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Unless you’re a visually challenged Marxist, you have to admit that business competition can yield positive results. Consider ski boots.
Black Diamond shook things up around a year ago when they announced a new line of backcountry skiing boots they’re making in China. As “BD” usually designs good stuff and markets it well, that moderate sized blip on most skier’s radar screen is more like the trace of a jumbo jet if you’re a boot maker such as Scarpa, Dynafit, or Garmont — all of whom have truly ramped it up by refining existing models and coming up with a slew of majestic new offerings (check our dozens of backcountry skiing boot reviews for proof). Today we turn the WildSnow eyeball to Garmont, with perusal of their Radium overlap cuff boot (final production version).
|The retail production Radium looks about the same on the outside compared to the pre-production boots we checked out last winter. From the buckles to the lettering, everything on this ski touring shoe screams quality. In walk mode, because the overlap cuff opens and closes due to your ankle movement, your stride will be super comfy. The upper two Radium buckles have a cool feature: a system of tiny latches in the buckle slots that trap the buckle bail ’till you push a button, thus, no more looking down during your TGR audition only to see a boot buckle waving at you like a flag, mocking your aspirations to stardom (our only wish, how about adding this feature to all the buckles?).
According to Garmont, while the Radium shell has been pretty much where they wanted it since pre-production boots came out last winter, improvements to the liner have been ongoing. Most importantly, resistance to “packing out” has been improved. How? Garmont told me they feel much of the packing out problem with boot liners is caused by the foot dropping down as the sole of the liner compresses over time (sometimes quite rapidly, in my experience).
To remedy the “dropping foot,” Garmont uses a type of liner construction called “stroebel stitching,” meaning the sole portion of the liner is stitched in such a way as to allow any choice in material. Thus liberated from construction constraints, they use a higher density foam in the sole, so it doesn’t crush. Let’s hope this works, as the problem of liners packing out is an ongoing annoyance with almost all AT boots.
|Every boot has a signature feature or two. Radium’s most obvious is the lean lock. Easily removed for repairs or modifications, the completely external mechanism will warm the heart of any gear geek. Interestingly, Garmont went against current trends and only provides one lock angle in the unit.
Our opinion has always been that having multiple angles in a lean lock just leads to confusion and hassle — nice to be validated. More, since this machinery is easy to remove and work on, I’m thinking it’ll be easy to mod and thus change the lean angle. Better still, perhaps the aftermarket will kick in and someone will make a super trick lean lock similar to that of some alpine boots, with a flex spring and user adjustable lean.
If you’re an agro skier who goes for human powered vertical, Radium appears to provide the performance blend you need. This boot is beefier than the famed Garmont Megaride, still feels comfy in walk mode, and the overlap cuff construction will no doubt yield that sweet flex many skiers long for. Wildsnow thumbs up!
(Please bear in mind that this year’s boot offerings are complex and can be categorized in many different ways. For example, Dynafit’s “ZZeus” and Black Diamond’s “Factor” are probably similar in performance to the Radium — but have the added option of swappable soles. That’s a plus or minus depending on how you look at it, but definitely makes categorizing things tougher. Additionally, I’d not make a god out of overlap cuff boots. They’re the big buzz this year, but tongue boots such as those from Scarpa and all other boot makers have advantages such as lighter weight and ease of entry in cramped situations. We’ll be trying both types of boots quite a bit this winter, and doing ongoing blogging about our tests.)