GripWalk very well may be the unsung hero of the upcoming ski season. There will be no fanfare or ticker tape parades but that's okay with GripWalk. It is a modest … sole. So, why will GripWalk be near the center of the ski world’s needs this coming season? With social distancing and base lodges limiting skier access, people will be booting up in the parking lots and areas distant from the lifts and slopes. There will be a lot of walking.

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GripWalk (rear); DIN (front)​

GripWalk, one of the newer evolutions in ski boot designs, is a rounded sole that allows for a much easier and smoother stride when walking. The soles are a softer and grippier design along the lines of a knobbier tire on your vehicle. I have to admit, I was skeptical of GripWalk when it was introduced a few years back, and even though I have gone two seasons with them on my boots, I am still not fully sold. Don’t get me wrong, GripWalk works 100% as advertised. It makes walking a lot easier and safer on slippery surfaces, no question. But, is it that much better than a traditional ISO 5355 sole that has a textured toe and heels? Of that I am not completely sure, but that is a discussion to be had elsewhere. What we are talking about now is that it is GripWalk’s time to shine in the sun and say to the ski world: “I got this.”

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DIN (top); GripWalk (bottom)​

Other than a full backcountry boot with an AT sole, a GW-soled boot will be your safest and easiest way to trek from the parking lot to the lift. GripWalk is not the only safe method, however, so we will also discuss your other sole options.

Tecnica, Nordica and K2 Gripwalk soles
Other options depend a lot on your boots. If your current boot has replaceable toes and heels, you are better off than most. Replaceable soles will give you a good amount of grip, but think of them as all-season tires. They perform equally well or poorly, depending on your perspective, in most conditions. They are better than a solid-soled boot, to be discussed next, but most are not as good a GripWalk sole. If your boot is less than a few seasons old, you may be able to upgrade to GripWalk for about $50 and the use of a screwdriver. For this, all you need to do is check with your local shop or your boot manufacturer's website.

The least safe way to access the lifts in your boots is if you have solid-lugged (soled) race boots. These are the slipperiest of all the boots to walk in, like a giraffe on ice skates. These boots tend to be the preferred choice of racers and instructors, but fear not, they also can be upgraded to GripWalk or even a textured sole by a qualified bootfitter who has the vision, knowledge, proper tools, and skill.

Now, if you do not want to go GripWalk or upgrade your current soles, there are Cat Tracks (the Kleenex or Xerox of ski boot walking devices), Skiskootys, or Yaktrax. These devices work as advertised, but they can be messy and inconvenient because you have to store or hide them somewhere while you are skiing. There is also always the risk of losing them at some point on your trek from the parking lot.

Last, and most important, if you are going to upgrade to a GripWalk sole, make sure your binding is GripWalk-compatible. It will have either the GripWalk logo, an AT designation (some Tyrolia-based bindings), or WTR (Walk to Ride). Also, most race-specific bindings are not GW-compatible, but that should not limit your ability to put a grippier sole on, just not a GripWalk.