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Model: Écorce 01
Availability: September 1, 2019
Unique Features: two-in-one boot system; 100, 120, 135 flex stiffness
Ski boots aren’t comfortable. This is a fact, and if your immediate response is, “Well, mine feel great!” then there’s a chance your boots aren’t fitting your feet correctly. That’s not to say that ski boots have to be uncomfortable — cramped, confining, constricting are perhaps better descriptors — but to provide the energy transfer that allows the legs to drive skis through turns, ski boots have to be as close fitting as possible and they have to be pretty rigid.
The ski industry has been battling with boot comfort since designs evolved from leather to plastic. The most widely accepted position is one that yields that ski boots aren’t supposed to be comfortable, but they can be fine-tuned to fix fit issues and cramping with the help of a boot fitter and customizable liners and insoles. Attempts to make the construction more forgiving through innovation include flexible panels meant to help the foot expand inside the plastic shell and, on the less conventional side of things, with modular forms.
The latter is where Dahu, a Swiss company that’s entering the North American market later this year, hopes to succeed. Dahu has existed for years in Europe, where it has one a handful of industry awards for a ski boot that wraps a softer, more normal winter boot in a plastic exoskeleton. With this construction, Dahu claims to eliminate discomfort without sacrificing rigidity or performance. Plus, skiers can wear the liner boot, which is waterproof, has a rubber sole and is insulated with Primaloft and interior reflective coatings, to and from the mountain. When it’s time to ski, the Grilamid shell opens wide enough to accommodate stepping in easily.
As a lifelong skier, I’m wary of any overhaul innovation that claims to vault comfort without sacrificing performance. A certain degree of discomfort — from equipment and the elements — is inevitable when recreating in mountain environments. Creating more cushion and pressure relief inside a ski boot will likely result in the wiggle room that impedes the energy transfer required to control a ski. I’m just not sure that the physics support anything plushier than what we have.
That’s not to say I’m not hopeful though. There’s always the chance that Dahu’s two-piece boot strikes enough of a balance between comfort and performance to be suitable for beginner and intermediate skiers. Comfort is important, especially for converting first-time skiers into life-longers, and not everybody can afford an expensive consultation with a boot fitter when they might only visit the mountain a handful of times per year. And despite what the crusty locals think (myself included), getting more people on the slopes is good for the sport and in turn, for us all.