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03-30-2012, 07:17 AM #1
BOOTS! Advice Needed for newbie AT Setup
I have been skiing telemark for years, but after my latest backcountry ski excursion I feel I should be giving randonee some more serious consideration. I'm tired of lugging heavy bindings and boots everywhere, and I also want some degree of release options for avi terrain. So I'm going to make the plunge and invest in a setup.
Took a look through the forums but didn't see any side-by-sides like this, so I thought I'd risk the JONG moniker and post these questions...
On my last trip, I also realized that although I've been skiing in the stiffest tele boots with stiff bindings as well (BD Custom/Bomber Bishop), in the backcountry they're both really not consistent with my style- I want absolute edge control, but I also tend to make more technical descents with more turns, particularly on steeper slopes, so I'm not sure I always need gear intended for the hardest of chargers. Read: I'm thinking of trying out lighter boots. I'd like something that will allow me to access steep terrain safely, without second-guessing my gear, but as lightly as possible. Does this make any sense?
Anyhow, I've been thinking of the following:
BD Quadrant - Good because they're cheap!
Scarpa Maestrale - Never tried it on, no local dealers. Seems light, low cuff, unsure of sizing.
Dynafit TLT5, either mountain or performance - weight is very appealing, but I've never skied a two-buckle boot. Obviously the performance is an expensive option... and from what I've read here people say they're cold, so I might have to spring for a new liner, adding to the expense.
Thanks for the advice.
I should also say that I will be mostly using these boots, at least at first, for day trips and/or weekenders in NH and VT skiing on the east coast, nothing high altitude. They will be exclusively for BC use, once I test them on the mountain on piste.
PS: Initially posted this in Ski/Snowboard section, promptly moved it here...
Last edited by dark_star; 03-30-2012 at 07:37 AM.
03-30-2012, 07:31 AM #2AF
- Join Date
- Jul 2008
- CW Heights
IMO your decision should be based on the type of skiing you do, will you be using them also on lift serviced terrain or is it exclusively BC. I personally am not comfortable with tech bindings inbounds, but I see lots of folks using them. MY BC set up is just BC except on powder days in here UT. I have FRP's and really like the stride I get from them and I feel very secure on the down. I hear others complain that they are sloppy but I have not ever felt that so it really comes down to personal preference. I am not at all familiar with NH BC skiing but if the climb at low elevations is ok maybe the marker Duke or Baron which is more of an alpine binding fits the bill. What ever you do there is a compromise with AT boots and bindings. Also I would not buy a boot and then have to run right out and buy a new liner. There are plenty of good AT boots out there and I personally like more buckles than fewer. Getting the right boot that fits your foot from a GOOD boot fitter, someone that will do whatever work is necessary for you to get the best possible fit is the most important thing.
03-30-2012, 09:55 AM #3
The lighter you go, the more important fit becomes in getting the most control out of the boot. You need to first figure out which boot maker has a last that matches your foot shape. If you're really happy with your BD tele boots, you should probably start with BD AT boots.
For Scarpa, their AT boots tend to be have a different last than the tele boots. Heel fit seems the same to me, but their AT boots are much roomier in the toe than the same size tele boot.
Dynafit tends to have a relatively narrow last and often doesn't work for fat footed Americans. If Scarpa Tele boots work for you, Dynafit would be a good place to start.
Garmont I don't know that much about, but in general BD and Garmont have similar lasts.
Once you've figured out which one to go with you have to decide how much boot you want. Personally, I think the lightest 4 buckle boot is the money spot. They will still be lighter than your Customs and offer as much control as a good recreational alpine boot. Once you start getting into the very light boots, you'll need to up your parallel skill game a lot to ski them well. TLT5's may be the exception to this, but I suspect they are just a lot better than everything else in the weight class, not really comparable to a good Alpine boot.
Between getting a real free pivot ( worth at least a pound IMHO ) and switching to Dynafits, you've got 3 lbs of weight budget to play with. In general the lighter and skinnier you go with the ski, the less boot you need. Can't really recommend a boot unless you also outline the skis you intend to use.
03-30-2012, 10:51 AM #4
As a previous life-long tele-skier I can relate to the reasons you are switching. Tele gear has not kept pace with the developments in AT gear, particularly with regard to lightweight boots/bindings and exceptional walk modes. I made the switch in January 2011 and could not be more satisfied.
In 30 years of tele-skiing (and 15 years of 100+ days/year) I had only tried fixed heel gear for a total of 3 hours so I had to learn to ski all over again. Parallel turns on fixed heel gear are quite different from parallel turns on tele gear, primarily because you can't weight a tele ski forward of your toes. Because I didn't have much fixed heel experience it required new muscle memory. You did not mention the amount (if any) of fixed heel experience you have. I know it took me a few weeks to really program the new movements into my brain. However, the learning curve was very fast and, even from day one, the lightest AT gear offered me much more power and edge control than the burliest tele gear. Much of this is due to the lack of play or slop in the Dynafit setup compared to tele gear. I was soon skiing the most difficult terrain I would be comfortable tacking with my tele gear and was doing it with more confidence and less heavy breathing and muscle burn with much more energy left over for extra laps.
I started with TLT5 Performance and K2 Waybacks mounted with Dynafit Verts. Very impressed with the capabilities of this setup which I have used extensively on lift serviced terrain in order to more quickly develop the necessary muscle memory with a quicker learning curve. I've had no issue with pre-release or mechanical failure. And this gear tours like no tele setup I've ever had.
Having explored most of the AT boot options I'm shocked at how far ahead Dynafit is with the design of most of their boots. I currently have the TLT5 P and the Zzeus TF-X. I'm not that impressed with the Zzeus which is a four buckle overlap design with interchangeable tech/ISO soles. It is much heavier and offers a much less capable walk mode than the TLT 5 and yet no more control. It really doesn't offer me anything I don't already get from the TLT5 P. I do not find it any warmer since the TLT 5 does not feel cold to me. I am very happy with the stock TLT liners after 45 days of use. However, I am a PNW skier and the boot fits my narrow foot quite well. Warmth is primarily a function of fit (not constricting circulation). I think Dynafit continues to offer the Zzeus and other four buckle AT boots just because some people are so biased towards four buckle overlap boots. It's a "me-too" offering that is not really necessary except to fill what might otherwise be perceived as a hole in their line-up.
The TLT5 P ski with great power and precision and the walk mode is un-fricken-believable in it's comfort/efficiency. I also enjoy their capabilities when I am not wearing skis. I am 6'-03" and 210 lbs and if I could change one thing about them it would be to have a slightly higher cuff height. I use the largest shell size offered and I think it's common in the boot industry for cuff height to not scale up appropriately for taller people. I also ski lift serviced terrain with Lange RX-130's which have a taller cuff and more downhill control and power but it's shocking how a boot as light and walkable as the TLT5 can offer 80% of what I get out of a full-on downhill boot with no walk capability.
I am very interested in the recently announced Dynafit Vulcan (or it's less expensive sibling the Mercury) and, based only on early reports (and not having the benefit of knowing your size/body type/skiing style), I think these boots are probably an excellent choice for your intended use. They weigh a bit more than the TLT5 (but are still very light) and their thicker liners should make fitting a little easier and offer a little more warmth for your East Coast location since this is a concern of yours. And they have a bit higher of a cuff. Because they are based on the design of the TLT5 I imagine their walk mode will be uncanny. Truthfully, the walk mode of the TLT5 is so unrestricted I do not think it will matter if the Vulcan/Mercury give up a bit in this area.
As to skis for back-country, I think you could do a lot worse than the K2 Waybacks. They have a carbon fiber web in the layup and that is what allows such a light ski to have such good torsional rigidity and perform like a heavier ski. They are mostly traditional shape with moderate sidecut and a bit of tip rocker which helps navigate crusty, icy sun cups, refrozen back-country tracks, breakable crust and other nasties without drama. They are surprisingly good at holding a consistent edge on steeper ice, very controllable when side slipping and have a traditional tail which provides a fun skiing energy and rhythm in average to better conditions. Their very low swing weight makes steep jump turns effortless. There are better powder skis available but the tip rocker insures against tip dive and these ski light and heavy powder consistently and competently if you can deal with their somewhat narrow width (by modern standards). I recommend against going too short.
Their primary drawback is that they do not do well at high speed charging in full-bodied snow or on hard, irregular ice. Just keep your speeds in the moderate range, crank your turns and you will not have an issue with speed. Even when you over-drive them (speed wise), they reach their speed limit gracefully - they do not suddenly fail. I do wish they came in a slightly longer length than the 181's I purchased for skiing deeper snow with a heavier pack on (since I am already 210 lbs) but for most purposes this is a good length for the backcountry.
03-30-2012, 11:45 AM #5
The Quadrant and the TLT5 fit very differently. Stop looking at the stats and put some boots on your feet. Lots of boots. Your feet will be honest with you.
You sound like a great candidate for Dynafit bindings.
03-31-2012, 08:22 AM #6
Thanks for all the feedback everyone, this has been super helpful. If I didn't make it clear in the original post, I'm leaning towards Dynafit, and in fact went ahead and picked up a set of second-hand Plum Guides for the setup. (i'm aware that the first generation won't have brakes, but coming from a tele background this isn't particularly problematic for me.) I also kind of figure that as long as I'm going light, I might as well go light, and, fit aside, I'm definitely leaning towards a boot like the TLT5. From what I've read, both in this thread and elsewhere, it seems like a pretty kick-ass boot. I should also say that as far as skis go, it will be used at first to drive my BD Crossbows, which are definitely skinny by this forum's standard, as well as ultimately a 102 mm underfoot K2 Coomback. So no fat pow boards for now...
Of course, as many have pointed out, the number one determining factor is fit. This has always been a problem for me, as there simply aren't that many stores in the Boston area that do AT gear, and many of the other shops I'd go to are running low on inventory and/or don't stock the brands I'd like to consider. I got a chance to try on the BD Quadrant, but when I was at the shop (which is 2.5 hours from where I live) the main boot fitter wasn't in. It felt good and I know I'm OK with the BDs but I want to try on a few more. Also, I'm a student and so I vastly prefer to buy things at the end of the season, when they're cheaper- particularly expensive things like boots. So I may end up spending $2500 online getting a bunch of boots and then returning most of them. (As I said, this would be my plan "B" as I won't get the benefit of a good boot fitter and/or a place to mold them.) If anyone knows of good AT stores in the Boston area that I missed (aside from REI, which has low inventory now as well), please let me know. Several ski shops here, including the one where I bought my alpine boots years ago, went out of business.
Thanks again for all the advice.
03-31-2012, 10:34 AM #7Registered User
- Join Date
- Apr 2004
- South Lake Tahoe
I would order the boots you are interested in off the interenet and take them to a local boot fitter to do a shell fit. A good boot fitter should not have a problem with this, you will just have to pay him extra for cooking the liner as well as any other fitting. Return the boots that don't fit.
Another for the TLT5P, it if fits you foot and your budget. If you are worried about cold, get the Intuition Pro Tour liner and save the stock liner for spring. You can also mold the liner with extra room under your footbed in the toe area so you can put a chemical foot warmer pack in there. Coming from a tele background, it will be plenty stiff for you in ski mode.
03-31-2012, 11:47 AM #8
Quadrant, tlt5 and maestrale serve very different feet. Do not decide on the web, try them and let your foot decide. Any other suggestion is at very high risk.
04-02-2012, 03:40 AM #9Registered User
- Join Date
- Feb 2012
I have the quadrants
The stock liner sucks. A lot. It's cold, thin, it has rough seams in weird places. The ONLY good thing about it is the boa system, and I wasn't even a huge proponent of that.
The rear flex is not as advertised.
The toe buckle it fairly useless, in fact it does nothing for me; I might as well have got the prime.
Some issues with the ski/walk mechanism when it's somewhat chilly out (-18F to -30F)
The booster strap is borderline useless. Duct tape can be wrapped tighter and hold better.
They fits my ridiculously wide feet ridiculously well.
They are light.
The top two buckles lock open; I like that.
They ski well enough for me.
They are very adjustable. I personally like the ability to swap from 18* lean to 14* lean. I prefer the more upright.
Can find them cheap.
All the bad issues ^ are fixable.
Intuition pro tours
Dremel tool/ rear flex modification
Drill out the rivet and take it off- or just lug around that oz of extra weight and don't worry about it
Stay home and play xbox when it's that cold. Or a eye drop bottle full of windshield wiper fluid will unfreeze it usually.
Like I said; duct tape. Or aftermarket. Or just deal with it.
I like mine. Got quite a few days on them. My feet liked the garmont radiums better, but my wallet liked the quadrants much much more.
For Reference: I'm 210#, touring on megawatts, and the quadrants drive them fine.
I don't know anything about the other boots you were thinking of.
04-02-2012, 02:57 PM #10Registered User
- Join Date
- Mar 2008
- northern BC
there are no shortages of posts on TGR where buddy tried "this boot" one year then they tried "that boot" the next year and then "another boot" the next year, all based on price and what they read
what it boils down to is every year buddy finds great deals on boots that never fit their feet so I gotta wonder if in the end it would have been net cheaper to just go into a good shop and pay the boot fitter list price to put them in the correct boot for their feet ?
You are at the very beginning of this process ... don't be that guy who complains about his boots year after year
04-03-2012, 06:13 AM #11
All good advice, yet again- thanks. FYI, for anyone who's ever in my position (i.e., wanting to buy boots but being far from any shops and/or all shops are out of stock), I talked to backcountry.com and asked them if they'd comp returns shipping if I bought a bunch of boots, and they said yes. So I ordered 5 pairs and will see which ones fit my feet the best, then return the ones that don't work (gotta love credit cards!), all without paying any shipping. We'll see what the girlfriend says when 5 boot boxes are crammed in the living room, but aside from that seems like a decent solution... then I might take the top 2 to a boot fitter.
Thanks again, I'll post my thoughts once I get them.
04-03-2012, 08:49 AM #12Registered User
- Join Date
- Mar 2008
- northern BC
read some threads on bootfitting, the shell fit is all important make sure it is correct, there are other threads on how to mold liners
04-04-2012, 02:50 PM #13AF
- Join Date
- Jul 2008
- CW Heights
04-13-2012, 07:21 AM #14
Thanks again for all the feedback everyone. As I said, I went ahead and ordered a bunch of boots (because I don’t live anywhere near a store), so for the past week my house has been littered with boxes. I’ve been trying them all on, wearing them around, and giving them the “living room” test. I of course plan ultimately on keeping one pair and returning the rest (all before I get my next credit card bill!), and have gotten return shipping comped on all but one pair of the boots.
As I said before, I currently ski black diamond custom in size 27; I also have a pair of Falcon CS Pros, also in 27, so I thought 27 would be a good starting point. I’m looking at fit first. Ultimately, I bought the following boots and sizes:
Garmont Radium, Size 28 (Bought size 27 too, heard they run small. 27 was actually sold out).
Black Diamond Quadrant, Size 27
Dynafit ZZero C-TF (Size 27)
Dynafit Zzero Green Machine (Size 27)
Dynafit TLT5 Performance (Size 27)
Scarpa Maestrale (Size 27)
Here are my impressions. Know that as I said at the beginning of the post, 1) I am an AT newbie, so I probably can’t pick out any subtle things about a boot that will make it good/bad for touring other than the obvious and what I’ve read, and 2) None of these boots have been skied because there’s no snow here. So these are just my thoughts on fit, quality, etc. Also, I should say I did a shell-fit on all boots and they all fit well enough for my uses.
RADIUM: Boot was too big. Didn’t bother testing it further. However, I did think the whole boot was a little bit too burley for my tastes, and the buckles were really beefy and somewhat of a pain to use.
BD Quadrant: Starting out, this was the only boot I had tried on, and previously I was pretty pumped about it. In the store before, I thought the fit was good, except for the same thing that always happens to be in BD low-volume fits: my toes started getting tingly and cold immediately. I’ve been dealing with this for 2 years with my current boot (BD Custom), and I thought it was just the nature of the beast, even after molding and break-in. Now, however, I think I agree with everyone on this forum: BD liners suck, and they have a weird toebox that crushes your toes and makes them cold. So this was a turn-off immediately; I don’t want another cold boot that I have to worry about all day, especially because I’ve already had frost bite in my foot 12 years ago. Also tried on 27.5 in the store, it was too big.
Aside from that, the Quadrant was a decent boot: it has a very good walk mode (MUCH better than the ZZeros), and is stiff. That’s about all I can say that’s positive, however. I thought overall the boot was a little “spongy,” in spite of the good fit, and for some reason I felt this was inherent to the way the liner mated with the boot itself. Also, the buckles were very annoying- once you tightened them, they were very hard to unbuckle. I got trapped in the boot for 5 minutes once while I was fiddling with the buckle to take it off. So at the end of the day I was somewhat underwhelmed by this boot; it’s also, aside from the Radium, the heaviest of the boots I tried on.
Dynafit ZZero: This boot fit me like a glove, so I wanted to do everything I could to make it work. Unfortunately, I found both models to be again underwhelming in just about all other aspects, with the exception of the liner: I thought the boot was very easy to get in and out of, and the liner seemed like it’d be plenty warm.
The first thing I noticed when I tried on this boot (which I did after the Quadrants) was how bad the walk mode was. Compared to every other boot on this list, the walk mode was pathetic. Extremely limited range of motion. Considering I am getting this boot for essentially alpine applications (skiing in the Mt. Washington backcountry in New Hampshire), this was a problem for me and was immediately points against the boot.
The list went on from there. The C-TF boot had an irritating, almost recessed walk/ski switch, and it felt cheap to me. Also, I noticed that when I was flexing the boot or walking, the C-TF would constantly “click” from somewhere inside the boot, which got irritating fast and would completely ruin a scenic day in the backcountry. On top of the idiopathic clicking, which seemed like it was coming from the inside of the boot, I also noticed that on both models, the second-lowest buckle would always slide up near the tongue’s bellows, and would slide back down with a snap or click as well. These were not encouraging signs for a boot right out of the box.
Finally, I thought the C-TF was pretty soft, and I wasn’t keen on spending more for an only-slightly-stiffer Green Machine with all the problems listed above. Again, all and all, an underwhelming experience, which was sad because it was a great fit for me.
I also thought both boots were overpriced (particularly the Green Machine), even though I bought them at rock bottom sale prices. I agree with one of the posters above- it felt a bit like a “Me Too” offering.
Dynafit TLT5 Performance: Of course, this boot kicked ass. Even though it was on the high end of my price range (even at the sale price I bought it for at $649 new!) I was so intrigued by it that I had to try it on. It is, as advertised, low volume, but that worked for me as I have a low volume foot and like a snug fit. It didn’t fit right until I threw in the footbeds that came with it, at which point it fit as well or better than the ZZeros, which were the best fit so far.
So much has already been said about this boot that I’ll keep my remarks limited. It was incredibly stiff for such a small boot; super-light, etc. Hiked and walked like a dream.
That said, here are what I perceive to be the down-sides, and which of course must be taken into context for what is overall a totally kickass boot. First, the tongue system is a little strange, nuff said. Second, I thought the ski/walk top of the boot lever was hard to pull sometimes and I had to struggle with it. Maybe someone with these boots can weigh in here- am I totally JONGing it up, is there a secret to getting it to open easily? I also found that they were somewhat odd getting in and out of. But aside from that, the only reason to hold back would be the price. I paid the same amount for these as the Green Machine. If you’re looking at both, IMO these boots are FAR superior. I also felt like they’d be overkill for my uses, almost TOO nice for a first AT setup!
Finally, last but not least:
Scarpa Maestrale: I LOVED these boots. Fit was probably an A-, a little bit odd in places, but the oddities were small enough that I felt confident they would be taken care of totally with one molding. Again, so much has been said here that I’ll keep my comments brief: I thought this boot was better in just about every way than the ZZeros, and maybe as stiff as the Green Machine according to my living room test. The walk mode was phenomenal, surpassed only by the TLT5 Performance. I really thought they paid attention to detail with this boot. And how did they make it so cheap?
I’m a booster strap user (when I’m resort skiing I use them on my tele boots) and I loved the neoprene strap on the top. Very good detail that I think will really help the skiability of the boot. Also, after playing around with the TLT5, I can say I prefer having a walk/ski switch on the back for what it’s worth, all else held constant. I’m not as jazzed about the latching buckle that scarpa uses (I find it a pain sometimes), and I also thought that the sideways opening tongue was a bit of a pain, but I LOVED the boot. I’d buy it and put it on my living room table, then call up my friends and tell them to look at it. Haven’t skied it obviously, but it felt stiff enough to serve my needs.
OVERALL IMPRESSIONS: Definitely going to go with either the TLTs or the Maestrales. The price difference between them is over $200, which after a season full of gear purchases is non-trivial to me, so we’ll see what happens.
Hope this is useful to some other people shopping for boots. If you can do it, I think this buy-and-try-at-home system is GREAT, as you can really spend time with the boots and see how they feel in a low-pressure environment. Of course, you have to know a thing or two about fitting and you won’t get a free molding (I’m not bold enough to try on my own), but everything is a tradeoff, I guess.
04-13-2012, 08:52 AM #15
One thing to keep in mind is that boots at room temperature will generally be softer than at skiing temperatures. A lot depends on exactly the plastic used and the design of the boot, but some boots will stiffen up a lot in generally cold conditions.
04-13-2012, 09:34 AM #16
Thanks for pointing that out, bbense- I'm aware of that. The comparisons were made solely between the boots I tested. (That's why I tried to say it was just a "living room" test, so take it all with a grain of salt).
04-13-2012, 09:52 AM #17
A contemporary Grilamid or Pebax boot won't stiffen up so much in the cold as a thick shelled PU boot, but they're also more of a pain to deal with if you need shell work. Hard to believe you fit both the Maestrale and the TLT5P, they are very different lasts, but either would be a great choice.
The top buckle lean-lock on the TLT5 works better once some of the paint wears off - if you can't get it to come out, flex the boot (usually forward) a bit while opening it.
04-13-2012, 09:54 AM #18Registered User
- Join Date
- Sep 2010
Check out the extremely long TLT5 thread for more info, but in my experience, to get out of ski mode, you just have to get the angle of the cuff right and then it's fairly easy. For me, this means leaning the boot backward, not forward, (if I recall correctly, though it may be the opposite) which is somewhat counter intuitive.
But I only had them for a few days before I realized they didn't fit and had to sell them. I'm sure this question is covered in that thread, and if not, it's a perfect place to ask it."Alpine rock and steep, deep powder are what I seek, and I will always find solace there." - Bean Bowers
shroom put it best: "Man, you're one biased motherfucker."
04-13-2012, 10:26 AM #19
Garmonts have med sized last with small and round toebox, not as narrow and pointy as dynafits though. BD is a duckfoot, wide with the big toe being the apex.
Volume is generally dynafit (low), garmont (med) and bd (highish).
Ankle cup is deepest on BD, garmont having a okish while most dynafits are fit like a fucking cathedral in the ankle area, TLT5s exluded.
If you have a BD feet, there is about zero chance to fit in TLT5s without big punching in forefoot.
Edit: Darkstar, the BD toebox is about the biggest out there, it was the shitty liners killing your toes. BD liners suck.
The garmont radiums toebox is about the smallest and worst designed in the market, with no possibility to
work on it.
The floggings will continue until morale improves.