Pros and Cons
Filed under:Gear reviews, Ski Touring 2019, Ski Touring Boots, Dynafit, HOJI, ski touring boots
Sophie Nicholson previews an innovative ski touring boot that promises superior downhill performance...
The HOJI Pro Tour is the result of a collaboration between Canadian Eric ‘Hoji’ Hjorleifson – widely considered to be amongst the best freeride skiers on the planet – and ski touring market leaders Dynafit.
The result is what looks like one of the most impressive products to hit the market in quite some time – namely, a backcountry boot designed to ski as well as it tours. We had a chance to try the HOJI out before the ISPO trade show in Munich back in January, where we put the boot through its paces around the Bavarian ski resort of Garmisch-Partenkirchen.
Initial impressions out of the box are of an exceptionally light boot (1,450g) with an immediate difference, namely the Hoji-Lock system. The lever on the rear of the boot enables users to shift between ski/walk mode with one hand in one quick motion, putting an end to faffing around with cuff buckles in transition.
Basically, when the lever is up you’re in skinning mode with an impressive 55 degree range of motion, and when it’s down you’re ready to charge the descent in a rigid, alpine-style ski boot with 11 degree forward lean. Engage the lever and two pins either side of the heel are pushed together like a tongue and groove, creating one unit of the upper and shell and eradicating any of the irritating ‘play’ between cuff and shell which often occurs when descending in ski touring boots.
Another neat feature of the Hoji-Lock system is that the lever has been designed to fit over the top of your ski pants so you don’t need to pull them up or down to change between ski/walk modes.
The other feature that’s immediately noticeable is the strange-looking ‘Speed Nose’ of the HOJI Pro Tour – a new tech feature that Dynafit have begun incorporating into boots where “a highly efficient uphill walk mode is in the spotlight” – those models being the TLT 7 and HOJI Pro Tour to date. The Speed Nose means the traditional front crampon ledge on the boot has been removed. The idea is that having a shorter toe box and associated setback pivot point will increase skinning efficiency by mimicking a more natural foot flex. The downside, of course, is that removing the traditional front profile of the boot renders it incompatible with the majority of technical crampons with a metal bail.
Dynafit have proposed three potential solutions to this understandably controversial move: firstly, use semi-automatic crampons; secondly, get yourself the crampon adapter that was invented for the TLT 7; or thirdly, purchase a pair of the all-new super fancy, super lightweight Salewa Cramp-In crampons that were displayed at ISPO in 2018.
It’s a bold, confident and potentially divisive development by the crew at ‘Snow Leopard HQ’ that’s already proving to be controversial, and only time will tell whether it gains traction or falls by the wayside.
We had the opportunity to put the HOJI Pro Tour boots through their paces on an ascent of Bernadeinkopf, a 2,143m peak in the Wetterstein range in Germany. When skinning we found the HOJI’s range of motion to be as good as we’ve felt in any comparable lightweight, downhill-oriented boots (so perhaps there is some validity in this whole Speed Nose idea).
Having said that, it was in transition (noticeably more efficient) and on the descent where the HOJI Pro Tour really impressed. Temperatures had been all over the place in the days leading up to our test, but thanks to the rigidity of the HOJI Pro Tour we were able to tackle the mix of sun crust, crud, powder and spring snow with ease. The pairing of the HOJI Pro Tour boot and the Dynafit Beast 98 ski worked like a dream too.
The holy grail for ski tourers is gear that can deliver on both the ascent and descent, and when it comes to backcountry boots the HOJI Pro Tour may well have hit that sweet spot. The Speed Nose/crampon compatibility issue is destined to become something of a Marmite situation amongst backcountry skiers but love it or hate it, one thing’s for sure – the HOJI Pro Tour is guaranteed to get everyone talking!