The Atomic Hawx (yes, with an X, please) Ultra 130 continues to put a smile on veteran testers faces for a few key things, and these have remained consistent with this benchmark narrow model for several seasons now.
The fit is tight! And we like that--it reminds us that not all narrows are on the American diet of annually expanding last lines. In particular, the Hawx Ultra (and this also remains fairly characteristic for softer iterations down-line) is tight throughout the lower leg but especially at its base and this snug grip transitions into a bar-setting seal on the ankle bones and heel before gradually moderating toward the forefoot which is slightly relaxed compared to the rest of the firm squeeze and then fully opening up into medium-class snugness in the toebox itself. This last fit zone, the toebox, is revised this year with a seamless neoprene toebox that some testers thought felt a bit incongruous (roomy) compared to the otherwise tight-and-right fit throughout, but toe room is a highly subjective thing--some like a firm sense of containment on the pigs while others like floaty piggies going commando for maximal blood flow and warmth. Our testers felt that snugging the toebox for those with an affinity for constriction would be easily accomplished with a bootfitter's help. For as snug overall as the Ultra is, it manages just enough relief over the top of the foot to maintain sensation and warmth--a testament to the Mimic liner's construction, particularly the no-plastic cutaway area on its tongue.
The Hawx Ultra is both strong and precise when driven by a skier with a sense of touch and technical know-how. This is not a sluggish, thick-shell-walled bludgeon that any overweight advanced intermediate can hang over the cuff with and expect to whip it up every hill like a plow-horse. The refined Hawx Ultra will not have that. It is a thin-shelled polyurethane machine that offers a spring-loaded and resilient flex feel that will load a ski as a response to well-crafted movements from above (you, the good skier) and point said ski exactly where intended for perfectly executed arc after arc. This beautiful partnership of skier input and boot's response works best when the forward flexing movements are neither excessive nor heavy-handed. Our lighter and more finesse-oriented testers consistently love the cuff feel and response, while our heavier and taller bashers occasionally complain that the Hawx will collapse a bit under flex duress. They should lighten up.
The Hawx Ultra stance angles are neutral and modern (meaning a touch upright) but the cuff offers dual sided lateral adjustment and the rear Power Shift anchor mechanism will allow for more forward or more upward adjustment if needed (do this with a skier in the boot, levering in the desired direction to get the little bugger to align properly and lock into place). The 130 version we tested relies on a cam-buckle style power strap, which testers dig, and GripWalk soles come mounted on all Ultra models down to the 110 flex.
Testers still cry and whine a bit about how this boot may offer challenges to entry and exit. It's a thin-walled cuff and a little sharp on the hands, so especially when it's cold the overlap can bite the top of the tootsie as it passes the boot's throat. So, be careful, keep it warm in your Transpack from vehicle to lodge and consider hanging out with a toddy by the fire to allow the Hawx Ultra to warm up for exit if you're that soft. If a skier doesn't realize the fit and performance is worth a little bit of its start-and-finish struggle, then perhaps the Hawx Ultra 130 isn't for him or her.
“This may be the best narrow class fit in the bunch--just perfectly shaped for the typical wide and bony spots but probably also the tightest simultaneously. Simply no fit glitches. Awesome! ” -- Mark Elling
“Really good fit. Toe room vertically is a nice change. Ankle pocket and shin fit is great. Still room in the calf to add spoiler if someone wanted it. ” -- Kevin Gabriel
“Fits perfect. Fully locking my heel in. I wouldn't want to walk very far in these but the skiing is awesome. ” -- Stacy Crumpler
“Quickness...This is where I think this boot really shines. If you love tight, fast, down-the-fall-line turns you will love this little red race car. It's quick as two cats and fast as two rats. ” -- Kevin Gabriel
“It's biggest problem is getting it on and off--the sharp, thin plastic overlap tends to get reversed accidentally, but other than that no issues. ” -- Mark Elling