Dalbello Virus Ski Mountaineering Boots


Post by WildSnow.com blogger | April 16, 2010      

Whenever I head into the backcountry I know that I’m compromising some of my ski performance for the freedom of uphill travel. Obviously some hard charging performance, traded for the beauty, adventure, and untouched nature of the backcountry is a good deal; otherwise we all might be in the resort pounding iced over moguls. But.

There has always been a lot of talk about that “holy grail” of touring boots. Something that can walk and boot pack with minimal resistance and maximum cuff movement but ski like a high end alpine boot, all while not tipping the scale in an unfavorable direction. This past year Dalbello along with Glen Plake proudly announced that they had the answer. The new Dalbello Virus boot line would be based on previous iterations of Dalbello boots and what many of us call the old-school ‘flexon’ style tongue design. WildSnow got a copy of the Virus a while ago, and we’ve been passing them around for some real world testing. Time for some review action.

Shop for the Dalbello Virus.

Dalbello Virus

Dalbello Virus backcountry skiing boots. Interesting style and features.

Boy, Glen Plake or Dalbello has an interesting sense of style. I’ll leave it at that…but, the boots do seem to be well constructed. A couple of the big details I noticed right away:

1) Intuition thermo moldable liner (with laces).
2) Metal banding flush mounted to the boot allowing buckles to be out of harms way, easily removed with hex wrench.
3) Vibram sole.
4) Unique tongue latch that allows more cuff movement, rearward.
5) And of course ‘tech’ fittings.

After figuring out how all the doohickeys (the buckles are a bit unusual but they function fine), latches, and what-not worked on these boots I was off for a tour. Virus has a somewhat unique feature on the boot’s tongue, allowing additional rearward movement of the top of the tongue. With the boot in walk mode and the top of the cuff “disengaged” the boots rearward travel was impressive. Long strides on flat or low angle terrain were fluid and had little resistance. However, once the terrain got steeper the boot started to perform in similar fashion or worse than other tongue boots I have used. Due to the relatively high, stiff nature of the tongue there was almost constant shin pressure on steeper skin tracks. Even with all the buckles undone I could feel the tongue of the boot.

What we don’t understand is why, if Dalbello went to the effort of making the Virus tongue flex so nicely to the rear in touring mode, could they not have provided more forward flex as well? In terms of rear flex, perhaps Plake needed a boot for those long flat approaches to some of the Sierra East Side giants? But, once he’s climbing the steeps of those peaks, he must notice the lack of forward movement in his boot.

Lack of forward touring flex is not the end of the world (and can be tuned out somewhat by buckle tightenes slection. But get up on your heel lifters while using the Virus, and you’ll notice the fronts of your shins. Thus, if Virus had forward cuff movement rivaling their rearward travel, this boot could really be a stand out. As the Virus performs now, it is shorter tours, slackcountry, and bootpacking that seem to be what its designers had in mind.

Dalbello ski boots for sk touring and ski mountaineering.

Unique tongue latch allowing for additional rear-ward cuff movement.

After about 3000 vert of up I decided it was about time to turn these puppies loose and see if they really lived up to their reputation. The first thing I noticed after wrenching the Virus’s buckles down tight what that this boot feels eerily similar to an alpine boot. Laterally they are very responsive, noticeably more so than other AT boots I have skied. This beefy lateral response is indeed confidence inspiring — enough so to make up for some of my complaints on the uphill. The forward flex is adequate but not overwhelmingly stiff. I think that due to the high tongue the Virus skied a bit stiffer than they really are.

In alpine mode overall, the most notable feeling in these boots was what for me is an overly upright stance. I was a bit thrown off by this at first but they seemed to ski ok anyway (boot fitting tweaks could probably adjust the stance to suit most skiers). On hard pack the boot’s progressive flex made up for the upright stance and I was able to pressure the tips of my ski as I would normally.

Though perhaps over-hyped last winter, Virus is an interesting boot that could be very nice for skiers who like the “Flexon” type of construction and flex, yet want a boot that will go backcountry with adequate uphill comfort. I think this boot is great for what it was designed for, confidence inspiring, and skis very close to a full-on alpine boot. However, if you’re skiing lap after lap, touring up steep skin tracks this boot is probably going to be a bit cumbersome.

Our Virus test boots with Intuition liner weigh 1862 grams per boot, sole length 317 mm, size 10. This is indeed very light for a fully functional and stiff backcountry boot, but not revolutionary. The Virus “lite” model (Pebax plastic) is significantly lighter. It’s said that you can order stiffer tongues for the Virus through a dealer. Changing to different tongues is a time honored way of stiffening or softening ski touring boots (Scarpa has done a good job of accommodating this by providing super stiff tongues), so we’re glad to hear Dalbello is on the case.

Bottom line: If you’re skiing slackcountry or going on shorter tours and want one of the most alpine-esqe touring boots out there this is probably a good bet.

Biases
1) Although the design, development, and history of the ‘Flexon’ style of ski boots is an interesting and well thought out concept, I’m still skeptical. While it does a great job of reducing boot distortion (what it was designed for) I feel like it lacks in mimicking basic human foot and ankle ergonomics.
2) I come from a ski racing background. Skiing fast, downhill performance oriented, plug boots…you get the picture.
3) I like my boots to tour well on the uphill. I’m well aware that they won’t be as stiff, precise or confidence inspiring as my plug boots but then again I’m not racing so I can handle that. (I normally ski on Garmont Radiums…for comparison sake).

(Guest blogger Tyler Christoff, 26 years old, grew up ski racing. He raced at Syracuse University, making Nationals multiple years. Three years ago he moved to Aspen to pursue a different sort of skiing. Tyler has rapidly grown into a strong mountaineer, and has the perfect form that most skiers only dream of. Tyler is a member of the soon-to-happen WildSnow Denali ski expedition.)



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Comments

24 Responses to “Dalbello Virus Ski Mountaineering Boots”

  1. CF April 16th, 2010 4:04 pm

    thanks for reviewing….I’m almost embarassed to say but I’ve been skiing flexon style boots for almost as long as Tyler has lived….so I’m biases towards flexon style boots for sure. For close to 20 years I skied Flexon Comps, then switched to Dalbello Krypton Pros and recently purchased the Virus Tour. I’ve also owned and spent time the last 4 years touring in Garmonts too.

    IMHO, if you like or are used to flexon style boots you will feel right ‘at home’ in the Virus as it relates to fit and downhill performance (including stance and flex).

    For me, the forward, uphill touring flex is similar to 4 buckle garmonts I’ve toured/skied (adrenalin, radium). Basis for comparison: using the Garmonts I tour with top two latches and power strap slackened and I unlatch the top buckle on the Virus.

    The rearward flex in tour mode has been great for me during flatter scrambles or down climbing/hiking. In these situations, I sometimes feel I can walk better in the Virus when compared to my full shank mountaineering boots because I get more ankle flexion.

    One note for comparing weights. I believe you may want to size down the shell of the Dalbello 1 size to make a fair weight comparison to say a Radium. Meaning a 27.5 Dalbello shell fits the same as a 28.5 Radium shell. At least that was the case for me when fitting shell length to foot without liner.

    thanks again for the review and hope I’ve added a little bit to the conversation. I really don’t think you can go wrong with any of the newer boots as long as they fit and feel like you want them to…we are lucky in my area that we have a small local shop that carries all the randonee brands so you can try them all on side by side and even rent certain models before you buy. very important vs just reading and deciding and purchasing online!

  2. Tyler April 16th, 2010 4:47 pm

    CF- Thanks for the input! I toured with the Virus’s three buckles unbuckled. With the boots rigged in this fashion touring was more enjoyable…. but I would say it’s hard to compare a tongue/flexon style boot to an overlap cuff boot. Personally, I dislike the feeling of my shin pushing against any sort of tongue while skinning. I would say I prefer the feel of a boot like the radiums on the way up. (I usually tour with all four buckles, buckled as loose as possible and power strap slackened) I think the difference really comes down to tongue boots vs. overlap cuff boots and personal opinion.

  3. Jonathan Shefftz April 16th, 2010 8:20 pm

    update?

    Lou February 2nd, 2010 12:29 pm
    BTW, I’ve got some Dalbello Virus here. They’re nice boots and the metal tech fittings look good. The toe of the boot fits Dynafit binding perfectly, but the slots in the heel are in my opinion incorrectly milled and cause extra resistance at one point in lateral release. This incorrect milling is a legacy thing that’s been done on some other boots as well. I’ll bet Dalbello copied the wrong pair of boots. It’s easy to fix. I’ll blog about it when I review the Dalbellos. Again, lack of a standard possibly compromises consumer safety.

  4. James April 16th, 2010 11:02 pm

    Good review but after fondling one in the local shop, I would be very surprised if it came anywhere near 900g.

  5. Dan April 17th, 2010 12:05 am

    I have only tried these on but I noticed several things that haven’t been mentioned in this post. The liner is quite thin not sure how warm it would be. Also, there seems to a natural arch to the foot bed of the shell, similar to scarpa boots, so you don’t really have a completely flat foot bed. I definitely noticed it even when just standing in them for a few minutes in the store. One last thing is that the top buckle was really long on the boot i tried on and I couldn’t quite get it tight enough for downhill mode. I’ve heard that Dalbello is aware of this and has shorter straps available and maybe they’ll shorten it for next year.
    i agree rearward cuff movement is amazing.

  6. Mingus April 17th, 2010 2:27 am

    The pair of boots weigh in at around 3500g depending on size.
    I just bought my pair as one of the very few made available in Norway (i was led to believe). Have yet to ski them, but may get the chance next weekend.

    I would like to hear an update from Jonathan Shefftz about how better the fit of the heel.

  7. Jonathan Shefftz April 17th, 2010 5:01 am

    “I would like to hear an update from Jonathan Shefftz about how better the fit of the heel.”
    — Wrong reviewer . . . unless you mean my review of the DyNA? In that case, I finally got the liners molded (thank you REI!), and also tightened up the kevlar cord a bit. Since then, despite skinning in 70-degree temps (which I’ve found to be worst skinning conditions for getting blisters), absolutely no heel rubbing.

  8. Mingus April 17th, 2010 5:13 am

    Sorry, I misunderstood, I was refering to what you wrote yesterday:

    “Jonathan Shefftz April 16th, 2010 8:20 pm

    update?

    Lou February 2nd, 2010 12:29 pm
    BTW, I’ve got some Dalbello Virus here. They’re nice boots… …he slots in the heel are in my opinion incorrectly milled and cause extra resistance at one point in lateral release… ”

    Now i get that you were asking for an update from Lou…

  9. Lou April 17th, 2010 6:39 am

    For some reason my mind went south yesterday when I was editing this and I divided the 1,800 gram weight for a single boot in half, thinking it was the weight for both boots! 900 grams would be more like the weight of a heavy boot liner!

    I’ve been over worked and distracted lately by our Denali prep, apologies to all.

    I corrected.

    As for the heel fitting milling, we had to make the assumption that Dalbello would correct this on their next round of production, but I probably should have linked to my mention of it so thanks for bringing it up. Main thing with that is to remember there is NO international standard for tech fittings and how they are placed in the boot sole, so buyer beware.

    If you’re shopping for boots, you can easily check the heel fitting slots by just looking at them. Post about this issue is here: http://www.wildsnow.com/2599/dynafit-tech-heel-space-shim-gauge/

    Thanks, Lou

  10. Kris April 17th, 2010 9:19 am

    Thanks a lot for the review. Can anyone else comment on the forward flex in touring mode? That was my concern when I first saw them. Also, does anyone know if they’re making them in big-boy sizes next year? Maybe I missed it but I never saw them bigger than a 29.

    Thanks again. And have fun on Denali, fellas.

  11. Walt April 17th, 2010 10:23 am

    Have you tried the Black Diamond Factors? Would you really say these boots have even more downhill performance than those?

  12. Frank K April 17th, 2010 10:50 am

    I was checking out a friend’s pair the other day and by far my favorite feature, which wasn’t mentioned, is the rubber that is all around the middle of the boot. For those of us that access via snowmobile, this area of the boot gets trashed by the machine, and having rubber there gives a much better grip as well.

  13. alfinator April 17th, 2010 11:09 am

    I just bought a pair of the Tour last month on sale after researching for a while and calling Dalbello several times.

    I was hot on these becuase i have a pair of krypton cross, and love them, some years ago was skiing on Raichle flexon and loved that boot too

    I was torn between the Tour and the Lite because I was afraid of the Lite being too soft. I decided on the Tour mostly because I found one $250 cheaper than anyone else was selling either one for.

    In the krypton I am on a 26.5, but in the krypton the shell sizes break on the whole size. The virus breaks on he half size. So boot length for the krypton 26-26.5 is closest (I think 307mm?) to Virus 26.5-27. I got some confusing messages from the shop guys about what was different between the 26.5 and 27 (they didn’t have a 26.5 in the first shop) and they said the liner and shell are the same, just the internal footbed inside the shell is different. Dalbello confirmed this on the phone but I didn’t get a warm fuzzy feeling.

    The shops I went to had limited selections, so I tried the Lite on in a 27 to check on sizing and the 26 shell in the Virus Free (different liner altogether). The 26 was definitely too short. Not sure if it was due to the liner or not. I remember the Lite feeling lighter and flexier in the shop than the tour feels.

    According to Dalbello, the last for the Virus is a few mm wider than the krypton and I noticed this when I tried them on. Someone mentioned an arch built into the shell, I did notice a feeling of extra space under the ball of my foot and couldn’t explain it but maybe this is it. I ski with custom footbeds so this could be worked around if it’s true, need to go look now!

    Anyway, because of the wider boot, I have to buckle the middle buckle tighter than I would like which makes the boot alot stiffer. Bottom line for me is there is considerably more volume in the same length boot.

    The big difference forward flex wise is the Tongue. The light right now comes with a softer tongue and I noticed this difference in the tour even just walking around in the shop in tour and ski modes.

    Dalbello told me they will be stocking parts in the fall and will sell the soft and stiff tongue separately. No idea on price. I’m probably going to by a soft tongue or sell these and go for the Lite.

    I’ve only been on a few short tours and a few days at resort in varying conditions and other then some small volume issues (I’m picky about fit) which I’m hoping I can tweek, I love this boot. It may be as simple as a thicker sock. Was worried about no power strap but the top buckle is up high where the power strap would normally be.

    As far as the thin liner comment, I tried my krypton ID liners in this shell and they did not fill the space. I was surprised since I assumed they would be beefier.

    Also, I haven’t tried it, but there is an adjustment at the top back of the boot to change the forward lean (or maybe it’s faked by higher back?) a bit by sliding that green piece up a notch, haven’t tried it and need to use the hex wrench for that.

    As far as the long straps comment, there is a second position for all the buckles and I had to move mine. I thought the top cable would still be too long (skinny lower legs) but it is ok for now. I think they said they would offer shorter
    ones next fall.

    There are a couple of really nice little ergonomic features I noticed:
    – The buckles rest very flush when buckled, but they have this little tab that makes it easy to open with gloves on, just push on it and the buckle lifts up just enough
    – For tour mode, when you want to loosen your buckles, you can put them on the loosest setting even if floppy until you get moving, the buckle subtly clicks in to the slots and stays closed.

    sorry for rambling, just my experience so far.
    alf

  14. Lou April 17th, 2010 11:44 am

    Good stuff Alf, thanks.

  15. Thomas B April 17th, 2010 11:28 pm

    I’ve worn out 3 pairs of Garmont Megarides over the years and decided to pick up a pair of Virus Lites. I’ve probably put in about 20 000 vert on them and think they are the nicest flexing and skiing BC boot I have ever had.
    The skinny lower leg/ top buckles too long problem was easily solved by getting shorter top straps from Dalbello, this has improved the performance in the same way a booster strap improved performance on my Megarides. The lace up liner with a tongue has eliminated all blisters for me which used to fairly regular occurrence.
    The boot shell also has a removable 4mm foot bed for those needing more volume.
    All of the buckle catches can be moved to accommodate larger or smaller feet.
    the buckles are very slick and out of the way. The walk mode on flats is great, the booting is extremely comfortable as the cuff will still hinge nicely with the foot buckles secure, instead of having to loosen them to get movement as with most other BC boots. The extreme rearward movement available in walk mode seems tailor made for cramponing and subtle foot placements. It is true that one can sometimes feel very light pressure on the shins while climbing, but for me this detail is hardly noticeable. For the record I spend almost all my BC days doing big laps and long fast days.
    The skiing performance is precise and laterally stiff, with a smooth forward flex. The shape of the last does not seem to cradle the heel as well as it could and I have sometimes felt slight heel lift (5% of the time?), I am assuming the smooth walk mode was a trade off here.
    I think they could have made the boot a little lighter with less styley buckle straps but at least the bold colors mean all the garish disco ski clothing coming out will match.
    I’d give the Garmont megaride retrofitted with intuition liner a 7 out of 10, and the Dalbello Virus Lite an 8 out of 10. They just fit and ski better.

  16. Eric Steig April 18th, 2010 7:39 pm

    I really don’t get this at all. My experience is completely different.

    “Due to the relatively high, stiff nature of the tongue there was almost constant shin pressure on steeper skin tracks. Even with all the buckles undone I could feel the tongue of the boot.”

    I find the Virus to be totally comfortable on the uphill, even with the top buckle done up. Perhaps this is simply because I have the softer tongue (of the Lite model). A key is to set the middle buckle to a low setting — it it is too tight, the tongue won’t flex. This means you can get a stiffer tongue flex on the way down if you want it. All of this with the top buckle done up. For all my other boots I’ve tried, the uphill is uncomfortable with the top buckle done up.

    Try the softer tongue before you give up on the Virus. Perhaps it is key.

  17. Lou April 18th, 2010 9:38 pm

    Just weighed our Wildsnow testers. 1862 grams for sole length 317, size 10, with Intuition liner.

  18. Lou April 19th, 2010 1:36 am

    Eric, different users, different experiences. Thanks for commenting with yours.

  19. Mark W April 19th, 2010 7:00 am

    I experience shin pressure while touring in the Zzero 4 Dynafits. Don’t think I have ever heard anyone else mention this. So yeah, different users have different experiences.

  20. Mingus April 27th, 2010 10:50 am

    I skied the Virus tours for the first time on Sunday.
    My verdict is that the tour model is reasonably comfortable uphill, however i had to undo the all but the front buckle in order to alleviate pressure against the shin.

    Downhill the boots performed as well as expected. I already look forward to the first snow in October/November.

  21. Anton May 10th, 2010 10:00 am

    This is one of the most ridicoluos boot that I have buyed in the last years. I read a lot of internet review and I buy this boot. Reviews were all false. All reviews came from promoters or corrupted persons. After a few descents I sell the boot and buyed Dynafit. I was undecided between Scarpa and Dynafit.
    Never ever again a Dalbello boots!

  22. Thomas May 17th, 2010 2:23 pm

    I buy this boots because I read a lot of entusiastic review in internet… This boots are not good as I have read. They are good for light ski touring but not for hard tracks. I read the review that suggest me to buy this boots and I thinks that many of them are fakie review.

  23. Franc September 1st, 2010 8:48 am

    I boughtr the Virus boots last year. The boots are not so bad, but in my opinion there are a lot of boots for freeride skiing and also for mountain uphill. The tongue hurts my leg. I am going to sell the boots and I will return on Garmont brand (or I want to try the dynafit or scarpa brand…). I suggest to all of you to doesn’t trust a lot on the internet review and to try the boots as long as you can.

  24. Kai December 21st, 2011 12:40 pm

    Bought the virus last year (on sale) and I’ve been using it as a everyday boot just fine. I wasn’t too keen on the whole cuff rig, but the toes and the arch were absolutely perfect for me. Being able to lace up the liner is really big too. I’ve had no real problems adjusting to a more upright stance (except maybe a few ass-checks landing backseat) and personally I think more upright is better for steeper slopes. I also slipped the top chord of the upper buckle down to the one below it, so that I can use that fat liner tongue to realyy bend the plastic tongue. I’ve been thinking about adding a buckle in between the ankle and the top, but its been just fine so far this year.

    They even drive my straight n heavy blizz. zues around

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