Sometimes, after going to the trouble of getting a boot working for myself, I wonder if I was simply born NOT to ski. Over many years of trying I’ve only found a few boots that fit me out of the box. Dynafit? We’ll, they fit probably the same percentage of the population as any other boot brand does, but I’m in the minority that cannot just step into a Dynafit and go. Even so, Dynafit makes such sweet boots. The Green Machine, yes. Earlier TLT models for efficient climbing, yes. Original red Dynafit touring boots of the mid 1980s, yes. This season’s TLT 5 Performance, yes. Regarding the latter, check out this conversation with my boot coach:
“But, Mom, I want to be a Dynafitter.”
“Okay son, first, those crooked legs of yours need cuff alignment. Will you get enough of that out of the built-in cant of the Dynafit TLT5 cuff, or have to add more?” And what about your incredibly non-Italian feet there Lou, with those skinny ankles and chicken legs. Getting a snug fit for that means your size 28 feet probably need the rear part of a size 26 boot shell. But then you’d have to cut a hole in the shell for your toes. Then you’ve got your fused left ankle, so better make sure that cuff angle and ramp are perfect or you’ll be hanging for dear life on one side or the other of your sweet spot… Oh, and remember that lower buckle is going to press down on your arch and need to be moved rearward so it actually holds your foot down, instead of just causing pain. One other thing, what’s with that ankle bone the size of cabinet knob on the outside of your left foot? The TLT5 heel cup looks awfully tight in that location.”
“But Mommmmmy, I want Dynafittttttt!”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes Mom, I’ll stick some other, thicker liners in a size 28 and mold the heck out of them.”
“Young man, you know using aftermarket liners is going to increase the forward lean to the point where you feel like you’re skiing on your toe tips.”
Here we go:
One thing strange (or cutting edge, depending on viewpoint) about TLT 5 is you’re expected to remove the downhill skiing tongues and carry them in your pack during the up. I just can’t abide adding even more fiddle f-ing to the day, so I’m trying these boots without the extra tongues. Report on that is while using the power strap I get enough forward support from that combined with the faux tongue as well as the beefy tongue of the Intuition liner I ended up using (more on that later).
With or without the downhill tongues, first step was moving the instep buckle farther aft, so I’d get some nice ergonomic heel pocket hold-down from the things, instead of pressure on top of my arch. I moved the outside part of the buckle back about 3/8 inch and left the inside portion for now. Feels much better, but I still might move the inside back. We’ll see.
First, I try the stock liners in the 28. Even after molding they’re so thin I get nothing but air between them and my feet. I consider blowing out the shell toes of some 27s, but I can’t get into the mood, as I knew I’d be trying to preserve the pronounced rocker of this boot, as well as the heel toe tech fitting alignment — along with making sure I didn’t mess up the metatarsal hinge area. A pair of Intuition Pro Tour liners fill up the voids, but they do feel a bit pushy behind the calf. Forward lean, here I come? For testing I go do 4,000 vert of uphilling at the resort. Every turn on the down feels like I’m skiing in high heels. (To be clear, even with the stock liner the boot had too much forward lean for my taste.)
Back to the oven for another mold. This time I give the liners some extra heat, then put max pressure on the boot spoiler while they cool. Not only does this make the liner cuff about 3 mm thinner, but it changes my foot and leg position in the boot as it molds, for a combined reduction in forward lean. Tradeoff is while doing this you don’t form as nice a heel-pocket, and your toes kind of jam towards the end of the boot as you lever back on the cuff spoiler. Some extra spacers in front of the toes inside the molding toe cap might be needed for some folks. As you can see in the specs below, by aggressively molding the Intuition, I got it to around the same thickness in the rear as the Dynafit. Result, still too much forward lean for my taste, but skiable. More later about that.
Mom was right. What an epic.
Intuition Pro Tour liner: 15.6 mm thick behind calf, 252 grams, thickness after remold 13 mm
Dynafit/Palu stock liner: 12.2 mm thick behind calf, 172 grams.
Okay, how does TLT 5 test out in real life? I’ve indeed been getting some vert on these, all so far without using the downhill tongues. Despite how light the TLT5 is, on the down you really notice the rigidity of the full carbon cuff, combined with the simple but super positive cuff lock. As Jonathan Sheftz has shared a number of times, if you set these boots up right, they crank turns. My only con is that as with many locked up lightweight boots, they lack the progressive flex of a bigger boot in downhill mode and thus can serve up a bit of shin bang or unpleasant shocks and vibration while skiing chop or hitting ruts. On the up, no doubt the super mobile cuff and lack of weight are delightful. In time trial testing, they knocked about 3 minutes off an uphill that takes me an average of 50 minutes, so on a big day you’ll see a noticeable energy savings and perhaps a bit more speed (if that’s important to you). Oh, and about the small amount of metatarsal flex the TLT5 provides, whatever. If you like forefoot flex, great — but to me it’s a solution without a problem.
Mode changing with the TLT 5 is not as fluid as I expected. With the stock liner, you’ve got a velcro flap on the tongue that tends to get tangled, and the power strap can be a mess. I like using the laces with my Intuition Pro Tour liners, so though I’ve eliminated the stock liner velcro, now I have a bunch of shoelace to contend with. I will say that if you get the power strap figured out, and keep the instep buckle tight enough, a delightfully quick change to downhill mode is possible since closing the upper buckle also operates the mode latch. When the upper buckle is open during the uphill, it creates quite a bit of bulk on the outside of the boot. I can barely fit the cuff of my OR Tremor pants over the whole deal. Dynafit makes pants with a window in the cuff for the buckle to protrude out of, with the intent of working the buckle without messing with your pant cuff. I guess this assumes one doesn’t use the power strap, but it is a start on solving the problem of pant cuffs that won’t fit over everything.
Myth busting: A while back I wrote in another blog post or comment that the smaller volume of the TLT5 series boots could perhaps make for colder feet. That could be true to some extent, but I am pleasantly surprised at how roomy the TLT 5 toe box is. As the size 28 shell I’m working with has plenty of length, by molding with one toe-cap I ended up with bountiful foam around my toes and still enough room to wriggle. They are warmer than my size 27 Green Machines that I had to punch the toes on. Federico will be glad to read this, as he’s acknowledged that the TLT5 could be a colder boot in some fits, but that in most fits it does have toe room if you care to create it during molding.
In all I’d say that for human-powered backcountry skiing the strong point of the TLT 5 Performance is simply the power to weight ratio it gives you for the down. The single buckle mode change is nice as are the tongue options, but this boot really does control your skis, and making sweet turns is our ultimate goal, isn’t it?
(Someone is going to ask how much different these are than the non-carbon cuff “Mountain” model. My take is that the TLT5 Mountain is still a viable alternative, but the stiff and lightweight carbon cuff is what makes the TLT5 Performance sing instead of hum. )