Used as an adjective, “freeride” is pretty vague. Apply it to skiing, and it describes any type of two-planked fun not confined to groomers. And there are as many so-called freeride boots as there are subpursuits of this foggy genre. The design priority among all of these boots, though, is the downhill experience. Some skew toward ski mountaineering and are built light, like Garmont’s Radium. Some are stockier for lift-based sidecountry and occasional climbs, like Scarpa’s Typhoon, Dynafit’s Zzeus, and Black Diamond’s Factor. And some are made for inbounds and big-mountain charging, like Tecnica’s Agent 110, Nordica’s Supercharger Blower, Salomon’s Ghost, and Rossignol’s B-Squad 110 Sensor3. They don’t offer the same degree of stiffness, but each is made for aggressive skiers who demand integrity for the descent. Listed left to right, top to bottom:
Dynafit Zzeus TF-X
A four-buckle overlap boot from an up-oriented brand, the Zzeus is Dynafit’s stoutest boot. A stiffening insert in the spine increases the lateral rigidity, as does an optional alpine-style liner with a plastic-reinforced tongue. Compatible with alpine, AT, and Dynafit bindings.
Perfect for boot-packs, rowdy sidecountry, and moderate touring. Four buckles and a stiffer, single-piece skiing tongue provide downhill support (switch to the hinged touring tongue for longer slogs), but Pebax plastic—rather than the more common (and heavier) polyurethane—keeps it light for the way up. If you want Dynafit compatibility, check out Scarpa’s Skookum.
Black Diamond Factor
The Factor has a walk-ski mode switch for touring capability, but it’s a true alpine boot made for big lines and bigger hucks, thanks to the overlap shell and four-buckle configuration. The liner borrows snowboarding’s Boa ratcheting closure system for added support. Alpine soles come standard, but for $39 more, you can switch ’em for Dynafit-compatible soles.
With four buckles and a low-volume overlap shell, the Radium is a ski-mountaineering boot designed for lots of up, yet optimized for downhill skiing. If you’re leery about the Radium’s downhill chops, consider that Chris Davenport skied the Alps’ highest peaks in it. Dynafit compatible.
Nordica Supercharger Blower
With the Blower, Nordica took its badass, no-frills race boot and tweaked it for aggressive big-mountain riding. The low-volume shell is hyperprecise on hard snow; the padding in the sole, tongue, and rear cuff makes for a plush ride and cushioned landings, and the faux-fur inner cuff is more comfortable than we’d like to admit.
Tecnica Agent 110 Ultrafit
Like the Nordica and Salomon, the Agent is basically a declawed, pimped-out, comfortable race boot. Elastomer segments in the power strap offer flex and rebound while shock-absorbent inserts in the tongue, rear spoiler, and boot board pad your ride.
Like Salomon’s Falcon race boot, the Ghost has a low-volume shell with thick plastic where strength is needed (around the lower foot and spine) and thin plastic where it’s not (in the forefoot and shin). Two huge buckles stand in for four standard buckles, the tongue and footboard absorb shock, and a textured center sole provides traction.
Rossignol B-Squad 110 Sensor3
Two of the foot’s three primary balance points (pinkie and big toe) sit directly on a rigid polycarbonate plate. The rear point (heel) sits on a hard insert. The result is a highly accurate response to skier input and—with a 100-millimeter last and seamless liner tongue—serious comfort.
- SKIING MAGAZINE, JANUARY 2009