Fad? Evolution? Revolution? Progression? Whatever you want to call it, we are seeing more light (as in 1500-1800g) boots on the boot wall. And not just for hiking: these boots don't have tech fittings or walk modes, they are honest-to-goodness alpine ski boots with liners that are not a compromise for the sake of weight. Light boots are not new: we saw a run back in the 1970s and 1980s with the Scott Superlite/Superhot and Garmont Ultralite, but they were short-lived and had either performance or quality/durability limitations. With the advent of new plastics such as Grilamid, Triax, and other proprietary materials along with the inclusion of carbon frames, these boots perform to a standard that even top-level skiers expect. No, we haven't seen plug or full-bore race boots, but even if you are a racer, don't dismiss these boots just yet.

We are not really in the business of reviewing boots at Pugski; we still believe that you don’t pick the boot, the boot picks you. But we do share our experiences and describe what we feel works and who it will work best for. So, if your bootfitter pulls one of these boots off the wall, don’t turn up your nose at it. What is most impressive with these boots is their ability to adapt and mold to the foot. The new plastics can be heated and made narrower by a millimeter or two; they can also be widened more than a traditional polyurethane (PU) shell. We can adjust them for fore and aft stance and minimize (but not eliminate) the need for undersole canting. Yes, they are pretty impressive in their ability to make you forget any preconceived notions about what a certain brand of boot fits like.

Are these new space-age plastics the end all? No. There will always be PU shells for race boots, but to reference Colin Chapman, adding lightness is adding performance. In the past eight years or so, I have skied in traditional shells (like the Tecnica Inferno/Machs, Nordica Patron Pro, Lange RS 140, Head Raptor 140) as well as light boots (the K2 Recon 120 MV, K2 Recon 130 LV, Salomon S/Max 130). Honestly, in the sense of performance, all have their pluses and none really have negatives. The only real negative I ever found with traditional boots is taking them off when it is cold; sometimes I have to heat up the shell or at least let it warm up. This is not an issue I have experienced with the lighter options; I can peel off the shell no matter how cold it is. For some, that is a major consideration, so read this thread.

Again, these new plastics will not replace the PU shells, but they will become more prevalent. We have talked about changes such as GripWalk possibly becoming the norm for soles; in the future, we could see race/PU boots turning into even more of a specialty item than they are now.
  • Who are they for? Those who have trouble getting boots on and off. Now you can keep the performance you are accustomed to while making things a whole lot easier on yourself. If you have special-needs feet, although most of these boots are too thin to grind, their ability to be molded makes them a strong consideration.
  • Who are they not for? Simple: if you own a speed suit, stick with your plugs and PU 130+ flex boots.
  • Insider tip 1: As a bootfitter, I really like these thin-wall plastics because they are easy to work on. While they are tough to grind, it is amazingly straightforward to fit, punch, and make stance adjustments with the proper technique, tools, and heating devices. When you go to your fitter, go in with an open mind; if the fit isn’t perfect out of the box and the fitter says, “Let's play with it," trust them. The results might be very enlightening.
  • Insider tip 2/Who are they not for 2: This might be 2% of the skiers out there. If you have a leg-length discrepancy of more than 5 mm, you still need to look to a solid-lugged -- ie, plug or race -- boot. I have disassembled quite a few of these boots, from many manufacturers, and almost every pair had hollowed-out lugs in the name of saving 20 g of weight. This design ... uhhhm ... oversight limits an aspect of the boot that IMHO could have been avoided.
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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.

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Awesome write up.

I would like to add that how the boot weight will affect you will also depend on the skis you are on. With heavy and stiff skis, heavy stiff boots just provide a bit more control and dampening at speed compared to lighter boots. With lighter skis the lighter boots feel fantastic and well matched.

That said when walking from the lot to the hill or après it is a BIG difference. It is just much more pleasant to walk on light boots even if they dont have a walk mode (Like the Atomic Hawx Ultra 130S for example)
 
Having skied the Roxa R3 130 T.I. I.R. over the course of a few days last spring and once so far this season, I can say I don't miss the weight of my Raptors. Will they become my go-to boots? I can't say that for sure as there are some drawbacks for me (they are fitted with pin inserts so can't be canted) but it is a surprisingly stiff boot for one that is so light. Goes great downhill and is much easier to walk in with the Grip Walk soles. See my additions to the Long Term Test here.
 
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I think the success of the trend towards lighter boot weight will be heavily market and demographics driven . According to the NSAA, the average American skier is about 39 years old. They also cite that the skiers with the most days in a season fall into the 60+ age group -a growing trend. As I approach that milestone, I can tell you that regardless of how strong my legs are, they aren’t as strong as they were at 40 or 20. Weight adds to fatigue at any age but it starts to get noticeable on the other side of 40 . Add to this the on and off ease and the inherent safety factor that easier walking presents and I would guess that market for light weight boots is here to stay.
 
IMHO, what we may see, and this is yet to be seen, is these lighter boots will not see 250-300 ski days like their heavier brethren. For most of the skiing public, this won't matter. For people working on the hill full time, more frequent 'shoe changes' will become necessary. As they say about good bicycles, you can have cheap, light, and durable... choose two. I'm wondering if this will be the same for ski boots moving forward?
 
I'm onto my third pair of Grilamid boots this season.

Salomom X-Max 130
To
Atomic Hawx Ultra 130's
Now
Head Next Lyt 130 RS

The boots were all very soft, with a big drop in rebound, but MASSIVE trade off in comfort and warmth. Too much trade off to go back lol at 50 years old.
I find I can get about 2.5 seasons out of the boot (skiing maybe 40+ days skiing+coaching). The Salomons went to a buddy that skis lighter than me.

The Atomic Hawx I actually broke - the front of the upper cuff cracked horizontally across a small molded seam.
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I would have bought another Hawx (or warranty), but they were sold out in Canada. But was also thinking of something a bit stiffer to protect a repaired Achilles injury suffered in the off season - what led me to the heads.

It's been a change, for certain, going from PU to light and molding boots. There is a performance reduction, but it lines up to with the drop off directed by Father Time and I find the ability to be on the hill all day is a benefit. I would not go back to the heavier boot now with the easier load on my legs walking, skiing, lift riding (bless you, non-FIS rubber soles...).
I've notice stiffness, performance, and rebound improving with iterations of boot release. My Heads now are much stiffer and livelier than the first 2 boots.
FYI, I went to the Salmon from years of Lange plug (ouch) and then into Nordic Doberman Pros... the boot with the metal baseboard? For no torsional flex? Made amazing sense. Best boot I ever skied.... for all 12 minutes I could ski in it before getting frostbite (like a bloody heat sink, that metal bootboard)...

Of note to anyone transitioning from 96mm+ race boots - I may have made an error on my heads this year and had them stretched/punched too far, leaving some "fear gap" on the lateral sides by me 5th metatarsal. It has a Primaloft liner (more slipper-ish with each iteration) and I totally misunderstood /mis estimated how much it packs out. A lot. Like, really a lot. I will be reheating them and hoping it will come in a millimeter or so.
This is another positive point - I have arthritis and old injuries. When I initially fit the first Salomon Xmax, it was way wide as my foot would swell significantly under any load. Over the year+ that healed and I had a very large gap. We reheated the shell and it came back in quite substantially.

50 yrs old, 207lbs, SL skis only as my leg won't take GS+ ski load anymore, about 40+ days a year skiing with my daughters and coaching little League racing.

(Philpug reviews are bomb, yo...)
 
Sorry, need to clarify - I have started this season in my third pair of Grilamid boots over past 6 seasons. I havent been through 3 boot types this season. Sorry!!

Yes, I'm Canadian...
 
On my third year with the Atomic Hawk Ulta 130 and came from the Atomic Redster World Cup 130. They do not seem colder, they do fit me better, and I have not noticed any issue with less stability in speed through chopped up snow, junk. I guess there could be some in boilerplate, but I've not noticed (probably because I ski in California and not New England). Perhaps a bit less lateral stiffness, but that could be an awfully subtle difference (and each boot's purpose is different).

At 175lbs, I mean, I guess, I'd consider a "150" ... but where's the fun in skiing Mammoth's Chair 22 or 23 whole day or whole mountain in a super stiff boot.

At Mammoth last weekend, the cold was enough that I needed to drive a couple miles with my left foot still in boot before it softened enough to take off. In very warm spring conditions, they are soft--but so is everything else.

My favorite feature of these boots is that I can enjoy the power of damper, heavier skis. This is a great benefit and gives me more options to ski a 173cm double metal playfully in bumps and absolutely bulldoze a path with a 191 heavy metal--and still have enough leg strength to scale to the several steps to lunch at Main Lodge.
 
I have noticed that my knees are not hurting either while skiing or after skiing with Nordica Promachine 105s, which are very light. It's hard to know if it's because they put me in a better stance, or because they are lighter. All I do know is they are better performing and better fitting than any boot I've ever owned (I've been on the hunt for a great boot for quite a long time, so I've owned a LOT.)

I guess time will tell on the durability question. I'm not a heavyweight bruiser, so I might never test them that way anyway.
 
my guess is the better stance....heavy stuff tend to dampen the ride unless you are someone who like to twist and use unweighting a ton.
 
@DoryBreaux was in a Hawx Prime for 2 seasons with 100 bell-to-bell days in each of those years and the boot held up. Dory is a clydesdale and can really push a product.
 
@DoryBreaux was in a Hawx Prime for 2 seasons with 100 bell-to-bell days in each of those years and the boot held up. Dory is a clydesdale and can really push a product.
Closer to three. Probably had close to 300 days. Worth noting that the liner died llllloooooonnnnnnnnnnng before the shell did.
 
I'm very satisfied with my Dodge carbon fiber boots. I noticed the light weight when I first got them. Movements were just easier, and I was less tired as the day progressed. Now the light weight is business as usual. If I were to put polyurethane boots back on, I'd really notice how heavy they were.

1600 grams (3.5 pounds). I'm in my 6th year in them, probably about 130-150 days so far. One liner replacement. Consistent flex at any temperature, much greater lateral and torsional stiffness than polyurethane, claimed to have better vibrational absorption and better warmth retention. They're made in Vermont, two widths, two cuff diameters, flex choices from 90 to 150.
 
Nice write up! Durability? I have owned the Grilamid shells B/C for several seasons, since the Lange's first came out. I was switching out between resort skiing w/ my B/C vs P/U boots until I noticed the extreme wear and tear on the plastic on the Grilamid boots (Green Lange XT 130's). Grilamid is no where near as durable as P/U. The Grilamid slices and is carved up easier than my Grandma's Thanksgiving turkey.

For climbing, the performance and light wgt is incredible however, they do not hold up under real world consistent alpine stress. If you're pushing any downhill limits... look elsewhere until the formula is dialed in further towards durability. I consider them "nice toys" but not for "serious" use on the downhill end.... yet....... On the Up end it is nice to have more options and I'm happy that companies are experimenting w/ new materials. They seem to have dialed in the uphill quotient. Kudos!
 
Well ... since posting last Dec 9, now my Atomic Hawk Ultra 130s are cracking
IMG_4794.JPG
 
I have been skiing the all new K2 Pinnacle 140 Pro for the past few weeks and have been very satisfied with the fit, comfort and customization of the boot.
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