The thing about alpine ski boots: They're about as comfortable and easy to walk around in as vice grips. No question, we'd rather do a round of CrossFit workouts than walk the 300 yards from the resort's parking lot to its lift in our old clunkers.
That's why we've always envied backcountry skiers. Their ski-touring boots are more akin to a regular old pair of Red Wings in terms of comfort and mobility. Then again, they might be a bit jealous of our alpine boots, because our version's rigidity means we can shred turns and bomb downhill like nobody's business.
This season, thanks to a feat of good design, alpine and touring guys can stop the mutual jealousy – a consensus has been reached. That middle ground: SCARPA's new Freedom SL boot. It blends the cloudlike comfort and near gym-shoe mobility of a backcountry boot with the bat-out-of-hell performance characteristics of a downhill boot, making it the best all-around ski boots on the market.
To reach that apex of feel and function, the Italian manufacturer teamed up with Chris Davenport, the Colorado-based big mountain skier. The boot features a stiff outer and heat-moldable liner made with multiple density foam. Flip it into tour mode, and you get a 27-degree range of motion in the ankle. What this means: Comfort, and, combined with lugged rubber soles, no funny walking and slipping on every ice patch.
Flip the boot into ski mode and point your tips downhill, though, and you're ready for performance. Start the descent, and the boot's first-of-its kind carbon fiber frame underfoot means you can ski as aggressively as you want, with maximum energy transfer to the ski. That means higher speeds, greater response, and maximum performance.
Envision a typical day. You speed test the downhill run at Snowbasin, logging your best run ever. Then, with just a quick click into tour mode, you walk over to Earl's Lodge for a Wasatch Polygamy Porter – like a normal human. No lumbering like Frankenstein, no having to switch boots. After that, tackle a big backcountry line. Once the beer wears off, of course. [$769; scarpa.com]