and tech fittings. It's comparable to the Dalbello Lupo, though doesn't have the same downhill power.
The incomparable stock Intuition liner and Grilamid shell can be heat-molded for a precise fit, and the tongue is removable for more efficient touring. The user-friendly walk mode provides 40 degrees of motion; 60 degrees without the tongue.
Skiability is compromised, however, as there appears to be some give due to the walk mechanism. But it remains a great option for Full Tilt fans who want one boot to do everything, albeit in a less aggressive package.
The Lange XT Free 110 W LV stole the show in women's boots this year. Lightweight and powerful, the XT Free is a well-rounded hybrid, combining power for downhill skiing and tourability with a walk mode providing 43 degrees of cuff rotation.
Construction consists of Lange’s Dual Core technology and an ultralight Grilamid, which incorporates two different durometers of plastic (hard and soft) allowing for more rebound and flex control.
The softer plastic on the instep is intended to make easier to get your foot in and out, while the more rigid plastic transmits power to the skis. Still, this boot was a bit harder to get on and off than other boots but the unparalleled performance made this a non-issue once we were on snow.
Measuring a 97mm last, the fit is surprisingly seamless around the foot, with a superior tight hold around the heel while the rest of the foot felt comfortable. This tight but comfortable fit translated to an outstanding performance and responsiveness.
The flex and lateral support was even from the top to the bottom of the shin, making the boot feel great with a good amount of consistent and powerful pressure throughout the cuff.
Weighing in at only 1500 grams, the XT Free felt very light with a user-friendly walk mode offering 43 degrees of cuff rotation. Coming with Dynafit certified inserts, this boot will work with both downhill and backcountry setups with no compromise to either.
The strongest feature of these boots is the performance and ability to rip in any conditions. When testing this boot, I felt like it skied confidently anywhere on the mountain and snow conditions were not an issue.
If there were any concerns, it would be how firm the boot felt during a small landing through the sole. The Lange XT Free 110 W LV is a clear choice for any confident female skier whether they use this boot in the resort or the backcountry.
The unique design and standout color choice make this boot a fun and strong choice for any female skier. The AllTrack offers the minimum shell wall thickness for reduction of weight with the most effective power and support.
Weighing in at 1690 grams, the boot is light but not compromised on the downhill. The walk mode offers 50 degrees of rotation in walk mode and has the increased benefit of metal-on-metal locking mechanism to keep it from noodling through the mank.
The walk mode felt efficient for uphill travel, but after a while, the liner did feel as if there was a bit of movement in the shell.
Coming with Dynafit Certified tech inserts it is ready for touring or alpine bindings. Like the Lange (Rossi and Lange are owned by the same company), the Alltrack Elite has Dual Core construction with two different durometers of plastic supplying more rebound and flex control.
The softer plastic around the cuff and over the forefoot makes for easier in and out while the more rigid plastic in the key support areas transmits power to the skis.
The 98 last is comfortable and, though it's a skinny fit, felt a bit roomy over the forefoot, a positive in my book. This offered a relaxed fit and had little pressure points right out of the box.
I loved not only how comfortable the liner was but also the unique floral pattern along the inside of the liner. Lined with Thinsulate Platinum insulation, it is a warm choice for any female with slightly colder feet.
After some runs through varied conditions, the boot felt a little soft, making them an ideal boot for the gal who prefers a slightly more forgiving flex and feel.
With the versatile three-piece construction and great uphill performance, the Roxa R3W proved to be an excellent touring boot with surprising skiability. The three-piece construction--known as Ultralight Caribo incorporating the shell, cuff, and tongue--offered a smooth flex that's hard to get in a two-piece overlap.
In walk mode, the range of motion was outstanding in a supportive and lightweight shell. The liner is composed of a heat-moldable I.R. Intuition Power Tongue. Integrated into this liner is a hinge feature around the natural bend in the ankle to improve the hinge point during uphill exercises.
For those longer boot packs, rocky ridgelines or, yes, parking lots, GripWalk soles allow for more support and traction. The top buckle and booster strap are operated as one to secure the upper cuff and tongue.
The lower two buckles are a combination of ladders and cables to decrease weight and wrap the shell. The cables proved to be a bit tricky to assemble, but once in place they held solidly with a latching clip over the ladder.
While skiing, the boot had even pressure across the shin and enabled a natural, balanced stance. It held a consistent forward pressure through the turn as well as maintained a good level of lateral support. Utilizing Biofit technology, the shell is pre-formed to relieve pressure points in the common trouble areas, and it had sufficient wiggle room in the toe box.
However, the area over the forefoot did feel more pressure, especially while riding the chair. This increase in downward pressure however did translate to good control and a precise transition of power to skis.
The secure ankle grip comes from the 45-degree heel lock buckle that functions independently to secure the heel in both hike and ski mode. Coming with Dynafit and Kingpin certified inserts, the Roxa R3W is a great option for the backcountry-minded skier.