Dalbello Ski Boots
No other boot brand has done more with the 3-piece external-tongue shell design than Dalbello. Dalbello didn’t just copy the adopted Raichle design; the company improved on it. They optimized its performance properties by playing up its strengths: a stout spine and sidewall construction extending from the lower shell; correct pivot location, a key element in this design’s successful execution; and a ribbed external tongue to manage flex and forward energy transmission.
From a performance standpoint, the brilliance of the 3-piece “cabrio” design is the way it blends lightning lateral reaction with a progressive flex that’s well suited to handling the shocks of off-piste skiing at speed. If this doesn’t sound like your kind of skiing, fear not: Dalbello makes several very different flavors using the 3-piece shell as the foundation, from super cushy ladies’ slippers to rugged Alpine Touring iterations, in fits that range from tugboat wide to daringly close-fitting.
Dalbello would have a complete collection if they stopped there, but they also have an end-to-end line-up of four-buckle overlap shells for all-mountain skiing, a race boot series and a catalog of kids’ boots that sell like candy. The overall line accommodates so many foot shapes in so many different shell structures, it’s meaningless to say, “I like how Dalbellos fit.” With Dalbello, you have to be very specific about which shell and liner combo intrigues you, for they cover so many distinctively different fit environments and performance attributes.
Because the cabrio construction is Dalbello’s wheelhouse, allow us to add a word of caution when it comes to these shells. While Dalbello undoubtedly has demonstrated how to get the best out of this configuration, for this shell to work properly the foot has to be snugged against all 3 elements. They won’t work equally well for just any shape of foot and while the tongues are easy to replace with softer or stiffer versions, the shells are otherwise not as easy to work on as traditional overlap shells. But as they say in fairy tales, if the shoe fits, wear it.
A lot of Dalbello’s high-end models come with heat-moldable Intuition™ inner boots. Dalbello was the first major brand to commit to using Intuition liners as a standard feature, and they’ve figured out how to adapt to the various shells and energy transmission needs across their line. If you determine your next boot will be a Dalbello, we suggest you step up and select the Intuition liner option.
Dalbello elbowed its way into the US market with a strong cost/value message and continues to offer a lot of boot for the money.
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Flexes: 130, 120, 110
The family of boots headlined by the Krypton Pro embodies the best attributes of the 3-piece, cabrio shell design. One of the Krypton’s dominant traits is evident from the instant you lock in: the wrap around the steering column of the lower leg and ankle is ironclad, ready to respond at the first twitch of lateral energy.
While boots with a ribbed external tongue are known for their long flex range, the top Kryptons, the Pro and Fusion, are no pushovers, but stout 130 and 120 flex boots, respectively, that retain terrific foot-to-shell connection throughout the mobile forward travel. The way the cuff moves in tandem with the tongue enhances the sensation of ever-present rear support. All this adds up to boots that beg to motor through battered terrain, be it wind-slab, stutter-step moguls or day-old chunder. All the Kryptons are available with a custom-moldable Intuition I.D. liner, an advisable upgrade providing you like lighter, warmer, more comfortable boots.
When the Krypton range hits bottom with a boot called the Boss, it flattens out with the impact, expanding from a low-volume, 98mm foundation to a 103mm frame that could house a dirigible. A blessing for the ginormous foot, the Boss is a radical departure from the cozy confines of the other Kryptons.
♀ Krypton W
Flexes: 115W, 95W, 85W
The Krypton series for women brings the smooth shock-absorption and fierce lateral reactions of the Dalbello 3-piece shell to the female skiing population. All the toys the boys get in the Kryptons are found in the Kryzma (115), Chakra (95) and Lotus (85). Built around a narrow (98mm) last, the women’s Kryptons keep the close-fitting shell from feeling too intrusive by punching it out in four zones for bones likely to feel its pinch: the ankle, heel, fifth toe and navicular.
The Chakra and Kryzma can be rendered more agile and more insulating with the upgrade to the heat-molded Intuition I.D. liner. Whenever you make the added investment in a custom inner boot, be sure to maximize its capabilities by supporting the foot with a custom-molded insole.
Flexes: 130, 110, 100, 90
The Avanti series, which has supplanted the Viper line in the Dalbello collection, strives for neutrality and by and large achieves it. The stance angle of 4° is upright, or what is considered a naturally centered position. The shell has been contoured around critical fit zones so it won’t intrude on sensitive toes and protruding ankle bones, which makes the fit of the Avanti’s feel more generous than the 100mm last advertises.
The overlap shell is softer right over the instep, which not only coddles this area but also eases the effort required to pull the boot on and off. The stock (i.e., non-Intuition™) liner is an improvement over earlier generations of Vipers, fitting both the foot and shell more accurately. Fans of a damp, plush ride in a stout, supportive shell get a lot of boot for the $499 the Avanti 120 will usually sell for with its stock liner. A more intimate fit is attainable with the custom Intuition I.D. liner, standard issue with the 130, which also makes the boot lighter and more responsive.
♀ Avanti W
Flexes: 95W, 85W, 75W
It’s no slander to say the Avanti 95W and its little sisters, the 85W and 75W, are simple, basic boots. The classic, 4-buckle overlap shell works best when tampered with least. The Avanti W models deliver on the fundamentals: a 4° ramp angle, 12° forward lean angle, pliable plastic to wrap the leg and forefoot securely, coupled with a cut-down cuff height so the calf is less constricted.
If you’ve been attracted to prior editions of the Avanti family (née Mantis) for their value but scared off by a fit that felt short-lasted, the new Avanti models are a revelation. All the liners – not just the Intuition I.D. option on the 95 – finally fit their respective shells more accurately. There’s room in the roof over the instep while retaining a proportionately narrower heel pocket, a nice fit for a lot of female feet. An adjustable spoiler shim can be removed to more comfortably contain a larger calf.
medium / wide
Flexes: 120, 100, 90
Take the Krypton 3-piece shell design, puff it out a bit until it’s 100mm across the forefoot, add a forefoot buckle that serves as a set-it-and-forget-it width adjustment and most importantly these days, add a hike mode to the rear spine, and you have the essence of the three-model Panterra family. Because the dynamic flex behavior of a Dalbello cabrio shell works differently from that of a classic 2-piece overlap, the insertion of a locking mechanism on the spine has minimal effect on the skiing properties of the boot.
That said, the Panterras are more generous-fit all-mountain boots than dedicated hiking shoes. Their bulletproof PU shells aren’t made of pixie dust and the sturdy fittings aren’t pared to skeletal dimensions. The built-in ramp angle inclinator is a useful stance modifier for the in-bounds skier but seems like extra baggage for an all-day uphill experience. All in, the Panterra is best bought for its comfort, performance and value; the hike mode is a bonus you may not use beyond the base area.
Flexes: 95W, 85W, 75W
Boots made for wide female feet are often voluminous in every dimension, creating a comfort vs. performance conundrum for the woman with a big forefoot. The Kyra series (95 ID, 95, 85 & 75) solves this problem by mating a wide (102mm), women-specific last to a narrow heel pocket. The lower cuff height relieves pressure on a woman’s shorter calf, and the top of the spoiler can also be tilted outward if need be.
Another handy stance/fit adjustment is a built-in heel-height adjustment that can elevate the heel up to 1cm. Also integrated into the structure is an easy-to-activate ski/hike switch. While it’s unlikely the Kyra lady is going to hike very far, this feature does make it easier to walk around and facilitates slipping these special shoes on and off. Even the Kyra models without the Intuition ID liner (available only on the 95) use a heat-moldable lining material with excellent insulation properties.
Flexes: 130, 110
Sidecountry skiers who are fans of the stellar Krypton design will find the Lupos exactly as advertised: they are Kryptons with a rock-solid hike mode integrated into the back of the boot. Because the Krypton cuff blocks rearward travel by sitting on a shelf on the lower shell, the addition of a hinged block at its base that can swing out of the way does little to change the flex behavior of the boot in the ski position, a function that remains controlled by the external tongue.
While the Lupo feels lighter on the foot than its close cousin the Panterra, the Lupo 130 SP and 110 are still predominantly PU shells, so they’re not among the lightest in the BC genre. (The new Lupo T.I. I.D. uses lighter materials and attaches a full-tread touring sole to create a true BC Lupo). The coupling that releases the hike mode is so solid it’s a bit sticky to operate, but the payoff is a boot with a supportive flex that makes zero concessions to performance when aimed downhill. The 130-flex Lupo, the SP I.D., comes exclusively with a lightweight Intuition™ liner.