Thousands of toes saved, one foot at a time. That should be Forty Below LTD’s motto with their long history of providing well made neoprene overboots to arctic sloggers and high altitude mountaineers.
Ski alpinists also use Forty Below overboots, but models made for climbing boots are hard to zip over ski boots. More, they have too much material thickness in the toe area to work well with tech style (e.g., Dynafit) backcountry skiing bindings. Thus, the common strategy for skiers using thick neoprene overboots has been to wear them on the crampon climb ascent, but strip them for skiing. Not good, since you’re removing your foot protection while still in a harsh environment. In that case, if something happened to delay your descent you’d be stuck without your overboots on, perhaps trying to put them back on in adverse conditions. (Yes, with some effort and experience it is possible to wear the thicker overboots in a variety of ski bindings, but in our experience doing so is much less than ideal.)
Not one to rest on his laurels (even if he does like resting by his fire ring in his back yard with full view of Mount Rainier), Forty Below designer/owner Joel Attaway has stepped up and designed a neoprene overboot specifically for backcountry skiers and ski alpinists.
My Fresh Tracks overboots arrived recently, follow along while I fit to my daily go-to Dynafit rig. Purpose: No, I’m not headed to the Karakorum any time soon — just rigging for warm feet at trailheads and during cold snowmobile approach rides.
The body of the Fresh Tracks is made of nylon covered 4.7 mm neoprene, with two layers of heat reflecting titanium. Key to performance in ski bindings is the overboot sole, which is the same stuff by only 2.5 mm thick so it works with Dynafit bindings and also makes it easier to clip in to toe-wire type bindings such as the Silvretta 500. (Critical areas of the toe and heel also use the thinner material, to help with ski and crampon bindings.) To prevent damage, the lower inside “instep” area of the overboots has a large patch of heavy duty Cordura nylon.
I can see seeral uses for Fresh Tracks overboots. Obviously, they’ll be terrific for high altitude ski mountaineering such as that on Denali, Logan, or overseas. But perhaps more importantly, it’s not uncommon for backcountry skiers to struggle with cold feet no matter how well they fit their ski boots and use tricks such as foot warmers and such. If you fall into that group, I strongly suggest you give overboots a try for colder days. Yes, it’s an extra step in the day and extra gear to fiddle with, but warm feet can be the key to the perfect day.
WildSnow.com publisher emeritus and founder Lou (Louis Dawson) has a 50+ years career in climbing, backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering. He was the first person in history to ski down all 54 Colorado 14,000-foot peaks, has authored numerous books about about backcountry skiing, and has skied from the summit of Denali in Alaska, North America’s highest mountain.