You thought this was going to be a ski review didn’t you? Surprise! After a lengthy hiatus, K2 is now back in the ski boot business!
Why, you might ask…everyone else has.
K2 has realized that there are very few, if any, high performance ski boots that are not derived from pure race boots. None have been designed from inception as strictly “all mountain” ski boots. K2 traditionally has not spent much time building product for the race arena.
Race boots are extremely efficient-they are precision tools. The flip side is that they are also notoriously unforgiving and demanding.
A great majority of ski boots that have garnered favor from the best skiers, whether racers or freeskiers, are either race boots or ski boots pulled from race boot molds. For the most part K2 feels that race boot designs are best suited for a fairly narrow range of snow conditions and terrain. Fair enough.
Freeskiers that prefer this type of boot have adapted their skiing style to them or adapt the boots to their needs.
The principles that guide the design of race boots apply to all ski boot designs since they are based on biomechanics and a thorough understanding of skiing dynamics.
At that point why not create a ski boot that addresses the requirements of a majority of skiers-after all most skiers do not race. This is where K2 steps in.
K2 is not reinventing the wheel but they have changed the premise from which their ski boots are designed and their terminology is Energy Efficient Engineering.
In doing so K2 has developed the SpYne 130 and SpYre 110-the ladies version-in 100mm and 97mm lasts.
What is compelling is the construction differences between traditional 4 buckle overlap shells with rivets or bolts through the rear cuff and the K2 Energy Interlock and the Powerfuse Spyne.
The Energy Interlock incorporates the cuff and lower shell in such a way as to provide the power necessary to direct the forces the skier puts into the boot for steering and control without overloading the shell for the turn completion. The net effect of the Energy Interlock is to disperse the stresses induced by the cuff of the boot flexing against the rear of the lower boot shell through a broader area. This lends a very powerful yet progressive range of flex to the SpYne.
The Powerfuse is the large Y shaped structure at the rear of the boot. It reinforces the rear spoiler and augments lateral forces. The Energy Interlock is integrated into the Powerfuse unifying the lower shell and cuff and further distributes the load of the cuffs’ interaction with the lower.
What all this does for the skier is not necessarily revelatory but is unique in that on snow the power of the SpYne is not overbearing and the range of motion is well defined yet has a supple quality.
For freeskiing it is necessary to have the capability to adapt to varied snow conditions and terrain variations without being bucked around. The SpYne 130 allows the skier the latitude to do so without sacrificing any handling traits or power.
The fit is reminiscent of Lange, Rossi, the Head Raptor and others at a high performance level. The lower liner is Intuition-the liner cuff is harder durometer plastic like one finds in “normal” liners. The heat moldable lower takes a good shape and so far is more durable than the traditional Spiral Wrap Intuitions have been. Initially it feels a bit spongy but after a day or so of skiing it firms up and the feel cleaner.
Mid- and rear-foot are commensurate to the performance level of the boot-well defined and intimate. The medial wall is plumb with a relief for the navicular. The SpYne evenly envelops the feet and the cuff has a good proximal wrap around the lower leg.
The internal volume is in the low to medium range…subjective to be sure but for wide higher volume feet there will either be a fair amount of fitting or different boots entirely.
There is no compromise here; the SpYne/SpYre has power, precision, good feedback and is a refreshing take on ski boot design.
The boots have dual cuff alignment, replaceable toes and heels-unlike race boots-and an outsole bonded to the shells between the two for those who like to venture off piste, the K2 SpYne/SpYre will fulfill the highest expectations.
Fischer has increased their offerings in the Vacuum series. The Fischer Vacuum boots have been very successful and next season they will have Vacuum boots that start off with wider lasts and broader flex ranges.
Fischer also brings new molding technology they call “Comfort Fit” which customizes the shell at the rear-foot and heel. We will be able to use the Comfort Fit with the current Fischer Vacuum set up with compression socks specific to this.
Aside from Vacuum Fit, Fischer is unique because of the Soma Stance; wherein the feet are placed in a more “duck footed” position over the skis. The Soma stance is derived from the fact that in general we all stand with the feet pointed outward. This stance built into the Fischer ski boots enhances turn initiation and completion.
There have been other ski boots with abducted shells-in fact all boots have some degree of abduction to them as boot makers from long ago recognized that a huge majority of us bipeds walked this way.
The biggest difference between Fischers’ abducted setup and all others is that the boot is abducted from the tibial axis rather than from the rear of the heel. This places the big toe right over the inside edge of the ski and more importantly the heel is also much more directly over the inside edge as well. The feel is very intuitive.
The “Vacu-Plast” has some notable characteristics. The molding capability is most obvious but there are two byproducts of this plastic that make the Fischer Vacuum series more compelling; the first is that the material is considerably lighter than any other…just pick one up, it’s really apparent. The other is that the flex remains constant regardless of outside temperature. Most if not all ski boots become bricks in cold weather or high top Keds when it gets warm.
The RC4 130 Vacuum and 110 Vacuum and the Trinity 110 L start at 98 mm and can expand a full centimeter. Both can accommodate lower volume feet as well-the vacuum process squeezes the shells against the feet-we pad the bony prominences for the process so there are no undue pressure points.
As stated the Fischer abduction setup is very intuitive. They start turns early and one can exert subtle pressures to modulate the turn throughout. Edge hold is terrific and simply requires the skier to maintain a balanced position. Turn finish can be as powerful or as buttery as one likes.
The Ranger 12 and Hybrid 10 L start at a fairly generous 102 mm and the same applies for the amount they can be manipulated. Because of the nature of the Vac-Plast, the volume as well as the width changes with the process. These boots are softer than their flex ratings would have you believe-they are not “soft” but the Ranger 12 is supposed to be a 120 flex but skis much more like a 100-110. This is not necessarily a bad thing, just a comment.
Both these boots have a Walk/Ski lever at the rear of the boot and replaceable hiking style toe and heel.
The Zephyr 9 L is non-vacuum for now. It is higher volume similar to the Hybrid 10 Vacuum. As with a vast majority of current ski boots, high volume does not mean a bucket all over. The Zephyr 9 and Hybrid 10 both have really sound shell construction; the medial mid-foot and heel are proximal to the foot and the heel pocket is well defined. Obviously the Hybrid, being a Vacuum shell, has the full custom shell molding capability but because it starts as a relatively high volume boot, low volume feet are not likely to fine themselves in the Hybrid or Zephyr.
Dalbello is making small improvements to their entire lineup…large ones are not needed!
Contour 4, a proprietary term for the anatomical shaping of their ski boot shells, applies throughout the product line-this “foot mapping” provides small contours in the shell molds for the base and head of the 5th metatarsal, navicular and inside ankle.
One significant and persistent problem is being addressed; entry and exit of the Strike, Scorpion’s new moniker, even for experienced skiers, can be challenging. Dalbello has done to the Scorpion/Strike shell what has been done to the Viper…a softer plastic at the throat and at the top of the instep allows easier opening.
The KR 2 (Krypton 2) is the updated and refined successor the original Krypton. Included in this series are the KR2 Pro, KR2 Rampage and the KR2 Chakra.
The KR 2 is reconfigured and re-lasted from the 1st generation Krypton yet still maintains the character and feel of the 3-piece Cabrio design. The last of the lower shell is dramatically different than its predecessor and is reminiscent of the Scorpion/Strike with the same Contour 4 foot mapping and on-snow power.
Compared to the gen 1 Krypton, the heel and mid-foot is narrower, instep volume is medium, forefoot width is in the snug low-to-medium volume and the toe box roomy with more up-and-down space than the original Krypton shells.
On snow the KR2 has heaps more power and precision than the gen 1 Krypton while maintaining the same Cabrio feel and fluid range of motion at the ankles. The shell around the feet is so much more precise that the subtlest motions within are crisply transmitted and feedback is very accurate.
The shaft of the boot is relatively high on the lower leg so there are some inhibitions on the use of the everter’s (a set of muscles at the outer part of the lower leg that contribute to foot steering). This is an issue only for those who like to use more eversion inside the boots.
The lateral stiffness of the KR 2 is terrific. Given the prevalence of wide-waisted skis, at least in the western states, this is important because of the leverage needed to initiate turns and hold an edge.
The Scorpion becomes the Strike for 2013-2014; the ladies will become the Truth. We will have the Strike in a 120 flex as opposed to the burly 130. This 120 flex rating opens up the saleable range for the Strike, the Scorpion 130 could well have been sold as a 150. The Truth still carries a 105 flex; in this boot it seems a more realistic rating.
With the Strike/Truth there is a subtle but significant change; similar to the Viper, Dalbello has put softer shell plastic from the instep buckle up the throat where the instep of the foot gets lacerated during entry and exit. Not a new concept to be sure but a welcome one in this series.
The predecessor to the Strike and Truth introduced the Contour 4, spots in the shell molds for the points of the foot discussed earlier; base and head of the 5th metatarsal, navicular and medial ankle.
Both the Strike and Truth have arguably the narrowest heel pockets of any boots. The medial wall is vertical with one of the relief points for the navicular; the lateral mid-foot is very close and has a relief for the base of the 5th metatarsal.
The forefoot is cozy (98mm); one of the Contour 4 relief sites eases a common pressure point at the head of the 5th. The toe box has plenty of wiggle room.
Dalbello utilizes an offset to their shells, they are not considered any more “abducted” than the norm; the shell is positioned more laterally in relation to the toe and heel sole lugs that hold the boots onto the skis. This places the feet more directly over the inside edges of the skis. The net effect is outright precision…no slacking off allowed.
Whatever terminology you choose, both the Strike and the Truth are remarkably efficient. The immediacy imparted by the medial wall instills confidence
In the 100mm category is the Viper Surge 120 and the ladies Mantis at an 85 flex.
These boots offer a good balance of fit and stance; the forefoot complements an anatomically shaped toe box, the instep height is medium volume. The mid-foot becomes more vertical and the heel pocket is well defined.
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