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Choosing a touring boot for 2014

A few years ago the process of choosing AT Boots was pretty straightforward. There were only a few brands and they all pretty much offered a heavy boot for skiers looking to charge hard down the mountain and a light boot for longer touring in the backcountry. Now there are more players breaking into the backcountry world, from techy Euro manufacturers to straight Alpine companies. Everyone has a new boot that is the lightest, best skiing, best walking, (insert superlative here) on the market.

At Cripple Creek Backcountry we have done our homework and we have whittled the selection process down. Bare in mind we are a BACKCOUNTRY shop so we always give an edge to those boots that are on the lighter side and that will give you full enjoyment of your days out touring. If you are looking for that boot that is 90% inbounds, but can walk up the occasional ridge at the resort there are plenty of alpine shops with that offering. Below are a few tips that we have discovered through years of boot fitting both in the Alpine world and the backcountry.

Boot Weight (g) Description
Dynafit PDG 790 SkiMo race boot at entry level price, but high level performance
Scarpa Alien 850 Outstanding transition time, ultra light and fast
La Sportiva Spitfire 1190 Racing to big line ski mountaineering, new innovative design 
Dynafit TLT 6 1240 Racing and ski mountaineering, warmer and wider than old TLT5
La Sportiva Spectre 1445 From walk to ski to the buckles a general great design
Dynafit One PX-TF 1450 Good for everything up and down, one boot to do it all
Scarpa Maestrale RS 1571 Stiffer boot for hard changing still tours great
Dynafit Vulcan 1590 Best ski performance, one buckle tour mode, 60 degree articulation
Scarpa Freedom SL 1799 A full on "Freeride" boot with an incredible walk mode.

AT Boot Tips

Choose a light boot: The adage 1 pound on your foot is 5 on your back is an understatement in the AT world. It takes a lot of steps to earn your turns and you don’t want to lift an extra pound on each one of them. New materials have made AT Boots better skiing than ever before so trust a light one to do the job.

The buckles they do nothing: Don’t get sucked in by thinking you need a four-buckle boot. If you buy a boot that fits correctly you will barely need to tighten the buckles around the toes at all. There are plenty of two buckle boots that can drive even your fattest touring boards so save the weight.

Flex ratings are arbitrary: A 130 flex boot sounds impressive, but that is only consistent within a manufacturer. There is no standardization for this, so once you switch brands you can throw the rating right out the window. Flexing into the front of the boot in the store doesn’t help either. New lightweight plastics are temperature sensitive and stiffen up in the cold and it is usually the torsional stiffness that is more important than front to back. 

Cuff articulations is important: The more your boot articulates the wider your stride and the less you have to adjust your touring heights.

Get a boot with tech fits: You might find that awesome deal on a pair of Lowa boots online, but there is a reason they are discounted 98%. They are 10 years old and won’t fit with a modern tech fit binding. If you haven’t caught on that tech fit is where its at, you will, so don’t get stuck in a pair of boots that won’t work.