Black Diamond Backcountry Skiing Boots — What’s New

Post by blogger | January 27, 2012      
New BD liner is beautiful. Click to enlarge.

New BD liner is beautiful. Click to enlarge.

Trussed with an inverted Bod Harness, dot three Camalot stuffed up each nostril. I’m told that’s the punishment for lazy bloggers. Best to avoid such discomfort, so I’ll keep getting the ski boot info out to the wild. Today, Black Diamond.

For 2012/13, Black Diamond’s overlap construction AT boots in their “Alpine Tour” series retain the same names. Quadrant, Prime, Slant and Swift sport different colors and an improved power strap. More importantly the boots yield completely reworked AT liners that in the words of one BD booster “actually make these into new boot models — with the same names.” The Freeride boots (Factor 130 & 110, Shiva) remain the same, with a few small tweaks to liners.

As most WildSnow readers know, we don’t take stock ski boot liners very seriously (poor things). We think it’s impossible to make one liner that’ll fit most people near perfect out of the box — or in many cases, even after thermo molding. (By “fit” we mean truly fit for performance skiing, not just feel good on the carpet.)

But boot companies keep trying. Perhaps because the liner that feels best in the store sells more boots, or more optimistically, because some boot experts out there actually think it is possible to make a liner that works for everyone — so they keep trying.

My question: When will one boot company make the bold step of selling liners and shells as separate items, and provide a selection of liners in, say, widths? Or stiffness? Or whatever? Yeah, let the screaming commence. But if you were Steve Jobs, what would you do about AT boot liners? You’d go the extra mile to actually do what works, period, instead of what works for some of the people. You would be bummed about aftermarket liners, and do anything to keep your product as a closed system by providing any number of options. If your approach worked, you would end up dominating over the other boot companies. Perhaps. Someday.

To be fair, the new BD liners are beautiful. They scream “quality,” with clean looking stitching, nice colors and so on. In my view lacing is part of the solution to making a “universal fit” liner, and the Boa windlass system makes laces actually work. Kudos to BD for continuing that thought. BD also designed better articulation zones so the liners yield more walk flex. The liner tongues have a plastic stiffener for the ever important down, as that little detail can make a huge difference for folks wanting more forward support.

Quadrant, new liner and colors for 2012-13

Quadrant, new liner and colors for 2012-13, same for Prime, Slant and Swift models.

There you go. BD continues to provide excellent value — and perhaps you’ll like the colors better. More, remember that the BD last intentionally provides a snug fit at the heel while still allowing room for the toes, a style of fitting true randonee boots that I’ve always advocated. I’m giving the Camalots back but I’ll keep the boots.

Shop for Black Diamond ski boots here.


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40 Responses to “Black Diamond Backcountry Skiing Boots — What’s New”

  1. jeff January 27th, 2012 9:44 am

    If I were Steve Jobs, I would offer a tiny number of options, announce each one as the second coming of Christ, and ridicule people who claimed they needed something different. I would keep the system closed with patents, lawsuits, and threats, not options.

    His model works for consumer electronics, it would be a nightmare for ski boots.

  2. Lou January 27th, 2012 9:50 am

    Great take!

  3. Dan January 27th, 2012 9:53 am

    Lou, Have the weights of the BD AT boots changed? Footbeds flat or with “arch”?


  4. Lou January 27th, 2012 10:12 am

    Dan, if the weight changed it’s very little and would need to be verified on our own scale, perhaps later this winter we can evaluate. The boot shells remain the same internal shape.

  5. ScottP January 27th, 2012 12:43 pm

    My experience with the BOA lacing on the liners on my tele boots has been fantastic. I wish more boot makers would go that route; it just makes the liner so much easier to get fit right and just feel nicer, both touring and skiing. Or barring that, Intuition or another third party liner maker getting BOA lacing. All the advantages of lacing, but so much more convenient.

    On an unrelated note, it looks like the new anti-spam question doesn’t allow the creativity in the answer that some of the previous ones did. I’m not sure I ever answered the “what substance do we ski on” question the same way twice 🙂

  6. Jernej January 27th, 2012 1:33 pm

    Regarding liners and what sells…. in the past month I’ve been to every shop with AT boots within 200km. I’ve tried, without exaggeration, close to 20 different models in various sizes, from several companies (BD, Garmont, Scarpa…) In the end I came to a single boot – Scarpa Pegasus, that actually felt comfortable and snug. In every single other boot there was something wrong. Even Maestrale, which is damn near identical but with a different liner. Too much pressure on the arch.

    I didn’t buy it for several reasons, least of which I think it’s a bit too soft. But the question here is… how the hell am I supposed to know if buying a shell I would rather have but that only sort of feels good with the stock liner will end up working perfectly if I use a different liner and have it fitted?! It’s a huge potential for money down the drain don’t you think?

    As an experiment I tried swapping liners among my old (alpine ski boots) and 2 others I had available. The feel of each boot/liner combo changed but not by much. Aren’t you slightly overestimating the importance of liners? I bet the feel improves but I don’t see how it could magically make a bad fit into a good one.

    I’d be more than happy to be proven wrong btw… I’d much rather buy something like Garmont Shoguns for 270€ than Pegasus for 430€. But it would be an expensive experiment if it didn’t work out. So I hesitate and continue using my old boots.

  7. Lou January 27th, 2012 1:41 pm


    Simple answer to your question is that any shop employee can be trained in basic boot fitting, the results of which can easily be manipulated by using different liners. To attempt to put that knowledge into a sentence or two would be pointless, but I will say that an issue such as a high arch is trivial to deal with, and would take much less time than trying on 20 boots (grin). Lou

  8. Maciej January 27th, 2012 5:04 pm

    We all spend a lot of time, sweat, and money getting the backcountry fix, and the foot/ski/boot interface is the most critical area of making that gear perform properly.

    If you buy a boot without a competent boot-fitter to get it “just right”, you’re selling yourself short. I’ve had fitting work done at the Ski Haus in Steamboat, and they did an excellent job making the boots right. That was the difference between settling for loose, sloppy boot fit or numb feet on the ride down.

    I have fairly narrow heels and a wide forefoot, and BD Factors are the best fitting AT boot shells I’ve found, but the liners are a hassle (loosen at the bottom, then tighten at the top of every lap) without any tangible benefit over a good, properly fitted conventional liner (like an Intuition or Zipfit).

    Interestingly, my splitboard riding friends (and girlfriend) also loathe the BOA system, and prefer the pull laces that Salomon and Northwave use on their boots (and liners).

    Bottom line: BD makes great boot SHELLS, but their BOA liners are a huge PIA without a tangible benefit in stiffness (or touring performance) over a high-quality, properly fitted conventional liner. Support your local ski shop, and have a good bootfitter set you up. It’s worth every penny.

  9. XXX_er January 27th, 2012 6:05 pm

    “My question: When will one boot company make the bold step of selling liners and shells as separate items, and provide a selection of liners in, say, widths? Or stiffness? Or whatever? Yeah, let the screaming commence”

    Sounds like a good idea to me .

    Don’t the “Surefoot” boot stores buy just the shell from the Alpine boot mfger’s , maybe they are big enough as a chain to order JUST ust the boot shells from the mfger’s ?

  10. Lou January 27th, 2012 6:06 pm

    Not sure if they do that or not. I thought they just chucked the stock liners if they didn’t work… anyone know for sure?

  11. Jonathan Shefftz January 27th, 2012 6:36 pm

    Surefoot uses Lange shells and custom foam-injected liners . . . because their staff lack the skills, tools, and time to grind out the inside of plug boots (which would offer a fit far beyond any AT can even offer, as focusing on liners with varying amounts of squishiness is the exact opposite approach).

  12. Lou January 27th, 2012 9:04 pm

    Well anyway, so there you go, for better or worse someone is essentially selling separate liners and boots. I’d be delighted if someone in the industry does that with a high-end boot sold in normal shops. Would be a cool experiment in outdoor retail service.

  13. JQ January 27th, 2012 10:23 pm

    I’m a BD boot user and Boa advocate. Great control in snugness. I typically start loose on the approach or first lift ride, buckle up and usually don’t touch anything (except walk lever) all day. I added a few ounces per boot to my Quadrants by putting Factor liners in them. Major performance upgrade. FYI – I have a med- wide foot, high arch and big heel. I have 27.5 Quadrants and 28.5 Factors (new this year). Top of arch pressure was a bit of an issue w/ the Factors. Some good bootfitter tweaking has cured that. BD does sell liners on their web site. It would be cool if you could order a shell and liner of your choice.

  14. Eric January 27th, 2012 10:26 pm

    How do these new liners compare to Intuition liners? I have a pair of BD Primes from last year and am thinking about replacing the liners with the Intuition Tour but wonder if buying a pair of these from BD might be an option.

  15. Nick January 27th, 2012 10:31 pm

    Forget multiple liner options. I would like to see someone apply Fisher’s vacuum moulded shell technology to an AT boot.

  16. Lou January 28th, 2012 5:32 am

    I second that emotion on the Boa lacer. I’m using the ones on the Scarpa Alien shell, and it’s amazing how you can fine tune it. I’m also thinking of playing around with sticking some BD liners in various boots, since with my skinny feet a lace-up liner works much better. I presently use the lace-up Intuition Pro Tour liner in nearly everything, mostly because of the laces.

  17. Lou January 28th, 2012 5:35 am

    On second thought, when looking at photo of BD liner it appears the laces don’t pull the boot around the instep, only the lower leg. In that case, they wouldn’t help me. But I’ll check it out.

  18. Justin January 28th, 2012 8:50 am

    For what its worth, one of my friends is a BD gear tester, and he’s been skiing in next years Quadrants and playing around with the BD liner in one boot and a Intuition Luxury Liner in the other. He says the BD liner is warmer (thats a first) and he likes it better. He’s also the first to acknowledge that the liners in previous Quadrants were junk.

  19. Paul January 28th, 2012 10:29 am

    Myself and the few other people I’ve talked to with BD Primes ALL could not use the factory liners because they were simply too small. I’m curious… is there even one person out there who is happy with the factory liners in BD Primes?
    Yeah, they’re beautiful and high quality and all, but simply too small for the shell.
    Yes, I use a very good bootfitter and he even tried to stretch the liners, but still couldn’t make them fit.

  20. Bjorn Naylor January 28th, 2012 12:44 pm


  21. Tyler January 28th, 2012 1:57 pm

    Bootworks in Park City Utah is a high end boot fitter outfit who works with the Conformable company in France. Conformable makes numerous foot related wares but they make very nice conformable foot beds and boot liners. The “Central High” liner is a extremely well made liner with full easy pull laces and it is incredibly light. If I was buying an after market liner I would likely go with this liner for my AT boots. Bootworks doesnt sell shell only but they are now carrying a Salomon boot who has partnered with Conformable to make a shell and liner that can be really worked with by a boot fitter.

    …. for what it is worth ….

  22. Michael January 28th, 2012 5:41 pm

    It would be great to see something like this used for ski boots..

  23. Mark W January 28th, 2012 9:57 pm

    From a retail perspective, offering multiple liners per boot could work, but it might turn into a logistical nightmare of huge expense and sheer volume. For comparison, consider having 15 different models within one brand of sunglasses. Add multiple frame colors per model and multiple lens colors too. It all gets out of hand quite quickly. For the consumer, of course, it is fantastic. Perhaps this is why retailers should seriously consider trying it.

  24. Mark W January 28th, 2012 9:59 pm

    By the way, the flex zone in the back of the liner is becoming more common. Seems to add better range of motion.

  25. Kim January 28th, 2012 11:15 pm

    I have used BD Factors for the northern and southern seasons over the last three years. My opinion is that the old BD Boa liners were rubbish, cold, moulded poorly and the Boa was only partially helpful as it only covers the shin not the foot area. I have recently had Intuition liners fitted by Mountain Outfitters in Breckenridge – what a revelation! Great fit for both the up and down, warm and no movement. I did try the new liner from the new BD factors before settling on the Intuitions for moulding but did not notice too much difference from the old BD liners. I will be staying with Intuition for the future.

  26. XXX_er January 29th, 2012 9:26 am

    “” I’m curious… is there even one person out there who is happy with the factory liners in BD Primes?””

    well my basement tennant likes his old factors with the stock BD liner over swapping in an intuition which he already owns so there is at least one, BD’s don’t fit me so I have never used the boot but i have used palau’s/intution/conformables

    I was severely trashed several threads back for suggesting that Garmont specing their new AT boot with Palaus was an instant loser froma a price performance aspect …where were you intuition supporters 3 weeks ago?

    so it sounds like everybody has their preferences but they would’nt really know till they try several liners, saying the stock XYZ liner worked great doesn’t mean much if all you ever used was XYZ liner

  27. Jon January 29th, 2012 10:33 am

    Lou, I love you idea of seperate shells and liners! Until one has had a proper boot fittting done by a good individual they will not understand how big a difference a proper shell and especially liner can make. If you look around at off the shelf boots you will see that most liners are designed to either save $$ or for instant comfort. Skiing in them for 20+ days will cause alot of pack out and poor fit. The way to get around is to go to someone who will fit your feet to a shell and then work with you to select a quality liner and do proper fitting work. There are places to do this but the cost is what scares those away who would rather spend their benjermins on another pair of skis or a fancy new bright coat. I still like your idea alot though and as someone who has had both a Surefoot boot with the foam liner and a more tradition fitted boot with a nice Intution liner I now always recommend the Intution route as it has lasted longer, given a better fit, and cost less. Just my .02. Pray for snow!

  28. Kevin January 29th, 2012 12:46 pm

    I couldn’t agree more with Lou’s idea to separate shells and liners at the retail level. I’d even go as far as suggesting that BD stop trying to compete with products that are already so good. Scarpa gave in and contracted with Intuition. That was a smart business move.

    My experience with BD is they make the best shell that fits my foot. My Factors are 4 years old, Primes were bought this year. The Primes are the only boot with a performance fit I’ve used in the last 10 years that didn’t require any shell modification.

    The liners however, are worthless. I couldn’t last a day before pain set in. A simple change to Intuitions solves everything. They are warmer, more comfortable, lighter… For me it’s not even just a comfort issue. I work in these boots 100+ days per year. Any problem reveals itself in the form of bone spurs and other more serious foot problems. In each boot generation BD has marketed their stock liners as some sort of leap forward in boot technology. I’ll be very surprised if they somehow got it right this time, unless they just copied a good quality molded foam like Intuition. I hope BD is listening. If they start selling shells alone they could corner a bigger market share by effectively offering a cheaper boot and allowing better fit options out of the store. We shouldn’t be forced to buy a liner that we will never use…

  29. Dan January 29th, 2012 2:55 pm

    Let’s hope that all the boot manufacturers are paying attention. Most of the AT skiers that I know would be happy to have the option of purchasing the shell sans liner…assuming they received more than a token discount for the boot w/o the liner. So, how about some comparison prices from you boot makers out there? With and w/o the liner.

  30. Bjorn Naylor January 29th, 2012 6:03 pm

    If u r a serious skier every boot you wear needs tuning- punching, grinding, memory foaming etc….that’s just the way she blows. and getting rid of the stock liner! that’s just the way it is- whether u go with heat moldable or injected…they are SO superior it’s not even worth discussing keeping a stock liner. let em pile up in the closet! if boot makers EVER just offered the shell it would be revolutionary!! maybe just for the small percentage who know their shell size etc…????!!!

  31. XXX_er January 29th, 2012 6:55 pm

    According to this link Surefoot is THE largest retailer in the USA

    “Until a few years back, ski boot manufacturers refused to sell retailers only the shells, so custom companies had to buy the whole boot and throw away the liner, charging customers for it anyway. But Surefoot got enough clout to demand shells alone, passing the savings on to the customer”

    I suspect the answer to whether surefoot is any good or not is largely dependant on the individual boot fitter at each store …just like any boot store

  32. Lou January 29th, 2012 7:48 pm

    Mark, regarding hassle of another SKU for retailers… Their business is to have a bunch of products, and give their customers service and selection. If a boot maker really did make it possible to stock just shells, with separate liners, if the terms were right and the pricing was done with care, I’ll bet it wouldn’t be as onerous as it sounds on the surface.

    Thing is, watch start doing it and beat everyone to the punch!


  33. Lou January 29th, 2012 8:03 pm

    P.S., anyone who can pair a wine with their steak should be able to pair a liner with a boot, right (grin)?

  34. Mark W January 29th, 2012 8:39 pm

    Yeah, it could work pretty well. Selling shells and liners ala carte is really not the same as frames and lenses. Heck, we don’t expect people to buy bindings and skis as an inseparable package, why would boots have to be that way?

  35. Robert B (da bob) February 1st, 2012 5:36 pm

    Unfortunately I can’t think of another consumer product that requires such customization. That creates problems with the company’s ability to generate revenue. Almost all the revenue will come from weekend warrior skiiers who buy their boots from the local ski wholesaler. Thus companies will continue to spend more money on creating “one size fits all” boots. Researching and production will be on improving regular liners and boots, not creating a bigger variety of boots for the customized fit.

  36. Howie February 16th, 2012 2:12 pm

    Any updates in the BD tele boot line?

    I have an older set of Push boots that are getting beat and wondering if they are making the same upgrades to the tele boot line as they are to the AT stuff.

    Thanks for any info.

  37. M. Cop February 21st, 2012 5:55 pm

    I agree with a previous comment that BD liners are worthless. I have a pair of new BD Methods that fit me nicely in the store fitted by a pro boot fitter. On snow I had no control with them. I had to crank all my buckles to max setting (cutting off foot circulation) to compensate.

    As an experiment I took liners out of my downhill Atomic boots and put them in the Methods. Problem solved. Boots felt and performed great on the skin and on the ski. No BOA no problem. IMO BD can copy any boot liner design from any boot company that has more experience and solve the problem. Or they can just get Intuition to supply the liner and call it a day.

  38. Bjorn Naylor February 21st, 2012 7:49 pm

    Bin the liner immediately- INTUITION. all problems solved.

  39. Rob S November 6th, 2012 4:55 pm

    Lou – revisiting this thread, as I tried on the 2012-2013 BD Quadrants today. Did you ever get the chance to compare the weight of the old and new Quadrant? According to the BD website, the weight is exactly the same, but that may owe more to oversight than anything else. The new boots sure felt lighter to me, but it;s hard to compare to the older models that I tried on 7 or 8 months ago.

    It appears BD is still clearing out old stock of the Quadrant, which might actually be a decent buy if the major differences are in the liner, and one plans to replace the liners with Intuition, which a number of people suggested in this thread.

  40. Jean-Philippe October 22nd, 2013 11:31 am

    I have prime 2011 model size 28 and some people tell me that they are to big for me. I have width feet with a high arch. I’m ordinary wear 9 us men. When I brought my boots, I had tried the 27 but those feel me too small and hurting me on the top of my feet.

    Today, I buy boots for my girl friend and just for fun I have tryed the quadrant 2013 size 27. I feel very confortable and I think more confortable than my prime 28.

    I want to know if db has made some change to the model 2011 or if they is some difference in the fit between the prime and quadrant.

    Thank and excuse my bad english.

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