(This post sponsored by our publishing partner Cripple Creek Backcountry.)
Editor’s note:The Outdoor Retailer Show is about to begin and we are eager to see what’s new and exciting for the world of backcountry ski touring. Pre-show, we got in on a press trip featuring the new Hoji boot. After a lovely day on snow, here’s what our testers had to say:
I made one lap skinning up Eldora on the Hoji Pro, and quite a few lift-served laps as well, all with my pants down. During the later half of the day, for comparison I skied on a pair of older Dynafit Vulcans.
Skinning in the boots was a dream. Both the range of motion in tour mode and the weight of the Hoji Pro (55° and 1528 grams) are on par with the best “freeride” touring boots on the market today. My short skin test confirmed that. The boots feel light, and the range of motion is essentially as much as my ankles can use. However, compared to a lightweight boot, (e.g. TLT 7), Hoji Pro is certainly noticeably heavier and stiffer in tour mode (though promised liner improvements may help with this by the time the boot goes to retail). Overall, the skinning performance is sufficient, and about as good as you can expect from a boot in this category.
While the up was enjoyable, where the Hoji really stood out was on the downhill. Icy groomers, crud, and a bit of pow were the conditions of the day — perfect for boot testing. The single-buckle “Hoji Lock” instantly solidified things for the downhill, with no buckle or power-strap fiddling. The boots feel a bit softer than some I’ve experienced in this category (although still quite stiff), yet have a wonderful “progressive” flex that feels remarkably similar to an alpine boot.
Skiing AT boots on the ski area is the one place where I often feel the need for a real overlap alpine boot. However, I can honestly say I did not feel that need with the Hoji. All this, in a boot that wasn’t heat molded to my foot, and thus had a fairly sloppy fit. I’m thinking if I get these nicely molded, with custom beds and some attention to cuff alignment, they’ll definitely be a go-to (though the Speed Toe damps my enthusiasm a bit, read on).
The Hoji Pro felt similar in stiffness to the (sans tongue) Vulcans. The quality of Hoji’s flex was leaps and bounds better than the Vulcan. The Vulcan has a classic “bad” AT boot flex pattern: stiff like a brick wall from the start, and then a noticeable collapse when the boot is really driven or flexed.
Hoji Pro, on the other hand, starts off a bit softer, and increases in resistance as the boot is flexed. That is the classic “progressive” flex that skiers don’t seem to ever get tired of. The Hoji also has ZERO play in the touring mechanism. When carpet flexing the boots it’s noticeable that they don’t “bulge” in the ankle area when aggressively forward flexed (this is what causes the collapsing feeling common in many AT boots). I can also compare Hoji Pro to other boots, however since I skied on both the Hoji and Vulcan in the same day, that’s the most accurate comparison.
Although the comparison to the older Vulcans is overwhelmingly favorable, it’s also an unpleasant reminder of the downsides to the Speed Nose. In the afternoon on our test day, I wanted to test ski some skis with frame-style bindings. I would have loved to keep skiing the Hoji Pro, but alas, I had to switch to the Vulcans. It hurts my heart to see the amazingly engineered Hoji boot have what in my opinion is an unnecessary feature.
Overall, I like the boots. I’m looking forward to continued testing.
Hoji Pro is clearing a pathway for a new generation of touring boots. I’m impressed.
The walk mode to ski mechanism in the Hoji Pro truly is a piece of complex engineering and design, which has clearly taken a massive amount of testing and creative thought. I’m excited to see how this sort of progression will grow in the ski touring industry over the next few years.
Anyways, enough marketing “woo-hoo” and let’s talk about how the boot worked for me. Generally, Dynafit boots don’t fit my wide feet, but the Hoji is wider than any other Dynafit boot I’ve tried. Putting on the Hoji boot was simple and fast, with nothing obstructing the way in. I did feel slight pressure on the top of my arch, right around the area of the middle buckle. Arch pressure is a common boot fitting problem with multiple solutions. In my case we did not heat mold the prototype liners, which would likely be the easy fix.
Skinning uphill in Hoji boot is like walking in sneakers to a nearby resort bar. Just don’t forget that summit beer! The ankle mobility is extreme in a good way, especially when the boot flexes forward. While the liner I tested is still under development for the full retail version, it had a nicely functional “hinge” area in the rear and did a good job of accepting my foot shape without custom molding. I’m told that the Speed Nose toe shape helps the boot with some of this exceptional walking feel, by both trimming shell length at the toe as well as shifting the pivot location back a few millimeters closer to your natural walking gait “hinge.” While that’s all clearly well meant, in my opinion the downsides of the Speed Nose (incompatibilities with bindings, crampons, etc.) are not worth it. Am I right or wrong on that? The market will decide and it’ll be interesting to watch.
The concept of “pants down always,” introduced to us by Dynafit, resonates with me. The idea: you put your boot on in the morning, adjust the buckles for ski mode, and then lift the lean lock lever to walk mode. From that point on, the only mechanism you need to touch is the lever in order to switch between ski/walk modes. You don’t have to fiddle with your pants, or buckles, or bend over backwards. Something I’ve never really thought about, but what a nifty deal. #pantsdownalways
My conclusion: The Hoji boot skis well — the progressive flex and the stiffness make it an excellent competitor among other touring boots. The game changer for me really is the walk-ski-mode mechanism and the massive range of motion compared to some of the other more “freeride” boots I’ve tried.
I have loved my Dynafit TLT6s, but it took work to get them right: we’ve punched out the toe box, remolded the liners, changed the lean lock with a customized plate for less forward cuff lean, etc. When I slipped my foot into the Hoji, I could not repress a smile of delight. The toe box is roomy, the heel pocket is snug, the weight is reasonable and the Hoji Lock works like a charm. I agree with Louie and Julie — the boot is a marvel. Hoji Pro is on the top of my gear wish list and when I slip my foot into my own pair, you’ll see me dancing up — and down — the slopes.
For several years I’ve been privy to insider knowledge about the development process of this boot. My lips were sealed for fear of excommunication by the priests of Aschheim, but I’m now allowed to pontificate. Skiing the functional prototype last winter was enjoyable. I love the Hoji Lock and the progressive flex is real. I’m just a few weeks out from getting on skis after healing from ankle surgery, so I’ll do a complete test at that point. I’ll be needing a boot like the Hoji so my evaluation will be personal. Meanwhile, we trust you readers appreciate the unique privilege afforded to us by Dynafit, in having fully three of our bloggers test the boot. Louie, Julia and Lisa have years of skiing under their feet, in multiple styles and venues. Best testers around! Check out my detailed post about the mechanics of the Hoji Pro and PX boots.
Backcountry.com has 50 pair of pre-launch Hoji special edition boots you can shop for.