Originally Posted by Atomicman
got to find the correct url, hold on! Sorry can't reference the webpage so here is a copy from REALSKIERS.COM
Not Just for Racers 4
Everything New is Old Again
By the time Bode snagged World Cup '05, most plug boots borrowed heavily from Nordica's original Grand Prix design. Salomon, Head, Tecnica and and Atomic race boots now all resemble Nordica. Indeed, the Atomic boot is a Doberman, although Atomic has made minor tweaks since bringing design and manufacture in house. The first batch was made in Nordica's molds during a period when Atomic was, unsuccessfully as it turned out, bidding against Tecnica for ownership of Nordica; current product is made by Atomic.
Tecnica, uncharacteristically candid for a ski company, markets the fact that the new Diablo is a design "in which we take the best features of every boot as our starting point."
The principal remaining out-of-mainstream plug boot is the Fischer SOMA 9000, which places the feet off-axis laterally 10 degrees. We have not yet had a chance to ski the boot; we'll review it, along with the full race Atomic, Head RD and new Lange in the next installment in early Winter 05/06.
This time, we report on Salomon's Lab, the Tecnica Diablo, Atomic's CS and an exotic boot from Head that is basically the RD on steroids.
What these boots have in common are two piece shells, minimal adjustments, low forward lean and ramp angles, four buckles, massive power straps, minimal inner boots, thick side walls and short sole-lengths size-for-size.
They are all quintessentially lateral boots; they are all superb performers.
But there are subtle differences, beyond cosmetics that range from vibrant to iffy.
As always, it is important to make clear that the experiences described here are my own and may or may not prove accurate for another skier. To a far greater degree than skis, boots rely for fit and performance on the anatomy of the skier; it is meaningless to review boots in any general sense.
That said, here is what we found this winter.
Atomic set the race world abuzz with the introduction of its red and white Doberman, the original batch of which were actually made in Nordica's molds. At the time, Atomic was vying with Tecnica for control of Nordica. When the acquisition went to Tecnica, Atomic scrambled to create its own molds and brought production in house.
The principal victim of the Atomic move to a Grand Prix design was Lange, who overnight lost a platoon of top-ranked racers who were also under contract to Atomic. Atomic, now in possession of a world-class race boot, insisted that top-tier contract skiers (think Daron Rahlves, The Hermannator and Benni Raich) switch from Lange to Atomic or lose large amounts of compensation. They switched.
The CS is Atomic's "soft" race boot.
Alas, the internal dimensions are greater than those of the true race boot, which was the first disappointment. While the geometry is good, the boot is rather soft, even for a "soft" race boot.We judge it to be in the 100 flex range. This was, for me, the second disappointment. It just does not have the power of the other boots we have skied for this series. It is not as quick, not as responsive and does not possess the snow feel of other boots in our race group.
We are awaiting the real one and hope to report on its performance in early winter, although, given that it is essentially a Doberman, we do not expect surprises.
Both the CS and the actual race boot will be available with a choice of cuff color, red or blue.
At first glance, the XS looks like Head's in-line S10.
This, it most certainly is not!
The XS is the RD in free ride guise and is the stiffest boot in this roundup. By far. In fact, the principal negative is that a heat gun is required to soften the shell enough to take it off.
This minor inconvenience aside, this is a superb ski boot and has few equals on hard snow. The geometry is perfect, at lest for me, and only the old Lange, still a favorite among slalom specialists, is as quick. Despite the stiffness, the boot promotes a natural stance that allows the boot to perform as well in deep snow and moguls as it does on icy steeps. Perhaps most surprisingly, I encountered no hint of shin bang.
Now the bad news: this model was never offered to the public and is not available. The good news?
The "regular" RD is a bit softer, yet retains nearly identical performance. We expect to ski the RD more thoroughly for a complete report early next winter.
Either way, Head plug boots near the top of the list, at least for this skier, and I plan to cherish these boots for as long as I can make them last.
Salomon Course Lab
We've come a long way from the old SX90 Equipe!
Salomon boots are now well proven on the World Cup and at every other level of racing and Salomon continues to research and innovate. The distinguishing characteristic of the Lab is the series of holes perforating the lateral lower shell wall. According to Salomon, the purpose of this unusual set of cut-outs is to soften and make progressive engagement of the little toe edge just prior to edge release, to prevent bobbles caused by imprecise edge engagement.
Frankly, it is difficult-to-impossible to detect this effect save on extremely hard snow and even then I was never able to isolate this sensation definitively. That said, however, this is a superbly performing boot and presents, along with Nordica's Doberman, a silky smooth ride that does not reduce power nor degrade snow feel.
The boot is powerful, quick, stable and skis with a light feeling.
There is some downside to the perforation scheme; the boots are not the warmest, even in comparison with other plug boots, not generally known for warmth.
I outfitted the Lab with Sven Coomer's new plug-specific Zip Fit, which helps mitigate the temperature problem and also makes the entire shell-inner-foot feel as though it were one seamless unit. This is a great boot and one of my favorites.
Tecnica Diablo Race
Tecnica's new-from-the-sole-up Diablo race boot was the most surprising of this batch of plugs.
When it was first described to me by Tecnica's product manager as "the result of taking the best features of every race boot out there," I feared the Diablo might turn out to be the the platypus of ski boots, a jumble of disparate parts thrown together to tweak this or that performance or fit aspect, element by element.
This is a great ski boot that performs as well at its chief inspiration, the Dobie. Stance geometry is superb and the Diablo is quick, powerful, stable, warm and, unlike the Doberman, relatively light. Those characteristics alone recommend the boot, but it is in the realms of fit and snow feel that the Diablo really shines.
Frankly, this was the most difficult shell to fit and required the most grinding, stretching and shaping, but the final result is among the best fits I have ever experienced. Precise, close to the shell, comfortable and devoid of shin bang, as long as care is taken to position the adjustable tongue carefully.
Particularly noteworthy is the lace-up inner, which is a replica of the inner boot used in Dobermans by many top-tier racers. It does make the boot a bit more difficult to put on—if the shell is cold, it can be necessary to don the inner and then slide the inner boot-clad foot into the shell—but once on, the boot feels as though it were part of the foot. Do not buy this boot without the lace-up inner!
Tecnica has a winner.
Who should consider plug boots?
Fast, technically adept hard snow skiers
Masters and other committed citizen racers
Collegiate racers, NCAA or not
Powerful technical skiers who log more than 50 days per year
Working professionals level 9 or 10
Physically strong or exceptionally long-legged skiers
Who should not consider plug boots ?
Skiers who lack carving skills and who are not developing them
Non-energetic skiers, skiers who are not in peak physical condition
Skiers who spend most of the time in bumps or deep snow (although the new "soft" plug boots work well for strong all mountain skiers)
Skiers who rely on traditional rather than modern technique
Performance Summary [ 1=least, 5=most ]
Model Size Volume Sole Power Stability Sensitivity Stiffness Precision Lightness
Atomic CS 28.5 5+ 324mm 2 2 3 2 2 3
Salomon Course Free Ride 28.0 5 323mm 3 3 3 2 2 3
Salomon Course Lab 28.0 5 323mm 5 5 4 4 4 4
Tecnica XT 28.5 3 320mm 4 3 4 3 4 5
Tecnica Diablo Race Stock 28.5 4 319mm 5 5 5 4 5 5
Nordica Doberman 28.5 3 325mm 5 5 4 5 4 2
Lange 130 W. C. Race 10 1 323mm 5 4 5 4 5 4
Head XS 28 2 320mm 5 5 5 5 ++ 5 3
Volume: Beginning interior volume. All are low volume by definition; these are relative volumes.
Sole length: The shorter, the better for a given size.
Power: Ability to deliver consistent, managed force to the edge and to define a stance zone.
Stability: Ability to withstand deflection.
Sensitivity: Ability to provide clear and instant feedback, sometimes called "snow feel."
Stiffness: Resistance to pressure and shell deformation.
Precision: Output faithful to skier input. The more precise the boot, however, the less forgiving of mistakes.
Lightness: Perceived (as opposed to actual) weight.
There you go!