For years I was in the ultralight camp when it came to ski equipment. I had tiny boots and little stiff skis on the deepest days of the year and proudly skied in backseat glory for most of the season.
It's fun to hike in a 1000g boot with a 75-degree walk mode. You are a cheetah on the skin track and hardly experience the standard cowgirl gait while walking back to your car. Heck, you can even drive your car with those ultralight boots on, or watch TV at home in them. Another fun activity to do with ultralight boots could be street dancing. Or trail running. Of course, the best part is that you can use them to ski an ultralight ski and you feel like a half-pro athlete when you're heading uphill.
This is the ultralight ski touring gear I'm talking about that makes you feel like a cheetah on the way up and a backseat driver on the way down.
But wait, let's talk about ultralight boots from both angles for a quick second. It's definitely fun to be a skin track cheetah and ski powder on tiny skis. But is it easier to ski deep snow on slightly fatter ski in a boot that have more support and rigidity?
Yes. Yes, it is.
This season I've cautiously experimented with skis in the all-mountain category and paired those wider skis with a heavier, stiffer boot. The Hoji Pro Tour W scared me with it's "real buckles" and it's "good reviews." I like 'em light, and I like 'em flexy, but I am constantly wishing that the downhill skiing was.....easier. So the Hoji Pro Tour W was my attempt at finding a solution to making downhill skiing easier. Here's my honest opinion of this touring boot after a season of 'beefed up' backcountry use.
Let's Talk Fit First:
Notice the three buckles (shell buckle, ankle strap & cuff buckle) with the additional camming cuff strap. These all work together to make your feet happy while skiing both up and down.
The Hoji Pro Tour W is a new shape for Dynafit. A wide toe box (103.5mm last) and a deep heel cup fit a different kind of foot than their traditionally narrow lasted boots. The Pro Tour leaves more space for your toes to breath and locks your heel in place for better power transfer. I can wear a lot of different boot types and I'm almost never in pain (Lucky me!). The comfy Palau liners in the Pro Tour snugly fit a normal to wide foot, especially with a proper boot fitting. The plastic reinforcement on the cuff adds stiffness to the flex for downhill skiing. There is one buckle over the fore foot to secure your foot's place in the shell, one ankle strap to keep your heel seated for optimal power transfer [both up and down], and one cuff buckle for downhill performance and stability. A camming cuff strap adds upper shin support for a more progressive flex pattern. The Hoji Pro Tour W states to have a 120 flex. This is ample for standard backcountry skiing. Coming in at 1325 grams per boot, you get a lot of downhill performance from this mid-weight boot. Overall, the Hoji Pro Tour W has ample space in the toe box with it's regular/wide last, and the buckles do a great job at securing your foot in place for both the up and the down. Kudos Dynafit for making a touring boot that fit a wider range of women's feet.
Now Let's Look at the Uphill Touring:
The Dynafit Speednose brings the pivot point of the boot closer to your forefoot creating a more natural, more efficient stride while touring. That means more skiing for less energy (win-win).
The Hoji Pro Tour W comes with 55 degrees of cuff articulation. That's enough to accommodate a ski touring stride, but it won't quite feel like a sneaker on the uphill. That's okay because when transitioned into downhill mode, the boot will pay dividends in stiff, confidence-inspiring performance. What I'm trying to get at is: you can't have both ultimate downhill and uphill ski performance, and the Pro Tour seems to find a great balance between the two.
The Dynafit Pro Tour implements Dynafit's proprietary Speed Nose design. The speed toe means the boot's tech inserts are right under your actual toe, instead of in a toe bail extending out in front of the boot. Moving the hole back means you have a more natural stride, as in, you are pivoting off your actual foot, instead of pivoting off your tiptoe. However, the Speed Nose design means that you cannot use this boot in an MNC binding such as a Salomon Shift or Marker Griffin. That's fine because those bindings are too heavy for regular backcountry use anyways. ;) The Hoji Pro Tour W has a natural feel when touring uphill with the Speednose and the wide range of motion.
How About the Transition?
The Hoji Pro Tour has 55 degrees of ankle articulation. That's great for a 1300 gram boot. You can also note the single walk/ski mechanism on the spine of the cuff. This mechanism unlocks the ankle while also loosening the cuff strap and buckle. One lever to rule them all (rule transitions that it).
This is an exciting feature of the Pro Tour. One buckle actuation moves you from walk to ski mode. The walk/ski mechanism is snow-proof, ice-proof, and dummy-proof because it's all housed internally in the boot's cuff. There's no finicky switch, no ice-crusted, spring-loaded lever, no paracord attached, or buckle mumbo-jumbo to fiddle with. There's just one heavy-duty lever that forces a bar into creating a totally rigid cuff for your descent. It's a simple and durable solution that tightens the cuff buckle and cuff camming strap all at once. So svelte! The ease of transitioning this boot from walk to ski mode (and vice versa) is a huge selling point with its simplicity and rigidity.
And the Downhill Skiing?
These boots skis great. Period. They have a stiff and progressive flex provided by the boot's Grilamid composition. The power transfer from my leg to the ski feels so responsive because all of that force moves through the cuff into the shell from the boot's overlapped construction at the ankle (come into the shop for a really good look at this). It's a dream to flex into the boot and get energy back. Compared to my ultralight-boot-skiing past, I feel like a backcountry rockstar while skiing through trees or arching turns in open bowls. The downhill performance of the Hoji Pro Tour W has won me over, and I now leave for ski tours with my Pro Tour's in hand while my ultralight boots get dusty by the door.
All in All...
Start making backcountry art with the Hoji Pro Tour W boots. They'll turn your gripped grimace into a soft-snow smile.
What we've got here is a performance-oriented, well designed, comfortable alpine touring boot made by the most backcountry boss Dynafit. If you need something that works well every day, here you go. If you're into racing or spring ski mountaineering, you might want to use your tiny light boots for those activities...but you'll want this boot for all of the other backcountry days where skiing up and down are equally important.
- Written by shop boss and backcountry powder hound Jewel Campbell -