Article: Rosie, Johan and Frazer @profeet
In the 1990s there were only a few niche touring boot brands (Dynafit, Scarpa, Garmont) and even in the late 1990s & 2000s companies such as Salomon shied away from the ski touring markets. The high investments needed to develop a new model could not be justified as the sales were so small. Ski touring boots remained heavy, bad fitting and skiing performance was severely compromised by a combination of shell design and ski/walk function.
This started to change with the advent of fat skies which made off-piste skiing more accessible for every level of skier. The huge increase in the number of off-piste skiers also drove the keener skiers to take up ski touring in search of fresh tracks. With all this growth in off-piste and touring the main ski boot manufacturers started to invest and develop ski boots adapted for some uphill walking/skinning and the category known as “Hike and Ride” was born.
Pioneered by the likes of Salomon with the Quest, and Tecnica with the Cochise, these boots offered skiers the ability to ski the whole resort. They initially featured a walk function that made access to the backcountry and dancing on tables at après easier, and later a walking sole was added that made them far more practical. However, their downside was always weight and the sole and walk mode were always a compromise.
At the same time hut-to-hut ski touring was taking off: both classic touring such as the Haute Route (Chamonix-Zermatt), and also the ultra-style ski touring competitions such as the Patrouille des Glacier (Verbier-Zermat). The traditional touring boot manufacturers were therefore also able more anatomical and better performing boots for freeride skiers and lightweight racing boots for the competitors.
For winter 2018/2019 there are a greater variety of Freeride and Touring boots available than ever before offering a multitude of different flexes and fits so make sure you get good advice and remember there is always some trade of between the down and uphill and remember that fit is always the most important factor when choosing a boot.