The rumors are true: the rear-entry boot is back. And it's just what the industry needs. Nordica has learned from its own history in offering this collection of HF boots, HF as in "Hands Free." You still have to touch the boot with your hands to put it on, so HF may be overstepping it a little. (I am guessing that “Set it and forget it” is trademarked by Ron Popeil.) Nordica could have just gone with EZ, because that what getting this new boot on and off is.
“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” --George Santayana (and many others)
Nordica isn't repeating history because it isn't positioning the HF110 as a replacement for your traditional four-buckle overlap boot. This is not a performance boot for anyone running gates or hucking cliffs; instead, it is a comfort cruiser designed to keep aging skiers in the game, to help out people who just want to ski. To them, "performance" might be as simple as putting on a boot without losing their breath or pulling a muscle. It might not be the boot for you (I know it’s not for me), but there is a population for which the HF110 will check every single box -- and then some.
From Nordica's press release: Nordica’s all-new HF collection, with HF standing for Hands Free, offers the performance and comfort of its Machine family with a new easy entry shell and closure system. The key to the design is its anatomical, patent pending one-piece customizable Primaloft® 3D Cork Fit liner. It wraps around the heel and forefoot like a traditional boot, and has an extremely large opening of 40-degrees to easily slip a foot in or out. The HF’s innovative Wonder Lock buckle system allows for hands-free closure - just push it down with a ski pole or the other boot, and they are good to go. The Maxcontrol Pivot provides perfect alignment between the rear cuff and shell and lateral support for immediate ski response. The shell is customizable with Nordica’s infrared technology and comes with Gripwalk® soles for easy walking. Available in two men’s and two women’s models, with the premium-level HF Elite models featuring mobile-controllable Therm-ic heated liners, Michelin® Gripwalk® soles, and a lighter buckle system. Available in men’s and women’s specific models, Nordica’s HF boots are for those who want to have fun and keep skiing without any compromise.
- Last: 102mm
- Size range: Men’s (24.5 – 31), Women’s (23.5 – 27.5)
- Flex: Men’s (110), Women’s (85)
- MSRP: HF Elite and HF Elite W ($900), HF 110 and HF 85 W ($700)
Nordica’s beer-tap rear closure has an adjustment to accommodate everyone from those with cankles and overly developed athletic calves to basic medium sizes. Skinny legs need not apply -- unless you are willing to work with aftermarket volume reducers like I was. Nordica designed a pretty ingenious zeppa (footboard) that will help take up a bit of volume. Think of it as a built-in heel wedge that can actually disappear under the zeppa if you don’t need it. The liner uses the same cork heel cups as the upper end Pro/Speed/Sport Machines, a proven design. The front buckle actually reduces the instep volume à la a three-piece shell. You can see this working because the red stripes along the lower disappear. The shells ship with GripWalk soles, but DIN soles come in the box in case you have a binding that does not accept GW.
Conditions at Mt Rose on the first day of testing were 4 to 6 in. of snow, meaning 1 to 2 in. of wind buff in some places and 6 to 8 in. of powder pockets in others, firm windblown chalky groomers, and (for the bonus round) 45-mph winds with snow blowing sideways and flat light. These are conditions that make you feel like you are trying to survive rather than just enjoy a day of skiing, conditions that throw you around in a boot that does not fit. And this is where the HF110 performed much better than I expected. If I were "Joe Skier" who skis 10 to 15 days a season on the blues, sometimes venturing onto some easy blacks, the HF110 would have performed as promised.
In conclusion, I am not sure if all the Salomon SX92 loyalists are ready to give up their boots, but anyone looking to get a boot from this century should put the HF110 on their short list. (List? Hell, it's the only boot that is really even a consideration.) I'm not sure this is the modern SX boot everyone has been waiting for because it doesn't have the same multitude of fit adjustments; really, though, how many actually used them? The HF110 is the modern version of the N957 and N997 that Nordica offered back in the day.
People have been scoffing about rear-entry boots: why did we even try them, they were awful, waah waah waah .... Well, what overlap boot from that era would you still want to ski today? A Nordica N981? How about the Rossignol R900 or the Koflach five-buckle Comp SR? None of these boots stood the test of time like the best rear entries of the day. Would any purist even consider skiing in these relics? As for me, I have an open mind and hope Nordica plans on introducing a low-volume version for 2021-22, because there is a market for that boot. If I had some friends in from out of town who just wanted to ski some runs and enjoy views of the lake, damn right I would be reaching for an HF110 LV.
- Who is it for? Well, it's a pretty big list. Those who have trouble getting boots on and off; skiers who have a lot of foot; comfort cruisers; older skiers who are considering quitting.
- Who is it not for? Purists. Don’t worry, Nordica is not coming to take away your four-buckle boots. Someone who is into rear entry is not trying to to convert you. Relax. Ski and let ski. If you have to ask if why rear-entry boots are back, the HF line is not for you.
- Insider tip 1: Step up to the Elite with its Bluetooth-enabled Thermic heater. Why stop at business class? If you are going to ski in comfort, go first class.
- Insider tip 2: The 110 flex is a bit optimistic. There is no independent lab to verify boot flexes, but I would say it is closer to a 100 (at most). Don’t worry so much about the number, though; for the desired skier, it is enough. Plus ... shhhh … I found a trick to add some stiffness.