We don't want to play favorites. We give the same amount of time to each ski boot we test, but it was hard not to reach for the Atomic Hawx Prime 120 S every time we headed out to free-ski. These boots fit our medium volume feet perfectly right out of the box, requiring no boot fitting work to be skiable. And they never felt outmatched, even when driving wide powder boards or all-metal carving skis. The Hawx Prime 120 S is a great choice for an intermediate to advanced skier who wants a capable ski boot that can support them as they progress. With such standout performance, it is no wonder that we awarded this year's Editors Choice Award to the Hawx Prime 120 S.
Atomic Hawx Prime 120 S Review
Cons: Lighter, less aggressive users may have a hard time flexing this boot
Our Analysis and Test Results
Expert skiers will be able to use the Hawx Prime 120 to confidently drive skis of all sizes in a variety of surface conditions from on-piste corduroy to off-piste, unmaintained snow. On groomed runs, the Hawx 120 provides stable, predictable flex when making turn shapes of all sizes. While it does not pretend to be a high-end race-ready boot, it offers expert performance.
Don't be scared that this is an "expert skiers only" boot. It is comfortable enough that intermediate skiers will find it useful and can grow their skiing with this boot. Lighter weight skiers might have a harder time flexing the boot forward, however, so if you are a lighter skier, you might consider the similar Hawx Prime 110 flex boot.
Off-piste conditions also give this boot a place to show its ability. In unmaintained mogul fields, powder, crud, and steep firm slopes, the Atomic Hawx 120 excelled and has no major character flaws. Those who seek a stiffer boot would do well to look at the Tecnica Mach1 130, a boot with a similar volume and a more aggressive flex.
Comfort and Fit
The Hawx Prime 120 is an approachable high-performance boot that does not succumb to the comfort issues that many other stiff, downhill-minded ski boots do. Our testers found this boot to be comfortable immediately out of the box, requiring no aftermarket boot fitting or liner molding to make it feel snug but still comfortable.
Those who do require minor adjustments to their liner or shell will find it easy to customize the fit using Atomic's Memory Fit molding process, a service available at most good ski shops that fit boots. We did not get to try this process out thanks to a nearly perfect fit. Previous experience with narrower Atomic models allows us to heartily endorse their liners. They hold their shape long after your first heat molding and are comfortable after a couple of season's worth of use.
We found the 102mm, medium volume last to be spot on, in comparison with other models that fit narrower than their stated width. This mid-range width allows the boot to fit a range of foot shapes, and volume can also be increased or reduced with the included shims that fit underneath the footbed, making the boot fit a half a size smaller. The soft, plush fibers on the tongue of the liner provide a nice cushioned feel, especially while wearing thin socks, though we do find it hard to get our foot out of the boot without pinching it due to the very stiff shell overlap. Skiers with wider foot shapes should also look at the K2 Recon 120, another good intermediate-expert boot with more room in the forefoot area. Narrower footed skiers would do well to try on the Atomic Hawx Ultra 130 S, a powerhouse of a boot in a lightweight package that has a much tighter fit.
The Hawx Prime 120 is laden with features, making this boot very versatile. Beyond just the customizable liner and Memory Fit shell molding process, this boot offers multiple adjustments to aid your stance and alignment.
There are three settings that control the boots' forward lean, ranging from an upright 15-degree angle to an aggressive 17-degree lean. You can also adjust the canting, or lateral angle, of the boots' shaft using a hex screw. The screw offers 1.5 degrees of maneuverability in each direction. The 50mm power strap is of good quality and disperses the pressure resulting in less shin pain.
A bonus feature is the flex adjustment, which can shift these boots up to 10 flex points stiffer or softer. This makes for a boot that you can grow with as you feel the need for a stiffer boot. Unfortunately, even in it's stiffest setting, it doesn't compare to the true 130 flex boots in this review such as the Tecnica Cochise 130 DYN. Still, the boot did get a good bit stiffer when these settings were changed.
The Hawx Prime 120 is a quality boot. We didn't notice any issues during our testing period that concern us or would seem to lead to long-term durability issues. Like many boots we have reviewed the, Hawx Prime has a replaceable sole, which helps maintain reliable release values if the boot is heavily worn down. We would prefer to see a hex head on these screws, as the posi-drive screws used can wear down if worn on lots of rock or concrete.
A ski boot's warmth is determined by its fit and its liner. A tight-fitting boot that constricts circulation will leave you feeling cold no matter how thick the liner is. We used the Hawx Prime 120 on some very cold storm days at our home resort of Mammoth Mountain. Thanks to the snug, but not constrictive, fit and quality liner, we found it to be one of the warmest boots in our test.
The liner is thick enough to add warmth but not thick enough to be overly bulky. For those who often have cold feet while spinning laps on the lifts, the liners allow you to route warmer cables through a flap so you can attach them to batteries with minimal clutter.
The Hawx Prime 120 is best suited for an expert level skier but offers features that make it appropriate for intermediate skiers with serious aspirations. With proven performance on and off the groomed slopes, this boot is adept at handling a range of snow conditions and skiing styles. With a wide range of adjustments, this is also a boot that allows you to fine-tune it to your preferred stance and flex rating, making it a versatile boot for long-term use as well.
At a retail price of $600, this boot has an average price with above-average performance. We feel that it is a very good value and heartily recommend it due to its wide appeal and versatility. We appreciate that it allows skiers to change flex as desired. It's a boot that can grow with you as you're skiing improves or your desire for a stiffer boot increases.
When you have already convinced yourself that foot pain and discomfort is a foregone conclusion when wearing alpine ski boots, it can be quite a shock when a comfortable boot comes along. The Hawx Prime 120 fits beautifully out of the box but offers performance typically reserved for boots that feel like medieval torture devices.
The Hawx Prime 120 is an expert level boot that has features that make it useful for the intermediate skier as well, and is a more friendly fitting boot that the much narrower performance fitting Hawx Ultra 130.
Atomic also makes the Hawx Prime in 80, 90, 100, 110, and 130 flex patterns.
— Ryan Huetter