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Exclusive: BOA, It's not just a closure system.

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BOA Technologies feels the days for boots buckles are numbered and they have the data to back it in the linked study: Evaluating wrapping alpine ski boots during on-snow carving. Recently we were invited to the BOA Technology headquarters in Denver, Colorado to tour their extensive facilities, discuss BOA on ski boots and its future in the ski industry.

"Atomic was fortunate to be a key partner in the development of the new H+i1 system back in 2018 and we’re incredibly excited with what the future has in store. We’ve always been obsessed with creating better fitting, better skiing boots and this solution we’ve worked on with BOA is doing just that."--Matt Manser, Global Product Manager of Alpine & Touring Boots

Not just a gimmick
BOA is not just an alternative closure system to replace traditional buckles. BOA Technologies offers an enhancement system that is designed to increase performance. BOA does not enter a market or segment without a clear goal of making that product perform better. Think of the old BASF commercial’s slogan: BASF: We don’t make the products you buy, we make the products you buy better”. That’s BOA, they don’t make the ski boots we ski in, they make the boots we ski in better.”

"BOA offers a new way to think about boot construction and we believe we can build a boot which offers both more comfort and performance than buckles. Building boots which offer the best experience to as many skiers as possible is our goal and we believe BOA helps K2 build the best boots possible".—Tom Pietrowski, Global Product Line Manager for K2 ski boots

BOA Technologies has over 280 patents with 95 of them obtained in the past year. The first number they threw out to us was that 75% of the Tour De France riders were using shoes that were BOA-integrated. So while we can talk about cycling, golf, work boots, snowboard boots, medical braces, and all of the other applications that have BOA, we are here to talk ski boots.

BOA produces over 40 million closures a year. They do not just send them to brands and ask to put them on their products and hope that they will become a partner. BOA’s facility in Denver is not just a marketing center or global headquarters, it is a complete research and development facility with the ability to reverse engineer any and every product they feel BOA can enhance. They have test in controlled environments and in the real world with their in-house team of over 300, plus another 4-500 field testers of elite athletes.

I will start by saying I like my crow with a light demi-glace when I eat it, because I too was one of the uninformed thinking BOA was just a basic alternative to buckles on a boot. I could not be more wrong. While BOA will close the clog (lower shell) of the boot, it is how BOA encompasses and uniformly holds and contains the foot that improves performance, and those findings were clear in their recent study whiich is linked above.

Creating a ski boot mold is not an inexpensive process. Each mold in each size is incredibly expensive to produce, over $100,000 per shell. Considering that there are size runs of boots, these can add up quickly to above one million dollars, and that is for each model of boot! Manufacturers don’t make that level of financial commitment unless there is a measurable difference in performance and not just a lateral move for the same performance return.

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5 years in the making

The ski boot manufacturers did not go to BOA, BOA did years of research, bought defunct molds of boots, built said boots with buckles and with BOAs to secure their findings. They went to the brand which whom they had an established relationship with a clear vision and said, “We can make your boots better and we have the proof." This was enough for each of these brands to sit up and listen. As a result, we are now seeing BOA on 24 different model boots from four brands for the 23/24 ski season.

BOA conducted their own on-snow test of their system with 22 skiers at Eldora Mountain. Their numbers show more than 10% improvement in performance. Where even a 5% increase in performance would be significant, a 10% increase is something any high level athlete would sell their first born for. This test proved that performance does not have to come at the cost of comfort.

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BOA is here to stay

If BOA was just an easy fit solution, we would have seen it starting on entry level boots as well as the rental market, but BOA is indeed a performance enhancement. Hence, they put a bullseye on the most contested segment of boots, the mid volume 100-ish to 130-ish flex boots as well as side country boots. Will we see narrow last boots with BOA? Absolutely. Performance is first and foremost. I would not be surprised if in a few years we see brands exclusively with BOA closures.

To the naysayers who say, “I will believe it when I see BOA on a race boot,” race boots are coming. We might not see them in the 2024 season, but pretty soon thereafter. Testing is occurring and from what we are told, the results are all that BOA hoped for and more. It is enough to expect that 30% of racers at the next Olympics will be in BOA boots, a lofty claim? Maybe, but nothing I have heard from them has been off too much, so until then I have to believe them.

BOA on the upper cuff? Yes, that is in the works too; we will see dual BOA boots coming soon. For this year, four brands of boots have adopted BOA: Atomic, Fischer, K2 and Salomon. For 2024 we will see more brands integrating it. This truly is an exciting time in the boot market and BOA is the word of the year.

You can read additional BOA discussions here..

While BOA did not cover air fare, they did cover local transportation and food along with supplying a nice goody bag, and will be providing a pair of BOA boots for our test fleet.


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

I wish ski boot manufacturers would focus on better replacement liners.
Cheaper than after mrkt liners but with more options & customization by the consumer.

IMHO better warmer, consumer customization liners & foot beds have more impact on ski boot comfort & performance.

BOAs are still bordering on the latest boot evolution gimmick. The secondary not primary focus.
 
I wish ski boot manufacturers would focus on better replacement liners.
I cannot disagree with you that better liners are needed especially with mid to lower level offerings. With liners being hand sewn, this cost is significant.
 
I cannot disagree with you that better liners are needed especially with mid to lower level offerings. With liners being hand sewn, this cost is significant.
Surely with todays 3D printing, CAD/CAM etc etc marvels of design & manufacturing the qlty customization ability & cost can be improved for all levels of liners
 
I’d guess anyone who skied in lace up boots ( me) for any length of time intuitively understands the potential benefits of BOA. Lacing let you tweak the fit of the boot from the outside not just tighten it. My high school coach who went on to a successful racing career at Northeastern, wore Heschung laminated lace race boots in the late ‘70’s. When I asked him why ( paraphrasing) he said I can wear thinner socks and customize the fit far more accurately than on my Langes. I thought it was a bit odd at the time but his results spoke for themselves. Keep an open mind everyone.
 
Surely with todays 3D printing, CAD/CAM etc etc marvels of design & manufacturing the qlty customization ability & cost can be improved for all levels of liners

3D printed ski boot liners and insoles are already available https://www.3dfit.ch/tailored-fits-skischuh/ you just need to get a flight!

The guy behind them used to work for Nordica, the liners and insoles are printed by a Scott Sports subsidiary called Tailored-Fits https://www.tailored-fits.com/ The boot shells are injection molded and are also made by Scott Sports.
 
I doubt the boa system will hold foot well on the navicular area like traditional buckle does.
Why not? Having an issue with my navicular bone and skied the same boot, a K2 Recon with and without BOA, I didn't notice a difference.
 
I think that BOA applied to ski boots is just a marketing gimmick. It makes sense on snowboard boots because the laces go all the way up. But on ski boots you still have the top two traditional buckles... so what's the point. If ski boots were designed in such a way that laces go all the way to the top, then I could see a purpose.

It's like having half a zipper and half a row of buttons on your pants zipper, and then pointing out the convenience of the zipper. Not convenient unless it goes the whole way.
 
I think that BOA applied to ski boots is just a marketing gimmick. It makes sense on snowboard boots because the laces go all the way up. But on ski boots you still have the top two traditional buckles... so what's the point. If ski boots were designed in such a way that laces go all the way to the top, then I could see a purpose.

It's like having half a zipper and half a row of buttons on your pants zipper, and then pointing out the convenience of the zipper. Not convenient unless it goes the whole way.
Yep consider the old Raichle cable/buckle system of the 1980s
 
It's like having half a zipper and half a row of buttons on your pants zipper, and then pointing out the convenience of the zipper. Not convenient unless it goes the whole way.
The lower and upper are two different peices like pants are different than a shirt, can you have a zipper on pants and buttons on a shirt? Yes, we will see BOA on a cuff where it is applicable down the road.
 
The lower and upper are two different peices like pants are different than a shirt, can you have a zipper on pants and buttons on a shirt? Yes, we will see BOA on a cuff where it is applicable down the road.

Down the road that would make it useful when BOA is also on the cuff. However I wonder if we would actually ever see that, because quite often the boot cuff is pulled all the way open to slide in or to remove the liner etc. The laces would interfere with pulling it apart.
 
Down the road that would make it useful when BOA is also on the cuff. However I wonder if we would actually ever see that, because quite often the boot cuff is pulled all the way open to slide in or to remove the liner etc. The laces would interfere with pulling it apart.
I think that is the challenge with the cuff having enough cable and then retracting it.
 
Anybody know why they are using steel cable for the "lacing" when dynema offers higher breaking strength at one-tenth the weight?

For some applications, where it might be possible for the line to be cut, steel cable is necessary, but I'm not seeing that happening on a boot where the line is right against the shell. Call me perplexed.

Anyway, just bought new boots (my third pair of Doberman Pro 95mm last) so it will be a few years before shopping for my next pair.
 

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