Overall: A streamlined yet effective shell plus a beautifully crafted liner adds up to Five Stars for great skiing performance at minimal weight.
Background on product familiarity: I’ve used the old white version starting with the 2012-13 season -- although mine was actually the 2011-12 generation -- now with almost 781,000’ earned vertical plus some lift-served. Then the new black version from the 2014-15 season, now with over 83,000’ vertical. Setups have ranged from race skis up to a 97mm waist (Dynafit Denali).
First, the first impressions out of the box: An expertly stripped-down evolution (hence the name?) of the original DyNA boot (which also spawned the Dynafit TLT5/6 design): every conceivably superfluous element has been stripped out from the shell while still preserving an amazing amount of skiing performance.
The shell’s interior length is geared toward the greater of my 25.5/26.0 boots, as I can just barely accommodate (sort of) the toes of my 26.5cm foot, which is therefore only slightly shorter than the 279 bsl. As compared to a 26.0/26.5 TLT5/6 with a 287mm bsl, the interior length feels not quite the full 5mm shorter as would be implied by the stated size differential.
The liner for the original white version was essentially a more minimal version of the already minimal TLT5 Performance TF liner. The liner for the black version though is something else entirely: I count about 16 distinct parts per liner. The liner is neither tongued nor overlap yet instead relies on a slim velcro flap closure off on the side. Entry though is still difficult (at least for my foot) since the opening in the liner doesn’t extend down quite far enough. But the back of the liner has a pull tab attached beneath the extensive flex zone.
As with any skimo race boot, the fit modification potential is limited. However, a bit of excess foam (relatively speaking) was able to be removed from the top of the liner toe box, thereby providing my big toes with a few critical extra mm. I haven’t bothered heat molding the liner, both because the difficult entry could cause problems when heated and because I doubt its thin profile allows for much benefit from molding. The Grilamid nylon lower shell though has a good record for punching/stretching in the TLT5/6 boots.
The partial-carbon upper cuff design is shared with the TLT5/6 Performance, with the same swappable plate for adjusting the forward lean. (EVO and TLT5 boots before the 2013 season lacked the swappable plate, yet can be easily retrofitted with the new part.) But no optional outer tongue, no plastic fixed inner tongue, and no power strap.
The cuff provides complete protection from the elements in back, yet leaves a large gap in front. The lower shell has a fabric cover, but when the lower buckle is tightened up for a slim foot like mine, the fabric tends to sag open a bit, acting as a scoop. Plan either on wearing a race suit with an integrated gaiter, tucking the edge of your pant legs under the buckles, or bringing some of the snowpack along with you (although at least the liner is sealed up well down there, even if the shell doesn’t cover up the liner).
Second impressions, in use: In walk/tour mode, the upper cuff pretty much just disappears. If you are used to a boot with an exceptional range of resistance-free movement like the Dynafit TLT5/6, the EVO will still shock you, even just from the elimination of the TLT5/6 fixed inner plastic tongue. Throw the side lever (which sometimes requires a second of fiddling to engage), and you’re in for another shock: rearward and lateral support are both outstanding, identical to the TLT5/6 Performance. Forward stiffness is also good if you set up the cord very tightly (for which you need to retie the slippery cord with a double fisherman). Obviously this isn’t the boot for high-speed lift-served skiing on cut-up chowder, but I don’t need anything more for backcountry skiing, at least on up to a 97mm waist width (Dynafit Denali).
The cord on the upper cuff is attached to a very long velcro strap with a consequently wide range of adjustability. On the old white version, the lower shell buckle had two micro positions on the lever and two macro positions on the medial side. The new black version retains the two micro positions on the buckle lever but the medial side has a continuously adjustable velcro strap for both macro adjustments and fine tuning.
The fit seems a bit more generous than the notoriously slim TLT5, although hard for me to tell for sure, since I had to go from a very thin sock to an essentially negligibly thin sock to buy a bit more room for my toes.
The liner stays with the foot very well when striding, and the lack of overlap squish in front provides more responsiveness for skiing. As for warmth, our February 2015 was bitterly cold, and the EVO has very little wiggle room for my big toes, whose tips didn’t regain full sensation until well into the spring. However, my feet were otherwise okay, so I suspect the lack of wiggle room was largely to blame.
Third impressions, for long-term durability: The rivets/pivots connecting the upper and lower shells prior to the 2012-13 generation notoriously loosened up over time, requiring repressing after a few hundred thousand vertical. For the 2013 season, Dynafit added a sort of spacer (“gusset”?) to address this issue, which continues onto the new black version. However, a partner with this version eventually experienced loosening. But the repressing by Dynafit is free (with free return shipping from Boulder), and even my old white boots are only slightly loose now after just one repressing partway through their extensive use.
The cord on the upper cuff will eventually snap after a few hundred or so transitions, but the fraying warning signs are obvious, plus back-up replacement cord is trivially light to carry and easy to retie.
The lower buckle is fairly low profile, although also all plastic. The upper buckle protrudes significantly when open, yet after over two million vertical cumulatively on four pairs of Dynafit boots with the same design, no casualties. But for your next Whereveristan mountaineering expedition bring along McMaster replacement parts #s 90596A005, 91785A092, 96659A101 in case the buckle’s attachment rivets are damaged. Even if the upper buckle suffers irreparable damage, ski mode can be improvised by connecting the two cuff parts with a simple screw rivet (another trivially light addition to your repair kit) and by tightening up the cuff with a Voile strap (which of course you already have, emblazoned with the Skimo Co logo).
Rubber outersole durability was a major drawback on the old white version, or at least on the original model year, or at least with some batches. But after about an hour of some crunchy rock scrambling, I’m happy to report that although I see some signs of wear, within the acceptable range.
Just be careful with the extremely slender fixed loop at the end of the lower buckle’s velcro strap, since I managed to fray it when rubbed up against the buckle mount upon closure (although trivially easy to swap in the replacement). And if you need to apply any significant force to the liner pull strap upon entry, then before it starts to tear apart the liner, have a tailor apply a large leather patch around its attachment point, thereby distributing its force better (and also in the process patching up the tear you created if didn’t do this beforehand).
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