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Over the past 8 years, we have tested 27 of the industry's top-performing women's ski boots and are happy to present 7 of this season's best offerings in an unbiased, side-by-side analysis. We spent nearly 30 days and countless hours this season testing our ski boot lineup on world-renowned terrain at some of California's finest ski resorts. We pushed these boots through a variety of snow conditions to test the full scope of their abilities. Each contender was analyzed in four different metrics, including performance, comfort, fit, and customization. We ultimately rate each product based on its ability to get us down the mountain in comfort and style. The result is a stream of impressions, recommendations, praise, and caution to help you find the best women's ski boot for your needs this season.
Available Widths: Pro (98mm), Speed (100mm), Sport (102mm) Available Flexes: 85, 95, 105, 115 What We Tested: Promachine (98mm), 115 Flex
REASONS TO BUY
True to flex rating
Adjustable forward lean
REASONS TO AVOID
Slightly wider fit for a race-style boot
The unicorn of ski boots, the Nordica Promachine somehow checks all the ski boot fantasy boxes. This boot performed well across the board in fit, comfort, and performance. It excelled in all types of terrain and conditions and had an unexpectedly comfortable out-of-the-box fit. We even found ourselves changing back into the Promachine for relief from boots of lesser comfort. The boot's ability to charge hard on groomers and maintain a balance of playful and stiff in off-piste pursuits was impressive.
While it's not the lightest or the most affordable boot in the lineup, we found the value to be very worth the happy feet. The thick PU-coated Tri-Force Shell and 3D Custom Cork liner construction are designed to support the most aggressive skiers while maintaining a snug fit that is built to last. At the end of the day, we felt super confident in this boot and gave it two thumbs up, and of course, our top overall honor.
Available Widths: Pure Elite (98mm), Pure Pro (100mm), Pure (102mm), Pure Comfort (104mm) Available Flexes: 70, 80, 90, 100, Adjustable Flex What We Tested: Pure Pro Heat (100mm), Adjustable Flex
REASONS TO BUY
Warmest boot in the lineup
Stiffer than flex rating suggests
REASONS TO AVOID
Softest flex in the lineup
Bluetooth doesn't always work
We like to think of the Rossignol Pure Pro Heat as the perfect apres-ski boot. It is a fantastic boot for intermediate to advanced skiers who will stay mostly on-piste but will go anywhere the mountain moves them. We were surprised at how stiff the boot felt compared to its flex rating. The fancy exterior finish boasts pink and rose gold accents and faux fur on the cuff of the liner. It may be hard to take the style seriously, but the boot surpassed expectations and performed well across all disciplines.
The Rossignol Pure Pro Heat did not necessarily compete regarding downhill power, but it maintained a great torsional flex that made for a playful yet stable boot. It did not have as snug of a fit which limited control over our skiing ability. However, the boot still handled well on and off groomers. For those who prioritize mind-blowing warmth and comfort but still want confidence-boosting stiffness and stability, this is the boot for you.
Available Widths: RX LV (97mm), RX (100mm) Available Flexes: 80, 90, 110 What We Tested: RX LV (97mm), 110 Flex
REASONS TO BUY
REASONS TO AVOID
Not great for heavier frames
Our testers agree the Lange RX LV is a fantastic boot all around. It provides stability and confidence on and off-piste and charges head-on into just about any type of terrain or snow condition. Lange upholds their reputation for high-performing, ultra sensitive, and responsive ski boots.
The RX series uses a molding process that utilizes two different plastics that are strategically placed to provide torsional rigidity in places you need rock-hard support and more forgiveness in places you want the flexibility. The boot's smooth, plush liner contoured nicely around our ankles and heels and provided a solid amount of warmth. Thanks to a low cuff height, this boot was easier to engage with and maintain an aggressive stance throughout the day. For the skier who wants a reliable boot to take them anywhere on the mountain, the Lange RX LV is the one for you.
Available Widths: S/Max (98mm), S/Pro (100mm), S/Pro HV (102mm) Available Flexes: 90, 100, 110, 120 What We Tested: S/Max (98mm), 120 Flex
REASONS TO BUY
Smooth flex & rebound
REASONS TO AVOID
Could be too stiff for some
Could be too narrow for some
Limited torsional abilities
If this were the Kentucky Derby, the Salomon S/Max would be the high and mighty thoroughbred leading the pack. The ultra-stiff, progressive flex of the S/Max feels like you're hitting the gas on every turn. This carving machine is the ultimate proponent for downhill speed demons. It is lightweight, sleek, and nimble on and off snow, and the fit is incredibly snug, creating a seamless power transfer from boot to ski.
We loved this boot but should acknowledge it may not be for everyone. It's designed to charge on-piste but didn't stand out during off-piste powder days, in part due to its limited torsional abilities and its ultra-stiff flex. For the same reasons, this boot did not score as well in comfort as it did fit. Strong, tall, hard-charging women would be best suited in the Salomon S/Max or any female who wants a no-frills, back-to-business boot that helps her ring in as many laps as possible.
This year's head female boot tester, Liz Chamberlain, stakes her claim in Truckee, CA amongst the steep descents of the Tahoe Basin. Liz relocated to Lake Tahoe after graduating from the University of Colorado Boulder, quickly becoming grounded in the outdoor adventure community. In the winter, you can find Liz slinging skis and hard goods at the local winter sports shop or plugging away behind her laptop as she finishes a graduate certificate in Corporate Sustainability. Most of her free time is set aside to chase friends up the skin track and tackle California's finest resort laps.
Each boot was given a fair shot on the fast & loose runs of Alpine Meadows and Palisades Tahoe. Our testing grounds ranged from packed groomers to slushy moguls to steep and deep off-piste descents. Each boot began testing on green runs and graduated to blue, then black runs, and beyond. A variety of conditions tested the legitimacy of our initial impressions, from heavy powder days to defrosting spring slush. We spent upwards of 35 ski days testing these boots, where each product underwent a rigorous field assessment and critique period followed by a subjective product breakdown. We also gathered professional insight from Tahoe Sports Hub boot fitting team to accumulate information for our Buying Advice article. With this process, we combined physical feedback and product knowledge to determine the best and the worst of the 2021 alpine ski boot offering.
Analysis and Test Results
Many of our performance metrics — like fit and comfort — can be quite subjective for different skiers of different shapes, sizes, and abilities. In order to provide an objective analysis, we looked at each boot broken down to its individual components and features and analyzed how each of those pieces will impact fit, comfort, and performance for different types of skiers.
The most valuable ski boot is the one that fits you properly and remains comfortable long enough for you to achieve the performance and fun that you're hoping for. While most of the boots in our lineup have fairly comparable prices, the Rossignol Pure Pro Heat stands out for its value. It's the only model we tested that includes a built-in heater, which can be controlled by either a button on the boot or via Bluetooth to an app on your phone.
We tested performance using several key quantitative and qualitative metrics that observe the boot's flex, forward lean, ramp angle, and cuff height. These metrics are used to quantify a skier's transfer of power and rebound and generally describe the mobility and stiffness of a boot and its overall effect on an athlete's downhill skiing ability. Ultimately, you want a boot that allows you to take charge and ski with confidence no matter the terrain. Thus, the skill level is important to consider when choosing a boot, so we discuss where each product shines on the mountain, in what conditions, and for what type of skier.
When we talk about rebound, we often use the word responsive. From a manufacturing standpoint, the rebound is determined based on the thickness and type of plastic used in the shell construction. The flex pattern of a boot will sit somewhere on the spectrum of linear to progressive. Without getting too deep into the physics behind that spectrum, a linear flex will maintain a constant flex along the entire range of motion. In contrast, a progressive flex will become progressively stiffer the deeper you lean into the boot. Most boots nowadays have some form of progressive flex to provide a more dynamic transfer of energy.
Our testers challenged each boot's responsiveness through repeated fast and steep groomer laps. When we use the term "snappy," we mean a boot with a fast response rate. Where the Nordica Promachine and the Salomon S/Max had nice and smooth progressive flexes, the Lange RX LV and the Atomic Hawx had progressive flexes with a more snappy rebound. Depending on the intended use of the boot, you may lean towards the snappy rebound if you stick to groomers and a more smooth rebound for all-mountain use.
The preset forward lean and ramp angle of each boot was tested predominantly through comparison. Almost all of the boots in the lineup have a forward lean preset of 12 to 14 degrees and a ramp angle of 3 to 5 degrees. These two key metrics determine the skier's stance in the boot. A higher degree of forward lean and ramp angle equates to a more aggressive stance, while a lower degree equates to a more upright, relaxed stance. Industry standards have found that the natural stance for a female is somewhere in between the angles stated above. Adjusting these angles and your stance can completely alter performance, particularly if a flex is too stiff or a cuff height is too high. We personally felt the natural stance in the Nordica Promachine and the Lange RX LV paired with the boot's flex and cuff height were the most approachable for intermediate to advanced skiers.
Overall, we felt that the Nordica Promachine and the Salomon S/Max provided the most applauded downhill performance of the bunch. The energy transfer, power, and responsiveness of these boots were outstanding. The Promachine remained stiff yet responsive throughout the testing period, excelling in tight downhill terrain and moguls. With a slightly lower cuff height than the S/Max, the Promachine allowed testers to capture aggressive movement from top to bottom and effortlessly slash through all types of terrain and conditions.
Salomon approached their S/Max series with a race-inspired liner and shell construction with the hopes of offering an ultra-rigid, high-performance boot for the 100-day, hard-charging women out there. The tapered contour of the liner provides a snug fit from heel to toe and allowed testers to engage their skis in quick maneuvers and sharp turns. The Salomon S/Max is a top contender in the category for aggressive skiers who prioritize downhill performance on-piste.
A blissful ski day starts and ends with a comfortable boot. In the same way performance is dependent on fit, comfort is directly linked to fit - another reason we stand by our recommendation to visit your local boot fitter. Our comfort assessment boiled down to factors such as warmth, presence of pain, walkability, and ease of entry. While comfort may be subjective, it should not be overlooked. Pinch points can lead to loosening buckles, while dead space can lead to over-buckling — both of which will ultimately limit engagement and control of your skis. We made a note of all the shortcomings that may factor into your purchasing decision.
The Rossignol Pure Pro Heat excels in the comfort category, offering plush and forgiving liners that felt like walking on a cloud of teddy bears. The Pure Pro Heat is the ultimate apres boot. It is an exceptionally warm option for the on-piste skier looking for an easy, out-of-the-box fit, though a thick shell and wider fit make the boot a bit clunkier than the competition. With a 100-millimeter last and a forgiving flex, this boot is designed for the intermediate skier unwilling to compromise comfort for performance.
The Nordica Promachine was the strongest contender across the board and managed to excel in both out-of-the-box comfort and downhill performance. The customizable, race-inspired 3D Cork Fit Liner offers commendable comfort and warmth thanks to the layer of Primaloft. The Lange RX LV was both warm and stiff enough to charge bell to bell without complaints. Even with a shorter fit in the toebox, this boot provided solid warmth and comfort for our testers. They also happen to be super easy to slip in and buckle up. Any skier from an intermediate to advanced will be pleasantly surprised at the powerful and reactive properties of these two boots.
Fit is a very personal category. It can seem highly subjective due to an infinite amount of foot, ankle, and calf profiles. It is also one of the most important metrics to consider because a skier's performance depends entirely on an appropriate fit and the perceived comfort of the boot. For this reason, fit and performance are weighted equally in this review.
Nowadays, nearly all alpine ski boots come in low volume, medium volume, and high volume versions to accommodate narrow, medium-wide, and wide feet. The shape and size of one's instep is also an important consideration when choosing the boot's volume, though insteps are best supported by custom footbeds that align with your arch profile. Taking note of heel pockets and toe boxes is an important step in analyzing fit. Some individuals have skinny heels or a narrow forefoot, or vice versa. If the liner doesn't hug these areas, you could have too much wiggle room and, thus, a lack of control of yourself and your skis.
With most liners being thermo-moldable, a liner can be shaped to the contours of one's foot, ankle, calf, and shin profiles. An ideal fit leaves no dead space around the arches, toe boxes, and heels and is snug without any added pressure points. More often than not, a new footbed and heat molding are almost mandatory to create the proper fit in a new boot. From there, adjustments in cuff space, forward lean, and ramp angle can be made to accommodate varying heights and weights.
The scores in this category take into consideration both an out-of-the-box fit and a post-molding fit. However, we recognize not all skiers go in for molding and adjustments, so we skied in each model before and after a fitting to get an accurate idea of how a skier at any level might relate to the fit of each product.
Of the testing group, the Salomon S/Max stood out as an overall form-fitting design, with a shapely liner and ultra-stiff shell that amplified downhill performance. The race-inspired construction from shell to liner offered an exceptionally snug fit. The boot excelled on fast groomers and long powdery descents. Our only gripe with the fit was the high cuff height paired with the stiffest flex in the lineup, making it difficult at times for our shorter testers to power their knee over the boot while skiing. Luckily, heel wedges can be added to a footbed to create a steeper ramp angle and push your shin further above the cuff.
Those looking for the best out-of-the-box fit should lean towards the Rossignol Pure Pro Heat or the Nordica Promachine. While we molded both the boots after several test rides, we felt they had the most comfortable box-to-snow fit. While the Pure Pro Heat has a softer flex, it still maintained a stiff, snug construction in the shell and liner that was surprisingly comparable to the Promachine.
Features & Customization
Customization is a key ingredient to ensuring a proper boot fit. It also allows you to extend the lifetime and functionality of a boot after multiple seasons of wear. Not all boots are created equal, though most adult alpine boots can go through a molding or punching process to make sure the liners hug every curve and contour of your lowest extremities.
We evaluated customization by assessing the materials used in the construction of each boot and the ability to mold liners, micro-adjust buckles, replace boot plates, adjust forward lean, and remove straps. We considered the added bells and whistles, such as the Bluetooth heating capability found in the Rossignol Pure Pro Heat or added pin binding inserts found in the Dalbello Chakra. Several of the boots in our lineup, like the Atomic Hawx, have removable cuff spoilers that can be adjusted for skiers who need more space in the calf. The Pure Pro Heat even has an adjustable flex option in place of a forward lean adjustment. These boots scored a few extra points for these added features.
If you are inclined to make an assortment of adjustments but aren't quite sure where to begin, talk to your boot fitter about the differences in each brand's boot designs. Each brand has a different construction of plastic and line materials that can affect your ability to alter the boot's structure. Almost all alpine boots can accommodate heel inserts or custom footbeds, but not all plastics can be punched out.
Unfortunately, none of the boots we tested this season included walk mode, so it was not incorporated in the customization assessment. If this is a priority for you, look into alpine boots with a lower flex rating that are designed for comfort on and off the slopes.
Buying new ski boots can be an expensive, time-consuming and confusing process. Trust your instincts and own up to what you like and where you want to ski. If you love skiing bumps or off-piste, take that into consideration. If you're looking for the most comfortable option that's still an on-piste machine, stick to that. Regardless, there IS a boot out there that will suit you perfectly. And we're here to help you find it.
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