Best Backcountry Ski Boots

Best Backcountry Ski Boots: Top 6 of 2024

Last Updated on January 7, 2024 by James

If you’ve ever been ski touring, you already know that the best backcountry ski boots can make all the difference. Designed to be lightweight, comfortable and versatile; they can have a big impact on your overall experience.

Whether you want to prioritise the climb or descent, this guide will help you find the boots that are right for you. Each option has unique features and is suited to a different style.

In order to make your decision easier, we have listed the pros and cons of the best options on the market. If you take the time to read the key buying advice and analyse each product, you’re sure to find a boot that will improve your performance.

Best Backcountry Ski Boots At A Glance

Photo

Summary

Price

  • Smooth 130 flex for aggressive downhill skiing

  • Carbon shell provides power without weight

  • 60-degree cuff rotation is great when skinning uphill

      

      

  • 74-degree cuff flex maximises range of motion

  • Super lightweight shell for uphill performance

  • Carbon spine improves stiffness on the downhill

      

      

  • 130 flex offers maximum downhill precision

  • Soles are compatible with alpine bindings

  • 54-degree range of motion is great for an inbound boot

      

      

  • 130 flex offers excellent downhill performance

  • Walk mode with 55-degree range of motion

  • Carbon design is super light for an inbound boot

      

  • 60-degree cuff rotation for comfortable skinning

  • High-volume forefoot and midfoot adds comfort

  • Stiff carbon frame improves power transfer

      

      

  • Soft 100 flex is forgiving for backcountry intermediates

  • Wide last with heat moldable shell for comfort

  • Budget friendly price

       

       

Why Do I Need The Best Backcountry Ski Boots?

Backcountry ski boots are also known as ‘alpine touring boots’ (AT). They are probably the most important piece of equipment in your backcountry ski touring setup.

The boots you wear will have a significant impact on your skiing and skinning performance. They are also tasked with keeping your feet warm, dry and pain-free.

Not all touring boots are created equally, so choosing the best option for your preferred skiing style is important. Design, weight, flexibility and practicality are all variable; with different attributes being optimal for different skiers.

The best backcountry ski boots are designed to improve your ski touring experience. Every option in this guide has the potential to boost your performance; just make sure you choose the one that’s right for you.

Hint: If you’re looking to complete your ski touring setup; we have also reviewed the best ski boot crampons, best climbing skins and the best backcountry ski poles.

Best Backcountry Ski Boots
Harsh conditions become easier with the right touring boots

How To Choose The Best Backcountry Ski Boots

Performance Style

Skinning and skiing have individual boot requirements. You want your boots to be lightweight and flexible during an ascent, but powerful and stiff when heading downhill.

Alpine touring boots are always trying to compromise between uphill and downhill performance. It’s a constant trade-off, with performance in one area compromised by improvements in another.

Backcountry ski boots will lean towards uphill, downhill or somewhere in the middle. In order to give you prospective on their intended use, we have categorized them into three different ‘styles’.

Fast and Light

Designed for alpine touring and ski mountaineering, fast and light boots will make your ascent easier. They feature a minimalist design, high level of cuff rotation and crampon compatibility.

Being lightweight and flexible, these boots are perfect for long hikes into the backcountry. They will drastically improve your energy and allow for a comfortable stride pattern.

It’s worth noting that uphill performance does come at a cost. The soft design can sacrifice an element of control when skiing downhill, especially when you hit hardpack snow.

If you’re spending plenty of time skinning during long trips into the wilderness, these boots are for you. However, be aware that performance is limited during tough descents.

All-Round

Some alpine touring boots try to strike a balance between uphill and downhill. Although a ‘perfect’ balance probably doesn’t exist, some of them do offer great all-round performance.

They often use a relatively lightweight design that is compatible with crampons and tech bindings. With ample cuff rotation when in walk mode and a stiff ski mode, they prioritise performance in both directions.

The downside to all-round boots is their inability to maximise your potential in either category. You will not be able to skin at your fastest rate or push your inbound skiing to the limit.

All-round ski touring boots are a great choice for standard one-day excursions. They are arguably the most common style around as they meet the needs of most backcountry skiers.

Crossover

Crossover boots prioritise downhill performance, but have the features that are required for backcountry skiing. They are the stiffest and heaviest touring boots, closely resembling a regular alpine boot.

Offering powerful performance, these boots are great when heading downhill. They offer enough cuff rotation to skin short distances, but don’t expect the same flexibility as a dedicated touring boot.

Crossover boots are best suited to those looking to explore lift-accessed ‘sidecountry’. They have the versatility for hikes and traverses to nearby powder faces, but lack the efficiency for longer tours.

Best Backcountry Ski Boots
The type of backcountry ski boots you select makes a big difference

Weight

The weight of your boots can make a big difference on the mountain. Lightweight boots are preferred for ski touring, helping you maintain speed and energy during the ascent.

Most touring boots are much lighter than regular ski boots. The average all-round alpine touring boot weight is between 5-7lbs. However, they can be much heavier or lighter depending on the style.

Keep in mind that weight also affects downhill performance. Lightweight boots are often softer in design, which mean less control for inbound hard chargers.

In general, you need to find boots that are lightweight without compromising performance. Depending on what your performance goals are, you will be looking towards more or less heavy boots.

Flex

When it comes to ski boots, flexibility is a big performance indicator. It refers to the amount of pressure required to flex the boot forward.

When assessing backcountry boot flex, we are referring to how it performs in walk mode. It’s how much you can expect the boot to flex when heading downhill, directly affecting your inbound performance.

In general, ski boot flex goes hand-in-hand with ability level. High-performance skiers will look for a stiffer flex, while backcountry beginners will want something softer.

It’s worth noting that stiffer boots provide power, control responsiveness at high-speed. They are especially adept at dealing with hardpack, but can feel unforgiving in powder.

Softer boots generally perform better in deep powder and are often made from lighter materials. This makes them preferable for most backcountry skiers, despite the loss of high-speed precision.

Be aware that touring boot flex doesn’t always correlate precisely with alpine boot flex ratings. Due to their specific design, they often feel slightly softer than alpine boots.

In order to help you determine your ideal flex rating, we have included the below chart. Keep in mind that weight, type of skiing and other factors will also impact the flex rating that each skier requires.

Ability

Flex Rating

Beginner

70-90

Intermediate

90-110

Advanced

110-120

Expert

120+

Best Backcountry Ski Boots
The flex of a ski boot is always important

Best Backcountry Ski Boots Reviewed

Scarpa Maestrale XT

Scarpa Maestrale XT Alpine Touring Boot

Key Features

  • Style: All-Round
  • Flex: 130
  • Cuff Rotation: 60°
  • Weight (pair): 6lb 13oz (3.1kg)
  • Last Width: 101mm

The Scarpa Maestrale XT is an exceptional backcountry boot that provides all-round performance for serious ski tourers. It features a three-piece shell construction with a smooth 130 flex pattern that’s built to accommodate hard chargers.

With uphill performance in mind, these boots offer 60-degree cuff rotation and a 101mm last that maximises uphill comfort. Inside the boot, they have used an intuition liner that is fully moldable and one of the warmest on the market.

If you’re looking for a solid all-round boot for serious terrain, the Scarpa Maestrale XT is a great choice. It will allow you to push your skiing to the limit on the downhill, while also providing efficient performance on the ascent.

Pros

  • 130 flex provides downhill power
  • Smooth flex pattern
  • 60-degree uphill cuff rotation
  • Comfortable 101mm last
  • Warm and moldable liner
  • Reliable grippy traction soles
  • Excellent uphill and downhill performance

Cons

  • Not a lightweight choice
  • Ski/walk system can get icy
  • Cuff rotation can cause friction

Atomic Backland Carbon

Key Features

  • Style: Fast & Light
  • Flex: 110
  • Cuff Rotation: 74°
  • Weight (pair): 4lb 11oz (2.1kg)
  • Last Width: 98mm

If you’re looking to prioritise uphill performance, the Atomic Backland carbon might be your best bet. It comes with an impressive 74-degree range of motion that maximises uphill efficiency.

Their super lightweight shell is reinforced with carbon to provide control and stiffness on the downhill. They also come with a thermo-moldable liner and shell, while the stiff tongue can be removed to improve climbing comfort.

The Atomic Backland Carbon’s are sure to improve your speed on the ascent. With a huge forward cuff rotation and lightweight design, they will help you maintain energy and efficiency on longer tours.

Pros

  • Excellent 74° cuff rotation
  • Lightweight design
  • Precise 98mm last suits narrower feet
  • Carbon-reinforced shell for stiffness
  • Carbon spine with 110 flex for downhill support
  • Moldable liner and shell
  • Removable stiff tongue
  • Impressive uphill performance

Cons

  • Lacking serious downhill power
  • Lightweight materials provide little insulation
  • Ski/walk buckle can lack durability

Atomic HAWX Ultra XTD 130

Key Features

  • Style: Crossover
  • Flex: 130
  • Cuff Rotation: 54°
  • Weight (pair): 6lb 15oz (3.1kg)
  • Last Width: 98mm

The Atomic Hawx Ultra XTD 130 provides the power required for hard downhill skiing, but is surprisingly nimble on the uphill. With an aggressive stance, 130 flex and 4-buckle closure system; this crossover boot is more than capable of handling hardpack snow.

With a 54-degree cuff rotation and ‘prolite’ shell, they feel light and efficient when in tour mode. They also have a snug fitting performance fit, with a low-volume feel and 98mm last improving downhill precision.

If you’re looking for a boot that will allow you to access the backcountry and ski hard on-piste, the Atomic Hawx Ultra XTD 130 is a great choice. It balances solid downhill performance with reliable skinning efficiency, offering a great compromise between weight and power.

Pros

  • Strong and powerful 130 flex
  • Precise fitting narrow 98mm last
  • Heat moldable shell and liner
  • Ski touring friendly weight
  • Secure alpine style liner
  • Solid 4-buckle closure system
  • 54-degree walk mode range of motion

Cons

  • Feels a bit heavy on longer tours
  • Uphill enthusiasts might want more range of motion


Tecnica Zero G Tour Pro

Tecnica Zero G Tour Pro

Key Features

  • Style: All-Round
  • Flex: 130
  • Cuff Rotation: 55°
  • Weight (pair): 5lb 12oz (2.6kg)
  • Last Width: 99mm

If you’re looking for a solid and lightweight all-round backcountry boot, the Tecnica Zero G Tour Pro might be your best bet. It features a 130 flex and 4-buckle closure system that provides excellent downhill performance on any terrain.

They are especially lightweight for an aggressive boot, weighing less than 6lbs thanks to a carbon-infused shell and ‘light fit’ liner. The walk mode also offers 55-degree cuff rotation, with a solid connection that maintains a consistent flex pattern.

The lightweight yet stiff feel of the Tecnica Zero G Pro Tour’s makes them an excellent all-round backcountry ski boot. Whether you’re heading up or down, they will make sure you’re moving at speed.

Pros

  • Powerful 130 flex
  • Lightweight for an aggressive boot
  • 99mm last with moldable shell
  • 55° walk mode range of motion
  • Smooth and consistent flex pattern
  • Liner includes waterproof membrane
  • Solid double-hitching walk mode latch

Cons

  • Thin and light liner sacrifices comfort
  • Insulation could be improved

Dynafit TLT8 Expedition CR

Key Features

  • Style: Fast & Light
  • Flex: ‘Stiff’
  • Cuff Rotation: 60°
  • Weight (pair): 5lb (2.3kg)
  • Last Width: 103mm

The Dynafit TLT8 Expedition CR are lightweight and efficient, making them perfect for covering large distances. Using a minimalist design to save weight, they have an ultralock upper buckle and cable actuated lower that ensures smooth and efficient transitions between walk and ski modes.

They come with 60-degrees of cuff rotation and a speednose design that makes ascents efficient. They are also surprisingly stable when heading downhill, with a ‘stiff’ flex that can handle steep ascents well for a fast and light boot.

If you want to maximise speed on longer tours, the Dynafit TLT8 Expedition CR will keep you climbing. It has an efficient and user friendly design, with solid lightweight performance when it’s time to head inbounds.

Pros

  • Super lightweight design
  • Fast buckle adjustment system
  • High-volume for a comfortable fit
  • 60° cuff rotation
  • Design minimizes snow buildup
  • Speednose improves rotation when skinning
  • Stiff flex is impressive for a lightweight boot

Cons

  • Too high-volume for some feet
  • Liner lacks some comfort and insulation
  • Speednose limits binding compatibility

K2 Mindbender 100

K2 Mindbender 100 Alpine Touring Boot

Key Features

  • Style: Crossover
  • Flex: 100
  • Cuff Rotation: 50°
  • Weight (pair): 7lb 8oz (3.4kg)
  • Last Width: 100mm

The K2 Mindbender 100 is a solid crossover boot for those looking to try their hand at backcountry skiing. Featuring a forgiving 100 flex rating and 4-buckle closure system, they are perfect for improving your off-piste technique.

Using a fairly high volume and a generous last width, these boots provide a comfortable fit for most feet. The walk mode offers 50-degree cuff rotation, which is enough to satisfy shorter ‘lift assisted’ tours in search of fresh powder.

If you’re predominantly a resort skier that wants the option to hunt for untracked lines, the K2 Mindbender 100 will match your ambition. Forgiving, comfortable and reasonably priced; they are a great option for intermediate backcountry skiers.

Pros

  • Forgiving intermediate 100 flex
  • Comfortable high-volume fit
  • Walk mode accommodates short tours
  • Heat moldable shell and liner
  • Compatible with alpine and tech bindings
  • Familiar resort boot feel
  • Budget friendly price

Cons

  • Too soft for hard chargers
  • Too heavy for longer tours
  • 50° cuff rotation isn’t the most efficient

Summing Up

Ski touring is a fantastic experience. It allows you to access untouched terrain and gives you a true sense of freedom.

The best backcountry ski boots are designed to make your ski tour even more enjoyable. No matter which style you prefer, the right boot will have a big impact on your performance.

Take the time to assess the pros and cons of each option to find the one that’s right for you. If you stick to the boots on this list, you’re sure to have a great ski tour.