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The rumors are true: the rear-entry boot is back. And it's just what the industry needs. Nordica has learned from its own history in offering this collection of HF boots, HF as in "Hands Free." You still have to touch the boot with your hands to put it on, so HF may be overstepping it a little. (I am guessing that “Set it and forget it” is trademarked by Ron Popeil.) Nordica could have just gone with EZ, because that what getting this new boot on and off is.

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” --George Santayana (and many others)

Nordica isn't repeating history because it isn't positioning the HF110 as a replacement for your traditional four-buckle overlap boot. This is not a performance boot for anyone running gates or hucking cliffs; instead, it is a comfort cruiser designed to keep aging skiers in the game, to help out people who just want to ski. To them, "performance" might be as simple as putting on a boot without losing their breath or pulling a muscle. It might not be the boot for you (I know it’s not for me), but there is a population for which the HF110 will check every single box -- and then some.

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From Nordica's press release: Nordica’s all-new HF collection, with HF standing for Hands Free, offers the performance and comfort of its Machine family with a new easy entry shell and closure system. The key to the design is its anatomical, patent pending one-piece customizable Primaloft® 3D Cork Fit liner. It wraps around the heel and forefoot like a traditional boot, and has an extremely large opening of 40-degrees to easily slip a foot in or out. The HF’s innovative Wonder Lock buckle system allows for hands-free closure - just push it down with a ski pole or the other boot, and they are good to go. The Maxcontrol Pivot provides perfect alignment between the rear cuff and shell and lateral support for immediate ski response. The shell is customizable with Nordica’s infrared technology and comes with Gripwalk® soles for easy walking. Available in two men’s and two women’s models, with the premium-level HF Elite models featuring mobile-controllable Therm-ic heated liners, Michelin® Gripwalk® soles, and a lighter buckle system. Available in men’s and women’s specific models, Nordica’s HF boots are for those who want to have fun and keep skiing without any compromise.
  • Last: 102mm
  • Size range: Men’s (24.5 – 31), Women’s (23.5 – 27.5)
  • Flex: Men’s (110), Women’s (85)
  • MSRP: HF Elite and HF Elite W ($900), HF 110 and HF 85 W ($700)
Yes, this boot has a generous fit. It is a 102 last in the forefoot. Even though I was able to ski my current boot size of 25.5 (295mm shell), I needed to do some work with my skinny foot and chicken leg in order to gain some semblance of control. I have a built-up footbed that I take to trade shows so I can test a sample size 26.5 if needed, and I put it in this boot. I also added extra spoilers (yes, plural, spoilers, one in the back and one in the front) to get the cuff closer to my leg. Now, this is not uncommon; I even have to do it with many low-volume 97-98mm boots. I know this boot is not meant to fit me, but I really hope that Nordica or even someone else does decide to build a rear-entry boot for a skinny-ass foot.

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Nordica’s beer-tap rear closure has an adjustment to accommodate everyone from those with cankles and overly developed athletic calves to basic medium sizes. Skinny legs need not apply -- unless you are willing to work with aftermarket volume reducers like I was. Nordica designed a pretty ingenious zeppa (footboard) that will help take up a bit of volume. Think of it as a built-in heel wedge that can actually disappear under the zeppa if you don’t need it. The liner uses the same cork heel cups as the upper end Pro/Speed/Sport Machines, a proven design. The front buckle actually reduces the instep volume à la a three-piece shell. You can see this working because the red stripes along the lower disappear. The shells ship with GripWalk soles, but DIN soles come in the box in case you have a binding that does not accept GW.

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On the snow, the HF110 feels pretty darn good. I believe it fits my foot better and gives me more control than its four-buckle brother the Nordica SpeedMachine when I first skied it a few years back. I also didn’t have any unrealistic expectations. A foot that is usually in a 96-97mm shell in a 102? Yes, I move around in the boot, but the HF110 is more comfortable and skis better than many other boots that don't fit me.

Conditions at Mt Rose on the first day of testing were 4 to 6 in. of snow, meaning 1 to 2 in. of wind buff in some places and 6 to 8 in. of powder pockets in others, firm windblown chalky groomers, and (for the bonus round) 45-mph winds with snow blowing sideways and flat light. These are conditions that make you feel like you are trying to survive rather than just enjoy a day of skiing, conditions that throw you around in a boot that does not fit. And this is where the HF110 performed much better than I expected. If I were "Joe Skier" who skis 10 to 15 days a season on the blues, sometimes venturing onto some easy blacks, the HF110 would have performed as promised.

In conclusion, I am not sure if all the Salomon SX92 loyalists are ready to give up their boots, but anyone looking to get a boot from this century should put the HF110 on their short list. (List? Hell, it's the only boot that is really even a consideration.) I'm not sure this is the modern SX boot everyone has been waiting for because it doesn't have the same multitude of fit adjustments; really, though, how many actually used them? The HF110 is the modern version of the N957 and N997 that Nordica offered back in the day.

People have been scoffing about rear-entry boots: why did we even try them, they were awful, waah waah waah .... Well, what overlap boot from that era would you still want to ski today? A Nordica N981? How about the Rossignol R900 or the Koflach five-buckle Comp SR? None of these boots stood the test of time like the best rear entries of the day. Would any purist even consider skiing in these relics? As for me, I have an open mind and hope Nordica plans on introducing a low-volume version for 2021-22, because there is a market for that boot. If I had some friends in from out of town who just wanted to ski some runs and enjoy views of the lake, damn right I would be reaching for an HF110 LV.
  • Who is it for? Well, it's a pretty big list. Those who have trouble getting boots on and off; skiers who have a lot of foot; comfort cruisers; older skiers who are considering quitting.
  • Who is it not for? Purists. Don’t worry, Nordica is not coming to take away your four-buckle boots. Someone who is into rear entry is not trying to to convert you. Relax. Ski and let ski. If you have to ask if why rear-entry boots are back, the HF line is not for you.
  • Insider tip 1: Step up to the Elite with its Bluetooth-enabled Thermic heater. Why stop at business class? If you are going to ski in comfort, go first class.
  • Insider tip 2: The 110 flex is a bit optimistic. There is no independent lab to verify boot flexes, but I would say it is closer to a 100 (at most). Don’t worry so much about the number, though; for the desired skier, it is enough. Plus ... shhhh … I found a trick to add some stiffness.
About author
Philpug
I started skiing in the mid-70s in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania; from then on, I found myself entrenched in the industry. I have worked in various ski shops from suburban to ski town to resort, giving me a well-rounded perspective on what skiers want from their gear. That experience was parlayed into my time as a Gear Review Editor and also consulting with manufacturers as a product tester. Along with being a Masterfit-trained bootfitter I am a fully certified self proclaimed Gear Guru. Not only do I keep up with the cutting edge of ski gear technology, but I am an avid gear collector and have an extensive array of bindings as well as many vintage skis.

Replies

Nice. I’ve been advocating to bring back the rear entry for years. When you watch people who are 75+ yrs old, having difficulty finding a boot to just go out there on, there’s a need. Apex, too complicated, Full tilt cabrio? awash in wires and flaps. Some people really can’t deal with such things.

Final product is much better looking than the photo posted a few weeks ago.

I think if someone, Soloman?, came out with a performance version, you’d see a lot of coaches get one.
 
I wonder... any future plans to jump that up to a 120 or 130? Game on! boots are so well designed and materials dialed in, could this evolve into ... "a thing"?
 
Pull a muscle while putting on boots - not a problem. Pulling a muscle while removing boot - now you're talking. Rolling a rib is not uncommon for me on a particularly cold day either.

I think I finally threw away my 1979 Salomon SX-70's last year. I am definitely in Nordica's target market for these puppies. What would a pair of Intuition Dreamliners do to these boots? Thinking along the same lines as Phil with the low volume calves.
 
This article got a share on Facebook from our local Nordica rep...no big deal...oh yeah?...picked up by the largest ski retailer in Ottawa in a reply to the rep!!! Yeah Pugski.
 
I saw this in a shop on Saturday and slid my foot into it and it didn’t feel that bad for what it is. Comfortable, could be snuggled up and very easy to get in and out of. Not what I am looking for but I can see it selling. It is also likely very warm.
 
A funny thing happened as this article being posted. I brought test HF110s to BlueZone because the manager wanted to try them. While they were at the shop, a women came in who had experienced years of boot issues to the point in the past two seasons she spent just under $2,000 on three pair of boots and was no closer to a boot that would work. She arrived with a pair of Nordica SportMachine 110 in the same 25.5 as the HF110s.

This lady shared her experiences with the best bootfitting shops promising miracles with the magic they would be able to do. Again, all failed. I brought the HF110s from the backroom, and installed her footbeds in them. She put them on and honest to God, her eyes started tearing. I explained that this was a boot for next season but there was limited availability now but unfortunately, this shop didn't stock them. She asked if she could just buy this pair and I explained that while these were a production model, they were not for sale, but I would let her try them, I should really have thought that through better.

Here are her text messages to me...
-Amazing!!!!
-But no pain and having a fabulous day!!!
-All in all still a million times better, I’ve been on the snow nonstop since 8:30!!!
-I am keeping these.


The last line was an awkward one. I really had no intentions of selling these, they were test boots for me to spend time in along with getting people out to try. But...if I can make someone who has had nothing but problems happy, who am I to say no. Besides, she was going to keep the boot and my options were limited at that point . I will now be going back to Nordica to buy a replacement pair to get back into our test fleet.
 
A funny thing happened as this article being posted. I brought test HF110's to BlueZone because the manager wanted to try them. While they were at the shop a women came in who had experienced years of boot issues to the point in the past two season she spent just under $2,000 on three pair of boots and was no closer to a boot that would work than she was before spending that money. She arrived with a pair of Nordica Sport Machine 110 in the same 25.5 that the HF110's.

This lady shared her experiences with the best bootfitting shops promising miracles with the magic they would be able to to. Again, all failed. I brought the HF110's from the backroom, and installed her footbeds in them. She put them on and honest to God, her eyes started tearing. I explained that this was a boot for next season but there was limited availability now but unfortunately, this shop didn't stock them. She asked if she could just buy this pair and I explainend that while these were a production model, they were not for sale, but I would let her try them, I should really have thought that through better.

Here are her text messages to me...
-Amazing!!!!
-But no pain and having a fabulous day!!!
-All in all still a million times better, I’ve been on the snow nonstop since 8:30!!!
-I am keeping these.


The last line was an awkward one. I really had no intentions of selling these, they were test boots for me to spend time in along with getting people out to try. But...if I can make someone who has had nothing but problems happy, who am I to say no. Besides, she was going to keep the boot and my options were limited at that poing. . I will now be going back to Nordica to buy a replacement pair to get back into our test fleet.
That's awesome!
She didn't make an offer and you couldn't refuse.
 
A funny thing happened as this article being posted. I brought test HF110's to BlueZone because the manager wanted to try them. While they were at the shop a women came in who had experienced years of boot issues to the point in the past two season she spent just under $2,000 on three pair of boots and was no closer to a boot that would work than she was before spending that money. She arrived with a pair of Nordica Sport Machine 110 in the same 25.5 that the HF110's.

This lady shared her experiences with the best bootfitting shops promising miracles with the magic they would be able to to. Again, all failed. I brought the HF110's from the backroom, and installed her footbeds in them. She put them on and honest to God, her eyes started tearing. I explained that this was a boot for next season but there was limited availability now but unfortunately, this shop didn't stock them. She asked if she could just buy this pair and I explainend that while these were a production model, they were not for sale, but I would let her try them, I should really have thought that through better.

Here are her text messages to me...
-Amazing!!!!
-But no pain and having a fabulous day!!!
-All in all still a million times better, I’ve been on the snow nonstop since 8:30!!!
-I am keeping these.


The last line was an awkward one. I really had no intentions of selling these, they were test boots for me to spend time in along with getting people out to try. But...if I can make someone who has had nothing but problems happy, who am I to say no. Besides, she was going to keep the boot and my options were limited at that poing. . I will now be going back to Nordica to buy a replacement pair to get back into our test fleet.

She will likely the best sales person for this model & will enjoy skiing again & have GripWalk. Well done sir!


Thinking you now need to produce some "PugSki - Baby's got Back, Back Buckle, Back Skiing" stickers to go with a promo video / theme song to show Nordica the power of the site.

:)
 
A funny thing happened as this article being posted. I brought test HF110's to BlueZone because the manager wanted to try them. While they were at the shop a women came in who had experienced years of boot issues to the point in the past two season she spent just under $2,000 on three pair of boots and was no closer to a boot that would work than she was before spending that money. She arrived with a pair of Nordica Sport Machine 110 in the same 25.5 that the HF110's.

This lady shared her experiences with the best bootfitting shops promising miracles with the magic they would be able to to. Again, all failed. I brought the HF110's from the backroom, and installed her footbeds in them. She put them on and honest to God, her eyes started tearing. I explained that this was a boot for next season but there was limited availability now but unfortunately, this shop didn't stock them. She asked if she could just buy this pair and I explainend that while these were a production model, they were not for sale, but I would let her try them, I should really have thought that through better.

Here are her text messages to me...
-Amazing!!!!
-But no pain and having a fabulous day!!!
-All in all still a million times better, I’ve been on the snow nonstop since 8:30!!!
-I am keeping these.


The last line was an awkward one. I really had no intentions of selling these, they were test boots for me to spend time in along with getting people out to try. But...if I can make someone who has had nothing but problems happy, who am I to say no. Besides, she was going to keep the boot and my options were limited at that poing. . I will now be going back to Nordica to buy a replacement pair to get back into our test fleet.
Nordica needs to scoop this story and use it as a springboard to market their product.
 
I'm curious as to whether this boot will get more traction than the Atomic Savor. I think it's a bit more stout, flex wise. I've seen some Savors on the hill but don't know if they were rentals or personal boots. @Tricia and I did talk to an older fellow at Mt. Rose who was rocking a pair of Savors.
TRICIA: How do you like your boots?
GUY: Love them!
TRICIA: What do you like about them?
GUY: They're easy to get on and off and only one buckle.
No discussion about how they let him feel the entire edge of the ski or have a great flex pattern. These are the people the new editions of rear entry boots are for.
 
There is a saying, "The early bird gets the worm but the second mouse gets the cheese". The Nordica HF will be eating a lot of cheese.

That said (& @Philpug has advised me against this...) I was unable to purchase a pair of Savors anywhere to try. That is a statement.
 
Any chance at all that a pro version might get pushed? Would be quite disruptive to see some WC'rs and Freeride Tour people win in a pair like what happened with the Salomons.
 
It is a sign of how marketing-driven the sport is that rear-entry boots have pretty much been gone from the scene for more than 2 decades. It's entirely possible that there is a significant gap between the performance available from a rear-entry boot and the performance available through an overlap boot. But I knew enough skiers who could ski circles around 95% of skiers in their Salomon SX boots and I know enough skiers who struggle with fit and comfort in overlap boots, that there's no reason that rear-entry shouldn't have remained an option in the market. They had to be good enough for some portion of skiers. But no, logic has no place here. The marketers told us rear-entry was great until they told us that rear-entry was trash.
 
rear-entry was great until they told us that rear-entry was trash.
A lot of it was trash. That sort of ruined the whole market. A little bit like GM and their crappy diesel cars. Why Soloman abandoned it would be interesting to know.
"Marketing" - that's a little more complicated. Twenty years ago you would be encouraged to get out of your rear entry boots if you wanted to teach. Don't know that had to do with marketing.
 
We were changing ski designs as the rear entry boots were leaving the market. The rear entry was fine for fore and aft skiing when we started skiing laterally, the separation from the shell became more evident..at higher level skiing. Now, for the casual skier, most are willing to give up higher end performance for more comfortable boots.

What I find is funny is people were much more accepting of "walk mode" boots when they were presented under the guise of "side or back country" when the walk mode boots or "mid entry" boots of the 90's were worse than the best rear entry offerings they replaced. They were billed as the best of rear entry and overlaps when actually they were the worst of them all.
 
Interesting, most dealers are saying they can't get them until next season. BUT other dealers are selling them. Eriks Bike shop seems to have the biggest inventory, but the local guys can't get them. Strange and a little frustrating. One Nordica rep was saying they only made size 26.5, but I know this to be false. :huh:
 
How much of a difference do rear entry's make on the instep side (high instep)? I know flex varies, but once you're in the 120 range from any manufacturer I honestly care MUCH less about boot performance and much more about being able to stay on the hill ALL DAY LONG and eating lunch w/o removing my boots.

Most of us on here could out ski and teach most skiers even w/ slippers... or even that Apex boot on. Splitting hairs here but the locals (ex ski patrollers, guides and instructors) and I when living out west got DUSTED by a construction worker buddy of mine from VT in OLD GEAR.......... we're talkin' 10 + years old boots and skis! We had to hike him into submission to slow him down!
Let's talk about ramping these up to a 120 Nordica! Where's the (technologically enhanced) " BEYOND BEEF"?!?!? :popcorn:
 

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