Overlap Construction AT Boot Guide 08/09


Post by WildSnow.com blogger | September 9, 2008      

(2015 update, we’ve removed defunct shopping links, shop for backcountry ski touring boots here.)

Colorado backcountry skiing.

Backcountry Freeride, Free Touring, Alpine Crossover — figure out your category yet? Skiers and industry players try to label the “new” trend in off-piste skiing, but we’re probably over thinking things. To keep it simple, I like to see it as simply “Powder Skiing,” since pow is what I’m out there for. But that’s not the point. The important thing is that gear is progressing in all areas of backcountry skiing. As we saw last year with all the pre-production boot demos we received, this year is bringing in an exciting slew of new, stiffer boots.

Backcountry skiing boots.
Garmont Radium shows its overlap construction during a fitting session.

Thus, we begin a series of AT (alpine ski touring) boot buyer guides that list choices under various categories. Today we cover “overlap” boots, meaning boots that close with an overlapping flap on the lower shell, rather than a plastic tongue which extends from the toe up to the top of the upper cuff (known as a tongue boot). Stay tuned for more category overviews as the season progresses, especially other beefy shoes.

Overlap closure is the same as that of many performance alpine boots. For skiers such as myself with a background heavily influenced by downhill and resort skiing, overlap AT boots are a welcome addition to our arsenals. Not necessarily because overlapping construction is better, I’m not claiming that, but simply for the familiar feel and performance.

Below is a quick peek of the main players in the AT Boot – Overlap Construction Category for 2008. This is simply a buyers guide for your comparison (not intended as advocacy of any one type of boot construction or brand). Just a quick guide to see which boots offer features such as Dynafit fittings, weights (provided by the manufacturer until WildSnow receives production models to verified), price and sole options. Use the weights as a rough guideline only, as some are verified and some are not. More importantly, our weights are NOT normalized for an exact size, though they’re generally for a size around 27.

We excluded Flex Index numbers. As this is mostly a marketing scheme (or way of comparing flex within a brand line), with no reliance on standards of any sorts, we came to the conclusion that all you really need to know is which boot is stiffest within a brand. Also, know that all the stiffest boots are similar in beef, and factors such as fit and temperature of plastic during testing cause enough variation in stiffness to make comparison between brands difficult at best. As we receive production models of each boot, we will look into providing real world data on their individual stiffnesses. In the meantime, each boot marked with a is the stiffest boot in its brand line.

On to the boots…

  Dynafit / Tech Inserts Flex Index Weight (pair) Sole Swap Included Soles Price
AT DIN
Black Diamond
Factor 9 lb 2 oz +$39.95 $729.99
Method 8 lb 12 oz +$24.95 $669.99
Shiva (Women’s) 8 lb 12 oz +$24.95 $669.99
Dynafit
Zzeus TF-X 8 lb 9 oz $759.95
Garmont
Radium 8 lb $759.95
Argon 8 lb 8 oz $699.95
Helium 6 lb 14 oz $739.95
Agent AT 7 lb 8 oz $825.00

Black Diamond

Factor

The Factor is a powerful combination of backcountry and alpine boots. It comes equipped with ISO Alpine DIN sole blocks and is compatible with BD AT blocks (sold separately), which are quickly and easily changed out with their four-screw attachment. (Though you have to remove the liner to access the heel screws.) BOA liner system offers a quick, fine-tuned liner fit.

Read the full WildSnow review of Factor ski boot.

Method & Shiva

The “Assistant to the Regional Manager,” these boots are slightly less stiff than the Factor. Sold with BD AT blocks (Alpine DIN blocks sold separately). Method is a bit friendlier in the climbs, but still stiff enough to drive big skis. Shiva is the women’s specific model.

Read the full WildSnow review

Dynafit

Zzeus TF-X

Two boots in one? The Zzeus’s secret lies in its ability to convert from an alpine ski boot like flex into exceptional range of motion for uphill touring comfort. TF-X Liners for excellent out-of-the-box fit and probably the most durable of any liner we’ve seen. Dynafit’s “Quick Step-In” toe sockets for ease of binding entry. The ZZeus is designed to achieve both up AND downhill success. Includes both Alpine and AT soles standard. These boots may run slightly narrow for you wide footed Yeti’s out there.

Read Wildsnow first report

Read the full WildSnow Dynafit boot review

Garmont

Radium

This boot is Garmont’s 4-buckle boot with Dynafit binding compatibility. Available in a Men’s and Women’s model with G-Fit Liners. The manufacturer states weight savings of up to 1/2 lb per boot due to the boot being made from Pebax plastic. We’ll let you know our weight findings once we get all the boots at HQ. Radium offers a fixed AT sole with no alpine-swap options. Note that the Garmont way of doing an overlap is to extend part of the lower overlap up to the top of the cuff as a sort of modified tongue. This yields more beef and is also a handy “handle” used to open the boot when you put your foot in.

Read the more in-depth Garmont WildSnow report here

Argon

Burly enough to rip the toughest terrain and conditions on big skis, similar in stiffness to Radium. This polyurethane (PU) boot is available in a Men’s and Women’s model with G-Fit Liners. Argon gives you a price break if you don’t have the need for tech binding compatibility. Fixed AT sole with no swap options.

Read our initial report from OR

Should be available for purchase soon at Backcountry.com

Helium

Utilizing a high overlap construction with only 3 buckles, Helium looks to provide a high level of downhill control at the lowest weight in the category. Perhaps the best choice for alpine tourers. Like the rest of the Garmont line, G-Fit lines and a fixed AT sole standard.

Read our initial report from OR

Tecnica

Agent AT

Tecnica’s foray into the Backcountry market. A few unique features we’re excited to see for ourselves including an instep buckle that has multiple positions for skiing and skinning (and only one lower buckle). Plus a spoiler that lowers when in walk mode (it drops down when you flip the walk switch). It will be interesting to see how a company with a more alpine focus executed an AT boot. Our samples indicate this boot runs large, and is of average yet adequate stiffness. Rearward cuff travel is excellent.

(Guest blogger profile: Dave Downing and his wife Jessica live in Carbondale, Colorado, where Dave is a freelance designer and owner of Ovid Nine Graphics Lab. Dave’s ski career began due to a lack of quality skiing video games for NES.)



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Comments

42 Responses to “Overlap Construction AT Boot Guide 08/09”

  1. Lou September 9th, 2008 10:09 pm

    The silence was deafening!

    We got the production Radiums today, they’re beautiful. A close look at those soon. Expecting other boots as well. The fun begins.

  2. Dave September 9th, 2008 11:22 pm

    Those Radiums were very nice looking. But then again, all of these boots are quite nice so far. Competition is a beautiful thing 🙂

  3. Mike Marolt September 10th, 2008 7:01 am

    Lou,

    Steve and I put the Technica Agent AT to the test this past winter/spring, and after many days, they are unbelievable. They climb like a climbing boot, are light weight, and in ski mode perform like a regular ski boot, super stiff laterally and back, and almost perfect flex forward. We did use the Luxury Liner from Intuition which shaved off even more weight and also added to performance. We used them on Coropuna in Peru and in a 15 hour day and over 6,000 vertical to 21,000, they were warm, comfortable, and handled the hard snow conditions better than anything we have taken in the past.

    At first we were not sure of the overlap design, but now we are completely sold. The Agent AT is outstanding.

    Also, they do come with a changeable sole.

  4. Lou September 10th, 2008 7:05 am

    I totally agree, the competition in boot making has resulted in high art.

    Only problem is there is nothing even close to revolutionary in AT boots these days. It’s all old technology being refined. That’s ok as they’re good, but it just amazes me that some of the first Lang plastic ski boots, circa 1960, closed with overlap, and now it’s being touted in some PR as the latest greatest!

    I want to see something new, but then, that’s my nature (grin).

  5. Mark B September 10th, 2008 7:32 am

    I just bought a pair of last seasons megarides for about 450 dollars. For what I will use them for they will be more than adequate. Even though I can gaze upon the new Garmont, Dynafit and Black Diamond boots with envy I can justify forking over close to 800 dollars for a pair of boots. However I do appreciate the Dynafit and Black Diamonds nod to the “one boot quiver” by offering interchangable soles that are also Dynafit compatible. I do agree with Lou in that there is nothing really “new” about these boots as far as technology goes, however these boots do look beautiful and well crafted.

  6. Mark B September 10th, 2008 7:33 am

    Sorry I meant I can’t justify forking over 800 dollars for new boots.

  7. Lou September 10th, 2008 7:45 am

    When I unpacked the Radiums yesterday, I was stunned at how good they look. On the feet for the carpet test, they also feel pretty good, though they’re a bit beefy and heavy for my day-to-day backcountry boot choice. Louie, however, got a gleam in both eyes when he checked them out.

  8. Mark Worley September 10th, 2008 8:10 am

    So many great looking boots! The Radiums might be my favorite of the lot, but I’m spoiled by the great touring weight of my Mega Lites. In any case, it’s great to see such diversity of options.

  9. dave September 10th, 2008 8:54 am

    @Mike: We should see a pair of Agent AT boots very soon. As for the interchangable sole, I knew they were replaceable, but I was focusing on a sole you could swap from AT to Alpine. As of this post no one from Tecnica had informed me of that option.

    Regardless, they look like a nice boot and I’m excited to see them.

  10. Scott B September 10th, 2008 9:18 am

    I’d like to get a new, beefier boot this year. The Radiums would be at the top of my list, if cost were not a concern. As it is, if the Methods fit well, that is probably the direction I’ll go.

    The small Euro companies are probably going to have to figure out how to hedge against the currency exchange rates better if they want to be competetive against BD and any other large gear manufacturers that enter the market.

  11. Dave September 10th, 2008 9:56 am

    @Scott: The Method pricepoint + the option of Alpine soles definitely are a BIG selling point.

  12. Randonnee September 10th, 2008 10:14 am

    The retractable rear spoiler shown on the Agent is a nice feature. My Aero boots had this, I liked the freedom for walking yet good support on the downhill.

    I am still adapting to the big 4-buckle Zzero4C TF, still debating 3 or 4 buckle- I also have the Zzero 3C TF. Perhaps I ski well enough for my purposes on smaller boots that I enjoy walking in and hanging out in more comfortably. No criticism here about the bigger boots, all exciting options if hard-charging in the backcountry is one’s focus.

    Overlap, hmmm. I actually did a few randonnee ski tours in my 1988 and 1993 Lange boots and recall not a lot of comfort with the overlap, especially when booting it. In those days I was young and hiked for avy control in the Langes a lot so I just took it in stride.

    Like Lou, I am waiting for big breakthroughs. My dream is of more comfortable AT boots for walking that also perform well on the downhill…

    Looking forward to some snow!

  13. Dave September 10th, 2008 10:48 am

    As far as breakthroughs in comfort and downhill performance…isn’t that a snowboard and snowboard boot? i mean, they are super comfy, and provide great downhill performance? buy a split board and there you are.

    will the big breakthrough require a shift in what we do as large as skiing to snowboarding? perhaps.

    anyway, just a random thought. for the record i snowboarded 7 years before i quit around 2001 (had to sell the board to buy new skis).

  14. Randonnee September 10th, 2008 11:59 am

    Well, in my garage are my 1979 Epoke 900 skis and flexible leather Vasque boots that are quite comfortable and talk about superlight!. I toured with big packs and also summited and skied a volcano with that rig.

    But we are talking about randonnee skiing here… : )}

  15. Lou September 10th, 2008 12:08 pm

    My dream is to have one control for open and shut, sort of like F1 only easier to operate and adjust. Buckles? How 1950s.

  16. Piotr September 11th, 2008 12:42 am

    I heard that Tecnica Agent AT is just re-badged Lowa X-Alp and from looking at the pictures this seems like a valid statement. I imagine the motivation behind the deal was that Tecnica wanted to get into the growing A/T market and lacked a product to do so, and on the other hand Lowa does not seem to have huge distribution network outside of Europe (where Lowa stands equal ground to Scarpa and Garmont). In fact, I’m not sure if Tecnica Agent AT is/will be sold in Europe at all, which even more strongly supports the ‘conspiration theory’. 😉

  17. Lou September 11th, 2008 7:27 am

    Piotr, we’d heard it was perhaps a re-badged Lowa. We’d have mentioned that in the article but for the fact that we’re not sure yet and figured when we had the boots on our hot little feet we’d get a better idea of exactly what they are. I do feel it’s important for consumers to know if a product is a re-badge, so they have more shopping options if they’re trying to buy that particular item. So thanks for bringing it up. The lack of Dynafit fittings along with the high price kinda makes you wonder how viable a product the Tecnica really is, but perhaps its interesting features make it worthy. It’ll be worth a whole blog or two, stay tuned.

  18. Jonathan Shefftz September 11th, 2008 8:55 am

    Both Tecnica and Lowa are just wholly owned subsidiaries of Tecnica S.p.A.
    The old Lowa Struktura Evo was also available in the U.S. with Tecnica graphics, that time mimicking their race boots so as to appeal to race coaches.
    So rebadging the current Lowa X-Alp with graphics and a name from the Tecnica Agent line is nothing new.

  19. dave September 11th, 2008 9:54 am

    @Piotr: additionally, we’ve been told that Lowa’s ski boots are not going to be distributed in the US any more. So the Tecnica is a way to get a lowa boot in the US with different distributing. We’ll see how this plays out. As for seeing how close to a rebranded lowa the Agent AT is, I will definitely let you know. I skied on a pair of stuktura pro’s for a few seasons, and will know if the Agents ski similarly. I’m hoping for more.

  20. Dav September 11th, 2008 3:33 pm

    Hey Dave,
    I skied four days in the Tecnica Agent AT, which IS a rebranded Lowa and didn’t like them at all. Poor flex pattern (not progressive) soft to the point of being mushy, and a low cuff that makes your ankle unstable all led to a less than satisfactory skiing experience.

  21. dave September 11th, 2008 3:53 pm

    Dang it, Dav. Your killing the buzz of anticipating a new toy to play with 🙂

    I’ll just cross my fingers that something changed over the summer. But rest assured, I will report what I experience. And I don’t consider a boot that ONLY climbs well as a good thing (unlike Lou 😀 )

  22. Magnus September 11th, 2008 6:22 pm

    Clash of the titans! It will be interesting to read your experiences with the beef of these boots. I’m curious about the Radiums and if they will hold a fairly agro, big skier (6’5″ and 200lb) with sloppy technique. Also, how are those AT soles on the BD boots? Haven’t really seen a good picture of them but from what I’ve seen they don’t look that lugged.

    I thinks your reviews are generally good and real thorough, but I wouldn’t mind seeing some more info on the skier testing them. Height, weight, footshape (high arch, instep, width etc), and skiing style. That way it would be easier for the reader to relate.
    cheers!

  23. Lee Lau September 12th, 2008 10:22 am

    Magnus – that’s a good comment. I’m one of Wildsnow’s guest reviewers.

    Some other person – I think it was Hans? – asked us if we could present some dimensional info for boots. I don’t have the tools for presenting dimensional info. Perhaps because I really don’t have the faintest idea where to start. Instead what I usually try to do is say a little about the types of boots that I do fit (eg. I fit a Garmont MegaRide and Scarpa shell without any mods). I’ve been toying with the idea of describing general characteristics of my foot also. I do put in general information about skiing style too.

    It’s such a tough one. Fit of a boot is so individual to a person that I always struggle with this aspect of a review.

    Anyhow thanks for the discussion and comments.

  24. Magnus September 14th, 2008 9:48 pm

    Lee,
    I totally apprecciate that it’s difficult to post a review with all kinds of information which readers might find interesting. I’ve seen that you often state your hight and weight in your reviews which is really helpful. The difficulty with finding a good fitting boot is significantly bigger for those not living close to shops that carry a big selection of AT boots, or are not living in the US and get free shipping rates and can return what they buy online without spending a fortune on shipping.

    One important thing about overlap boots that maybe can be answered by you guys is how easy they are to get in and out of, especially when cold, or for people with a high instep/arch. I definately don’t want my AT boots to be as much of a struggle as my x-wave 10s.

    And thank you guys for providing such an ammount of information, these blogs and reviews are heaven sent for those of us who aspire to be aducated consumers.

  25. Lou September 15th, 2008 7:59 am

    Folks, we talk about fit parameters on occasion, especially in the case of arch height and bootboard shape. I am totally on the case with providing some inside dimensions of the boots and believe I might have figured out a cool way to do it. Stay tuned.

    I’ll remind all our guest bloggers to speak a bit about boot fit, but at the same time warn them about wasting words on subjective fit opinion. Statements such as “the SuperBoot fit me like a glove” don’t help anyone. Statements such as, “the low instep of the SuperBoot bothered the top of my foot, but not in a way that couldn’t be fixed with some minor boot fitting,” are more what we’ll seek to provide.

  26. Peter Carse October 8th, 2008 11:13 am

    I’ve been wearing ski boots for a paycheck full time since 1981, and have been dancing around foot problems and boot fitting strategies for most of that time. I own a personal boot punching tool and have used it in every imaginable way on many different boots.
    This spring I finally broke down and got foot surgery to reduce a tailor’s bunion (otherwise known as the ‘skier’s sixth toe’ out on the little-toe side) which has significantly reduced the width of my foot.
    I’m ready for new A.T. boots! But I still need the widest ones I can find, and with all the changes in boot offerings this year I’m confused. Further complicating my situation is the fact that local retailers don’t stock my size, making it impossible for me to try boots on without ordering them first.
    Here’s my question: Which is the brand with the most generous shell dimensions for the given size (30.5)? My foot measures 305mm long, 115mm wide, and 77mm high at instep…

  27. Dave October 8th, 2008 1:00 pm

    @Peter: I can say that I’m an expert in having a wide foot. I am also trying to keep my 6th toe from growing much more.

    So far, based on ONLY trying on boots, the Garmont Radium and BD Factor and Methods have fit best for my wide foot. I was pretty tight in the Dynafit Zzeus, though didn’t have a chance to heat mold the liner. As the last few production boots in this category show up, I hope to make at least a few turns in all of them. Then I can update which work best for wide loads.

  28. Peter Carse October 8th, 2008 2:51 pm

    Thanks Dave, I’ll check those out. After having the opportunity to try on some 30.5’s, I may end up needing to go with a 31.5 again anyway which will limit my choices …

  29. Tyler October 21st, 2008 11:53 am

    Hi Lou.

    Continuing our discussion on boots and the Garmont Helium from one of your other posts …..

    I learned that BackCountry.com has a retail storefront where you can try on merchandise so long as you purchase it first. They were happy to have folks just try on boots and immediately return. Just got back from there. They have a single pair of Heliums in a 27 shell – perfect. I brought along my MegaRides for comparison.

    Well, its hard to compare the overlap boots to the tongue boots. I’ll say that the Helium shell cuff is maybe 2cm shorter in the back compared to the MR, but the adjustable spoiler completely makes up the difference. The shell heights on each side are about the same. In the front, this is harder to compare, but I would say the front shell heights are similar. The MR has the tall tongue that sticks up above the top buckle and the Helium has a a tall somewhat floppy flange that sticks up under the buckle as well.

    With both boots on foot and buckled the Helium seemed to be slightly stiffer than the MR, but it was a different feel. The lower shells of both boots deformed laterally when flexed (to be expected) and I guess I’ll say that the Helium flex felt a little smoother. In tour mode, the Helium had a significantly greater range of “free” motion, but again, it felt different.

    One comment/observation about Garmonts is that they have always felt a bit blocky to me. Less streamlined and contoured than other boots. When on my foot, they almost make me feel as though I am duck footed. I dont get this feeling from other boots i.e. Dynafits, Scarpa, etc. I get this even with the cant adjusted properly and a nice custom foot bed. It doesnt seem to make a difference once in the binding though.

    So, here I am still unsure of what to try. I definitely want an all day touring boot at the 7lbs/pair level or below. The extended touring range of the overlap boots is a very nice feature and makes them feel more like the F1’s (the be all of uphill touring performance) with their sneaker like tour quality. I guess the question is whether or not the 3 buckle nature and other flex characteristics enhance or degrade the downhill characteristics compared to the MR? MR’s need replacing, so more to think about.

    Your table is great to have as reference.

    -ty

  30. Dominic October 25th, 2008 3:40 pm

    talking of new boots, but not overlap boots…..anyone heard tell of the dalbello virus boot? Could be interesting and new?

  31. Lou October 26th, 2008 10:29 am

    I’ve heard some talk about that, and that Glen Plake is involved in the design. Should be interesting.

    BTW folks I removed the red plus from the Tecnica boots as by all reports they’re just average in stiffness compared to the top beef boots. We were expecting some testers but they never got here. When they do get here, we’ll do the usual.

  32. Paula October 29th, 2008 6:37 pm

    Little people like to play hard too. I’m a woman & I have small feet, mondo 23 ish depending on the brand. I don’t have the low calf that all the new “womens specific” boots are made for. I get shin bang real bad every year.
    I was wondering if the new for an AT boot overlap design will ease my shins? Or will the Eliminator inserts be my new best friends & I can love all boots?
    I need a mans boot but in a mini size & that’s hard to find.
    P.S
    I tried on the new Scarpa Diva & where the plastic stops at my shin & the liner keeps going you can really feel the plastic. Ouch!!!!! Why doesn’t the plastic go as high as the liner?
    I have so many boot questions but that’s it for now.
    Thanks,
    Paula.

  33. Lou October 29th, 2008 7:43 pm

    Paula, make sure you check out the Garmonts with overlap construction. They have a high shell tongue that looks like it could be easy on the shin and easy to tune. Lou

  34. Paula October 31st, 2008 3:28 pm

    Thanks Lou.
    I just found out that I could get the new Garmont Radiums in my size & at a deal. But I would have to order them without trying ’em on. I have had Garmont in the past (3 buckle G Lite) & I like how they fit, foot wise. I refer to them as my slippers now. I never heat molded them I just used ’em & loved them. Yes they were my first touring boot.
    If I custom fit them should I reconsider the size? I’m a mondo 23, lets say I heat ’em up & they shrink & I can no longer use my surefoot insoles? If I went bigger what happens when the liner wears out & I get a new intuition liner & the boot is too big, is that a possibility? Or would I do the same as last time & just wear ’em without heating them up. I do love my Surefoot insoles.
    Paula.

  35. Paula November 7th, 2008 7:25 pm

    I found a pair of Garmont Radiums in a mondo 23. Tried them on… Wow. I have to say, “nice boots.”
    They felt perfect, immediately. Everything up top was taller & way more snug.
    Yes I bought them & am looking forward to testing them out for the next few years.
    Good luck finding your perfect gear match & powder to the people.
    Sincerely,
    Paula.

  36. Dave Chapman November 11th, 2008 9:37 am

    Yes for sure the Technica Agent AT is the Lowa X-Alp. Bought a pair of last years right out of the box and it had a Lowa X-Alp tag factory affixed. No Doubt there!

    Haven’t skied them yet, bought them to work race courses as well as backcountry, I’ll let you know what I find. Need snow first!

    Dave

  37. Lou November 11th, 2008 10:03 am

    Paula, GREAT! Dave, let us know what you think of the boots after carpe skium.

  38. Charles November 11th, 2008 10:28 am

    I skied the Agents all last year. They worked great! excellent all day comfort. Strong enough to drive my 189 Rossi squads in the resort or out in the backcountry.

  39. Dave Chapman November 24th, 2008 7:48 pm

    Getting back to you after skiing the Technica Agent AT(Lowa X-Alp) for several days in the east. Resort use, packed powder in bounds. I am pleasantly surprised by the performance of this boot. I worked it inbounds on a stiff slalom ski and found it to be soft but not unmanageable. When encountering icy conditions it became sloppy and unable to drive an edge well, but it was not intended to be race boot. Twice I popped the top buckles.

    It was extremely comfortable out of the box without any customization (yet), and the warmest boot I have worn in some time. This will fill the niche I intended for it (race course work, mostly out of skis). Looking forward to pacing it in the backcountry to see if it can handle my Line 100’s.

    I weigh in at 200lbs and stand 6’4″. This boot is a little too soft for my likes and I will seek a burlier 4 buckle model for increased edge control next pair.

    Will marry for money!
    Dave

  40. Lou November 24th, 2008 9:05 pm

    Dave, our Agent AT test boots came today. Unboxing soon. Thanks for your take.

  41. Dave Chapman November 27th, 2008 5:45 pm

    Lou, What’ s your take on the Garmont “Endorphin” over the “Radium” for 50/50 usage? Thanks-Dave

  42. Lou April 18th, 2009 5:52 am

    Dave, the Endorphin is not an overlap boot like the Radium, so tough to compare apples to apples. I’d say either boot would be good for 50/50…

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