Speed Touring Boots: High Expectations and High Versatility
The Dynafit TLT8 Expedition was my first touring boot, and man did I get lucky! As a former freestyle skier with decades of skiing experience, I asked a Cripple Creek employee what boot would be light enough to inspire me to go uphill, yet supportive enough to command a turn, lots of them. At high speeds.
I believe I was asking for what lots of people ask for, and that is a versatile, “do-it-all” boot. It seems like a pipe dream, doesn’t it? Well, listen to all the fun surprises that we rarely come to expect from the sporting goods products that we buy today.
The Dynafit TLT8 family: Expedition CR (left), Carbonio (center) and Expedition CR W (right). The Author TJ rocks the Expedition and mentioned local Aspenite wears the Carbonios.
Learning Uphill Skiing: Scared Rookie to Ripping TONAR
First, I bought the boot because it wasn’t as light as race boots at less than 900g (I did not want to be mistaken as a racer because I’m not), and it wasn’t as heavy as the more powerful boots at around 1500g. It weighed in perfectly at 1200g (size 27.5). I found out that the Women’s TLT8 Expedition weighs in at a svelte 1050g (size 25.5). Lucky girls! The boots also have a relatively comfy and warm liner, two things that are important to my feet. I was now ready to try them.
My very first climb in the boots was up Aspen Mountain (3200’ vert). I truly enjoyed the lightweight feeling and the incredible 60-degree articulation, both of which I had never experienced before in a ski boot. Coming down was a whole other matter. I bolted from the top with glee in my new-found touring boots, determined to ski how I always did in alpine boots. Fast. Fear gripped me by turn number six as I realized that these boots did not feel like my alpine boots. They were super light and I did not feel the solid forward support that I was so used to. I slowed my speed and checked my turns, timidly going at a measured pace all the way to the base. I claimed, “These boots are no good!”
Two days later, I got to try them again. I was invited by a local Aspenite on a tour up in Pearl Basin in the Elk Range, and he had a snow machine to zip us up the long approach. I was still filled with great trepidation about my new boots, but I could not pass up the offer for fresh backcountry skiing with the help of a snow machine. At this point, it is important to note that my new friend was wearing the TLT8 Carbonio, the lighter weight, carbon cuff version (1090g) of what I was wearing. When we arrived just short of Pearl Pass, and I watched him take off with skill, grace, and confidence through the wind-blown powder, I thought, “I’m screwed”. I marshaled together all of my skiing skills to make it down relatively easy 25-degree terrain. “What an embarrassing performance,” I thought.
The next day, I was not sure that I had bought the right boots. But, I owned them and could not justify buying another pair, so I just skied in them every day. Fast forward through many climbs up Aspen, Snowmass, Tiehack and Highlands and I started getting used to the lightweight feel of the gear. I started to understand that I had to use a more balanced stance in these boots, not leaning forward in the aggressive stance that I’m used to in my alpine boots. From a balanced stance, I started to gradually increase my speed and play with different turn sizes, and low-and-behold I started to actually like the performance, agility and light feel of my new touring boots. I liked them so much, I logged 10,000’ weeks doing one-up/one-down training days on all the resorts in the Roaring Fork Valley. I got to the point where I could really fly on the groomers. Feeling a little more justified, I thought, “These boots are surprisingly good for skiing these resorts.”
But, the surprises did not end there. Several months into the winter, I was at the base of Highlands preparing to do a quick skin up to the mid-way restaurant, when one of the guides from Aspen Expeditions saw me and said, “Hey TJ, you want to hike out the ridge with me and go ski TONAR?” Now, I’ve seen TONAR from the top of the lift, way out along the Highlands Ridge. The line descends from a 13,000’ knob of rock called the Thumb, goes between rock bands for 3000’ and then through an avalanche run-out path all the way to Maroon Creek, still some 2000’ lower. It is called TONAR, because it means that the line is “totally gnarly”. I was immediately filled with fear again. “I’m in my TLT8’s”, I thought, “These are just my trainers. I’ll never be able to do this.” Partly out of pride and partly out of the thought of the opportunity to ski one of the premier lines off the “ridge” with an experienced backcountry guide, I said yes. On the hike, I kept chiding myself for being stupid enough to take my “training boots” into a serious line. “What a fool,” I thought. At the top of the entrance to TONAR, the guide told me that he was going to ski down first, about a third of the way, and stop. I was to ski down to him and progress from there. I watched as he made beautiful, small radius turns down the center of the couloir and came to a stop on the side. “Snow looks good,” I thought,” and the conditions are perfect. Why not just go for it. Who cares if I fall. I’m with a guide.” I took off straight down the fat middle of the line and aimed my first turn toward the broad, concave sides of the slope. To my surprise, the TLT8’s responded lightly, but confidently to my every command. I started picking up speed and increasing the turn size, arcing higher and higher along the walls of the pitch. Soon, I blasted past the waiting guide and went another 500’ lower until I thought, “Man, you should really stop. He’s going to be pissed.” I finally pulled over to a safe stopping point and the guide skied down to me. “TJ, you really ripped that line. You just ripped TONAR!” he said.
TLT8 Expedition CR Love List
Dynafit TLT8 design features: a wide, 103 mm toe box (left), both buckes shown with a ratchet & strap system (center), the Ultra Lock 4.0 one step walk/ski mechanism (right)
There are lots of reasons to love the features and ease-of-use of the TLT8 Expedition for Men or Women. Maybe too many to write about here, but I will list my favorites.
- One Buckle to go from walk to ski mode
Dynafit calls it the Ultra Lock 4.0. Maybe they tried 3 previous iterations, but I call this one “perfect”. At the bottom of the hill, I set the easy-to-use ratchet strap on the cuff to my preferred ski setting, offering the stiffness, support and comfort level I like. Then, I open the buckle and start climbing. When I get to the top, I simply close the buckle and I am in ski-mode. Simplicity. I love it.
- Wider last for comfort
Overall of my years skiing and climbing, I’ve stuffed my feet into pretty narrow “performance-fit” boots. They were uncomfortable, and my feet were often sore after a day in the mountains. The TLT8 Expedition last is 103mm, an accommodating width that allows my metatarsal bones to spread out during the dynamic sport of uphilling and touring. The result: I no longer have foot fatigue during my climbs, nor pain afterward.
- Versatility for ultimate fun
The tremendous versatility of the Dynafit TLT8 is the surprise. They just take a little practice, an open mind, and a balanced stance. There are few touring boots that can truly be a lightweight daily trainer, carve down groomers at the resort, and ski a big backcountry line, even when you don’t think you can.
- You can find author TJ Trombly skiing around the Aspen area or at the Cripple Creek location in Highlands sipping a perfectly-crafted cappuccino -