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 resort 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 last- ed boots work best, and his touring boots need to be able to walk for miles with- out 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.
SALOMON S/MAX 120
HEAD Kore 1
ATOMIC Hawx Prime
DALBELLO DS 130
K2 Recon 130
ROXA Element 120 IR
NORDICA Promachine 130
TECNICA Mach1 Heat
ATOMIC Hawx Prime 105 S W
DALBELLO DS 110 W
HEAD Nexo LYT 110 W G
K2 Luv 110
NORDICA Promachine 115 W
The Salomon S-Max 120 was unmatched in all conditions. From firm snow, powder with a zipper crust, to charging down Baldy Chutes at Alta, the S-Max annihilated everything and arced turns with style. It felt so good out of the box that at one point throughout the day I thought I had swapped back to my personal boots (which are impeccably dialed with a foam-injected liner).
The fit was as if my foot was sucked back into the heel pocket, leaving no room for lift and wrapped in an anatomical position. The heat moldable shell in a 26.5 comes stock at a 98mm last but can accommodate up to 104mm once it's fit and molded by a bootfitter. The flex and breakpoints were smooth and locked in, allowing me to roll my ankle into turns, and without hesitation continue to drive faster down the fall line or transition quickly around variable conditions.
Constructed with Coreframe, which utilizes a mono-injected PU plastic blend with an internal carbon frame, it was the best alpine boot I have ever tested.
Everything within the boot was well thought out: from the placement of the powerstrap that only curls around half of the shell (which I found to deliver more power and less slop off the top end); the incredibly snug seamless liner; and the placement of the cuff pivot that provided a well-rounded flex. Finally, the sense amplifier material encompassing the upper cuff, which is a PU plastic with an additive that provided smooth turn initiations in variable conditions, similar to that of a cabrio design, but with the power of a four-buckle thoroughbred. I just wanted to keep skiing it, but eventually the lifts stopped spinning.
Utilizing their success of blending Graphene (single-atom-thick sheets of carbon that are incredibly strong) with traditional laminates, this year Head launches their potion from the award-winning Kore skis to the Kore 1 boot.
The Kore 1 looks like a traditional four-buckle shell yet weighs only 1560g—coming stock with Walk To Ride soles and Dynafit Certified Inserts, and utilizes a standard walk mode latch on the spine of the cuff for uphill mobility that provides 45 degrees of touring motion.
What really sets the boot apart is the stock liner, which can be heat molded around the ankle, and further customized with Liquid Fit—a gel-like substance that can be added or removed to secure the fit around the ankle and heel pocket, providing a foam injection-like feel.
The new shell material felt very progressive off the front end, but when thrown into widely variable conditions, it almost felt like it hinged too easily. On the skin track this hybrid boot cruised, with a natural pivot and locked in easily for the descent. The 100mm last was both anatomical and comfortable right out of the box, and my foot was dialed in via the Liquid Fit.
The Atomic Hawx Ultra and Atomic Hawx Ultra XTD have taken top honors in boot tests the past few years, including the Skier's Choice from POWDER two years in a row. The narrow last combined with a 130-flex power became a top-seller amongst ski shops. This season, Atomic takes their Hawx success and literally widens its audience by providing a 100mm-lasted version called the Hawx Prime.
The Hawx Prime is a standard alpine boot, without a walk mode, that had a smooth and stout flex. As a skier with narrow feet, I had to clamp it down hard to let it run, but in doing so I was impressed with its ability to steer through variable cut-up snow and its powerful edge-to-edge transitions when railing down groomers.
The Hawx Prime is completely customizable with a Memory Fit 3D liner with 3M Thinsulate Insulation. Its shell technology, called Prolite, utilizes plastics in key locations for strength and lightweight feel (the alpine boot weighs only 1765 grams). Bottom line, if you wanted to ski the Hawx Ultra but couldn’t get your foot into it, then the Hawx Prime heeds that call.
Bi-injected shells are all the craze with alpine boots, and Dalbello enters the mix with their new DS 130. Dubbed the 'Power Cage,' it provided similar attributes: stiff and powerful throughout the cuff, but lighter and more user-friendly along the instep. The comfort was noticeable right out of the box, but it accompanied a powerful boot that charged around the resort.
Following several seasons in a Krypton 130, I was surprised to find the DS 130's flex to be just as smooth and predictable. The boot felt secure around the midfoot—even if it was wider than I'm used to at 100mm last, and it handled hardpack, bumps, groomers, and even some sketchiness near the Keyhole at Snowbird with ease. The spoiler of the boot is supported with an ABS plate integrated within the cuff, and when combined with the burly wide power strap it had ample power and rebound between turns.
The DS 130 also has the ability to micro-adjust specifics like forward lean, cuff canting, along with a heat-moldable shell and liner—taking the benefits and feel of the three-piece Krypton and placing them in a more accommodating four-buckle shell fit. —Erme Catino
Last: 98, 100mm
The K2 Recon will make you want to hit jumps, hammer a mogul field, and go full throttle down your favorite groomer. Its low weight makes it incredibly agile and quick, while a robust and progressive flex means you can crank high-speed turns without it buckling under pressure. K2 designed the boot with a thermo polyurethane (TPU) blend of four plastics that are optimized in different parts of the boot.
For instance, the instep has a soft plastic for easier ingress and egress, while a stiff chassis and spine keep things strong. The liner is heat-moldable and feels fat and cushy out of the box.
So while it fits nicely after a good bake, the potential for an early pack-out is significant. Overall, K2 knocked it out of the park with this lightweight, powerful boot.
For some skiers Roxa, a family-run operation out of Asolo, Italy, is still a new name in the ski boot game. Many of the models have a three-piece cabrio design with an optional Power Wrap Intuition liner, much like another company that many people are familiar with (Dalbello).
I have seen Roxa develop over the years and with the addition of Matt Titus, a very seasoned boot designer, they have come a long way. If you need any more validation that Roxa knows what they are doing, just take a look at what Glen Plake is skating around in these days and you’ll see a bright pair of Roxas.
The Element 120 is the top dog in Roxa's freeski line. It uses their R3 Next Gen Cabrio construction, which incorporates advanced CAD Design and 3D prototyping. This allows engineers to optimize structural integrity while minimizing excess material.
That, along with using ultralight polymers, like Grilamid, this boot comes in at a svelte 1550 grams. Lacing it up, you have three buckles, a beefy power strap, and the Intuition Power Wrap liner. The middle buckle, which wrenches your heel down at a 45-degree angle, gives confidence looking down steep stuff and dropping into the terrain park.
The Intuition Power Wrap liner is 100 percent heat moldable, the forward lean has three settings, and you can change the boot from stiff to soft, allowing you to dial in the fit, stance, and flex should be easy for a myriad of different skiers.
The feel and performance of this boot was solid all around. True to most cabrio designs, it has a great heel hold and a comfy forefoot. The instep is a little on the lower side, but the biggest drawback of this boot might be its shelf appeal. The sublimated graphic came out muddled, as they often do, and the actual feel of the buckles and boot overall was not inspiring.
But, when the Element 120 was on and you had the stiffness set to 'rad,' it skied like a high-end piece of equipment. There is still room for Roxa to improve as a boot company, but they are well on their way to being a player with some of the top brands.
The Nordica ProMachine 130 is everything you would expect from a top of the line ski boot and more. To start, it looks like a freakin' Lamborghini inside and out; immediately you're thinking this thing is fast and powerful. The ProMachine 130 is made to be beaten, torn down, rebuilt, and beaten again.
A screwdriver and Allen key are all you need to replace any part of the boot. Hell, even the rubber GripWalk soles are made by Michelin, and they know a thing or two about traction. They are by far my favorite walkable soles and make getting to the bar a breeze, even though it does not come with a walk mode.
The power strap, or as Nordica has named it, the Power Driver, deserves some mention as it gives good, even shin pressure to the front of the boot. The interior of the Promachine continues to resemble that of a sports car with the liner's upper covered in faux carbon, the ankle pocket covered in cork, and the toe box lined with shimmery reflective material much like an engine bay.
Because of all these features, this would be a great set of boots for anyone who spends a lot of time on the hill or just wants a solid pair of boots. Strapping into the boot is very satisfying, as the buckles make a confident closure 'thud' and your heel is locked in due to the 3D ankle pocket that is molded into the boot.
Don’t let the 98mm last scare you. Its got plenty of room up front to be comfortable for those with medium-volume feet. And if things don’t line up inside the boot, then you can heat mold the liner or use Nordica's Infrared Heating technology to make quick and easy shell modifications. After my test ride, I'm confident the Promachine 130 is going to be one of the best boots of the year.
With a combination of performance, fit, and warmth, the Mach1 Heat will be a top option for aggressive skiers who get cold feet. With a thermic heating element built within the customizable liner, the Mach1 Heat means no more frigid toes, even during the coldest days.
This heating system is a full integration heating unit built into the liner. In skiing this boot, I could barely feel the impact of these additional elements. The liner felt seamless with the exception of a more dense region in the upper calf, which caused a slight pressure zone, but was never uncomfortable.
The easy to use heating control components are hidden away in the upper corners of the liner: an on/off button, including three heat settings on one side, and a hideaway USB charger and battery in the other. Specifically designed for women, the liner is composed of Celliant and Lambswool. This converts body heat into infrared energy increasing circulation, oxygen, and blood flow, therefore improving performance and thermal regulation for quicker recovery.
After skiing this boot for a few hours it was hard to stop.
Utilizing C.A.S. (Custom Adaptive System) technology, the shell’s anatomical shape matches the foot allowing for a better fit out of the box. The fit felt secure with no pressure points incorporating a nice rounded toe box. There is an even grip around the calf and shin with a solid hold on the ankles translating to a high level of control on skis and a power transfer increasing downhill performance.
Specifically for women, an additional 3 millimeters get added to the height of the spine, and an altered forward lean is designed for a women-specific translating to better performance while decreasing fatigue. The stance felt natural and the boot pressured well through turns feeling as good on the first run as it did on the last.
With women-specific integrations and the added ability to warm cold feet, the Mach MV Heat 95 W proves to be a strong option that not only skis well but allocates for longer days on hill.
At 25 percent lighter than its predecessor—the Hawx Ultra—the Hawx Prime brings the fit and performance you'd expect from a high-end 100mm last boot without the weight. Starting with a slim profile, Prolite Technology cuts the weight by adding reinforcement only where strength is needed, allowing for a thinner shell in areas where energy is not transferred.
The resulting boot is streamlined and efficient, finding the perfect balance between power and comfort. An asymmetrical backbone runs along the spine of the boot and acts as a lightning rod for energy, sending power to the ski's edge for increased responsiveness. Forward lean is easily adjusted with the turn of a screw (13-, 15-, or 17-degrees), and a removable shim at the calf adapts fit to larger or smaller calves as needed.
Constructed of TrueFlexPU (unique to Atomic), the shell keeps a consistent flex despite varying temperatures and holds modifications better than traditional PU.
Customize the fit of MemoryFit 3D Platinum liner and praise the warmth of their 3M Thinsulate Insulation on cold days. The fur-like liner is soft to the touch but let's be honest, not really necessary (and by no means the worst offender). Still, these boots are perfect for long bell-to-bell days throughout winter and the price is right.
The DS 110 is the standout of this season's Dalbello lineup, thanks to an overall low weight and some of the most efficient power transfer of this women's boot roundup. Right out of the gate, the DS's power stood out, sending a noticeable burst of energy right down to the ski's edge.
A PU upper cuff and lower chassis provide a strong foundation, further enhanced by the four-buckle, overlap design and beefy 40mm power strap, while the bi-injected Power Cage of the lower chassis (a hard PU frame is later combined with a second injection) creates a lighter, stronger boot.
Instant Fit liner is designed to be skiable right out of the box, and a snug-fitting heel cup keeps the fit dialed—ensuring energy is not wasted—while a roomier toe box gives you a bit more space for circulation (aka warmth) in the forefoot.
We found the DS to be better suited to medium volume tootsies, but had no problem shoring up the fit for a lower volume foot with an extra shim underfoot. Bottom line: The DS instilled confidence from the first turn.
Head is taking fit in a whole new direction—liquid. Designed to form an optimal custom fit around your heel and ankle (a crucial fit area when it comes to boot performance), Head's Liquid Fit liner allows your bootfitter to inject paraffin directly into the liner, which features an already padded heel pocket to help lock it in.
Once injected into the liner, a near-perfect fit is created in just a few minutes. (Worth mentioning: Material is also removable should you care to make an adjustment later.) The Nexo's shell is equally impressive, with a graphene-infused PU to help hold shell shape as well as modifications.
The 96mm last (in 24.5) fit great on low-volume feet without major modifications, and larger-footed ladies will be happy to know the progressive last increases with mondo size (26.5 features a 100mm last). On the flip side, we found the upper cuff to be a bit on the softer side unless the Nexo's top buckle and unimpressive power strap were completely cranked down, which the 28mm of range on the top buckle helped dial in. Either way, the Nexo's new technology is worth exploring.
Last: 98, 100mm
The K2 Luv 110 make you feel so light on your feet you'll want to do a happy dance before you even leave the parking lot (we did). The Powerlite shell is designed to maximize your bootfitter's options for customization while cutting out extra weight where it isn't needed. The result is a boot that is extra agile and allows for good snow feel.
Performance is optimized thanks to a mix of four types of Thermoplastic Polyurethane (TPU), each with varying degrees of stiffness and thickness depending on their location in the shell. The Powerfuse Spyne boasts the stiffest TPU for maximum flex control and power transfer, followed by the lower chassis which uses a similarly stiff plastic to aid in power transfer and torsional rigidity.
A super soft version covers the top of the instep, making getting into and out of the boot a piece of cake. Adjust calf height as needed for a better fit and more drive, or have your bootfitter examine as part of an overall fit. (Worth it.) Ding: On extra-warm spring days we noticed some softer parts of the shell feeling, well, soft. But it didn't make our corn skiing any less fun.
The Promachine is inspired by Nordica's race boots, bringing a high-performance fit and power to non-racers looking for a boot they can charge in. The beauty is the Pro Machine is still comfortable. At a 115 flex, these are the stiffest women's alpine boots we tested, and they don't mess around when it comes to power transfer.
A higher cuff allows for increased support and leverage while extra-stiff polyurethane plastic along the spine ensures that the power you're driving into the boot finds its way to the ski. Out of the box, the 98mm last was great for this tester's lower volume foot. But for those with fit issues, the Pro Machine has a completely customizable 3D Cork Fit liner and easily modified (by a boot fitter) Infrared Polyurethane shell.
Michelin GripWalk soles kept us right side up in a slippery parking lot and offered extra traction on rocky spring bootpacks, and the performance delivered by the boot was everything we were hoping it would be with a precise responsiveness and intuitive feel that made us forget we were even testing boots to begin with. Eco-Perk: Primaloft liners are made with 55 percent post-consumer recycled materials.