Dahu ski boots are the leaders of a new ski boot revolution, finally offering skiers what snowboarders have enjoyed forever – comfortable boots they can walk around in. Anyone who skis for very long will almost inevitably experience pain from their boots, and despite all the adjustments and fitting available these days, many of us will continue to feel pain skiing. So why couldn’t ski boot manufacturers take the hint? Surely there has to be a better way.
And now there is. At last several companies are thinking outside the square, or rather outside the hard plastic overlap shell, and producing boot systems that offer skiers the comfort and flexibility of usage (e.g. driving home without changing boots in a freezing car park) snowboarders have enjoyed for 30 years.
After first trying Dahu ski boots out at the North American Ski Industry tests at Copper Mountain back in 2016, we got a brand new pair of Dahu’s Monsieur Ed model delivered to road test at the start of July 2018, and have been having huge fun smashing Perisher with them.
At the SIA trade show in Denver that precedes the ski tests we had first checked out two other options, from Apex out of Boulder Colorado, and Envy Snow Sports.
Then at the ski tests in Copper Mountain we met up with Nicolas Frey, the Swiss founder of Dahu, which in our opinion is by far the best option available and a true revolution in ski boot design.
With a girlfriend who couldn’t get comfortable ski boots as his initial incentive, Frey got to thinking seriously about how to make a ski boot anyone could wear and be comfortable in back in 2008.
The key idea was to take the existing cabrio style boot shell and make that into the exoskeleton outer to enclose a lace up functional inner boot/liner. After working through prototypes in his garage and developing the concept intensively Dahu was ready for retail launch in 2013.
I took a set for some bomber laps at Copper, first on a pair of Icelantic Pioneer 109 playful free ride boards. Despite being on the skis and the Dahu boot system for the first time I immediately found the sweet spot for both skis and boots. I ripped through the tight trees, chopped powder and groomed snow on offer without a second thought as to being on something radically different.
“You know what, these feel exactly like real ski boots” I said to Nicolas on the lift ride back up.
“Exactly” he smiled in reply, “that was what I set out to achieve. I’m Swiss, I ski, it has to perform. That was the whole idea, but also to be comfortable at the same time.”
Then I swapped the Icelantics for some super snappy Stockli Laser AX carve machines, at a slimline 78mm underfoot. These just love to truck. Even at warp speeds the Dahu boots, which were only their bottom-of-the-range rental model, held an edge effortlessly, and coped easily with the Laser’s super snappy responsiveness.
The retail Dahu versions have a dual lace system inner-boot for further control, and an injectable liner in the top model.
With long standing inside ankle bone problems on my left side, and a nasty bone spur on my right foot that resembles a mutant extra ankle bone, I was amazed at the comfort level – on the left side no dramas at all, on the right side an issue over the ankle due to the buckle position that would be easily resolvable with minor adjustment to the seating of the footbed inside and nothing to hammer the bone spur.
Despite selling out production for most models over 5 seasons in Europe since launch, Frey is not rushing Dahu’s development or expansion. With typically Swiss method and attention to detail, he wants to get distribution properly established in each new market they enter, with full retailer back up/customer support in place, rather than simply boost sales numbers. He is confident of Dahu’s edge over both old-school ski boots and other new style options, and the growth that edge will bring. Already they are in over 200 stores across Europe. With hot new models like the Miss Suzie, Hades and our Monsieur Ed they are cutting edge in the looks as well as the performance department.
To date there are no Southern Hemisphere distributors, but if you get your sizing details right for them they should work for you straight out of the box. We did precisely that in time for southern winter 2018 downunder, getting a sleek new pair of the all round intermediate-advanced Dahu Monsieur Ed 120 flex model delivered by courier within a week of order. They fitted me perfectly.
After two and a half years of waiting to have another go on Dahu boots it was great to get them on and get out at Australia’s largest ski resort, Perisher, the first week in July. Naysaying old-schoolers main gripe with the exo-skeleton concept is that they simply won’t carve like “normal” ski boots – although no one who has told me this has actually skied on them! But I opted for some demo Kastle MX84s from Harro’s Snowsports at Lake Crackenback to really go the carvemeister charge in them to put that theory to the test.
The skis worked a treat on the mainly light natural snow cover topped up by snowmaking on runs including Aussie classics like Zali’s (named for Australia’s only Olympic alpine racer medallist Zali Stegall).
So did the Dahu Monsieur Ed boots. Simply, these Dahu boots rock. For our international audience, Perisher boasts Australia’s only alpine rack railway, Skitube, which delivers skiers via a tunnel from 1200m or so below the snowline up to nearly 1900m at the Blue Cow terminus. Just like riding the rack railways in Switzerland, you get off at the top and ski down. The ride up gave me plenty of time to fit the exo-skeleton section of the boots – I had put the inners on in the carpark already. Which was dumb – I should have just put the inners on at home prior to driving the 21/2 hours from our office to the Skitube terminus. I drove home in them – one of the side benefits of the Dahu system.
The attention to detail in the design includes a male/female matching system of plastic ridges in the skeleton matching the inner boot soles from heel to to toe, so you just slide the soles into place with a tap of the toe or levering the heel section of the frame to slot them into place. It’s a very snug fit, snugger than I remembered the rental model being a couple of years back.
Locking down the buckles provides a close fit that skis basically like any regular ski boot without the pressure points. The only dramas I had in the fit process was a bit of bubbling of the liner behind the toe box and when walking around – which was easily remedied by lacing up the inner correctly so the cross over flaps hold the inner down. The 2 stage lacing system is really effective, with over the foot and over the shin lacing components, and really smart.
From what we have seen and tried Dahu Snow Boots are by far the best of the new styles available. They boast a whole raft of small features, such as the sole interface between the inner and the exoskeleton, that just work to provide a great skiing experience, plus all the self-evident benefits for when you are not actually moving downhill in your boots – which is of course the vast majority of the time at the snow even for ski till the buzzer diehard carver types.
The Dahu boots exo-skeleton sole length was only a tiny bit longer than my 4 buckle Rossi boots, so needed only a quick minor adjustment of my binding’s heel setting to fit my own skis (unlike some of the Apex models which are a fair bit longer).
If you don’t want to wait till you ski Europe next to find some in store check out more and order at www.dahusports.com
We also tried on and checked out a couple of other exo-skeleton style models at Denver – Apex, which has had some success in America already, with a BOA system snowboard style inner boot and overlap buckle system that wears very comfortably indoors – so much so I almost walked away wearing them after talking to their VP of Sales TJ Larson. The latest Apex model overcomes an issue that the base was a couple of sizes longer than your boot sole size, which meant adapting your balance and bindings to that. We didn’t get to try them on snow, but you can’t fault their walk around comfort and they felt like they would ski well enough. They are available in some Australian ski shops.
The enthusiastic guys from Envy Snow Sports have a bulkier outer shell prototype “Ski Frame” that boasts compatibility with most soft snowboard boots as a key selling point. But that is never going to be the major consideration for skiers, who are after all the target market, and it looks like it needs more thought and work to slim it down to be a viable option – unless you happen to be a boarder looking to go skiing occasionally.