In the spring of 2005, an historically bad ski season in the Cascades, Jim Nelson gave me a good deal on a pair of Dynafit TLT4 Pro ski boots. My Megarides had sustained critical damage, there was no time to get the part I needed to fix them and I wanted to ski a big line the next day. So despite a little bit of skepticism, I bought the boots. I immediately loved them on the ascent; downhill skiing required a bit of adaptation but it was manageable. That year, I skied the East Face of Mount Goode and the Central Mowich Face on Mount Rainier in those boots. It felt like a revelation.
Fast forward a few years. I learned about fat skis and I was spending more time riding ski lifts. I returned to heavier boots better suited to a more aggressive style of skiing. Then I spent two years living in Vancouver and the Coast Mountains changed my whole thought process. I found myself — gasp — skiing longer, flatter tours like the Wapta Traverse and the McBride Range Traverse. Skiing the Garibaldi Névé Traverse with my friend Alex on Mayday, 2010 in the big black Zzeus boots I asked myself, “What the devil am I doing!? I finally start skiing long traverses and I’m wearing the heaviest boots I’ve ever had.”
I became very excited when I first saw the Dynafit TLT5 Performances Ski Boots in MEC last fall. Every orifice dilated. The pendulum had once again swung the other way. Or do these boots represent a whole new karmic wheel?
If you’re thinking about long tours or pushing the limits of your endurance, in the last few years these boots have been mass-wasting faster than equatorial glaciers. They’re approximately one pound lighter, per boot, than the new Scarpa Maestrale and two pounds lighter per boot than Dynafit Zzeus. It’s ridiculous.
How do they climb? They climb like a dream. One of my first bigger days on them, cimbing a fourteener in the Sangre de Cristos, I was actively seeking rock scrambling for fun because they felt so good. The frictionless pivot is unlike any other alpine-touring boot I’ve tried. This is even nicer for ski-touring; kick-and-glide strides feel so much better.
How do they ski? The old TLT4 models required a centered stance; it would be difficult to properly push large or stiff skis aggressively. The TLT5s can push a ski as aggressively as some of the larger, heavier boots. Most of the compromise is gone, but there is a critical difference. These boots are very stiff in the principal directions to drive a ski in a well-executed turn. But they won’t allow a skier to recover as readily from various backseat-gorilla positions. Some big-mountain, all-terrain charger types need that and these aren’t the boots for them.
How about the technical innovations and unique advantages of these boots? There are two that make the biggest impression on me. These are the removable plastic tongue and the revolutionary walk-ski mode buckle. The literature claims that removing and replacing the tongue becomes so quick with practice that a full changeover is still quicker than a four-buckle boot. This is a lie. Removing and replacing the tongue is a pain in the ass. But I don’t mean to belittle it. For large climbs, say 1,000 meters or greater, I am very happy to go without the tongue. But for shorter days, shorter climbs, or doing laps, I just leave the tongue in the boot all day.
The buckle that also performs as the walk-ski mode mechanism is probably the most innovative feature of these boots. It really works; between the carbon-fiber upper boot and the buckle that performs as a dowel into a metal fitting in it these babies don’t have much play. I like the new design and it seems advantageous; it removes a more complex mechanical piece that has been a point of failure in other new boots.
I will mention a few minor inconveniences. The buckles use teflon-coated wire, which saves a lot of weight. But this does make buckling them tight more finicky; it could really annoy some people. When skiing short downhill sections in touring mode, the amazing free pivot of the ankle means that there is zero resistance and no way to put pressure on the ski tails. Because of this, if you get off center, it’s easier than usual to fall.
Overall, I don’t recommend these boots for freeriders but I highly recommend them for skiers looking to push the limits of their endurance or skier who want high performance from their boots for both climbing and skiing.