In past years, I’ve rolled with only one pair of AT boots for the season, for 07/08 it was some Dynafit ZZeros, and the year before that it was a pair of Scarpa Spirit3s. This past season, I decided to try using two pairs of boots, some Dynafit ZZeros for longer tours into the high peaks, and a pair of Black Diamond Factors, for when priority was set on making big fast turns and lapping deep powder slopes, with less focus set on moving fast and light. I used the Factors for the majority of the first half of the season and probably had over 50 days in them this season.
Over all, I had no problems with buckles falling off, the BOA system failing or with the ski/walk mechanism. I really liked the stiffness , tour-ability, fit and skiing performance of these boots . The mod I did to the ski/walk mechanism did not seem to affect the overall performance of the boot, besides making me smile really big because of all the rearward movement to the cuff it added. I recommend it for anyone who likes to take bigger strides when they are skinning. Here’s my take on the rest of the boot.
Absolutely no signs of wear from rivits on the outside of the liners.
I’ve seen other liner manufacturers struggle with this.
Starting with the liner…though the fit and heel retention was great, I felt like they could be a bit thicker (read…warmer) especially in the toe area. On cold days I was forced to wear thicker socks to keep my feet warm. Luckily, in my boots there was room to accommodate the increased bulk, but I image others fit their boots a bit tighter. I ended up really liking the BOA lacing system. I would keep it on the looser side when skinning or booting, and then tighten it down for skiing. I think if the laces crossed your foot one more time down low, they would work even better and help keep your foot more securely in place. I did see some wear on the liner where the metal laces rubbed on the fabric. It didn’t affect the performance of them and in the big picture, the liners were very durable and show no signs of holes on the outside from rivets and buckles. Something other liners tend to have problems with.
Ski/Walk mode still rock solid with no slop.
With respect to the shells, I had no gripes. They performed great with no cracks (something NTN users dream about) or busted rivets. The ski/walk mode is still very positive with no slop, or movement when in ski mode. With respect to the buckles…none of them broke, but the latch piece on the very bottom buckle is a little loose, but doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. At times, I felt it was hard to unbuckle the bottom two buckles, due to snow build up, and I think a small tweak in the shape of the buckle would help fix this.
A little more shape to the lowest buckles would make
them easier to open when packed with snow.
One thing I wish the Factors had is some sort of gusset where the bottom of the shell overlaps below the bottom buckle. When the buckle were left loose, while booting and skinning, the area would allow for wind and snow to make it’s way into the inside of the shell, adding to the thin liner and cold toes mentioned earlier. Occasionally, I would pour out snow when taking the liners out to dry. I managed to make my own gusset out of duct tape. It worked decent at keeping the snow and ripping wind out, and was a simple fix. It wasn’t very durable, but luckily the temps rose before I got around to replacing the mod. Yeah, fine tuning the tightness of the buckle can help, but sometimes you need all the space you can get in the toe area when out on longer tours.
Small gap and view of low-tech duct-tape gusset when the lowest buckles at loosely buckled.
This can mean cold feet on frigid and windy days.
The “tech fittings” worked great and the heel piece always felt secure. I feel like BD could tighten up the parameters of the toe piece fitting though, as I occasionally felt like the space between the pins wanted to be bigger…or smaller…tough to tell. Skiing aggressively with Megawatts 99% of the time, I had no problems with pre-release though and this is without locking out the Dynafit toepieces. I’m trying to wean myself off that habit with big open, fast powder skiing.
Though showing signs of wear and one packed with rocks (easily removable)
the sole block bolts are rust free and still function properly.
I didn’t really do any long “Teton-style” approaches (long hikes on dry trails) with these boots, but the soles held up well non-the-less, with its fair share of hiking the road on Teton Pass. The “AT soles” are still very secure in place and show no signs of changing or rattling loose. The hex-bolts that hold them in place show a little wear and one has some rocks packed in it, but it is still possible to remove them and use an allen-wrench to remover them. I was worried about them getting rusty and either failing or making them unserviceable, but that didn’t seem to be an issue.
Overall I was very pleased with these boots. As it is now, The Factor is a top notch boot for ripping the powder on big, fat skis. The fit and performance is fantastic. The walk mode is unmatched by other boots out there, and I found them rather durable. Now all BD has to do is keep the fit, the walk mode, the BOA lacing, the height and stiffness of the shell, but shed a couple pounds and it will be the perfect cross between performance and weight savings that most ski mountaineers are looking for.