Update, summer 2009: Agent will be available in super small sizes come winter 2009/2010
Size 25.0/25.5- sole length 298 mm
Size 24.0/24.5- sole length 288 mm
Size 23.0/23.5- sole length 278 mm
At first glance, the Tecnica Agent AT backcountry skiing boot looks like a pure breed alpine ski boot missing the 4th buckle. It has all the bells and whistles including full canting capability, replaceable soles (but no sole blocks with Dynafit fittings), easy-to-use-with-gloves buckles, and a moving spoiler which at first glance appears to be the ultimate gimmick. In walk mode, the spoiler draws down, and in ski mode it pushes up — and it works (more below). The shell is complete with integrated power strap. Weight is average to light for this class of boot, 1854 gr, 65.3 oz for one size 27.5 boot (they run large for their stated size).
(Please note, in this review I refer to WE as my brother Steve, and mountaineering partner Jim Gile. We are sponsored by Tecnica, but we have looked closely at many top boots before settling with the Agent AT. Lou asked me to avoid writing a “puff piece,” so I made an extra effort to give my honest take.)
The Agent AT liner is a heat moldable, has a convenient walk-around-no-slip sole, and is complete with a green plaid cuff that makes you want to hike your pant cuff up as high as possible — provided plaid is in style at the moment.
When you first put the Agent AT on your foot, you realize this is a real ski boot. The cuff feels high and laterally stiff (though average to soft in forward stiffness), and the overlap design has a smooth forward flex that eliminates the rebound found in many AT boots; e.g., you don’t get thrown in the back seat. It should be noted that this boot has less forward lean and ramp angle than some other brands/models. We don’t mind that, but other WildSnow testers have found the angles to not be aggressive enough, and they are not adjustable without professional customization. See WildSnow boot spec measurements here.
Out of the box, we headed for the bumps of the Ridge of Bell on Aspen Mountain; if you can ski a boot in the bumps, you can ski it in the backcountry on anything. From the first turn, we realized someone got this boot right. And don’t let the 4th buckle issue dissuade you; the only benefit I see in the four-buckle boots I have skied is that the vestigial clasp serves to add unnecessary weight and is thus the ultimate industry gimmick. And speaking of gimmicks, I should again mention the moving spoiler, which is actually a super integration that allows for an aggressive ski position when you need it, but takes the high cuff out of your way for walking. It works!
In walk mode, with the spoiler lowered, the AT, totally to our surprise, walked and climbed better than the hinged tongue AT boots we loved so much before. As with many of the other overlap boots now on the market, Agent’s overlap design allows for a walk mode that almost totally eliminates forward pressure (when you tune your buckle tightness and location). There is also a walk-mode lower boot latch that moves the buckle down the foot of the boot for added mobility, yet lets you strap the boot on snugly to avoid heel lift.
The knocks on the boot are few, but nothing is perfect. While the liner is plenty warm in general, we needed more warmth for high altitude skiing in the Andes and Himalaya. Upgrade for that was the Intuition Luxury Liner. Along with extra warmth, the aftermarket Intuition makes the boot lighter and also added a stiffness and feel to the boot that sacrificed a bit of walk comfor, but improved an already super skiing boot. (I highly recommend this liner for any ski boot). Also noted, that while the walk / ski mode lever fits perfectly to the boot in ski mode, in walk mode, it hangs off the back; not a huge problem, but it impedes the use of over boots and if nothing else, and looks unfinished. It is, however, very glove friendly, and works with step in crampons. While I’ve never had trouble with the walk/ski catch icing, others have mentioned this so it’s worth noting that the catch works by inserting a metal tang into an exposed socket that can fill with ice, so keep that in mind. Also, we would like a bit more rocker to the sole (upside of that is the Agent can be used, with care, in a regular alpine ski binding).
Since getting our Agent AT boots last spring, we have put in many days around the mountains here in Colorado in a variety of conditions, and took the Agent ATs to 21,000 foot Coropuna in Peru where we had an 18 hour summit day including 6,000 feet of climbing and skiing in about every condition you could imagine. The Agent AT is rugged and extremely comfortable, and performed well beyond our expectations. For the up, the Agent AT performs like a climbing boot, and in ski mode is what you need. All around, a super shoe!
(Guest blogger Mike Marolt is known for the depth of his experience in numerous expeditionary ski mountaineering adventures. Mike along with his twin brother Steve were the first Americans (first from the western hemisphere) to climb and ski from 8,000 meters. Mike and Steve also became the first Americans to ski from the death zone on the Mt. Everest (although they didn’t make it from the summit, still resulting in some good stories and video!). The Marolts live in Aspen, as have two family generations before them. When they’re not skiing they work as CPAs.)