Miles covered: Somewhere in the vicinity of 175-200
Vertical Climbed: Around 100,000 feet
Snowmobile miles: Over 300
I guess that makes this the 500 mile road test. It also shows you that I’m using backcountry ski boots in a MAJOR way.
But that’s not the whole story — the rest is that I’m a big guy, and a fair amount of my use involves rock scrambling (common when doing ski alpinism in climates such as Colorado’s). Thus, harsh use like mine might not be everyone’s trend, but in my opinion still does an excellent job of finding the boot’s strengths and weak spots.
The first time I took the Factors out I noticed two things compared to my last boots. First off they tour much better. The walk mode actually feels like it flexes enough to make walking bearable. Second, they ski more like an alpine boot. This is obviously due to the overlap boot construction and their overall beef.
In my experience, the AT sole blocks are the area of the Factor that could use the most improvement. It’s June 7th and I have my 5th pair of sole blocks headed my way since I received the boots on December 9, 2008. The issue is not with the plastic but rather the rubber sole. From what I’m told, BD is working to improve this, which will help a lot seeing as I can’t seem to go more than about 3 days of climbing before I start to get ice buildup between the rubber and the plastic on the sole, and a few days of use later, major carnage.
Black Diamond’s customer service department has been VERY helpful in dealing with this. The first time it happened, they sent me a pair of blocks that were at the front door within a couple days. Since then, I’ve been able to swap blocks as needed thanks to BD.
Buckles are another issue with the Factors, and other AT boots as well. If you do anything more than ski tour in most AT boots your are likely to bend or otherwise damage the buckles, or at the very least, deal with them unbuckling themselves when boot packing or doing mixed alpine-climbing. There are other boot brands out there that buckle on top of the toe rather than on the side, this seems to me as though it would do a better job of preventing problems, and I suggest this would be a better configuration for the Factor. When it comes to the buckles themselves, I feel they could be stronger. For a boot like the Factor, weight isn’t as much of an issue as it might be with some other Rando boots, so it might be worth having stronger buckles.
People like to ask me why I use such a heavy boot for the stuff I do. I’m a heavy dude. If I don’t have a beefy boot, first of all it won’t ski well for me, and second, I’ll probably break it (not that I won’t break it anyway, but hopefully it will at least take longer to do so).
In the end, my Factors have been terrific boots, but in all fairness to WildSnow readers, as well as in providing honest feedback to BD, there is room for improvement in this past season’s freshman model. Knowing Black Diamond, I’m confident those improvements are already a done deal and look forward to seeing next season’s model!
Jordan White is the fifth guy to ski all 54 of Colorado’s 14,000-foot peaks. He blogs here.