ISPO 2017 (Extended) — Atomic Austria Visit — Boots

Post by blogger | March 22, 2017      

We’ve covered the expansion of Atomic’s ski touring boot line — in somewhat breathless “PR” style. Time to get a little deeper: part 3.

My test pair of Hawx Ultra XTD 130.

My test pair of Hawx Ultra XTD 130 comes in at 1434 grams per boot in size 27.5, BSL 312 mm. That’s pretty good for an overlap boot with WTR sole. That said, this clearly doesn’t meet my ultra biased and “controversial” criteria for a “ski touring” boot (I’d want to see a few hundred grams less), but these are legit “130 flex” boots that boast Atomic’s easily molded “Memory Fit” shell plastic and user renewable cuff pivot. So, they’re worth looking at if you’re into freeride touring or want a boot that might cross over to moderately aggressive resort days.

I’m in the middle of testing the Hawx and eventually passing to another evaluator, so this is more along the lines of a “second look.” We’ll do a “real” review at some point, but that could be more appropriate early next fall in anticipation of them being available in retail. Likewise, we have a pair of Backland Ultimate here as well (see below), which I’ll briefly cover here then hit in another post eventually.

The party line as promulgated in Austria.

The party line as promulgated in Austria. Memory Fit shell plastic really is terrific stuff. You can “punch” the heck out of a boot by adding spacers to the heat process, though doing so requires some experience. More easily, you can throw these on a ring press and get crazy with very little angst. But you have to watch it or you’ll end up punching too far.

Atomic flex machine data, interpret as you will.

Atomic flex machine data, interpret as you will. Judging from my experience with other boots it makes sense.

Denser plastic pads in the WTR sole make for compatibility with a variety of bindings.

Denser plastic pads in the WTR sole make for good performance with a variety of bindings. But be advised these are not swap soles.

Sole compatibility chart.

Sole compatibility chart.

I can not say enough about the serviable cuff pivots.

I can not say enough positive about the serviceable cuff pivots that Atomic came up with for the Backland and now Hawx. So many benefits.
Friction reducing bushings, wear prevention, removal of cuff for intense fitting projects. Only question is how strong these really are compared to conventional cuff rivets. For all I know they’re super strong, but they need snow time while used in a stiffer boot.

Nylon bushings.

Nylon shoulder bushings comprise most important parts of the cuff pivot system. A neck is molded into the boot shell that the bushings fit over. We have a strange feeling we could mod this system to work with other boot brands and models. Research is ongoing.

A 14 mm spanner comes with the boots, for removal of the cuff pivots.

A 14 mm spanner (and torx driver) comes in the box with the boots, for removal of the cuff pivots. If the boots are moderately used you might never have reason to use this tool. On the other hand, terrific seeing attention to what’s been an issue for literally decades.

The reason for belevin' -- in removable cuff pivots, anyway.

The reason for belevin’ — in removable cuff pivots, anyway. In this case, I popped the cuff off so I could work on the scaffo without battling plastic.

Lineup looks sweet.

Lineup looks sweet. Left to right: Hawx 90 XTD (women) is a medium flex price-point,
PU cuff. White with purple cuff is another women’s model, XTD 110 sourced from a stiffer Grilamid cuff. Black with blue trimp is the Ultra XTD 100, a less expensive men’s boot with PU cuff. White boot to right is the XTD 120, still with PU cuff but stiffer. Flagship men’s boot is of course Ultra XTD 130 to right, all Grilamid. Various liner options contribute to differentiation.

Atomic ski boot liner options.

Atomic ski boot liner options.


We don’t usually fool around with price comparos, since everything eventually goes on sale or is even initially sold at discounts. But I thought this chart at least helps shoppers start thinking about the pricing of ski touring boots.

Ok Virginia, on to the 'real' ski touring boots. Or perhaps beyond real?

Ok Virginia, on to the ‘real’ ski touring boots. Or perhaps beyond real? Indeed, Atomic’s now venerable Backland boot has proved to be a worthy contender in the ‘one kilo’ class that we feel comfortable promoting for most backcountry skiing. New for 2017-2018, the wizards of Altenmarkt came up with a little slipper they’re calling Backland Ultimate.

An ultra stripped down version of backland, Ultimate is intended for activities such as hobby skimo racing and fitness resort uphilling (‘Endurance Touring’ in Atomic’s corporate language). My 28.5 pair are 775 grams each. I gave these a good multi-day test. Uphill the Ultra was of of course a joy. Addictive. Kudos to Atomic for taking it to the limit, yet boots like this are an acquired taste. In my case, Ultimate is too soft and low-cut to give me what I want on the down — I prefer a few hundred more grams and more boot. On the other hand, if you’re shopping for this sort of boot Ultimate will be available in the fall and it’s made with that easily punched Memory Fit plastic. I love that stuff. My pair of Ultimate were slightly too short and way too narrow in the front. I punched at least an extra centimeter into the width with about 20 minutes of work. They now fit almost too good.

A significant weight saver with the Backland Ultimate is the thin and downsized sock liner. I found these to be rather interesting. They’re tough to put on, but are indeed comfortable without a tongue or wrap to contend with. They appeared to breath a bit. My test pair liners needed to be thicker clearly do not include much higher density foam nor any significant reinforced areas. If these were my daily driver shoes I’d perhaps swap to an aftermarket inner of some sort, but the stock liners worked well enough for my test days.

Sock liner.

Sock liner is not much different from wearing two pair of thick socks and no liner. I must have chicken DNA as my lower leg bones simply never fit ski boot cuff diameter, and in this case I’m not sure how to pad out the liner.

Lean lock backing plate.

One other thing, next season all the Atomic ski touring boots with external lean lock have have adjustable forward lean. Flip this small steel backing plate behind the lean lock and you gain or lose 2 degrees.

Conclusion: Management at Atomic told me their boot product line comprises about 30% carryover from previous year, 30% significantly improved products, and 40% new. Apparently the folks at Altenmarkt took a break from obsessing on crystal globes and red plastic, to make a big part of that 40% their ski touring boots.

Hi Lou,

Size Numbers – direct from Atomic to WildSnow

Hawx Ultra XTD
Size MP BSL Last-Width
22.0 – 22.5 262 90
23.0 – 23.5 272 92
24.0 – 24.5 282 94
25.0 – 25.5 292 96
26.0 – 26.5 302 98
27.0 – 27.5 312 100
28.0 – 28.5 322 102
29.0 – 29.5 332 104

Size MP BSL Last-Width
22.0 – 22.5 248 90
23.0 – 23.5 258 92
24.0 – 24.5 268 94
25.0 – 25.5 278 96
26.0 – 26.5 288 98
27.0 – 27.5 298 100
28.0 – 28.5 308 102
29.0 – 29.5 318 104
30.0 – 30.5 328 106

Backland Ultimate
Size MP BSL Last-Width
23.0 – 23.5 248 90
24.0 – 24.5 258 92
25.0 – 25.5 268 94
26.0 – 26.5 278 96
27.0 – 27.5 288 98
28.0 – 28.5 298 100
29.0 – 29.5 308 102
30.0 – 30.5 318 104


Please Enjoy A Few Suggested WildSnow Posts


32 Responses to “ISPO 2017 (Extended) — Atomic Austria Visit — Boots”

  1. jay March 22nd, 2017 9:22 am

    These backland carbon/ultimate boots are the same boots as the procline right?

  2. Lou Dawson 2 March 22nd, 2017 9:33 am

    Jay, not at all. There might be another Arcteryx or Salomon boot they’re similar to, hard for me to keep track of it all, but no they’re very different from a Procline. It’s totally apples and oranges, a comparo would be a waste of time, for example Backland Ultimate has an entirely different lean-lock, no rear internal spoiler, and it’s much softer, and lighter. Entirely different boot. Lou

  3. Ross March 22nd, 2017 1:06 pm

    If your Ultra XTD’s have a 312mm BSL they are probably size 27/27.5, not 28/28.5?

  4. Lou Dawson 2 March 22nd, 2017 2:18 pm

    Thanks Ross, that’s probably a typo. Good eye! They’re 27/27.5, I’ll edit. Lou

  5. Marcus March 22nd, 2017 2:25 pm

    Could you compare the backland ultimate to a Dynafit PDG boot in stiffness??

  6. Jeremy C March 22nd, 2017 3:59 pm

    A slight inconsistency in your weight requirements. The Hawx Ultra XTD 130 is 1434 grams, yet a few hundred grams too heavy, so you want a sub 1kb boot like the Backland Ultimate. Where as the the Backland Ultimate are 775 grams each, yet you prefer a few hundred more grams and more boot, so a heavier boot like the Hawx Ultra XTD.

  7. Steeplechase March 22nd, 2017 4:07 pm

    Three questions for the review(s):

    1) Setting weight aside, how well do the boots tour uphill? Specifically, compared with Dynafit’s TLT 5/6/7 boots when it comes to things like range of motion, cuff resistance, etc.?

    2) How’s the fit when compared with other boots in your typical Mondopoint size?

    3) Since the Memory Fit shell plastic is so workable, do you think sizing down is easily doable?

  8. Lou Dawson 2 March 22nd, 2017 4:19 pm

    Jeremy, I’m thinking of boots such as TLT7 that weight just under a kilo, and still yield quite a stiff ride. Yeah, what I stated is a bit vague. To put it another way, I’m writing about three classes of boots: lighter but still beef such as Hawx 130, “One kilo” such as TLT 6 and T, and Atomic Backland, and significantly lighter and more minimalist boots such as Backland Ultimate, some of which still ski quite stiff but have a much different feel and sometimes are indeed a bit wimpy. I should probably edit the blog post a bit.

    Steeple, I was skiing the Hawx 130 today, and as stated I’ve been in the Backland Ultimate quite a few days. Hawx fits me nicely in a 27.5 when in some boots I need a 28. Toe volume feels average, not narrow, not wide. I’d say that sizing down is very easy, it’s what I do to obtain narrow enough heel area.

    By the way, they have a _very_ sweet overlap flex. I was having illegal fun compared to my tongue boots, am admitting it ocifer! On a pair of Voile Ultra Vector, he he he.

    With the Ultimate 27.5 I had to do a length punch and a width punch, heel pocket is perfect but the cuff is too big around my leg.

  9. Lou Dawson 2 March 22nd, 2017 4:25 pm

    Marcus I’d call them similar. In fact, Ultimate was clearly designed to compete with boots such as PDG. I’d strongly suggest that a demo of these sorts of boots is mandatory if you’ve never used them, they’re an acquired taste.

  10. Bryan March 23rd, 2017 9:34 am

    Hang on Lou…you’re discounting the beefy Atomic boot (whatever it’s called) because it’s 200 grams too heavy? That’s actually a great barometer for how good burly AT boots are in 2017.

    A brief historical review of Wildsnow complaining about heavy boots:

    2013: these boots are great, but they are 1000 grams too heavy.
    2014: these boots are great, but they are 800 grams too heavy.
    2015: these boots are great, but they are 600 grams too heavy.
    2016: these boots are great, but they are 400 grams too heavy.
    2017: these boots are great, but they are 200 grams too heavy.
    2018: these boots are great, but they are 100 grams too heavy.
    2019: these boots are great, but they are 50 grams too heavy.
    2020: these boots are great, but they are 25 grams too heavy.
    2021: these boots are great, but they are 10 grams too heavy.
    2022: it stopped snowing, Wildsnow becomes Wilddirt a blog about hiking and the dangers of mudslides.

  11. Dan March 23rd, 2017 10:08 am

    I don’t see the point of light gear for resort touring. In the resort you’re not exposed, you don’t need to keep up with a party of 6 led by a 22-years old hyperactive guide who thinks he’s skimo racing with a bunch of oldies and you don’t need to make up time to avoid avy prime-time or to make the refuge in time for the last serving of rosti. So, why would you need to be ultra-light and fast when resort touring? If it’s for fitness, you’d benefit from heavier gear too. I uphill at resorts a lot (more than I’d like) and always use my best downhill setup, not the lightest one. What am I missing?

  12. Greg Louie March 23rd, 2017 10:16 am

    You’d like it a couple hundred grams lighter? It’s already in the same weight class as the Spectre, and lighter than the Maestrale/RS or MTN Lab. I bet if they called it the “Feather” and left off the toe buckle you’d love it.

  13. Lou Dawson 2 March 23rd, 2017 11:49 am

    Yeah, I’m just digging myself deeper and deeper into the weight ditch… (smile). Not saying I’d like the exact boot lighter, it is what it is, instead I’m just trying to clarify that ski touring boots tend to divide themselves into 3 or 4 weight classes, and it’s useful to mention those classes in reviews. The classes clearly overlap. Lou

  14. Lou Dawson 2 March 23rd, 2017 11:50 am

    Bryan, ha! Exactly! Thanks for the chuckle. Lou

  15. Lou Dawson 2 March 23rd, 2017 11:53 am

    Dan, it’s just a matter of preference. Lots of people simply like resort uphilling on light gear because it feels “better,” they still get a workout but feel more fluid and flowing while they do it. Not a big deal. We do see lots of people uphilling on both heavier gear and lighter. Another reason you see uphilling on lightweight gear is when folks are training for skimo racing and staying familiar with their race gear. Lou

  16. MarkW March 23rd, 2017 12:39 pm

    The Hawx 130 seems to be somewhat comparable (stiffness/weight/construction) to the Dynafit Beast (a.k.a. Khion, or FT1) boots. Overlap construction, 4 buckle, external DH/lean lock…

    The Beast/Khion boot is a relatively spacious shell in the forefoot and instep (similar forefoot fit to TLT7).

  17. EricB March 23rd, 2017 1:17 pm

    The Hawx 130 is more boot than I need, but the fact that it comes in at ~1400 grams makes me excited that they could build an overlap boot a bit softer than the Hawx 130 and weighs about 200 grams lighter. That would hit the sweet spot for most of my touring needs.

  18. Lou Dawson 2 March 23rd, 2017 2:26 pm

    Eric, yeah, unfortunately due to materials choices the Hawx 130 catalog weight is 1420, Hawx Ultra 120 catalog weight is 1460 and Ultra 100 is 1586 — so even though they go down in flex rating they go up in weight. From my experience skiing the 130 it could be slightly softer, but not by much as the whole reason I enjoy a boot like that is a fairly stiff progressive flex. If I want something truly lighter I just go back to the full-on tongue style touring boots.

    If you take the power strap of the 130, then you end up with softer flex, less weight and more convenience, keep that in mind. It’s a huge power strap.


  19. Buck March 23rd, 2017 4:05 pm

    re-posting steeplechase’s first question :

    “1) Setting weight aside, how well do the boots tour uphill? Specifically, compared with Dynafit’s TLT 5/6/7 boots when it comes to things like range of motion, cuff resistance, etc.?”

    I know there’s no way they’re going tour quite as well as any of those boots, but how are they?

  20. BillyGoat March 23rd, 2017 5:12 pm

    The problem with TLT7 class boots is they all ski terribly.

    The Hawx XTD is pretty damn light for a boot that can be skied aggressively without tossing all concept of control out the window.

    Don’t get me wrong, my TLT6s are great for long spring and summer tours in the high alpine of WA and BC, but it takes a considerably adapted technique and reduced speed on the decent (with an extra buckle, Vulcan tongues, and booster straps).

  21. Lou Dawson 2 March 23rd, 2017 5:31 pm

    Buck, they’re ok to excellent. Range to the front is nearly resistance free as with many overlap boots that have tongue liners, range to the rear is what I’d call “better than average to good), all depending on how they’re buckled, how the liner is configured and fitted, how your feet operate. As many of you know I have a fused ankle, left foot, with limited range. But my right ankle is normal so I can still evaluate touring performance. I’d offer that compared to other overlap boots they tour as good as the best. Interestingly, they fit my feet better than a lot of other boots. BUT, they’re incredibly hard to put on due to a very tight instep both in the liner and how the overlap is molded. The liner has an elastic strap over the instep that I cut away, and I re-molded the left boot shell a bit so it opens wider for my bad ankle.

    Please bear in mind that the above is more along the lines of what I’d be including in a real review rather than the “factory first look” type of post.

    Overall, the Hawx do have a sweet progressive feel that reminds me of another well known overlap brand (smile).


  22. Lee Lau March 23rd, 2017 7:37 pm

    MarKW – the Atomic Hawk XTD tours quite well. The Beast/Khion tours poorly. That’s one key difference

  23. Lee Lau March 23rd, 2017 7:39 pm

    Powerstrap of the Atomic XTD is approx 40g. I couldn’t tell the difference with it off but then at 75kg I’m a lightweight.

    I tried taking off the fourth buckle of the Atomic XTD for another approx 40g of weight savings but felt like the plastic deformed without the buckle

  24. Ryan March 23rd, 2017 8:10 pm


    Would you be speaking of the old Garmont Radiums? They were a nightmare until fitted properly or you got the newer generations and then they were a bit friendlier.

    I love my Radiums (properly fitted), but they are roached and in need of replacement. I believe the flex was around he 130 mark and have a relatively progressive feel as well.

    Any comparo to the Hawx? Sure would be nice to have an easy replacelemt. Atomic boots fit my feet about as good as any boot I’ve ever owned.


  25. Team Weasel March 24th, 2017 1:27 am

    I reckon the thing that we can all agree on is that AT boots continuing to get lighter is never a bad thing.

    I don’t think that the 1kg class of boots ski ‘terribly’ – but I guess that depends on the application. I have boots from three of the general ‘categories’ alluded to by Lou, from skimo race boots, general touring (ie. TLT6) to ‘freeride’ boots.

    Essentially, I’d rather work on my technique and get better with less boot than lug heavy stuff around the mountains. Hence my Mtn Labs have hardly seen snow, whilst my TLT6s and Syborgs get about even use. I don’t know if I could get by with something like the Atomic Ultimate, but I’m certainly more interested in that than the Hawx…which is natural for me given that I’m more into the ski mountaineering side of things.

    I think that the general principle is that with human-powered skiing we all want to carry up just enough gear to have fun on the way down. Whether that’s a skimo slipper or a freeride monster, it’s awesome to see everyone’s load getting a bit lighter.

  26. Daniel March 24th, 2017 1:30 am

    Billy: Many ski like that anyway 😉 .

    Overall, significant shift of expecatations and relations going on. A few yeas back, 1700g-1800g boots were to be foudn on the feet of most anybody in the backcountry, and it seemed to work for everybody. Now weights have dropped, and a Hawx XTD is in the weight class of an old, barely skiable F1. Plenty light I believe!

    Question to early testers: What does the heel/achilles area in the Hawx look like? smooth transition from heel cup to cuff (think Dynaft zzero), of sharp edge of ower shell (think Vulcan, Maestrale) . Photo would be awesome!

  27. Lars Löfgren March 24th, 2017 2:40 am

    Does anyone know the Backland Ultimate boots sole length of the different sizes?
    And also if you know any store that has start to sell Backland Ultimate already?
    I’m really interested to get one as soon as possible 😀

  28. atfred March 24th, 2017 8:05 am

    Team Weasel +1

    An old curmudgeon told me a long time ago that if you couldn’t ski down a black run with your buckles undone, then you needed to work on technique.

    Alas, now I’m the old guy!

  29. Lou Dawson 2 March 24th, 2017 8:27 am

    I ski with people all the time who do beautiful skiing in 1-kilo class boots. Yeah, they’re harder to ski sometimes, and might not be appropriate for certain styles of skiing or certain types of terrain, but it’s simply not realistic to discount them. Me, I do have a slightly easier time on the downhill in boots such as Hawx vs a TLT6 without tongue. But I get down the hill fine in either boot, and have fun, and I really enjoy the lighter gear doing up. Many many people feel the same way and that’s valid. Lou

  30. Kristian March 24th, 2017 9:37 am

    alfred +1

    Amazing to watch what skiers did with lace up leather boots many decades ago.

  31. JCoates March 24th, 2017 9:39 am


    I’m sure you know this, but the PNW has a wetter, heavier (water weight) snowpack then the Alps and the dry side of the Rockies. Once you get further away from the coast, 1kg boots and 95mm waisted skis do just fine.

  32. Lou Dawson 2 March 24th, 2017 11:29 am

    Lars and all! I got the sizing numbers, they’re added to the bottom of the blog post. Includes BSLs and last width. Enjoy. Lou

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