Ok, so here are my first impressions of the Dodge boot in more detail. I'm coming off a Head Raptor 130 RD with Nordica foam injected liners. I have a fairly low volume foot, narrow heel, low instep. I skied the Dodges with my 2009 iSuperShapes in firm conditions on man-made snow at A-Basin today.
My feet are a fairly good match for the Dodge shell, although the perfect foot would have more volume. For me, sizing down to the 25 (my Heads are a 26) was a good solution. Length-wise it was just slightly tight, but there was enough room in the shell to solve the problem by stretching the stock liner. Which was good, since you can't stretch or push out the toe box of these boots. Width-wise, the smaller shell eliminated all of the slop that I was feeling in the 26 and left me with a snug fit that actually felt better than my Nordica foamed liners. There were no sore spots whatsoever, so we didn't have to try to push anything out. I have to say, I was almost a little concerned at how good the boots felt, but that is one of the most amazing things about the Dodge boots. Not only do they deliver amazing performance, but they do not require you to have a painful fit in order to get it. Make sure you get out of that traditional mind-set if you end up purchasing a pair. These boots don't reward you for squeezing into an ultra-tight shell; they are designed to be comfortable. Just accept that.
In case you are wondering about last, Chris wasn't sure (and the Dodge site doesn't seem to have the information), but it feels like something in the 98mm range. But again, the boot doesn't need to be toe-numbing tight to perform so quit wringing your hands over details that don't matter.
Stiff need I say more? Oh you need to know the flex? Sorry, not published anywhere. But Warner Nickerson is racing these on the World Cup right now, so I'm pretty sure it is stiff enough for you. Oh and by the way, carbon fiber isn't affected by temperature so the flex doesn't change with temperature. The flex you get in the store is the same flex you get on the warmest day and the same flex you get on the coldest day. No more trying to find the average between a noodle and rebar.
No boot board in these puppies to get between you and the feel of the snow. Let's not get too worried about ramp; the idea is that you plane for what you need. The forward lean out of the box is fairly upright. My impression is that these are slightly more upright than the Raptor 130 RDs which works well for me.
The soles are plated, so any canting adjustments to the boot sole can be made by simply pulling the plates and planing them. In addition, the cuff is highly customizable so those of you with truly messed-up anatomies are going to love the customization options.
The heel canal design is ingenious (yes that is right, ingenious, not genius--genius a noun people) and at least with my narrow heel, it works very well. While you could put your liner on first, entering the boot with the liner already in is dead easy. So for me, I see no reason whatsoever to put the liners on as a seperate step (and this is a very liberating change from my plug boots). The stock liners are laceable, but again why make it hard on yourself when you don't gain anything by lacing them up? With the liners in, you do need something substantial to hold onto while you are sliding your foot in (otherwise the liners tend to collapse inside the boot--and you need the leverage to push against). The stock liners have a large, beefy loop in the back that handles this job nicely, but if you go with a different liner, look for one you can easily grab onto. Along those lines, I'm not sure how well a liner with a rear spoiler would work with the heel canal, so if for some reason you aren't going to use the stock liner, make sure you can get into the boot with whatever liner you choose before making irrevocable modifications to liner or boot. And while you are at it, repeat after me, "you don't need foam..."
So back to entry exit. This boot is far, far easier to get in and out of than the Head Raptor 130 RD (or any other plug boot I'd imagine). It is also easier to get in and out of than any of the performance boots I've owned (various Lange and Salomon models). Basically you just push the tongue out a bit, slide in your foot, grab the liner strap for leverage and push firmly. Right about the time your foot needs to start flattening, your heel hits the heel canal and in you go. The process works equally well in reverse to get your foot out. In and out never takes more than a few seconds. These aren't slippers and some effort is required, but you will be amazed at how easy these things are to take on and off. And the best part is that carbon fiber is not affected by temperature. You don't have to heat your boots! It was below 10 degrees at A-Basin today, but putting these (unwarmed) boots on was identical to the experience I had in the shop.
As easy as it is to get these boots on and off, there are a couple of caveats. First, easy is not synonymous with pain free. The shell will likely bite your instep a bit when you remove the boots. If you have ever owned Lange boots, you know what this feels like. However, unlike Lange boots, there is no worry about getting stuck while the boot is chewing up your instep, unable to remove it. With the Dodge boot, the instep bite is just a brief moment of discomfort that you pass through as the boot comes off. There is truly no danger of getting stuck. The heel canal works wonders and egress is always smooth.
Second, the evil, biting shell also consistently tries to eat the boot tongue. When you push the tongue out so you can put the boot on or take it off, invariably the lower part of the tongue will end up getting pushed through the split in the shell. Once you get your foot where it is supposed to be, you have to get the tongue back under the shell where it belongs. Since carbon fiber is extremely stiff, pulling the shell back in order to make this happen can be somewhat difficult. It takes a bunch of effort of strategic pulling to make this happen. I've also found that swearing loudly at the boot helps in this process.
Ok, so if you read my previous post, you are probably wondering what makes these boots so great. Then again, if you've read this far you already know the boots are comfortable and easy to get in and out of, so isn't that enough for you? Oh right, you want performance do you? Well let me tell you, the performance of these boots is out of this world.
The benefits of carbon fiber are numerous. The first benefit is that these boots are incredibly light. How light? I don't know for sure, but they feel about half the weight of a traditional plug boot. My guess would be around 8 pounds which is about the same weight as the current line of Dynafit AT beef boots. While this is obviously nice when you are schlepping across the parking lot, it really matters when it comes to tipping. What Dodge has done with these boots is eliminated fully half of the intertia you have to overcome in order to start a typical plug boot tipping. Not only that, the sidewalls of these boots are as stiff or stiffer than the best performing boots out there--and they are crazy thin. All of this results in a level of lateral responsiveness that simply hasn't existed until now. And, by default, the boots want to hang a bit out. They are ready to tip. They are EASY to tip, They are DYING to tip. And they respect no tipping point. While I'm sure you can park and ride with these boots, it ain't what they want to do. The natural inclination (no pun intended) when you are wearing these boots is to lay them over and KEEP TIPPING. And since they are thinner, you can tip even more before your boot contacts the snow. So when I say they will raise your game, that is one of the things I'm talking about. They make it so much easier to tip, that whatever your level is, you are going to tip more. Let me rephrase that. You will not just tip, you will be tipING. AND TIPPING IS GOOD. It was only day three of the season for me, yet from a tipping perspective, I felt like I was getting some of my best turns ever with these boots. I subjected these boots to a wide variety of turn radii and in all cases, I was tipping to bigger angles than ever before.
I've got to say though, that these boots are FREAKY light. It took me a run or two to get truly comfortable with how light they are because my brain was telling my that they were too light to possibly be stable. But they are stable, and eventually I figured that out and settled down. You'd think that a boot as responsive as these are would feel twitchy, but they don't. And I had ample opportunity to open it up today. These boots will go to eleven and have no problem whatsoever with it.
So beyond responsiveness, the other major feature of carbon fiber is its dampening properties. There is always chattering going on in conventional boots and that reduces your edge grip. The Dodge boots dampen the chattering out better than any other boot out there. In addition, the stiffness of the shell means that when you press your ankle against the side of the boot, the power transfer is instant and total. The combination of these properties is a boot that yields superior edge hold.
The snow today was firm enough that the superior edge-holding capabilities of this boot were very noticable. Since it was only day three of skiing, let's just say that there was more than one turn where I wasn't getting full pressure to the ski edge like I should have been. In spite of that, I was still holding in those turns--turns where I normally would have slipped. When I wasn't screwing up edge pressure & was doing what I was supposed to be doing, the feeling of grip was amazing and solid. By the end of the day, I was holding tighter arcs on steeper stuff than ever before.
So there you have it. Harald is spot on when he calls this boot a game changer. I think I'll close with a comment my friend James made as we were standing in the lift line. He looked down at my boots and said, "Those boots are pretty low profile; people will never notice that you are wearing them, but they will certainly notice your skiing." That just about sums it up.