A Post-Covid Ski Season! We Hope….

What we learned last year is that skiing sure is fun! Nothing like a pandemic-driven lockdown of society to make you re-appreciate sliding down a snow-covered hill, huh? Okay, so everybody else had the same idea and the mountain commutes and lift lines got a little crazy, and masks over noses and goggle fogging is a thing, yeah we know. But what we really learned was that long lift lines and fewer warm-up options are a heck of a lot more fun when your boots are warm and comfy! An ABB bootfitter near you can help with that...

Most Comfortable, Easiest On & Off Women's Ski Boots of 2020-2021

Nobody wants to have to ask for anybody's help to get a ski boot on or off, especially in a cold ski area parking lot--unless that's your secret tactic... And certainly serious skiers don't want to have to go in early (toddies anyone?) because their feet hurt or have gone numb from pressure or cold--unless that's your secret tactic! Well, for skiers who want to make a day of it but are tired of being consistently thwarted by demonic boots, our test team has found a batch of boots that are a breeze to deal with, and while being luxuriantly comfy and warm actually still manage to make damn good turns!

Best Women's Ski Boots for Downhill Performance 2020-2021

Our women's boot test team is a diverse bunch, but they all know how to ski--well! And while they are all team players and happy to test boots that might not rise to their level of expertise, that's what they'd really rather be doing...ripping in a boot they could call their own daily driver! Rookie boot testers are always shocked at how much the boot can either turn on or turn off her expert skiing ability--no lie, it's true. Every year our boot test managers have to keep an eagle eye out for sneaky testers who will try to make off with their next favorite boot toward the end of the test period--what can we say, they ain't paid! The boots listed here are the most theft-worthy of the test!

The Most Comfortable, Warmest, Easiest-On Ski Boots of 2020-2021

Softer flexing, wider boots are always a little easier to get on but add a walk mode releasable cuff and the slide in and out is sublime! Our testers like testing the All-Mountain Walk boot category a little later in the day, after the legs are starting to complain and apres ski cocktail hour is imminent because one, these boots practically ski for you, and two, popping that apres mode switch at the end of the day makes strolling the deck mighty nice. This is not to say that these aren't skill all-mountain performers...they are! The boots in the All-Mountain Walk category just don't offer up tech fittings and full-thermo EVA liners--these are about fun and comfort, in-bounds.

Best Freeride Ski Boots of 2020-2021

As a type of ski boot, the modern Freeride boot attempts to combine the downhill performance of an All-Mountain boot with the lighter weight and touring range of motion of the Backcountry boot. While this was rarely achieved a few years ago, the current crop of Freeride boots we've tested do everything the on-area, off-area adventure skier wants, without many compromises. Most of the boots in the Freeride group are utilizing GripWalk soles to enhance the boots' walkability and most also incorporate metal-to-metal cuff release mechanisms to maximize energy transmission during descents. Pin-style (aka "Low Tech," or just "Tech") binding compatibility is standard across this category, though the Freeride boot can be used in a traditional Alpine binding, so long as it's GripWalk compatible.

The Best All-Mountain Ski Boots of 2020-2021

The broadest and most popular ski boot category remains the All-Mountain Traditional group--mostly four-buckle overlap designs with non-releaseable cuffs--and there our testers find the most variety in fit profiles in narrow, medium and wide lasts and all possible flexes. These go-everywhere boots balance comfort and performance like no other category and will suit any foot, leg or instep shape and volume. While boots are getting lighter, the All-Mountain Traditional category is still dominated by polyurethane plastic, though increasingly in thin shell wall designs that reduce weight, improve wrapping for better fit and closure but maintain a strong foundation where it counts for stability and performance.

The Best Frontside Ski Boots of 2020-2021

Our test team busts out the well-tuned carvers when we test Frontside Boots and we try to test in the morning on fresh groomed snow. In late March and April it's not uncommon to find melt-freeze boiler plate for the first runs of the day, and that's the perfect time to feel just how transmissive the Frontside category is. With typically solid sole, overlap construction, Frontsiders aren't World Cup race (plug) boots, but they're certainly race-bred enough for most all-mountain skiers who think they might jump in a course once in a while. Rigid bootboards and firm liners give these boots a reactive, strong feel on the hardest snows, and the best of the category make your sharp edges feel laser-honed.

A New World Cup Plug: Head Raptor WCR

Yup, there’s a new plug in town and we ain’t talkin’ about a plodding horse or old timer’s tobaccy—it’s a new World Cup race boot from Head, the Raptor WCR which replaces the venerable but long-in-the-tooth B-series boots. If you’re not clear where the narrowest lasted, lace-up liner then cram into shell race boot gets its nickname from, it’s because the narrowest internal mold a boot company uses on their true race boots is referred to as the “plug.” Often, more consumer market narrow boots may be based off that plug but with more anatomical curves added to the internal mold to make them initially more comfortable and saleable.

Best Backcountry Boots of 20-21

While the true Backcountry boot is an out-of-bounds animal—built for ascending with light weight, maximum touring range of motion, tech binding compatibility and a fully rockered and aggressively lugged outsole for walking and scrambling as needed—we favor Backcountry boots that trend toward a solid, dependable descent, regardless of snow conditions. This season we got a small batch of boots in the skin track in the Pacific Northwest and found a few that toured with the best but skied stronger than the rest.

Custom Ski Boot Fitting? How About a Custom Boot?

What should your first thought be if you have tricky feet and a history of painful boots? Find a better bootfitter, duh! (do that here).
What should your second thought be? Maybe try a DaleBoot! It's the only truly custom-built boot on the market (we think), and it's been updated in recent years with high tech plastics and modern stance angles. There are lots of ways to customize a ski boot, but only one way to start from scratch, like a custom-shaped surfboard for your feet. The process begins with a DaleBoot dealer taking essential measurements and tracings of the skier's feet.

Buying Ski Boots in The Time of Covid

The world may not be changed forever but it certainly is for the near future, and as skiers we’re all wondering how participation in our sport will be altered in the coming season. We bootfitter types (like you) wish this virus would simply disappear but in the case that it doesn’t we’re already changing how we do things as it relates to selling boots and working on them. We’re optimistic that what we do will still be essential and possible and safe, and we know for a fact that getting in-person time with a skilled bootfitter is still the only way to buy the right boot and get it dialed--but here are some things to think about when strategizing your return to boot world.

Ski Boot Testing Adapts

Our late March Boot Test scheduled at Silver Mountain Resort in Idaho is typically attended by testers from around the country and by boot brand liaison teams, often comprised of boot design engineers, many of whom are from Europe. It became apparent that the boot test as we knew it was going to be different when boot companies began banning international travel due to Covid-19 concerns in early March. It only got more dire when the Italian government locked-down the entire region of Veneto, where the towns Montebelluna, Asolo and Treviso all reside—homes to Dalbello, Full Tilt, Head, Lange, Nordica, Rossignol, Roxa, Scarpa and Tecnica.

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