Reviews You Can Rely On

The 5 Best Backcountry Ski Boots of 2024

We beat up our feet on hundreds of thousands of vertical feet in boots from Scarpa, Technica, Dynafit, Atomic, Lange, Salomon, La Sportiva and more.
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Best Backcountry Ski Boots Review (2023 tested new ski boots. Left to right: Salomon MTN Lab Summit, Dynafit TLT X, Tecnica Zero G Peak, Fischer Transalp...)
2023 tested new ski boots. Left to right: Salomon MTN Lab Summit, Dynafit TLT X, Tecnica Zero G Peak, Fischer Transalp Pro
Credit: Jediah Porter
By Jediah Porter ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Dec 16, 2023

The Best Backcountry Ski Boots for 2024


We've tested over 40 of the best backcountry ski boots since we started reviewing them 9 seasons ago. For our current review, we purchased 18 of today's top models to compare side-by-side. Our team is intimately familiar with each model after many days of wearing each of these boots in backcountry terrain. Every boot is shared among testers with feet of different shapes and sizes, allowing us to compare their performance from different perspectives. We assess and describe each boot based on downhill versus uphill performance, weight, comfort and fit, warmth, and ease of use. Testing ski boots isn't easy; no one's feet like new boots all the time, and the right boot fit matters. But our comprehensive review will set you on the right track with expert advice based on real-world, comparative, and discerning backcountry use.

We can guide you through all your important and major backcountry backcountry ski equipment purchases. We've written it all up for you: the best backcountry skis, skins, and the best bindings.

Editor's Note: We updated this review on December 16, 2023, to add new boots from Dynafit, Fischer, Salomon, and Tecnica, and offer alternative recommendations against our award winners.

Top 18 Backcountry Ski Boots - Test Results

Displaying 6 - 10 of 18
 
Awards     Editors' Choice Award 
Price $699 List
$524.25 at Backcountry
$387.52 at Backcountry
Compare at 2 sellers
$539.99 at Evo$509.97 at Amazon
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$575.97 at Amazon
Compare at 3 sellers
Overall Score
70
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71
Star Rating
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Pros Well balanced performance, easy on and offWide, high volume fit. Modern, balanced all around performance, up and downBalanced uphill and downhill performance, versatileProgressive flex, durable, familiar and reliable buckles, customizable fitExcellent downhill performance, lightweight, proven style
Cons Neutral fit is both a pro and a con, flimsy linerHeavy liner, high volume fitAwkward transitions, high lower cuff impeded strideHeavy, limited range of ankle motion and high friction within that rangeModerate insulation, hard to get in and out of
Bottom Line A solid, well-balanced touring boot that emphasizes your downhill experience while still allowing most touring paces and giving freedom of motion for mild technical ascendingWell-built, high performance ski touring boots for all-around use. Especially good for wide and high volume feetSolid mid-weight boots that tour and ski well and fit a wide range of foot typesVery heavy touring boots or slightly lightened resort boots; use these for primarily mechanized access skiing, with occasional human-powered foraysWhether a newcomer adjusting from the resort or a seasoned expert gunning for 100+ backcountry days a season, here is a top of the line contender
Rating Categories La Sportiva Vega Scott Freeguide Carbon Fischer Transalp Pro Atomic Hawx Prime X... Tecnica Zero G Tour...
Downhill Performance (35%)
8.0
5.0
8.0
9.0
8.0
Uphill Performance (20%)
6.0
5.0
6.0
2.0
7.0
Weight (20%)
5.0
5.0
5.0
3.0
5.0
Comfort and Fit (10%)
8.0
6.0
7.0
8.0
8.0
Warmth (10%) Sort Icon
8.0
7.0
7.0
7.0
7.0
Ease of Use (5%)
8.0
7.0
5.0
7.0
7.0
Specs La Sportiva Vega Scott Freeguide Carbon Fischer Transalp Pro Atomic Hawx Prime X... Tecnica Zero G Tour...
Weight per Pair (Size 26.5) 6 lbs 8 oz 6 lbs 5 oz 5 lbs 14 oz 7 lbs 5 oz 5 lbs 13 oz
Weight of One Boot Shell 1220 g 1122 g 1061 g 1241 g 1119 g
Weight of One Stock Liner, No Footbed 253 g 310 g 272 g 406 g 204 g
Weight of One Complete Boot, No Insole 1473 g 1432 g 1333 g 1647 g 1323 g
Range of Motion (degrees) 60° 55° 90° 58° 55°
Binding Compatibility? Tech and DIN AT Tech and DIN AT Tech and DIN AT Tech, DIN AT, Grip Walk Tech and DIN AT
Stated Flex Index 115 130 Not reported 130 130
Manufacturer Stated Last Width 102.5mm 101.5 mm 100 mm 100 mm 99 mm
Liner Design Tongue Tongue Tongue Wrap Wrap
Shell material Grilamid Carbon re-enforced Grilamid Pebax Grilamid Grilamid


Best Lightweight Backcountry Ski Boot


Scarpa F1 LT


71
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Downhill Performance 6.0
  • Uphill Performance 8.0
  • Weight 9.0
  • Comfort and Fit 8.0
  • Warmth 5.0
  • Ease of Use 5.0
Weight: 1023g | Binding Compatibility: Tech
REASONS TO BUY
Lightweight
Nimble
Excellent liners
REASONS TO AVOID
Fiddly transitions
Wide fit

The top-scoring Scarpa F1 LT is tied with the Tecnica Zero G Tour Pro for our highest award, so we are putting both at the top of our ratings. Both boots are carefully balanced, and both fit a broad array of foot shapes. Both are also suitable for all-around, day-to-day backcountry skiing. The F1 is for those that lean towards uphill efficiency, while the Tecnica is optimized slightly more for downhill. The F1 is among the lightest and most nimble in our test but performs on the downhill like bigger kicks.

The Tecnica Zero G Tour Pro will go downhill better, is a little warmer, and is more durable. But the Scarpa F1 LT is lighter and goes uphill better. Both are very well balanced, given the competing demands on backcountry gear. Choose the F1 LT for optimal uphill performance and realize that your ski pairing might be limited. This boot is nimble enough to climb rocks and drive a stick shift (not that we'd recommend either) and then ski down, at a metered speed and with good technique, anything you might encounter out there.

Read more: Scarpa F1 LT review

backcountry ski boots - scarpa f1 lt in action and chasing powder early one testing season...
Scarpa F1 LT in action and chasing powder early one testing season in Western Wyoming.
Credit: Jediah Porter

Best All-Around Backcountry Ski Boot


Tecnica Zero G Tour Pro


71
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Downhill Performance 8.0
  • Uphill Performance 7.0
  • Weight 5.0
  • Comfort and Fit 8.0
  • Warmth 7.0
  • Ease of Use 7.0
Weight: 1323g| Binding Compatibility: Tech, and DIN AT
REASONS TO BUY
Light
Neutral fit
Proven overlap construction downhill performance
REASONS TO AVOID
Traditional, involved transitions
Limited insulation value

The Tecnica Zero G Tour Pro'sclassic” status is now firmly entrenched. You won't see another model on more feet in passionate and motivated human-powered ski communities. This was a mature, well-developed product at its inception nearly half a decade ago and has successfully fended off multiple attempts at the crown since then. Prior to the Zero G Tour Pro, overlap-constructed, downhill-optimized touring boots were basically alpine boots with tech fittings and a walk mode. This model is a full, ground-up touring boot and is remarkable in many ways. Essentially, it is a “normal” ski boot that tours. The overall configuration is familiar and durable. The execution is light and well-balanced for all-around, high-downhill energy backcountry skiing. The weight-to-downhill performance ratio is amazing. This Tecnica is lighter than many options and skis downhill better than most AT boots available at any weight. Further, the cuff range and low friction enable easy touring and walking. You immediately trust these boots for their familiarity, and the performance won't let you down.

All backcountry boots present inherent tradeoffs. Right off the bat, uphill and downhill performance are inherently conflicting. Boots get better and better at optimizing both, but you can't have it all. There are definitely other boots that tour better than the Tecnica, and a few ski downhill better. Further, to minimize weight and maximize performance (uphill and down), insulation is sacrificed; the Zero G Tour Pro is noticeably less warm than some. However, when it comes to trying to balance these opposing performance metrics, this boot is the best of its class. For all this, but balanced even more to the lightweight, efficient end of the spectrum, check out the other highest award-winner, the Scarpa F1 LT.

Read more: Tecnica Zero G Tour Pro review

backcountry ski boots - tecnica zero g tour pro rappelling into the line on wyoming's middle...
Tecnica Zero G Tour Pro rappelling into the line on Wyoming's Middle Teton.
Credit: Jediah Porter

Best Bang for the Buck


Scarpa Maestrale RS


70
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Downhill Performance 8.0
  • Uphill Performance 6.0
  • Weight 5.0
  • Comfort and Fit 8.0
  • Warmth 8.0
  • Ease of Use 8.0
Weight: 1432g | Binding Compatibility: Tech, and DIN AT
REASONS TO BUY
Well-balanced uphill and downhill
Long-proven design
Excellent liner
REASONS TO AVOID
Roomy fit
Heavy for the performance
Maestrale RS Updated
Scarpa updated this boot since our test period with some new technology designed to increase the rigidity of the boot while staying lightweight. We're linking to the updated model in our review.

If any current ski boot model earns the “venerable” qualifier, it is the Scarpa Maestrale RS. The Maestrale has been around for well over a decade, with slight and steady updates that leave it near the top of the heap. It is widely available at a reasonable price and frequently discounted further. The forward flex is carefully tuned, and the buckle selection is smart, proven (though rumors of changes to the buckle configuration swirl), and easy to manipulate. The included Intuition brand liner further enhances the value. In other boots, you might choose to dispose of the included liner and pay extra for an aftermarket liner brand that you already get with the Maestrale RS.

The Maestrale RS is rather generous in fit. The volume is evenly distributed along the length of your foot, and no particular point is especially tight or roomy. The width of the last is fairly typical, but the overall volume feels higher than average. Many people find the Maestrale very comfortable “out of the box” but then need somewhat clumsy modifications to hold their foot in during high-performance skiing. This is by no means a dealbreaker. Many skiers have enjoyed long seasons and careers in the Maestrale family of shoes. Performance-wise, the Maestrale RS is fairly average. They go uphill well enough, but other, more recent, and more expensive designs – like the Dynafit TLT X – have eclipsed the touring mode of this boot. Similarly, downhill performance is good enough for all kinds of skiing, but it is nothing flashy.

Read more: Scarpa Maestrale RS review

backcountry ski boots - scarpa maestrale rs in use and under rigorous testing. it's long...
Scarpa Maestrale RS in use and under rigorous testing. It's long been a highly regarded boot model, with only upgrades that we consider worthwhile.
Credit: Jediah Porter

Top Pick for Fast and Light Missions


Dynafit TLT X


68
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Downhill Performance 5.0
  • Uphill Performance 8.0
  • Weight 9.0
  • Comfort and Fit 7.0
  • Warmth 5.0
  • Ease of Use 8.0
Weight: 1057g | Binding Compatibility: Tech only.
REASONS TO BUY
Medium fit
Great Tour mode
One-move transitions
REASONS TO AVOID
Heavier than others that ski similarly
Not everyone likes the cable-and-dial lower closure

We like to be able to recommend a boot to you that skis narrow to mid-fat skis well, tours very well, weighs around one kilogram, and transitions from up to down and back again with one lever move. In the past, we have been able to give that product an Editors Choice award, but ski boot innovation has come a long way. The Dynafit TLT X stands out as our recommendation for speedy touring because of its one-move transition lever. This function is so much more efficient than other top lightweight boots on the market that require complex transition sequences.

But there are other boots that weigh about as much as the TLT X, tour just as well, and ski downhill better – namely the Scarpa F1 LT. While the fit of the TLT X is comfortable and accessible to most foot shapes, its minimalist design isn't very warm (though that is to be expected of any lightweight touring boot. The cable-and-dial lower closure is contentious, but it works for this boot. For us, it really comes back to the efficiency gained by the one-move transition. There may be other boots that ski or tour slightly better, but if we're on a mission with tight margins, the ease of transition of the TLT X just might make all the difference.

Read more: Dynafit TLT X review

backcountry ski boots - the dynafit tlt x in action on a multi-day, complex, difficult ski...
The Dynafit TLT X in action on a multi-day, complex, difficult ski mountaineering traverse in the High Sierra.
Credit: Jediah Porter

Best Hybrid Touring Boot


Lange XT3 120


62
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Downhill Performance 10.0
  • Uphill Performance 1.0
  • Weight 2.0
  • Comfort and Fit 8.0
  • Warmth 9.0
  • Ease of Use 7.0
Weight: 1750g | Binding Compatibility: GripWalk, Tech, and DIN AT
REASONS TO BUY
Excellent downhill skiing
Durable
Warm
Reliable
REASONS TO AVOID
Limited uphill and foot-travel performance

The Lange XT3 120 is the best we've tested for downhill-optimized performance. For someone who spends most of their time riding chairs or other mechanized access, it's a great choice. It's also optimal for those who typically engage in short tours, boot packs, and “sidecountry” touring. It is one of a few available that will work with tech-style touring bindings and with resort alpine bindings (the resort bindings must be “GripWalk” compatible). Our lead test editor and full-time backcountry ski guide has used them for some day-to-day guiding, where comfort, downhill performance, and warmth are his biggest considerations.

The weight and lack of touring mobility will narrow the appeal of these boots. They don't tour or climb nearly as well as other options we assess. We do not recommend them for big days or technical tours. If you have aspirations along those lines, a similarly-priced boot like Tecnica Zero G Tour Pro is a better investment. That said, if you're a fan of going into the backcountry for short jaunts and want excellent downhill performance, where the uphill isn't as much of a concern, the XT3 120 is a strong recommendation. We've seen people take these boots on 8000-vertical-foot walkabouts. It isn't recommended and is more a testament to those testers' grit than to the efficiency of the boot. Nonetheless, almost anything is possible.

Read more: Lange XT3 120 review

backcountry ski boots - lange xt 130 is a burly, resort-quality ski boot that can be used...
Lange XT 130 is a burly, resort-quality ski boot that can be used for short tours or by those that are very fit and don't mind uphill inefficiency in exchange for maximum downhill performance.
Credit: Jediah Porter

Compare Products

select up to 5 products to compare
Score Product Price
71
Tecnica Zero G Tour Pro
Best All-Around Backcountry Ski Boot
$900
Editors' Choice Award
71
Scarpa F1 LT
Best Lightweight Backcountry Ski Boot
$949
Editors' Choice Award
70
Scarpa Maestrale RS
Best Bang for the Buck
$949
Best Buy Award
70
La Sportiva Vega
$699
68
Dynafit TLT X
Top Pick for Fast and Light Missions
$800
Top Pick Award
67
Fischer Transalp Pro
$950
66
Salomon S/Lab MTN Summit
$800
66
Fischer Travers CS
$850
66
Tecnica Zero G Peak Carbon
$1,000
64
Dynafit Mezzalama
$800
63
Dynafit Radical Pro
$800
62
Lange XT3 120
Best Hybrid Touring Boot
$750
Top Pick Award
61
Dalbello Quantum Asolo Factory
$900
61
Scarpa Maestrale XT
$929
60
Atomic Hawx Prime XTD 130
$1,100
59
Dynafit Hoji 130
$900
54
Scott Freeguide Carbon
$900
54
Atomic Backland Ultimate
$950

backcountry ski boots - your ski boots have a complicated job to do. choose wisely. our...
Your ski boots have a complicated job to do. Choose wisely. Our advice here should only help your cause.
Credit: Jediah Porter

Why Trust GearLab


We have used backcountry ski boots in locations all over the world. From the western United States to Canada, Alaska, Peru, Argentina, Chile, and Europe, our testers encountered every type of snow and terrain conditions. We found whatever limitations, quirks, or impressive qualities each pair brought to the table. In addition to testing out in the wild, we measured, weighed, and flexed each boot in our lab to gain empirical data and see how manufacturer claims held up to our measurements. Our testing is ongoing and continuous. Through all of the Northern Hemisphere ski season (and beyond, travel climate allowing), we have tester boots out on the snow almost every day.

Our backcountry ski boot test team has had hours of conversations with people just like you – seeking advice, assessment, and comparisons between the ever-expanding list of options on the market. With many decades of experience backcountry skiing, dozens of years spent in ski gear consulting, and thousands of days of touring, ski mountaineering, and human-powered ski guiding under the belts of our test team, we can make authoritative and relatable recommendations.

We assess each boot on our weighted scoring matrix that considers these variables, weighted as noted:
  • Downhill Performance (35% of overall score weighting)
  • Uphill Performance (20% weighting)
  • Weight (20% weighting)
  • Comfort and Fit (10% weighting)
  • Warmth (10% weighting)
  • Ease of Use(5% weighting)

Our AT ski boot testing team is led by longtime tester and all-around mountain athlete Jed Porter. As an IFMGA certified guide, Jed spends a huge amount of time on skis for both work and play. These professional and personal ski pursuits take him deep into the backcountry in a multitude of locales, providing a unique opportunity to put gear to the test over a variety of real-world conditions. In addition to Jed's wealth of knowledge and experience, we sought input from seasoned ski mountaineers, beginner ski tourers, and other guides to round out our evaluation of these ski boots.

Related: How We Tested Backcountry Ski Boots

Hybrid boots look and ski like alpine boots, and tour like your...
Hybrid boots look and ski like alpine boots, and tour like your average touring boot. Win-win.
A skier in the flat light of Zermatt's flat-light, glaciated skiing...
A skier in the flat light of Zermatt's flat-light, glaciated skiing at the end of Europe's Haute Route, all in the light and mobile Atomic Backland.
Walking is a joy in such light and freely-articulating kicks.
Walking is a joy in such light and freely-articulating kicks.

Analysis and Test Results


We've been testing these boots over the years and gathering more and more information on performance and best uses. Our comprehensive testing starts by researching the market every season to judge which models we want to compare against our award-winning lineup. We then purchase all of these boots at retail – just like you. They are run through a battery of objective, laboratory-style testing, and then we take them into the wild for months of field time in backcountry ski touring and ski mountaineering terrain.

Related: How to Choose Backcountry Ski Boots


Value


It is likely that you've already dished out for a pair of top-rated backcountry skis and some sweet AT bindings to go with them. Now, you're prioritizing value as you look at the up-to-four-figure price tag of backcountry ski boots. Worry not! We rounded up all the specs for the boots in our review and mapped them out specifically in terms of value. First, ski touring boot prices are consolidating. The best, most expensive ones aren't nearly as far from the least expensive as they used to be. This is largely due to a decrease at the top of the heap, though the least expensive boots have inched up, too.

Our high-value award selection, the Scarpa Maestrale RS, represents what we believe to be a great value. Value shopping for ski boots usually compromises performance and weight more than durability or fit. If the boot fits, less expensive options will do the trick, and you will grow accustomed to their particular performance tradeoffs. In fact, less expensive boots are often more durable than the lightweight options at the top of the heap.

backcountry ski boots - if budget is a high priority, boots aren't a great place to save...
If budget is a high priority, boots aren't a great place to save money. First, fit matters so much. Next, the difference between most expensive and least, in boots, is smaller than with any of the other major gear choices you will make. Nonetheless, you can shop carefully and save.
Credit: Jediah Porter

Downhill Performance


We tested and compared all these boots mainly while ski touring but also scored some mileage on chairlifts. As a whole, stiffer boots performed better in our testing. Heavier boots, too, helped us ski down better. Stiffness has a direct causative relationship with performance.


Overall Flex and Stiffness


Generally speaking, everyone wants, or at least thinks they want stiffer boots. That said, depending on your skiing ability, body weight, and skiing style, ski boots can easily be too stiff and will work against you instead of helping you while skiing down.

For example, most 120-pound people won't benefit from the stiffest boot available; they won't be able to absorb bumps as effectively as someone who has just a little more mass behind their ankle flexion. On the other side, a 225-pound, 6'3" user will need a stiffer boot even at intermediate ability and speed, because they just have more weight and leverage to flex the boot.

backcountry ski boots - regardless of ski conditions, for high-energy, high-speed skiing...
Regardless of ski conditions, for high-energy, high-speed skiing, stiff supportive boots are best.
Credit: Jediah Porter

Our testers flex-tested the stiffness of all the boots in our review, side-by-side indoors, and also did our best to test them one at a time while skiing multiple laps in varied terrain. In order to reduce variables, we made sure to make at least a few direct comparisons using the same skis and bindings. Our testers agreed the stiffest boots were the Lange XT3. Just below these are the Atomic Hawx Prime XTD 130, Dynafit Hoji 130, Dynafit Radical Pro, and Scarpa Maestrale XT. The next category down holds the La Sportiva Vega, Fischer Transalp Pro, and Tecnica Zero G.

After that, the next stiffest boots down were the Scarpa Maestrale RS and Scott FreeGuide Carbon. We'd say that the Maestrale represents the middle of the pack, as well as presenting a downhill performance that virtually no one will complain about. Just slightly softer than the Maestrale and Scott, in a class of boot that technically proficient skiers should be able to use in any terrain and conditions, are the Scarpa F1 LT, Salomon S/Lab MTN Summit, Fischer Travers CS, Dynafit Mezzalama, Dynafit TLT X, Tecnica Zero G Peak Carbon, and the Dalbello Quantum Asolo. The superlight Atomic Backland Ultimate are the softest boots on our roster.

backcountry ski boots - testing ski boots for flat light and firm snow control. it's a rough...
Testing ski boots for flat light and firm snow control. It's a rough job, but someone has to do it.
Credit: Nancy Bockino

Forward Flex Pattern


In actual ski use, absolute stiffness is only part of the equation. For the most part, stiff boots ski better. However, when comparing similarly stiff boots, we examine the subjective sense the skier gets from the forward flex pattern. Fully rigid boots, especially when pressing shins forward, are actually impossible to ski. One needs some degree of forward motion. The best boots flex easily at first, maybe in just the first degree of travel, and steadily meet greater and greater resistance. This resistance should ramp up steadily and smoothly in what we call a “progressive flex.

backcountry ski boots - yeah, testing ski gear is rough work. assessing boots for their...
Yeah, testing ski gear is rough work. Assessing boots for their downhill performance is much more enjoyable, but harder to discern differences, in perfect powder snow.
Credit: Jediah Porter

Lightweight, stiff materials, especially carbon fiber and other types of fiberglass, constructed into “three-piece” style boots (lower shell, upper cuff, and tongue) offer less progressive flex than “overlap,” two-piece boots (lower shell and upper cuff – no tongue on the shell) made of thick plastic and no carbon. Generally, the best flexing boots we tested are those overlap boots at the hefty and less-touring-friendly end of the spectrum. Special mention must be made of the Dynafit Hoji/Radical family and the Scarpa Maestrale XT. These Dynafit boots and Scarpa XT are all tongue-style boots that flex nearly as well or, in some cases, better than an overlap boot. The cuff and ski/walk mode of the Hoji and Radical models is an entirely different, tensioned design that better locks the parts in downhill mode, dramatically improves the initial feel, and at least somewhat enhances the ultimate performance.
backcountry ski boots - spectacular glacier skiing and ski boot testing in alaska. check out...
Spectacular glacier skiing and ski boot testing in Alaska. Check out the tiny skier above the huge blue ice cliff.
Credit: Jediah Porter

As evidenced by the Hoji and Maestrale XT, tongue boots can be made to offer a modicum of progression in their forward flex. However, overlap boots remain better. Atomic has built their overlap Hawx boot to be only a little heavier than nearby competitors, with even better progressive flex that skis better than the tongue boots. The Tecnica Zero G Tour is lighter than and tours better than heavy tongue boots with a flex pattern that is equal to or even slightly better.

Among the “one-kilogram” class of boots, forward flex progressiveness has improving in recent years. The Salomon S-Lab MTN Summit has the best forward flex pattern in this weight class. Interestingly, the TLT X isn't too far off. We wanted the Tecnica Zero G Peak Carbon to be better this way, but unfortunately, it just isn't. Speed touring boots like the Dynafit Mezzalama, Tecnica Zero G Peak, and Fischer Travers CS are stiff without optimum progressiveness. The ultralight Atomic Backland Ultimate isn't stiff enough for progressiveness to matter much; they pretty much just fold under forward pressure.

backcountry ski boots - a sampling of our tested boots. in this case, comparing relative...
A sampling of our tested boots. In this case, comparing relative fits of different models and making initial examination of adjustments and transitions. With an important assistant.
Credit: Jediah Porter

Forward Lean Adjustments


Some of the boots we tested feature at least two forward lean positions, and some had the option to further tweak that forward lean forward or backward depending on personal preference. As a whole, backcountry skiers don't need as much forward lean as resort skiers. Folks in the backcountry are typically skiing a little slower, turning more, skiing more variable snow, and are wearing backpacks. Fixed (or only slightly adjustable), moderate amounts of forward lean are usually adequate in touring boots. We had no issues with the forward lean or forward lean options of any tested boots. If you have unusual needs regarding forward lean, buy your touring boots accordingly. Otherwise, don't sweat it too much. Realize, too, that your forward lean experience is a function of more than just the boot cuff. Binding geometry, ski performance, insoles, and liner modifications all affect your experience with forward lean.

backcountry ski boots - one corner of our lead tester's garage. do your feet hurt just...
One corner of our lead tester's garage. Do your feet hurt just looking at all the footwear options? We punish ours so yours are happy.
Credit: Jediah Porter

Uphill Touring Performance


The Yang to the Yin of downhill performance, we tested this as one should do – mainly by skinning uphill. We also logged plenty of vertical booting with and without crampons, scrambling, and sometimes even climbing. In general, more flexible boots with a greater range of motion tend to perform better on the uphill.


Range of Motion


The range of motion of the boots we tested ranges from 90 degrees (more than you need, more than you are even capable of) to a minimal 34 degrees, with most boots being in the 40-55 degree range. We are talking about the forward and rear hinging of the boot cuff relative to the lower boot shell, all while the boot is in its touring mode. We measured this cuff range using a standardized, repeatable method. We chiefly found the manufacturers' reference to be close to accurate. Ten years ago, most boots had around 30 degrees range of motion, but with design improvements, the range of motion has increased dramatically.

backcountry ski boots - cuff range of motion, as demonstrated by the dynafit tlt x.
Cuff range of motion, as demonstrated by the Dynafit TLT X.
Credit: Jediah Porter

With that said, there are diminishing returns on additional cuff range of motion. For example, most people don't need more than 45-50 degrees; you just aren't striding that far, and naturally, your ankles don't have that much range. We do think that 45 degrees of motion is way better than 35 degrees, and users will instantly notice this critical difference. You'll see the difference going from 45 to 60 degrees, and it feels better, but it isn't a dealbreaker. Beyond 55 or 60 degrees is irrelevant to your experience in the boots; your ankle just can't bend that far in even the weirdest ski mountaineering scenarios. Backcountry ski boots with around 35 degrees of range or lower, like the Lange XT3, have an excellent walk mode for an alpine boot but a weak walk mode for a human-powered option. They perform poorly for all-day ski touring.

backcountry ski boots - you will go uphill a lot in your backcountry ski boots. pay...
You will go uphill a lot in your backcountry ski boots. Pay attention to range of motion and friction within that range of motion.
Credit: Jediah Porter

The best touring mode ranges in our test were found on the Scarpa F1 LT, Fischer Travers CS, Dynafit Mezzalama, Dalbello Quantum, Tecnica Zero G Peak, Salomon S-Lab MTN Summit, Fischer Transalp Pro, Dynafit TLT X, and Atomic Backland Ultimate. For an alpine boot, the 34-degree range of motion in the Lange XT3 isn't bad. Further, the 55 degrees of articulation of the Tecnica Zero G Tour Pro is admirable for an “overlap” constructed shoe. The Scarpa Maestrale RS and La Sportiva Vega are right in the mix with the Tecnica.

The Scarpa Maestrale XT has an advertised range of motion above 50 degrees. However, in use, the stiff liner and tight cuff rivets inhibit that. Further, as noted below, cuff friction within the range of motion also matters. The Dynafit Radical Pro is similar; the range is high, but friction interferes.

backcountry ski boots - at ski boots have difficult, conflicting jobs to perform. the best...
AT ski boots have difficult, conflicting jobs to perform. The best boots are carefully balanced.
Credit: Jediah Porter

Cuff Friction


The range of motion is easily quantified and, once past that 45-degree threshold, makes a huge difference in one's touring efficiency. The trickier part, and arguably more important, is the friction within that range. Plastic flexion, liner binding, upper/lower interface friction, interference from ski/walk mode hardware, and cuff pivot tension all inform the ease with which a boot's cuff hinges through its range of motion. The best backcountry ski boots approach zero interference within the range of motion. It is difficult to describe what creates friction, but it seems to be a combination of plastic thickness, ski/walk mode construction (pin-in-bar systems have more friction; bar-less systems have less), and liner stiffness, especially in the ankle flexion zone.

backcountry ski boots - tough walking and technical climbing is an excellent test of range...
Tough walking and technical climbing is an excellent test of range of motion. And proves the need for uphill efficiency in your boots.
Credit: Jediah Porter

The ultralight backcountry ski boots we tested have the least friction. Everything around one kilogram also features thin liners and cuff rivets tuned for touring. The cuff friction, after a brief break-in period, of the Quantum Asolo, Travers CS, Backland Ultimate, Dynafit Mezzalama, TLT X, S-Lab MTN Summit, Zero G Peak, and Scarpa F1 is very low and these are virtually indistinguishable from one another. On the other end of the spectrum, the heaviest boots, like the Lange XT3 and Atomic Hawx, have significant friction. The Dynafit Hoji 130 and Radical feature cuff ranges (basically 50 degrees for each) that rival those of the ultralight boots but have considerably more friction within that range.

It is cuff friction in the Hoji 130 that sets it and the Radical apart from the Tecnica Zero G Tour Pro. Both tested, beefier Dynafit models (Hoji and Radical) feature an innovative buckle and lever system that theoretically allows for one-move transitions between up and down. However, when used as intended, the cuff friction in tour mode is significant. If you lift your pant cuffs and individually disengage the relevant buckles, you get lower cuff friction. The Scott Freeguide Carbon and Fischer Transalp Pro both tour much like the Zero G Tour Pro.

We tested the cuff range and friction with each of the boot cuffs unbuckled. All AT boots tour better with the cuff buckles and Velcro straps undone, which makes a good fit even more crucial. If you need the upper buckles secured for a comfortable fit (or, in the case of the Hoji 130, for transitions as advertised), you will be significantly compromising the touring efficiency.

backcountry ski boots - boot testing in a quiet, untrammeled corner of an otherwise crowded...
Boot testing in a quiet, untrammeled corner of an otherwise crowded ski region. If you need not think about your boots, you can think about getting further afield.
Credit: Jediah Porter

Weight


Among diehard backcountry skiers, it is becoming somewhat “standard” to communicate the weight of one boot, including the stock liner but not including the insole, all in grams. We employ the same protocol, and all of the ski boots in this test are size 26.5. Our comprehensive stats chart shares various weights, including liner and shell separated, and conversions to imperial units.


There is a pretty big range in boot weight among Alpine Touring boots on the market. The heaviest boots we tested were the Lange XT3 at a stout 1750 grams; the lightest was the Atomic Backland Ultimate at a scant 785 grams. For the ski performance they deliver, the Langes are fairly light. The La Sportiva Vega, Tecnica Zero G, Fischer Transalp Pro, and Scott Freeguide all bring average downhill performance at a fairly lightweight.

For durability and all-around use, provided you do not need class-leading downhill performance, you should be able to keep your boot near 1400 grams. The fact that Tecnica, with their Zero G Tour Pro, gets alpine-like performance into size 26.5 boots that weigh 1320 g is a benchmark to celebrate. 1500-gram boots now have to ski much better than the Tecnica to stand out. The Atomic Hawx and Dynafit Hoji 130 fit this description. Right around the 1400 g mark are the Fischer Transalp Pro, La Sportiva Vega, and the Scarpa Maestrale RS.

backcountry ski boots - lightweight boots, like the dynafit mezzalama, aren't quite as...
Lightweight boots, like the Dynafit Mezzalama, aren't quite as durable as their heavier-weight counterparts.
Credit: Jediah Porter

Ultralight boots weigh around 1000 grams. The Dalbello Quantum Asolo Factory, Fischer Travers CS, Dynafit Mezzalama, Tecnica Peak, Dynafit TLT X, Salomon Summit, and Scarpa F1 LT are solidly in the ultralight category. You'll fly uphill but have cold feet and limited durability. Downhill performance, after an adjustment period, won't suffer as much as you might fear. These boots don't charge downhill, but you'll adjust and enjoy yourself in a different way.

Finally, during one recent test period, we dropped well below 1000 grams to test the Atomic Backland Ultimate. This is a “rec class” skimo racing backcountry ski boot that can be pressed into use in certain “real world” wild ski situations.

backcountry ski boots - early season ski touring and boot testing in far western wyoming.
Early season ski touring and boot testing in far Western Wyoming.
Credit: Jediah Porter

Comfort and Fit


Each person has a different foot shape, width, and size, but we did our best to compare boots for touring and downhill comfort, as well as how each liner affected fit. Our test team represents a variety of foot shapes, all in size 26.5. Our lead test editor has feet that are neither wide nor narrow. Ours is a comparative, qualitative assessment largely based on the experience of our lead testers. With length fixed at 26.5, for test and comparison purposes, we compared rough estimates of the boot's volume and additionally noted toe box, overall volume, and heel pocket retention/volume.


We also comment on the general impression of width, though volume is a better metric. Generally, we find that boots have been getting more and more voluminous in recent years. In general, a newer model is going to be wider or have a higher volume than an older model. This is a bit unfortunate, and we are not the only ones to notice. Narrow boots can be modified to fit wider feet but wide boots cannot be modified as well to hold narrow feet. It is a weird trend and one that directly affects your ski performance. The close fit of the Tecnica Zero G Tour Pro is a major reason why so many people like them. Even Tecnica's more recent offering, the Zero G Peak Carbon, is considerably more voluminous than the similarly branded Tour Pro. We were really hopeful for the Peak Carbon; a lighter, modern boot that fits like the Tour Pro would crush the market.

backcountry ski boots - the award-winning tecnica zero g tour pro is remarkably comfortable...
The award-winning Tecnica Zero G Tour Pro is remarkably comfortable considering its touring efficiency.
Credit: Jediah Porter

The Lange XT3, Dalbello Tecnica Zero G Tour Pro, La Sportiva Vega, Dynafit Mezzalama, and Dynafit Hoji Fischer Transalp Pro are neutral in fit. The Scarpa Maestrale RS, Fischer Travers CS, Dynafit Radical Pro, and Tecnica Zero G Peak, Salomon S-Lab MTN, Dynafit TLT X, and Scarpa F1 seem to be higher volume than the others. One tester found the Maestrale XT to be narrower than he expected a Scarpa boot to be. Other testers did not have this experience. Special mention must be made of the Atomic Hawx and Backland Ultimate, which start with a fairly neutral fit but are made of special, more easily adjusted plastic. They can be easily “heat molded” to accommodate various foot shapes and issues. The Scott Freeguide is optimized for very wide, high-volume feet. The Fischer Travers CS and Transalp Pro shells are shorter than all the others. Only in these boots does the toe of our lead tester bump the front.

backcountry ski boots - fit is relative, subjective, and oh-so-crucial. shop carefully, but...
Fit is relative, subjective, and oh-so-crucial. Shop carefully, but realize that most will need to have some work done to their boots before they can “disappear” on your feet.
Credit: Jediah Porter

Fit is king, but there is one major non-fit-related comfort criteria we looked at. For some boots to get lighter, materials in both shell and liner have gotten thinner. Thin shell materials offer better support when they fit closer to your foot. Any shell material offers better support when it is close to your foot, but thin shell materials need that performance bump more. In the end, some liners are thinner than others. For bony feet (and everyone's feet are bony), no matter how well you fit the boots, thin-liner boots are more prone to cause pressure points.

backcountry ski boots - its obvious, but not widely discussed. skiing takes place in cold...
Its obvious, but not widely discussed. Skiing takes place in cold climates. Your boots need to keep your feet warm.
Credit: Jediah Porter

Warmth


We find it surprising how seldom the insulation value of backcountry ski boots is mentioned in other web reviews. Skiing regularly takes place in cold conditions, and your boots should accommodate that. Thicker liners and thicker shells make for warmer boots. More material between your warm foot and the cold outside slows the transfer of heat. This means that there is a correlation between the weight of the boots and the insulation value. Fit matters, but that can be adjusted. The other thing that matters is the “density” of the liners. Softer foam in the liners seems to feel warmer.


The ultra-light boots are the least insulating, while the beefy boots are the warmest. A notable exception is the Scarpa Maestrale RS. It is among the lighter four-buckle boots in the test, but the liner is thick and fluffy. Scarpa works with Intuition Brand for their liners, and Intuition liners are proven and highly functional. Many will replace stock liners with Intuition liners for performance, warmth, and comfort. If you are committed to Intuition liners, Scarpa saves you significant hassle and expense by sourcing their liners from Intuition.

backcountry ski boots - when it's cold out there, heat generated from hard efforts do a...
When it's cold out there, heat generated from hard efforts do a great job of keeping your toes warm. But what happens when you stop to transition?
Credit: Jed Porter

The least insulating boots in our test are the Dalbello Quantum Asolo, Dynafit Mezzalama, Scarpa F1, and the Atomic Backland Ultimate. It is no coincidence that these are also the lightest boots in our test. Lightweight backcountry ski equipment users rely on speed and movement to keep themselves warm.

Warmer options include, as mentioned above, any of the heavier boots. The Tecnica Zero G Pro Tour and La Sportiva Vega can be configured for acceptable warmth. The stock liner in each is thin and cold, but their respective shells are supportive enough to “size up” and insert a thicker aftermarket liner.

backcountry ski boots - ski boots are an important part of your expedition physical...
Ski boots are an important part of your expedition physical protection system. No more or less than your pants and jackets and gloves and such. Consider warmth in your model and size choice.
Credit: Jediah Porter

Ease of Use


We compared the “fiddle factor” of each boot in normal use. We identified how easy it was to buckle, how easy it was to switch to touring mode and ski mode, as well as the ease of entering and exiting the boot. In the ease-of-use category, we also assessed durability. A broken boot in the backcountry is not easy to use. Some are more likely to break than others, and on some, the consequences of failed parts are greater.


Entering and Exiting


Boots with tongues, or “three-piece” style, are easier to get into than two-piece boots or boots that feature an “alpine wrap.” Among the three-piece boots, we found the low-cuffed, super flexible ultralight boots easiest to get on and off. The Dalbello Quantum Asolo Factory, Fischer Transalp Pro, and both versions of the Scarpa Maestrale (RS and XT) open wide. The Lange, Atomic Hawx, and Tecnica Pro Tour, predictably, are the hardest to get in and out of. We would be reluctant to choose these lattermost boots for an expedition or multi-day use, where you'll be getting in and out of the boot while in a tent.

With the overlap touring boots, remember that you can activate the walk-mode for greater ease in getting them on and off. Overlap touring boots are easier to get on and off than overlap resort boots because of the walk mode.

backcountry ski boots - on a long expedition you will make dozens of transitions and maybe...
On a long expedition you will make dozens of transitions and maybe even some repairs. Consider your ease of use for these types of scenarios.
Credit: Jediah Porter

Buckles


We compare how easily each buckle is to operate, as well as how durable they are. Our favorite buckles were on the Atomic Hawxand Tecnica Zero G because they were super easy to use, even with gloves, and durable. Dynafit has slimmed down the buckle arrangement of their flagship TLT series. The TLT 7 employed a complicated arrangement of cables and snaps, while the TLT 8 eliminated the cable and some connections. We like the more recent closures better than we liked the closures of the TLT 7. The newest TLT X (there was no TLT 9) keeps the simple upper buckle of the TLT 8 and swaps in a knob-and-cable mode on the lower foot. There is something very satisfying about the positive snap of the standard buckles on the overlapping cuff of the Atomic Hawx and Lange XT3 boots.

The closure system of the Scott Freeguide is elaborate. First, the liner closes with a proprietary BOA closure. BOA is a knob and cable system that tightens down on your instep. The lower and mid cuff of the Scott closes with regular levers. The top closes with one wide Velcro strap tightened with a camming buckle. The ski/walk mode lever is an old-school, internal affair. Scarpa's F1 LT award winner and new additions from Fischer, Dynafit, and Dalbello are all similar: BOA lower shell closure and upper buckle.

backcountry ski boots - thread the needle to find fresh snow but don't fiddle around...
Thread the needle to find fresh snow but don't fiddle around transitioning your boots between up and down modes.
Credit: Jediah Porter

The upper cuff closure of the Dynafit Hoji boots and the newer Dynafit Radical Pro is about as complicated as it gets. The whole “Hoji Lock” cuff is designed with two major goals in mind; the cuff locks together super securely, and the user can switch between tour and ski mode with just one lever. The result, though, is a more complicated system than other options and more vulnerable (theoretically… we didn't have any actual problems) to failure. Once you are accustomed to the “Hoji Lock,” you can indeed make transitions with just one move. However, the tour mode involves more cuff friction than anyone wants. The “pants down always” transitions that Dynafit claims are novel but not a useful reality when undoing the buckles completely results in much better touring ease.

Buckles that stick out are more vulnerable to disengagement or damage while skiing or walking. We especially like that Tecnica has turned the lowest buckle of the Zero G Pro around 180 degrees. In this configuration, it is less likely to be flipped open or snag on rocks and brush while walking.

backcountry ski boots - you will be changing from up to down, down to up, and even snow to...
You will be changing from up to down, down to up, and even snow to road to dirt to snow.
Credit: Jediah Porter

Transitions


Most of your backcountry ski day will be spent going uphill, less time downhill. The love of one or both of these things is what draws people to backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering. Another large chunk of your day is spent transitioning between the two. That isn't nearly as much fun. Therefore, it is nice when equipment makes it easy to get through the transitions without much drama. Your boots will have two distinctly different modes, and switching those modes involves buckles and adjustments. The best transitioning boots make this process easy.

The Dalbello Quantum Asolo, Atomic Backland Ultimate, Dynafit TLT X, and Dynafit Mezzalama are the fastest boots to transition. All that is required to switch modes is one lever accessible without moving your pant cuffs. The Dynafit Hoji and Radical should be as simple, but the walking articulation in “fast change mode” is significantly limited. The award-winning Scarpa F1 LT can be stripped of its power strap with minimal detriment. So modified, the F1 can transition with a main buckle flip and a rear lever snap. However, like the Hoji boots, this streamlined transition yields a touring mode that isn't as efficient as it could be. We found it best to add a third step and loosen the main cuff Velcro strap on the F1 for most transitions. The Fischer Travers CS transitions between full lock and full tour mode with a cuff buckle and a rear lever.

backcountry ski boots - if you're moving through terrain, it's important to consider how a...
If you're moving through terrain, it's important to consider how a boot affects the efficiency of your transitions. The Scott Freeride is easier to transition than many.
Credit: Jediah Porter

No other product in our test matches the transition ease of the above. The “standard” 3-4 buckle configuration of the Scarpa Maestrale (both of them), Lange XT3, Tecnica Zero G, Atomic Hawx Prime, Fischer Transalp Pro, and La Sportiva Vega involve multiple steps, but those steps are familiar and readily repeatable. All these have four buckles, a rear ski/walk mode lever, and a power strap, all of which usually require adjustment between up and downhill mode.

The buckle configuration of the Fischer Transalp Pro, Tecnica Zero G Peak, and Salomon MTN Summit is pretty consistent with the current trends in boot design. There was a time, five years back or so, when it seemed like buckle configurations were simplifying. That trend has largely reversed; these latest boot models have multiple buckles and levers to work with at each transition. The TLT X bucks this trend with a one-move transition lever. If you skip the “power strap” (and most users of light touring ski boots can do this), you can transition the TLT X with one move, just like a skimo racer.

backcountry ski boots - we test objectively and subjectively so that you can choose wisely...
We test objectively and subjectively so that you can choose wisely and confidently. Let our findings guide your selection.
Credit: Jediah Porter

Conclusion


Choosing your backcountry ski boots is not easy. Further, it is a high-consequence decision that has a direct impact on your experience in the mountains. And unfortunately, your decision is not getting any easier. As more and more models enter the market, differences become broader in some ways and narrower in others. Use our findings in concert with your own judgment and careful, intentional trials to get the right boots to make your feet happy and your adventures happier.

Jediah Porter