With atomic bomb force, the backcountry skiing boot market has exploded with variety that even my fertile gear-fantasy brain never imagined a decade ago. Joining the chain reaction, Garmont is introducing for 2012/13 their Powerlite series. This review focuses on the Cosmos. All Powerlite boots have similar features to Cosmos with variations in buckle number, plastic compounds, and so forth.
- Cosmos 4 buckle (men) (all Grilamid plastic, Garmont rated stiffness 125)
- Celeste 4 buckle (women) (all Grilamid plastic, Garmont rated stiffness 120)
- Orbit 3 buckle (men) (Grilamid lower shoe, Garmont rated stiffness 115)
- Nova 3 buckle (women) (Grilamid lower shoe, Garmont rated stiffness 110)
Overall, Cosmos is positioned as a fairly beefy boot that still has the cuff articulation and lack of weight for effective human powered vert.
Pick up the Cosmos, you’ll think it’s lost mass through some miraculous process involving cosmogentic nuclides. Thankfully, no radioactivity is involved. Instead, Garmont built every major shell component with Grilamid, that difficult to mold but beautiful plastic that’s now the go-to material for making light yet stiff ski boots.
My 28.5 (BSL 316) test shells without power strap weigh 41.4 ounces each (1174 grams). That is LIGHT, compare to other boots in our weight chart. The next shell size down, what they call the 27.5 (BSL 306 mm) is 41.4 ounces (1174 grams) !!
While comparing weights to other brands, remember that due to how Garmont lasts and builds their boot shells, the next shell size down in a Garmont Powerlite boot is a better comparison. In other words, their 306 mm BSL shell fits my foot the same as most of the longer shells in our weight chart.
Sidebar, with help from Paul Parker: Above alludes to a problem in the backcountry skiing boot industry. Please when comparing boot shell weights, do so using what shell actually fits your foot rather than looking at BSL (Boot Sole Length) numbers. Although often mistaken as such, BSL is not the boot size. BSL can vary greatly between different boot models of the same internal size due to how the boot shell is designed (how thick the plastic is, shape of sole, etc.).
All boot shells have a number stamped inside the lower shell (scafo in Italian) such as “28.5.” This number is the boot’s Mondo Point Size. Shell cuffs and tongues often span two lower shell sizes so they may not reflect the exact size — it is important to look inside the scafo. That number in the scafo in virtually all cases will be the length of the inside of a complete boot.
Most touring boots use this Mondo Point System (MPS) with the shell changing every 1 cm in size. (Note: some alpine and race boots use UK sizing, which I won’t go into other than to note that it is a different measurement scale similar to the US scale.) In the Mondo Point System, half sizes are usually taken care of with the thickness of the liner and/or footbed. Note that different brands use different 1CM shell “size breaks”, i.e. some use the same shell for a 26.5-27.0, others use the same shell for a 27.0-27.5. It is vitaly important to know this shell break when fitting the boot, and certainly when comparing weights and BSL. The BSL, or BOOT SOLE LENGTH, is printed on the outside of the boot and is often mistaken for size. Most manufacturers also put a sticker on the outside of the boot that shows actual MPS size, but a good hint to boot makers would be to print shell size on the outside as well–new concept?
Oops, above is starting to look like a theology essay. To put it in easier terms, weight of the whole 28.5 Cosmos enchilada, shell/inner/powerstrap, is 52.6 ounces (1490 grams), weight of the 27.5 (next shell size down) is 51.1 ounces, 1450 grams. Wow, perhaps this does indicate some kind of cosmogentic anomaly compared to many other boots in this class? More, that’s with a liner that’s a bit heavier due to the reinforced tongue. Swap in a svelte aftermarket liner, ditch the power strap, watch your aftermarket footbed weight, and we’re talking beautiful lightness for a boot that skis this well.
Okay, yeah, they’re light. But weight matters little if you can’t walk in your shoes. While not providing the cuff articulation of leading “tour optimized” backcountry skiing boots, Cosmos still delivers in the cuff comfort department.
From vertical position to termination of rearward travel, Cosmos cuff rotates about 17 degrees. Translated to English, that means the cuff moves enough for a comfortable and normal touring gait. Though a bit more sluggish than I’m used to these days, rearward cuff articulation is nicely ergonomic. This due to the vertical lean-lock rod being free to pivot at both ends, both where it’s anchored lower in the boot as well as its sliding anchor point in the cuff. This is similar to other cutting edge systems you’ll find on the market, and truly does more closely match the motion of your ankle while having less resistance.
Trouble with any “tongue” type ski boot shell is you’re going to get resistance forward while walking. Keep the upper buckles loose or unbuckled helps with this, but ultimately you’ll still feel the tongue if you stride out. Cosmos is average in this department.
How the buckles stow is also important when you’re uphilling on skis or just foot packing a dirt track access trail. The two Cosmos cuff buckles are spring loaded so they stay folded in even when unbuckled. The cuff buckle ladders have spring loaded wire “frames” that rest over the attached bails, holding them in place if you prefer touring with your buckles attached but loose. Due to the nice fit I got in these boots, I toured with the cuff buckles totally undone. Your mileage will vary on that one.
Entering and exiting ski boots can be annoyingly fiddly or difficult. Cosmos is an exception. Due to the way Grilamid is molded, the lower shell opening extends farther towards the toe than has been common in ski boots. Along with that, the tongue folds up and away on a hidden wire hinge. Pry the cuff laps out of the way with both hands, and your foot pops in and out like donning a pair of Tevas.
One other thing about hiking or climbing in Cosmos ski mountaineering boots. They have a Vibram brand sole with nice stiff rubber in the toe area where AT boots frequently become shredded after sometimes as little as a few hundred feet of scree scrambling. During my testing I stumbled up a bit of scree, and was delighted at how well the Cosmos sole held up. They’ll still wear, of course — and they’re ski boots so the sole has to be fairly thin in the toe area. But Garmont optimized this as well as any thinking person would deem possible, aside from simply making the boot sole toe area out of steel. Steel would wear well, but…
When examined in light of the complete AT boot market, Cosmos is indeed optimized for the down: Conventional tongue shell design, stiff Grilamid plastic for all three major shell components, four buckles, plenty of height — the list goes on. During my testing I found Cosmos to be an impressive mix of weight savings and downhill control. This is the perfect boot for the skier who cranks hard on big vertical — charging both up and down under human power.
Garmont touts their “anatomic shell design.” While simply meaning they attempt to bring in the ski boot shell dimensions to more closely match the shape of an average human foot, this is a valid feature. You can see it in the shell, with the deep heel pocket and slightly reduced volume over “bathtubs” of the past. No bull, you can feel the “anatomics” when you ski — a snug responsive nesting of your foot that even worked for me on a shell and liner that’s around a half size too big.
Oh, and last size? First, know that this danged “last size” thing that everyone seems to obsess on can be quite misleading. Kind of like BSL (see above). Some say the informal standard is to measure the widest part of a size 26 boot’s metatarsal area and that’s the “last size” for a model size run. But some makers measure other sizes than that, and where the shell breaks for your sizing also influences what such a number would really mean. I quizzed Paul Parker about this and subsequently decided the most precise we could get with communicating “last width” is to say Cosmos has a last width for a 27.5 of 103.5 mm, and that this is very similar to the last width of the Adrenalin (as well as being a common last width across the interbred spectrum of AT boot brands.) In broader terms from a backcountry skiing boot perspective, I’d call it a “medium” width last. If speaking from the alpine skiing side, I’d consider it a wide last. Beyond all that, remember that simple things such as the thickness of the liner and which shell size is ultimately picked (the last width scales up and down with size) obviate any precise accuracy in using “last width” to predict the fit of a boot.
Two technical adjustments prove Cosmos is a ski boot for the down as well as the up.
First, yes Virginia, the shell has cuff alignment. Some of you could care less about that, but those who need it know what I’m talking about, and what I’m talking about is wonderful to have.
Second, forward cuff lean angle is moderate, what I’d call around 12 degrees — but you can adjust it up to about 14 degrees (similar to that of Garmont Radium). Lean can of course also be added by using thicker spoiler, shimming inside the boot under your heel, etc. — stuff boot fitters can do in their sleep. Garmont is well aware of issues with binding ramp angle, especially that of some tech bindings having pronounced ramp. Thus by providing a relaxed cuff angle choice, requirements for modern style skiing are satisfied even while using bindings with tons of ramp.
More, rather than providing the two lean positions in the lock bar (perhaps the worst “feature” to ever exist in backcountry skiing boots), Garmont set this up so you can increase forward cuff lean by loosening the obvious two screws on the outside rear of the boot, jacking the cuff forward, then re-tightening the screws.
One small gripe about the lean lock; the mode switch is rather small and difficult to operate with thick gloves. Designing it this way is obviously a feature that prevents accidental switching from rocks or pant cuffs, but has a downside. This is not a deal breaker, and if you otherwise like the Cosmos I suspect you’d get used to it.
Sidebar: While we feel some tech bindings have too much ramp, providing at least some forward lean via binding ramp angle has a few hidden advantages. Mainly, you get some lean angle without compressing your ankle joint. Boots with aggressive forward lean in the cuff can cause ankle compression injury when pushed too far forward on ankles that are already flexed. Secondly and more importantly, boots used with a ramped tech binding can be built to walk nicely when used in the binding flat-on-ski mode, yet automatically have more forward angle when the binding is set to alpine mode with the boot heel lifted up higher than the toe. What seems to work best for a backcountry skiing setup is to provide moderate ramp angle for the binding in downhill mode, but not too much. Ramp angle of any binding can of course be tuned with shims under heel or toe mounting points, though doing so can be complex due to the need for longer screws and such.
Lastly, forward flex while the cuff is locked is similar to most other tongue type boot shells. Cosmos does flex forward, and they ski fine in my opinion, but this boot doesn’t have the progressive flex of an overlap cuff. If you prefer the flex of an overlap, keep that in mind.
I quite like these liners. They’re light (9.5 ounces, 28.5) and conform well to my feet. The reinforced tongue feels good on my chicken legs. I can see swapping them into some of my other boots.
As most of you WildSnowers know, I’m not big on writing endless verbiage about boot liners. They’re so easy to swap out, and so many people do it, that extensive coverage feels like writing chewing gum reviews. But I’ll keyboard a few things. What makes the Cosmos good is the optional laces, pull loops both front and back, density where you need it, and the nicely shaped cuff. In my view the go-to feature of the Cosmos specific liner is the plastic stiffener in the tongue. This combined with the Cosmos shell tongue I suspect will give most of you “forward stiffness challenged” boot shoppers something to be joyful about. Indeed, perhaps you won’t have to be swapping in other boot tongues, nor building up your boots with epoxy and Kevlar? And yes, the liners are thermoformable and strobel constructed (sole stitched on).
At first-look first-test, we easily give the Cosmos backcountry skiing boot a rousing cheer and multiple thumbs up. Garmont has nailed a beautiful combination of light weight, walking comfort and downhill performance. Simply put, by paying cosmic attention to detail and improving almost every aspect of a fairly conventional “tongue shell” ski boot design, Garmont has achieved something extraordinary with the Cosmos and their whole Powerlite line. Give ‘em all a look if you’re shopping this fall for AT boots — they’re the bomb.
Garmont Powerlite boot series shell breaks:
Celeste, Nova backcountry skiing boots:
23.0-23.5, 24.0-24.5, 25.0-25.5, 26.0-26.5, 27.0-27.5
Cosmos, Orbit boots:
25.0-25.5, 26.0-26.5, 27.0-27.5. 28.0-28.5, 29.0-29.0, 30.0-30.5, 31.0-31.5