Seeking the next best ski
- Nov 8, 2015
- Steamboat Springs, Co
New for this coming season is the K2 Recon all-mountain boot featuring an ultralight weight, a new Ultralon liner, and a cool look. Fortunately, the 26.5-mondo test pair is exactly my size, so I have been able to use it over 20 days in conditions varying from firm groomers to knee-deep blower. The Recon is a 100mm, 120-flex boot, and the 26.5 has a 304 BSL. It is built in the Dalbello factory and shares a similar 12° lean/4° ramp as many other similar boots; with the use of the spoilers, it comes in at about 14°, which I use, and can be heat molded to 16°.
What is most obvious about the Recon is the lightweight design, at 1667 g per boot. The Lange RX 130 LV weighs 2150 g; that's a bit over a pound lighter per boot! It doesn't have a walk mode, which many may be looking for in a boot in this class, but it does have walkable soles. It is visually different from the typical all-mountain boot with a large toe box, anatomical design, and somewhat boxy shape. The shell’s cuff flaps are noticeably soft and quite easy to open up. You might think the boot is wimpy but you’d be wrong.
The Recon will come in 98mm and 100mm lasts. The women’s line will be called the Luv. Both lasts are low volume from mid-foot back (toward the heel) with a low instep and heat-moldable shells, so don’t discount this boot if this isn’t your foot shape. There will be models with heated liners, as well. Another notable aspect of the Recon is that it doesn't adhere to the typical design where the width of the last increases as the mondo increases; it will remain 98 or 100 throughout all sizes.
The buckles are fairly standard, but they do slightly flare so you can use your gloved finger to operate them. I was a little concerned they might get snagged on bramble in the trees, but that hasn't happened. The shell’s top strap is nicely constructed and reminiscent of a Booster Strap. It is 50 mm wide and attached to a ratchet-type clasp like the Booster Strap is, but the sides of the strap are not elastic like the Booster. I am quite pleased with its performance: the clasp works well keeping the top of the boot snug pretty much all day, and I really prefer this over the typical Velcro strap.
The Recon is paired with a really impressive Ultralon Precision Fit Pro liner. You can see that considerable thought and engineering were put into it. It has a moldable asymmetric tongue, and when you slip your foot in, you can feel how anatomical and snug it is -- especially in the Achilles, heel, and ankle.
K2 is serious about getting these boots on more skiers' feet, and thus has priced them aggressively. MAP is $499 for the 120 and $599 for the 130; other than stiffness, there are only very minor differences. There is a lot of value in a boot with this much performance and technology for the price, and I am sure K2 is hoping the price will get the attention of skiers who wouldn't normally consider this brand.
Initial fit. Overall, I have a lower-volume foot with a low instep, normal toe box, and a very thin calf. For reference, my other boot is a Lange RX 130 LV. Right out of the proverbial box, the Recon just felt good. Before we even touched the boot, the fit was damn near perfect. I was expecting the 100 last to be too roomy, but the shape of the shell fit my foot very well. From mid-foot back, the boot is low volume. You will also note the boot's (lack of) weight once it’s on as well as the roomy toe box and low instep.
The local K2 tech rep, Chris, came down to Christy Sports to fit me. (Thanks to Alex and the shop for allowing us to borrow some bench time.) The shell didn't require any heat molding, but we did heat the liners, creating deep and defined heel and ankle pockets. The reinforced tongue adds stiffness and comfort. One thing of note was that in my Langes, I am 1° pronated on my right foot, but with this boot, I was so close that Chris felt there was no need to cant it. We did adjust the cuffs to better align with my tib/fibs.
As everyone knows, flex is relative, so I will just compare the flex of the 130 Lange to the 120 Recon. Most boots at 120 are too soft for my long legs; the Recon’s 120 is decidedly stiffer than the typical 120 but slightly softer than the Lange RX 130. The Langes, however, get really stiff when skiing in colder temps (say, 10°F and below) whereas the Recons remain consistent. This is another aspect of the boot I appreciated. Occasionally when skiing groomed at high speed, I do want more stiffness, but this is an all-mountain boot, not a race boot, and for trees, bumps, steeps, and varied terrain, the 120 is just fine. I never once crushed it. For reference, I also owned a first-gen Lange LX 130, and that one was softer than the Recon 120; I would crush that boot.
On the snow. Ok, so how does it ski? So far I have skied this boot over 20 days in varied snow and temperatures. One thing that others have noted is how easy it is to get into and out of. Even after skiing 4 hours on a -8° day, the boots were a breeze to remove.
The overall feel of the boot is excellent. I know many are reading this and thinking, “What do I care about a lightweight, inbounds, non-walkable alpine boot?” I know I thought that. What I can tell you is that I really noticed how easy this boot is to work underfoot. In bumps and trees, the light weight is noticeable and the same ski felt more maneuverable and quicker. The lighter boot also seemed to reduce the swing weight of my Faction CT 3.0s in powder. If you imagine how many times you lift your feet in the course of 4 or 5 hours of skiing, a pound per boot adds up in terms of expended energy.
The boot reacts to input very well. Maybe it’s the shell materials, maybe it's the weight, but for an all-mountain boot, it is very reactive to input and has an even, progressive flex. When you are clicked into your bindings, you feel very connected and grounded to the ski. I actually measured the sole plates to see if they were wider than my Langes as I was feeling a quicker reaction to lateral input. Perhaps it's the few millimeters wider in last but I definitely felt a difference. I can ski this boot without clamping any of the buckles down as the overall fit is so good, my foot remains stable. The wide toe box is welcomed and I love the ability to easily wiggle and press my toes as needed.
Another concern is that the boot is so light it will get knocked around. That's just not the case. In very few instances did I feel the boot was unstable. I am sure there are some high experts who may feel more of this, but the boot is plenty stable for me.
As discussed above, the flex of the 120 is a bit more substantial than you might expect; I was pleasantly surprised that it was enough for all-mountain use. In trees, bumps, and sidecountry, the slightly softer flex was welcomed on those surprise undulations or unexpected hard bumps. In varied temperatures, the flex remained consistent. Only on below-zero days did the shell feel slightly stiffer, but not dramatically.
I did not install my Hotronics in this boot and probably won’t. Warmth is relative, but I can ski in 10°F in comfort and on the three days when it was below zero or low single digits, I just stuck toe warmers on top of my toes (the height of the toe box easily accommodated this).
The only negative worth mentioning at this point is the grip plates. Although they work well on average, I have slipped twice on very slick floors. I didn't fall, but I think they could be a bit grippier.
I will continue to report on how the liners hold up and add other relative comments or observations. Click on the Thumbnails below for additional views. Fitters and shop owners will love how this boot can be broken down for customization!
Philpug's "Sneak Peek" HERE.