The search for the better boot goes on. Maybe the answer is in the laces.
Over the past couple of seasons most boot manufacturers have taken a look at the unique and pioneering Boa lacing system, developed by Steamboat, Colorado-based Gary Hammerslag.
Now several manufactures have embraced the system and are offering it to varying degrees within their lines, as seen at the SIA Show in Las Vegas last week. Vans has made a major commitment to the system, which uses a tongue-mounted dial ratchet to tighten and lock a metal cable lace and is offering models in X and N type Switch-compatible and strap models. K2 is offering the system in a single women’s boot.
“The boot category will never evolve unless someone steps up and takes the risk,” says Vans’ Jared Bevens. “We know this isn’t a product for everyone. Initially we thought it would find its place mainly in the kids’ and women’s markets. But we have had an unexpectedly positive reaction from our younger and pro riders who we thought might be tough to win over. Now we are confident it will appeal across a wider market.”
Hammerslag first started showing the system to companies about three years ago, with the idea of offering it across a range of outdoor sports categories. Vans was the first manufacturer in any sport to bite. Bevens points out the Boa and its components have evolved considerably over the three years, with development coming from both Hammerslag who consulted with top mechanical gearing designers to make the unit smaller, and Vans adding its own stylistic interpretation.
“Our deal has us buying the components directly from Gary,” says Bevens. “There is no license fee. When you compare the savings on eyelets and laces to the expense of the dials, the manufacturing costs are not hugely increased. But, of course, there have been upfront cost for new molds and other adjustments, which puts the overall price of the boot at 250 dollars.”
While the product has been tested to the point that most industry observers are confident that any concerns about the mechanism breaking have been largely dealt with, the other main issue with the system is that lacing must be uniformly tight throughout the boot.
According to Salomon’s Snowboard Product Manager Greg Keeling, this is the primary reason why Salomon, which also made several Boa protos, decided to go with their own “Powerlace” system rather than the Boa.
The Powerlace has evolved from the Salomon’s original Quicklace and is now common on higher-end boots. Laces are tightened by pulling on a handle with one hand. The laces are then secured with a clip while the handle is tucked into the side of the boot. However Keeling points out that by combining this with Salomon’s patented lace locks, tightness can be easily varied at different points of the boot. “Using the system is totally intuitive. I think retailers will go deeper into our boots and the system will give us more overall shelf space.”