The perfect backcountry boot combines stiffness (for downhill performance) and comfort (for all-day touring). The three-buckle Eco offers both, plus a boost to your karma, since the shell material is made from the oil of castor plants instead of oil from petroleum (reducing production emissions by 32 percent). But don’t buy it just because it’s green. Scarpa’s T2 line (on which the Eco is modeled) has been a telemark favorite since the mid-1990s, and the new Pebax Renew plastic shell material is stiffer and lighter than the polyurethane used in most other boot shells on the market. Plus, field testing has shown that the material retains its stiffness over a wide range of temperatures, from about 0°F into the 40s.
The result, our testers say, is a boot that’s stiff enough for most backcountry skis and conditions, stable enough for supporting heavy packs, yet light and supple enough for marathon skinning sessions and the biggest out-of-bounds tours. “I ski moderate steeps on relatively heavy boards, and the Eco performed great in good snow conditions,” says one tester. “It’s noticeably lighter on the uphill with good forward ankle flex in walk mode, and the new Intuition liner, made of superlight foam that feels great out-of-the-box, kept my normally cold toes toasty with no sweating.” But, he says, for resort skiing, or in more challenging conditions (breakable crust or variable snow), the T2 Ecos were a tad too soft to push around heavier, 100mm-plus skis. $600; 7 lbs. 2 oz. (27); m’s 24.5-31, w’s 21.5-26; scarpa.com