Hod-rodding a pair of new ski boots

So after seven years, my beloved Scarpa Freedom SL ski boots finally gave up the ghost on my recent trip to Jackson Hole and Snowbird. The liners just packed out enough that I needed to add a bunch of material to take up volume. It’s working okay, but I feel like I’ve gotten my money’s worth out of them so boot shopping I went.

I’ve worn very few boots in my short time as a skier, this is my third pair in 12 years. Black Diamond Factor 130 for the first 4-5 seasons, and as mentioned I’ve been skiing the Scarpas for the last 7-8 seasons. The BDs were awful in every way, but I didn’t know it until they were stolen and I got the Scarpas. MUCH better fitting, flex, skiability, etc. I actually really like/love the Scarpas for not knowing any better, but my one gripe was that I could pretty easily get my heel to move around a couple-three millimeters.

I tried on several boots including a Lange XT3 Tour Pro, K2 Mindbender, Hoji Free, Dynafit Radical pro (2022), Scarpa Maestrale, and maybe a couple of others I’m forgetting. The Lange fit the best out of the box and Matt, the bootfitter I worked with at Bent Gate, felt it was appropriate for what, how, and how well I ski. When I shoved my hoof in that Lange it felt way much more better in the heel, and more snug but not too tight in the forefoot despite being a couple mm narrower last.

I don’t consider myself a weight weenie, yet I was still pretty excited at the possibility of losing nearly a full pound (400g to be specific) off my feet compared to the Scarpas and still having something I could ski as a daily driver. Afterall, ski boot tech has come a LONG way since I got those Freedoms, and on paper this boot looked like a good match for what I was looking for. 

I’ve got six days skiing in them (four inbounds and two touring) and in addition to fitting me really well, this boot tours fucking great. Like, really well. I haven’t baked the liners, so I still have a pesky hot spot on my right inner ankle (navicular bone) but even that is getting better as I wear the boot. Skiing is… a different story. I’m not the greatest skier, and as I like to ski steeper more demanding terrain I think I ask a lot of my boots to bail my ass out when my technique sucks. Here’s what I feel, three things I’d like to try and make better:

  • At speed on harder packed snow, particularly snow that’s been skied up and is kinda rutted and such, the boot feels nervous. Like not confidence inspiring that it’ll keep that ski edge planted while going fast. This is better if I get more on the front of the boot, but it’s just not as composed feeling as I’d like. Could this be qualities of the Grilamid vs. a Pebex or PU boot? Like, it’s not as damp? I’m just not sure exactly what I’m feeling here, or how to describe it. It’s not quite chattery, just doesn’t feel as connected to keep the ski planted on the snow. Not as composed, that’s the word I’ve got.
  • I’ve found that if I have the skis at an angle to the fall line and I’m scrubbing or controlling speed, that if the front half of the ski hits some chop or a pile of snow or something, occasionally the boot feels like it folds at the ankle. Like, the toe dorsiflexes towards my shin real hard and quick. It’s never caused a catastrophe, but it’s disconcerting. As above, this seems better if I really concentrate on driving the boot through the tongue… which isn’t necessarily easy or a strong suit for me given my non-race low-technique background and limited ankle strength and mobility from injuries. Could this be that the Lange has a really progressive flex, so where I’m skiing it is a bit softer than I’m used to but it ramps up to that 130 as it gets deeper in it’s flex?
  • I don’t think these have the rearward support that I would like or need. Especially compared to the Scarpas, if I get back-seated I feel like I’m in an office chair about to tip over backwards… except that occasionally I do tip over backwards. I know, I know… don’t do that. Have I mentioned I’m not the best skier? Anyways… could this be a lean angle difference? Cuff height difference? Could shoving a shim or spoiler behind my liner help in this regard? I think the Scarpa has more of a forward lean than the Lange, as well as a rear spoiler doo-dad and taller cuff.

So, I do like fiddling with shit. Between people on the TGR forums making changes to this boot and talking to a couple bootfitters, I have some ideas of shit to try out. Here’s my list of things I’m gonna try to make this boot work:

  1. Rear cuff/shim/spoiler, for a couple of reasons.
  2. Booster strap, or a Lange XT3 140 strap if I can source it.
  3. New liners, either a more robust Lange liner or just get an Intuition or Zipfit.

Rear Spoiler

I think this will help me get in a more aggressive stance (the Lange seems pretty upright) and it’ll likely help with more rearward support. And it was super easy to just add the one from the Scarpa. It bolted in there fairly easily, and though it would really need to be grinded on a bit to be nice-nice it’ll work as proof of concept.

Booster Strap

I wouldn’t have thought of this, but the two bootfitters I spoke with said this could help me feel the full 130 flex of the boot earlier in the range of motion of the flex. Makes sense, not expensive, worth trying out. I’ve reached out to some people on the TGR forums to see if I can source a strap from an XT3 140, as it’s wider and has a cam. This might go, if not I can always either contact Lange direct or get a Booster brand strap.

More Aggressive Liner

For a proof of concept, I shoved the Intuition from my Scarpa in the boot, and I’ll try skiing it with and without the rear spoiler. If this works, and I think it will improve the quality of how this boot skis greatly, I’ll have to figure out what liner to get to replace the stock one with. I have put out the word on the TGR forums that I’d be interested in picking up an XT3 130 or 140 liner, which would be either a Dual 3D Liner RACE or FULL liner, from anyone that’s replaced one of those with an aftermarket one.

My boot with the spoiler, Intuition, and a thicker footbed only picked up ~90 grams which is completely tolerable.

There might be an issue though…

Apparently there is a known issue of aftermarket liners wanting to flip the tour mechanism back into ski mode while touring. I first learned of this in a couple of TGR forum threads, and confirmed it last night by just chucking my Intuitions in the Lange and walking around the house. It seems like either the rougher/textured material of the liner or the stitching across that heel zone on the liner “grabs” the plastic wedge plate inside the boot that locks the cuff in place and moves it back into ski mode from tour mode. The general forum consensus is to loosen the upper cuff completely but being a guy who likes his upper cuff sorta semi-buckled and also being a tinkerer I thought there’d have to be a better way.

I did some brainstorming with Matt at Bent Gate last night, and we got looking at the mechanism and the liner for ideas. The Tour Pro liner has a piece of very soft and very smooth fabric right where the ski/tour wedge plate is in the boot, that assumably enables low friction against the wedge so the movement of the liner doesn’t move the wedge. We came up with a couple of things that I am going to try out:

  1. Some sort of smooth slippery tape to the plastic plate in the boot. That plate has a bunch of holes in it, so maybe that’s what the rougher liner material is grabbing on to and able to move it?
  2. Another thought I had was the same, but different: cover the liner with something like K-Tape, which would be smoother and more slippery, and also smooth out the rib caused by the stitching, making that less likely to grab onto that plate.
  3. Put a rear spoiler (shim, cuff, whatever you wanna call it) in there, that’s just slightly thicker than the plastic ski/tour plate, and would hold the liner away from the plate just enough to give it room and not let the liner move the plate.

I actually did a little experiment last night by bolting the rear spoiler from my Scarpa into the boot, chucking the Intuition in there, and walking around the house. I could see the lever on the outside wiggling a bit, but it never flipped into ski mode like it was doing without the Scarpa spoiler in there. So that seems to prove out, it might be even better with some slippery tape on either the liner or the wedge piece.

Experimentation continues…

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