Backcountry skiing is quite different than other skiing styles. It is demanding in a way that tests a skier’s physical and mental ability. There are no ski lifts to get you up the mountain, nor are there any modern skiing advancements. It is just you and your willpower.
As backcountry skiing is so demanding, good gear is essential. That is especially true of great boots. In this article, we will take a look at some of the best backcountry ski boots out there that can help you conquer any terrain you may encounter while exploring the wilderness.
- The Atomic Backland Carbon Ski Touring boot is an excellent choice for backcountry pursuits. These shoes are designed with many characteristics that make them excel in backcountry conditions. From their lightweight engineering to extreme flexibility, the Backland boots enable you to hike uphill and flawlessly ski back down.
- Another great choice for any backcountry skiing adventure is the Scarpa F1. These boots are perfectly designed for backcountry ski touring and ski mountaineering escapades. Their lightweight carbon fiber frame allows for strength and flex to respond accurately underfoot, while also providing superior comfort when hiking or skinning. The liner is also heat moldable, providing custom comfort to your feet.
- The Dalbello Lupo AX 120 is another favorite ski boot for the backcountry. A highlighted feature of these boots is the Interlock Walk Mechanism that allows you to unhook your ankle. That allows you to tackle uphill far easier than if it was locked down. This boot also has added traction built into the bottom to grip the snow on the way up so you can rip it faster on the way down.
Who Should Get This
Backcountry ski boots, including all the ones listed here, are designed and engineered for the backcountry. This style is typically a bit more flexible and forgiving from a walking and hiking perspective to allow backcountry skiers to hike, skin, and mountaineer to any location.
That being said, they are not for skiing inbound groomers and are pretty specific to the backcountry. If you plan on skiing in-bounds, you will want to look for a different style of ski boot. While it’s possible to use this style on more mellow skiing pursuits, straight alpine skiers or racers need a stiffer design that has better response underfoot than the backcountry specific models.
Best Backcountry Ski Boot: What to Consider
If you’re looking for a backcountry ski boot, flexible design and construction are highly important. Backcountry situations require long periods of hiking, climbing, and other activities where your boots need to function more like regular boots than anything else. Flexibility is key in allowing a balance between skiing and other activities. It is also more comfortable. A stiff backcountry ski boot can lead to long days with painful feet.
Since you’ll spend large amounts of time in backcountry ski boots when you’re not skiing, you’ll need to make sure they are comfortable. A moldable liner is a great step towards excellent comfort, and many backcountry ski boots add more comfort than their alpine counterparts. You want a boot that feels snug and secure, but that is also more comfortable than you would want out of a regular ski boot.
You should also consider weight when choosing a backcountry ski boot. The heavier the boot, the more taxing it will be to hike in. Modern backcountry ski boots have improved their technology and materials to create lightweight options that don’t sacrifice performance. One thousand grams is an excellent lightweight boot with around 1500 grams being the top-end of what most backcountry skiers consider light.
Best Backcountry Ski Boots: Our Picks
The Atomic Backland Carbon boot is my personal favorite backcountry ski boot because it successfully combines downhill performance with uphill comfort and capability. Atomic is a tried and trusted ski brand that puts plenty of research and tech into their boots, and that shows out on the mountain. These stand out in the looks department as well.
What we like:
- Lightweight, just over one thousand grams
- Heat moldable liner
- 74 degrees of flex for uphill situations
- Crampon friendly
- Boa Fit System allows for serious downhill performance and uphill comfort
- Look great
What we don’t like:
- Not much to dislike aside from the high price.
The Scarpa F1 is another great choice for backcountry skiers. The carbon fiber design allows them to be very flexible but also super responsive – two important characteristics that you need out in the backcountry. This boot also allows 62 degrees of flex for uphill situations, and it comes with a Pro-Flex Evo, heat-moldable liner. Those give you a custom fit that’s sure to keep your feet comfortable in the long haul.
What we like:
- Carbon fiber construction is solid in comfort and performance
- Moldable Pro-Flex Evo liner
- Two types of foot retention for added stability downhill
- Comfortable and spacious
- Great for extended ski tours
What we don’t like:
- Not as much flex as other models
- Doesn’t excel in ski mountaineering situations
Dalbello is another trusted name in the ski boot business, and their Lupo AX 120 Ski Boot excels in backcountry situations. The Interlock Walk Mechanism built into these boots allows you to unlock your ankle in a way that provides the comfort and capability needed in the backcountry. The boot is also built with Grilamid Air Technology, which uses a very light polymer that doesn’t sacrifice any strength or performance.
What we like:
- Interlock Walk Mechanism is great for hiking and skinning
- Lightweight and responsive
- Vibram outsoles give added grip when hiking
- Secure feeling boot while still allowing flexibility
What we don’t like:
- On the heavier side for a backcountry boot
- Non-moldable liner
Useful Tips and Resources
Backcountry skiing is an amazing and unique way to experience the sport, but it does come with added safety concerns that you will not see at a ski resort. In any backcountry skiing situation, you need to make safety your number one concern to prepare for any variable conditions.
In general, you never want to go out into the backcountry alone, and you want to be ready for shifting conditions. Here are some more safety tips that you should be aware of if you aren’t already. Also, avalanches are a real danger in the backcountry. You should be informed on the basics and know how to avoid or navigate potential avalanche dangers.
Even though backcountry skiing comes with its fair share of risks and dangers, it is an amazing experience if you’re properly prepared. There is something truly magical about skiing an untouched line down the face of a slope you just hiked all day to reach. The work simply adds to the reward.
The gear you bring with you into the backcountry is important, and all of the backcountry ski boots listed here can assist you on the mountain. If you’re a serious backcountry skier, you are going to want to get serious backcountry gear. All of the above boots fall into that category.
Do you have a favorite backcountry ski location? If so, let us know below.