You guys asked for it. Here goes. We tear these plasti-toys down to the skel like Darwin dissecting a new species of monkey. What is the real difference? What’s marketing hype?
The first thing I noticed during surgery was how similar the Black Diamond Factor and Method backcountry skiing boots are. They come out of virtually the same mold, are constructed with Pebax plastic, utilize many of the same components, weigh nearly the same, have available Dynafit compatible soles. So what’s different? Mainly, Factor is a few millimeters taller, with a bit of increased shell stiffness due perhaps to slightly thicker plastic overall, but stiffer mostly because the “frame” portion of the shell design covers a greater area (more about this below).
Oh, I almost forgot. Factor is a racy green with designer buckles. Grey schema of Method is more subdued, though with golden buckles and snazzy graphics it still expresses the core creative of Black Diamond’s boot designers. Yes, ski boots certainly need not be dull.
Factor is claimed to be a “130 flex” while Method is “110.” While we scoff at boot flex ratings having much comparison value between brands, we trust Black Diamond achieved a modicum of accuracy within their own line. Hence, we’ll believe the Factor is somewhere around 18% “stiffer” than the Method. But will this make you ski 18% better without applying 18% more technique or fitness? I doubt it. Indeed, a stiff boot can magnify mistakes as much as it helps you.
Considering above, don’t get all starry eyed on us when shopping for these things. Yeah, if you want to drive wide skis of the longish variety, you ski fast, you ski good, and you have big quads, go for the Factor. On the other hand, if you WANT to ski big skis and IMAGINE you ski fast and have big quads, you won’t notice much difference between these two boots.
In terms of touring performance, the two models weigh virtually the same so comfort would be the determining item. In that sense, Method with its lower cut and slightly softer flex is not doubt easier on the feet in touring mode. We don’t see enough difference in the two boots to make this significant, but as a one who is always concerned about making the up more efficient, I’d probably go for the Method because it offers a slight advantage.
Removing the BD sole blocks can be a mystifying experience. They lock on tight even without the screws (that’s good), so it is tough to know where to start. For the front block, you yank the toe area up like you’re opening a beer bottle. I did this by whacking it on the edge of my workbench (works for bottled beers too, if I want to show off). You then simply slide the block backward. Remove the screws first, of course. Replace with blue Locktite and seat with a firm twist.
As mentioned above, getting to the rear block screws can be awkward. Once they’re out, you drop the rear block by popping it off backward. I found a rubber mallet helped with this highly technical process. As did popping the ring on a Tecate to warm up my hand muscles for the tasks ahead.
We’re not sure the darker color of the Factor liner means anything except “I’m bad,” or perhaps it’s just an effort to disguise the inevitable mildew stains most core skiers eventually get on lilly white liners. But the Factor liner cuff is actually a bit stiffer than that of the Method, so there you go. Added beef comes possibly from internal differences, but also because the exterior cuff stiffener covers a larger area, as indicated by the arrows. For weight we had to compare a 27.5 Factor liner with a 27 out of the Method, both were almost identical in mass even with the 27.5 being slightly longer, so we called them both 15 ounces (which is the weight of the 27 liner) in the chart below. We’re certain any variation from that would be mere grams, if anything.
Which leads me to my one stronger criticism of these boots. I’m surprised they’re so similar in weight. In the world of human powered skiing we cover here at WildSnow, we generally expect the softer boot in a brand line to compensate with a bit of weight savings. Not so in this case. But then, Method isn’t that much softer than Factor.
I saved the best for last. As with many modern ski boots, Factor and Method use areas of thicker plastic to form a “frame” or “skeleton.” Voids in the skeleton are filled with thinner plastic that molds better to your feet while buckling down, saves weight, etcettera. As shown in the photo above, one obvious feature that adds Factor beef is the spine of the skeleton being wider than that of the Method. This works.
In all these are two fine boots. How to decide? I’d first think about skiing style. If you like to use some ankle in your turns, enjoy a less “locked down” style and emphasize human powered vert, consider the Method. If you’re from an alpine racing background or just ski a more compact presentation, Factor could be the one. Your size has something to do with it as well, as smaller lighter-weight skiers may be overwhelmed by too stiff a boot. Thus, those of diminutive persuasion should consider the Method. Above all, remember these boots are more similar than different, so whichever you end up with will do you fine in the end, after adjusting your technique and fitting.
One last thing. While cuff angle of these boots measures the same on the bench it may feel different in real life due to the height of the cuff or how the boots buckles pull on stiffer or softer construction. Thus, remember this is simply a tech comparo. How the boots feel on your feet is key.
|Shell length as tested||318 mm||318 mm (both 27 – 27.5 shell)|
|Height at rear||317 mm||310 mm (all heights with AT blocks)|
|Height, side, inside||277 mm||264 mm|
|Height, side, outside||260 mm||264 mm|
|Shell weight w/ AT blocks||60.8 oz (1718 gr)||59.6 oz (1688 gr)|
|AT sole blocks weight||9.7 oz (276 gr)||9.7 oz (276 gr)|
|Alpine sole blocks weight||8.0 oz (226 gr)||8.0 oz (226 gr)|
|Liner weight, size 27.0||15 oz (423 gr)||15 oz (423 gr)|
|Total weight (w/ AT soles)||75.8 ( 2143 gr)||74.5 oz (2112 gr)|
|Rearward travel||Same with both, good range.|
|Forward cuff lean (locked)||Same with both, adjustable, 14,18,22 degrees.|
(Note, small discrepancies in weight of parts vs. total weight is due to rounding of scale numbers, also note we estimated the weight of size 27 Factor liner versus the 27.5 liner we had on hand. The actual Factor size 27 liner might be a few grams heavier than the Method size 27 liner, but not enough to be important in terms of comparing these two boots.)