Video: Blister Summit Panel on Ski Boot Design

Last month at our inaugural Blister Summit, we held a panel discussion on Ski Boot Design with three key people in the world of ski boots: Thor Verdonk, global brand director of Lange ski boots; Matt Manser, product manager of Atomic ski boots; and Stefano Mantegazza, product manager of the Tecnica Group.

We discuss their design philosophies; whether we should get rid of flex ratings; whether a precise-fitting boot can be a warm boot; the most frustrating trend in ski design today; where the biggest innovations are currently taking place; and more.

Check it out, let us know what you think, and stay tuned for our rollout of more excellent panel conversations from the Blister Summit.

  • Intros & Design Philosophies 0:00
  • Current Innovations 10:04
  • Flex Ratings 17:17
  • Progressive vs. Linear Flex 26:05
  • Ditch Flex-Rating Numbers? 33:40
  • Stated Widths, “Lasts,” & Liners 42:40
  • Difficulties of Testing Boots 49:09
  • Women-Specific Boots 59:00
  • Warmth & Fit 1:06:55
  • Toe Box Shapes 1:11:53
  • Lightweight Boots 1:18:4
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12 comments on “Video: Blister Summit Panel on Ski Boot Design”

  1. I thought the discussion was great! Thank you so much for putting this panel together. However, there is something that I found confusing. My understanding was that Stephano was proposing a linear flex whereas Thor and Matt were proposing a more progressive flex. I found this somewhat confusing, because of my two boots (Nordica ProMachine 130 for alpine and Atomic Hawx XRD 130 for touring, both with Intuition wrap liners, pro and tour respectively), I find the Nordica has a more progressive flex, whereas the Hawx XTD has a much steeper ramp in how quickly it gets to maximum stiffness. This might be an Alpine vs AT difference more than one between brands, but I definitely feel like the Nordica boot has a progressive flex and not a linear flex.

    • Both boots will have a progressive flex, it’s just that the Hawx Ultra XTD ramps up more quickly. You’re feeling a couple different things, but one of the main thing you are experiencing is a difference in plastics- the Nordica uses traditional polyurethane (PU) plastic and this specific Atomic uses polyamide (PA) plastic. PA plastic, in addition to being 25% lighter than PU, is going to feel more lively and direct, which is what is contributing to its quicker ramp up.

    • Pro machine is also much stiffer. Great boot if it fits – for me the instep/arch height was a bit high and after skiing it for 40 days or so switched to the Lange rx 130 lv which fits me better (and I like the boot much better overall). One thing I did with the pro machine to help initiate the flex (after taking out a rivet then putting it back in) was switching to a World Cup booster strap – that helped a lot on very cold days to initiate the flex and the boot has no issues from a flex standpoint for me after that. Helped a lot on sub zero days when the boot stiffened up up even more. On spring/warmer days it was better too.

  2. IMO, Thor and Lange were talking mostly about their respective brand strategies in a way “the market demands this, we believe that it should be like that, and we are able to do this”. Matt was relating mostly to tailoring the boot offering to specific use cases, and atomic seems to have these use cases dialed

  3. I think it has been said flex numbers are kind of a techno geek thing but at least there is some relative stiffness within a brand. I am about 185, fairly strong skier but getting up in my 50’s. Been skiing on a K2 spine 130 and have a 2017 Dalbello Lupo 120 with walk mode. It seems a pure alpine boot for alpine skiing and another boot for touring/side country is still the way to go but the Lupo skis surprising well with an intuition liner and booster strap. How do people feel about the “120”flex for alpine or slightly softer than the stiffest for “all mountain” skiing?

    • Generally speaking, you should approach finding the “right flex” boot as more of a reflection of your body’s needs, rather than where you ski on the mountain. Your boot doesn’t know where you ski, but it does know the physical forces acting upon it. So, your weight, height, strength, ability to flex a boot, ankle range of motion, etc. weigh far more heavily on determining the right flex for you rather than skiing on piste or all mountain or in the backcountry. So with that said, a 120 might be spot on for all-mountain skiing for you while it may be too soft for someone else and way too stiff for another. I would say pick the boot that is stiff & supportive enough for you but one that you can adequately flex based on your weight, strength, ankle range of motion, etc.

  4. Posting this here so Thor hopefully sees this. Lange please update your cuff bolts to something that doesn’t strip so easily. Also the having a cuff adjust on only one side is just lacking.
    Both of the above cheapen an otherwise high quality boot.

  5. I enjoyed this podcast a lot. It was interesting to hear different companies view points and I also sensed they had to be “aware” the competition was listening. I was hoping that Thor would explain his definition of “stance” and “fit” in more detail. I think Lange has traditionally done a great job at getting ramp angles correct and cant and etc… Would have liked to hear some details of their testing and development on those topics. It also ties into binding delta angle and how that fits into the entire picture of the boot, binding, ski system.

    • Speaking from Atomic’s side, we find that a 4° ramp angle combined with a 15° forward lean angle is great starting point for a lot of people and the various binding geometries that are on the market. The reason we like this combo as a starting point is that it generally puts people in a balanced, athletic, “ready” stance- think of the body positioning a baseball infielder, tennis player, or golfer will have just before the action starts. While this works great for a lot of people, I don’t think it’s great for everyone and this is why many of our boots have the ability to change their forward lean angle to more upright or more forward from the out-of-the-box configuration. People with limited ankle ROM, or larger calf muscles, etc. will generally benefit from a more upright body positioning. People with good ankle ROM who ski on steeper terrain at higher speeds will generally benefit from more forward lean. The key to setting up your forward lean is understanding your body’s flexibility limitations and how/where you ski on the mountain.

      Adjusting ramp angle is/can be more difficult because it either means altering your boot board angle, which often affects the internal fit of the boot or altering the angle of the boot sole, which is a much more permanent and tricky procedure. Sometimes, bindings can be shimmed to change the binding’s ramp angle/delta, which can also be tricky to figure out – watch your binding screw lengths ;)

  6. Great conversation.
    1. I’m a position where I need new boots. I’m still working the first boots I ever bought which are 5yo Lange’s. Good boots but I need to bump up the flex. That said, they fit great. I’ve learned to work with them. However, you’ve said in prior podcast about the difference in product design difference in bike’s and skis. 5 y.o skis aren’t that big of a deal if you like them and don’t feel them lacking. However bikes have come a very long way in 5 years. Age matters there. What about boots? When are my just OK boots not Ok anymore? Next year, people will have stretch boosters. Atomix has that foam mold process. I don’t mind spending money on boots if there is a clear difference. Do you have any thoughts about a paradigm change in boots where you should upgrade. Besides just fit? Is there a clear line where boots are just better than they were?

    2. I don’t have a problem with fit, but cold feet does intrude on my skiing experience. I’m a little surprised that electric boots were only lightly mentioned. You get warmth and possibly the only downside is weight. And no one on the podcast seems that concerned about weight, and neither am I. Are electric boots a viable or are they just a gimmicky apres option for people with more coin than ability?

  7. Good conversation, glad to see the industry collaborating to make the skiing experience better. I fit boots for a few years and personally have the issue of being a smaller framed dude that needs a performance fit boot for a long ski. I learned the hard way however that I don’t need to be in a 130 flex. I’ve found that a softer flex (115-120) allows me the comfort, suspension and performance I’m after to enjoy my days more on the hill. Most manufacturers however stopped making softer flexes in smaller sizes. You now have to go to a 130 flex to get a “unisex” boot in a 22 or 23. Tecnica used to make their 110 and 120 LV boots in all sizes. Obviously manufacturers aren’t selling a high volume of these boots in smaller sizes. To Matt’s point however, many solid woman skiers with small feet and skinnier calves, are crushing women’s boots and need a mens. I know many sponsored female skiers who have to add driver plates to make the boot they are trying to market work. Furthermore, there are many men who ski in too stiff of a boot because they want the performance features (Buckles, power strap, liner, cool color, etc) and gravitas of the super stiff, cooler looking 130 flex model.

    It would great if manufacturers made more “Unisex” styled boots that have top of the line model features but in softer flexes and more gender neutral color schemes. This seems to be happening but slowly. Typically the women who demand the feminine colors need to be in a 70-90 flex boot, not a 120.

    I also don’t understand why so many manufacturers keep making such high volume tech compatible boots (99, 102, etc). Better, more anatomical shapes are proving to ski better and allow for lower volume, tighter fits that are comfortable when touring. Covid has brought more people to the backcountry, people want the elusive “resort performance” in the backcountry. Bindings are getting better but the boots still are lagging. Atomic has made progress with their Hawx XTD but when will the other companies make lower volume touring options. For example, a lower volume zero G would be sick! I was really hoping Tecnica would make a 98mm last Cochise for their latest version. Hybrid boots shouldn’t compromise on fit.

    One day hopefully we can just print boots to order based on the skiers needs. Would be better for the environment and industry.

  8. My thanks to all the participants in the boot discussion, with a special nod to Thor who emphasized the two-way transfer of information that a boot is expected to provide for the skier. Successfully navigating terrain and changing snow conditions demand that information exchange. A dynamic blending of power & technique requires nothing less.

    This Ski Boot Design Panel is my first visit to the Blister Summit. I look forward to viewing the other Panels, where I hope to find more discussions which might touch on how a particular ski requires specific boot characteristics to deliver on its full potential.

    Thank you Jonathan for consistently pursuing a taxonomy of skiings intuitive and engineered gestalt. You are a wonderful facilitator for a forum of dedicated and creative industry specialists.

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