Let's start with a piece of history to whet your appetite for this ever-so-interesting topic. On July 10, 1962, the US Patent Office issued Patent No. 3043625 to Nils Bohlin, a Swedish engineer, for a three-point safety belt designed for use in road cars. Instead of sitting on the patent and licensing it for a big ole chunk o' change, Volvo opened it up so that any automaker could incorporate it into vehicles. The automotive industry took the idea and ran with it, and it proved so safe and popular that derivatives of Bohlin's original design are still in use.

A few ski boots out there today have features that won't exactly save lives but are so simple and functional that the brands that own their rights should not only put them on every boot they produce, but also offer them to every manufacturer in order to improve the lives of all skiers.

Going to trade shows, talking to manufacturers, seeing the occasional prototype, and spending hours at the boot bench, I have played with almost every boot out there. A few features really stand out, for their ingenious simplicity of design as well as the fact that they just make things a lot easier without one bit of cost in performance.
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First up is Head and its Double Power Lever. This buckle design has been around for well over a decade; it started out on (and just seems to continue with) the premium versions of their recreational boots. We all can agree that the top two buckles are the most important of the four as far as performance; they are the buckles that control the drive of the boot, the energy brought to the ski. We also know that they are the most difficult to close because of the pressure needed as well as the awkward angle they are positioned at. Some brands have added slight cams in the buckle, but no design is as efficient as Head’s Double Power Lever. Its simple spring-loaded flip-open lever gives all skiers the leverage to close the top buckle. Head claims that it reduces the effort by 50%; after using the buckle off and on and even retrofitting it on some boots, I would say that number is conservative.

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Tecnica’s Lift Lock Buckle is a simple little nub on the base of the buckle plate that attaches to the boot. This feature actually started on its backcountry and hike boots and has migrated to a good portion of the rest of the its line. All of us have fumbled with buckles while getting in and out of our ski boots. We can twist and turn them, but from time to time the buckle catches on the ladder and we have to remove it. Tecnica’s LLB eliminates that issue. The nub is designed to catch the buckle and hold it up while entering and exiting the boot. This catch-free design also works well when in walk mode not only for backcountry hikes but also for the long trudge to the lift after booting up in the parking lot.

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K2 has been hitting its stride with a new generation of boots. One of its keen recent features also started on the backcountry Mindbender boots and expanded to its inbound boot collection: the Ripcord Power Strap. Like the other two features, the beauty of the RPS is that it just makes everything simpler without harming performance. Higher-level skiers know that the power strap is as important as any buckle on the boot; some go so far as to replace their power straps with aftermarket versions. While other brands have tried to reinvent the power strap, falling short by overcomplicating them with clasps and clips, K2's Ripcord strap is one of the best designs, again, because of its simplicity: pull the cord, and the strap releases. Voilà.

These are three designs that caught my attention. Please add your comments below and add any boot features that have made your boot-wearing experience noticeably better.
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