Editor’s note from Lou: Okay, time to get our blogin’ behinds out of the convention center and on the snow. To that end, a while back we got Garmont to send a pair of test Axons to Bob Perlmutter, a well known Colorado backcountry skier as well as longtime snowcat powder guide with Aspen Skiing Company. I’ve got immense respect for Bob. Not only has he made a nice career for himself in the industry, but I know of few people who get in as many powder days as he does — both human and diesel powered. More, Bob is a terrific technical skier and thus the perfect person for some in depth analysis of what’s becoming a fairly complex part of the ski boot industry. (Also be it known that Bob originated the “Green Machine” moniker for the Dynafit ZZero CF boot.) Bob’s take on the Axon:
As a kid growing up there was an iconic commercial on television with the then famous and oft quoted tag line, “Where’s the beef?” These days the answer to that question is on my feet in the form of Garmont’s new Dynafit compatible AT boot, the Axon.
In the past, AT boot manufacturers have placed Dynafit binding users and new school AT skiers riding ever bigger boards into separate categories. They have finally seen the light. The Garmont Axon is a true one boot quiver that allows going from the resort/sidecountry step-in convenience of Dukes and Fritschis one day, to the tour friendly weight savings of Dynafits the next. All without missing a beat.
My one-rig boot of choice since its inception has been the trend setting Garmont Adrenalin. This served as my basis of comparison to the Axon over the last few weeks. I skied, skinned and booted up in the Axon — which ultimately kept calling me back like a siren’s song. Sorry faithful Adrenalin.
First and foremost, any AT boot has to deliver on downhill performance to some extent or all else is meaningless. In this respect, Axon does not disappoint. Initially I considered grinding the flex stops out of concern that the boot would be too stiff. While the flex is clearly another level of stiffness up from the Adrenalin it is still smooth and progressive. At first I found myself skiing with more exaggerated movements as if in the Adrenalin, only to over steer and put too much pressure on the tips of my skis. Quickly I realized the more responsive Axon allowed me to adopt a more upright stance and use much more subtle movements to achieve even better results.
Like the Adrenalin, Axon has two forward lean options. I often use the greater forward lean option with the Adrenalin but found it a detriment with the Axon — it resulted in too much tip pressure to my skis. The ultra responsive Axon worked best in the more upright forward lean position. Using that slightly more relaxed angle I could still make instantaneous adjustments to the turn shape, without being penalized.
The other noticeable difference is the increased lateral stiffness of the Axon. Result is a more positive and powerful feel when laying the skis over on edge. (Either that or all of my skis have miraculously started to ski better on their own.)
I find the Axon, Adrenalin and I suspect other high performance AT boots tend to overpower shorter, narrower and softer old school AT skis. Such skis feel as if they are not substantial enough and fold under your feet. The Axon in particular begs one to move towards ever wider and bigger planks to maximize the potential of both the boots and dare I say, new school skis. Yes, an old dog can learn some new tricks as long as we leave the word “huck” out of the conversation.
For me, the one Achilles heel of the Axon (and Adrenalin) has always been and continues to be the Garmont liner. Regardless of my preference towards a wrap style liner vs. a separate tongue, in my opinion the Garmont liner should be built with denser foam to realize the full performance and response of stiffer boots such as Axon. More, Garmont liners also pack out more over time then any of the other thermo liners I have used over many years. Therefore, the one caveat of this review is that other than a requisite day or two for testing purposes, all of my comments are relative to the use of a liner other than the stock Garmont liner.
What goes down must go up to get there in the first place. Despite using the exact same walk mechanism as the Adrenalin, the Axon does not skin or boot exactly the same. The difference is slight, but compared to its little brother the stiffer plastic of the Axon cuff does limit range of motion some while skinning or booting. That said, this is a minor inconvenience compared to the significant downhill performance advantage.
Much has been said about the noticeable heft of the Axon (around 9 lbs.), especially compared to the Green Machine from Dynafit. While I did notice a little more weight on my feet when skinning or booting up, the true comparison should be made against the new crop of high performance Dynafit compatible boots flooding the market from BD, Scarpa and Dynafit. On that basis the difference is a matter of a few ounces and hardly worth mentioning. Or as Lou wrote in a blog comment yesterday: “Worrying about the weight of a freeride AT boot is like obsessing on the gas mileage of a Hummer.”
Features worth mentioning are the removable boot-board which enhances the ability to create a more custom fit. Also, I particularly appreciate the noticeable amount of rubber under the toe area of the sole compared to the skimpy veneer of rubber found on boots such as Spirit 4 and Green Machine. I would like to think when I buy a new pair of boots I won’t be searching for a resoler or new boots after a handful of scrambles up a ridge.
With Axon, Garmont has fired a powerful shot across the bow of the burgeoning high performance Dynafit compatible AT boot market. Boot wars have thus been declared and to the victor go the spoils. In this case, the victor is the consumer and the spoils are the cornucopia of boots hitting the market, as evidenced by WildSnow’s blogs over the past week or so. Let the games begin!
(Guest blogger Bob Perlmutter and his wife Sue live in Aspen where Bob manages Aspen Mountain Powder Tours, a snowcat skiing operation. Bob has sought adventure skiing over the past thirty years, in the nearby Elk Mountains as well as locales around the world.)