Atomic Ski Boots
When Atomic’s parent company, Amer Sports, acquired Salomon from adidas, it forged a perfect marriage of skiing nobility. Salomon would benefit from Atomic’s acknowledged artisanship in race skis and Atomic would gain instant access to much better boot and binding designs.
The union continues to be a happy and procreative one. Atomic reaped the rewards of its synergy with Salomon last season when its Memory Fit system borrowed a concept or two from Salomon’s Custom Shell technology. Already integrated into the Redster Pro and Hawx series, Memory Fit is now p95art and parcel of the new Hawx Magna family of wide-bodies (102mm).
The Memory Fit process puts Atomic on a technical par with Salomon for in-store custom fitting, and the sustained success of Redster athletes like Marcel Hirscher and Michaela Shiffrin attest to unassailable technical bona fides. In other words, Atomic has arrived as a clicking-on-all-cylinders boot supplier, a worthy pretender to Salomon’s throne.
Perhaps it’s the lingering influence of Koflach, the brand upon whose bones the Atomic boot was built, but Atomic has always made models that accommodate a wider, meatier foot. For the last few seasons, that heritage has been honored with the clever Live Fit models that use elastic panels in the forefoot to alleviate pressure.
The limitation of Live Fit is that its 2-buckle construction puts more emphasis on convenience than performance. The new 4-buckle Hawx Magma series is meant to contain the same magnificent hoof (102mm last), but with traditional shell and cuff that don’t dilute performance.
Most boot reviews focus on 130-flex models, as they usually represent the top of the recreational line and embody the most deluxe features, but most skiers shouldn’t be in a 130. The trick is finding a softer flexing boot (also likely less expensive) that doesn’t diminish the fit and steering properties of the top model. The Hawx and Hawx Magna series retain a high cost/value relationship from their bottom price point to the top.
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Flexes: 130, 120, 100
The custom-molded shell and liner technology, dubbed Memory Fit, that Atomic debuted in their Hawx 2.0 series last season also found a home in the race-bred, 98mm-lasted Redster Pro series. Atomic also has a full family of Redster WC models with flexes so stiff (170!) they should be a felony to sell to the public. World Cup boots can’t be customized with ovens and aren’t all that easy to grind.
The signature feature of the Redster Pro 130 is a carbon-infused spine that adds rigidity and attendant quickness without blocking flex and feel. Both the 130 and its virtual clone, the Redster Pro 120, include an unusual feature: a kit of replaceable interfaces that fit between the base of the lower shell and the zeppa, aka, the shell footbed. These “Flex Frames” don’t change the volume or fit of the boot, as the innocent might suspect, but rather vary in stiffness. This is World Cup-caliber snow feel and feedback, tuned to the energy transmission requirements of the various alpine disciplines.
If that doesn’t demonstrate Atomic’s commitment to finding the slightest edge, try this on for size: Atomic truncates the forward flat area on the sole and elongates the heel zone so the sole will flex disproportionately, the better to feather the edge at the top of the turn. Snow feel is perhaps the most elusive sensation in the sport, and the Redster works hard to deliver it.
♀ Redster Pro W
Flexes: 110W, 90W, 80W
The Redster Pro 110 W doesn’t mollycoddle women with fem features. It only deviates from the men’s models by deploying a lower cuff, a standard accommodation for the fairer – and shorter – sex. But there’s no need to adapt a man’s boot for a woman if the boot is inherently adaptable to any foot it enfolds.
So it is with the Memory Fit bundle of features imbued in the new Redster Pro women’s series. Women are customarily narrower in the heel compared to a man, so starting with a 98mm last is a solid foundation for critical ankle support; even if the same skier’s forefoot is relatively wide, the expandability of the shell material assures a perfect fit regardless.
The new Redster Pro W collection comes in a robust 110 flex, a recreational 80 flex and a Goldilocks 90 flex that will work for a lot of women.
Flexes: 130, 120, 110, 100, 90
The original Hawx series became an international best seller for a lot of subtle features that added up to above-market comfort and support at every price point where the Hawx competed. The series was particularly beneficial to value-seekers who wanted as much boot as they could afford on a tight budget.
The current Hawx series, which debuted last season, upped the ante on every front: fit, performance and warmth. The liner and shell are heat-molded to the skier’s feet, for the current state of the art in personalization. Both stance and flex adjustments are integrated into the design and Thinsulate™ Platinum insulation (in the 130) should keep you warm anywhere below the Arctic Circle.
The wheelhouse of the revamped Hawx series remains in the softer-flexing 90, 100 and 110 flexes, but more powerful skiers shouldn’t shy away from the stiffer Hawx models just because the softer ones are so popular. The Hawx is the only boot we’re aware of that softens the boot sole as a way of improving energy transmission, an idea first proposed (to the best of our knowledge) by the most brilliant boot designer of our time, Sven Coomer.
Some of the design touches on the Hawx collection are even better suited to women than they are for men, Memory Fit first among them. Women often have bones in the mid-foot that don’t like ski boots one bit, but an adaptable shell in the instep area can help eliminate these pressure points.
♀ Hawx W
Flexes: 100W, 90W, 80W
As good as the Hawx 2.0 series is for the male of the species, women might benefit even more from these special shoes. That’s because the boots don’t lose a lot of their quality features as they decline in flex index and cost, meaning that the 80 W buyer still gets a lot of boot, particularly for the price. Since women tend to be lighter than men, a lower index boot is more likely to be appropriate for them.
Women also have more problematic feet than men, presenting fit and alignment issues all their own. The Memory Fit system in the Hawx 2.0 series is boot-fitting magic, enabling customization of both the liner and shell to any fit anomaly on a woman’s foot. Women are more likely to suffer from poor circulation and cold feet, so the Thinsulate lining in the toes and Thinsulate Platinum everywhere else is a lifesaver.
While women with narrow feet should try a Redster Pro W model instead, just about every other recreational female skier will be thrilled with the fit and performance of a Hawx 2.0 women’s boot.
Flexes: 130, 110, 100, 80
In the long, inglorious history of the plastic ski boot, the skier with the wide foot has had to content himself with either an Iron Maiden fit meant for a much slighter foot, or a cavernous, collapsible pit into which he could pour both his foot and his hopes and dreams as a skier.
The new Hawx Magna is one of the few boots built on a 102mm last that delivers the same performance and fit quality as the “100” from the same brand. This may not sound like such a big deal, but trust us, the difference in forefoot width may only measure 2mm, but the performance gulf between “medium” and “wide” boots is immeasurable.
All the features that made the Hawx a worldwide best seller are carried over to the Magna chassis: Memory Fit, that allows for selective shell expansion sure to cure any fitting peculiarity; Power Shift, the ability to reposition the spine to change flex and/or forward lean; Thinsulate insulation; and a slight rotation of the shell to address the abducted stance most of us develop.
One other admirable Hawx attribute emulated by the Magna is value. Like its narrower inspiration, the Magna delivers a lot of bang for the buck.
♀ Hawx Magna W
Flexes: 90W, 80W
Women with wide feet face the same litany of woes as men do, often ending up alleviating the agony by accepting a boot that doesn’t meet their performance expectations. The Hawx Magma 90W and 80W deliver performance perfectly pitched to the woman with so-so skills who wants out of the intermediate rut in a package voluminous enough to fit any full-figured foot.
We can make this claim unequivocally because the Magna 90W incorporates Memory Fit, so the shell can expand several more millimeters past its pre-set 102mm forefoot width. The Magna W’s expandability works in all directions, even in the ankle area and over the instep, where women with wide feet often experience pain and circulatory constriction.
Women with a sharp eye for value will appreciate that the Magna 80W will usually sell for $299, representing one of the best buys in all of boot-dom.
Flexes: 130, 90, 70
Some people with very large feet also possess equally impressive ankles and calves, all of which can be at considerable pains to insert in a ski boot. While Atomic’s Live Fit series can’t actually perform miracles, it may feel like the Promised Land to some extra-large feet who have yet to experience comfort in a ski boot.Everything about the Live Fit models aims to accommodate the XXXL skier. The two-buckle shell can’t get much easier to don and doff; the super-size buckles are easy and effective; and the soft, elastic panels (the “Live Fit” feature) on either side of the forefoot give bigger feet the room they need without pinching or cramping.
♀ Live Fit W
Flexes: 90W, 70W
The beauty of the Live Fit W models is that they surrender all pretensions of trying to be close cousins of a race boot and instead deal directly with the problems of real skiers with outside-the-bell-curve foot and lower leg dimensions. The two-buckle shell design delivers best-in-show convenience without forgetting that the foot and ankle have to be held securely.
The Live Fit 90W and 70W know something this skier doesn’t: what a comfortable, relatively neutral stance should feel like. What the lady with the XXL forefoot and/or calf will instantly recognize is that her feet don’t hurt, perhaps for the first time ever in a ski boot. If you’ve been slumming it in rental boots, or shying away from buying because nothing seems to fit and everything costs as much as a pair of Jimmy Choo’s, slip into a pair of Live Fit W’s and prepare to say, “Finally, nothing hurts!”
At realskiers, we confess that our interest in hiking is directly proportional to the quality of what we’re hiking to ski. Were we more dedicated to the touring culture, we’d be all over Atomic’s new Backland, with its all-business touring sole, tech inserts and superlight shell. But we’re more into sidecountry jaunts that keep hiking and skiing in balance, which makes the Waymaker Carbon the ticket to ride.
The bane of the backcountry boot as a downhill device is sloppy rear support, an issue the Waymaker Carbon confronts with a carbon mesh that reinforces the spine, just like the racy Redster. The Waymaker Carbon borrows another idea from Live Fit, putting a panel of elastic plastic along the outside of the forefoot, so this area can spread slightly during stride.
The 35° ROM in the upper cuff is more than enough to get your butt uphill, and the Free/Lock hike mode, along with the Carbon Spine, provides the support going downhill that makes the uphill slog worthwhile.
♀ Waymaker Carbon W
Flexes: 100W, 90W
Women who do mostly resort skiing but get the occasional itch to bust out of bounds should take a close look at the Waymaker Carbon 100W or 90W. When you’re in hike mode, their 35° ROM allows for a long stride, and the Live Fit elastic panel on the side allows the foot to move dynamically. When it’s time to turn around and lay down some sweet tracks, the all-PU shell and cuff, reinforced by the Carbon Spine, transmit energy accurately and efficiently.
One nifty feature of the Waymaker Carbon W models is they’re built on a multi-norm chassis that allows the standard, so-called DIN sole to be replaced with either a Walk to Ride (WTR) tread pattern or the full-on touring sole with tech inserts that meets ISO 9523. The beauty of this arrangement is you can buy a boot you’re certain will perform for everyday, in-bounds skiing, then decide how deeply you want to dive into the backcountry pool: all-in, half-and-half, or a quick dip.