New models of hard boots and tests for extremecarving

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New models of hard boots and tests for extremecarving

Postby Swoard team » Thursday 12 October 2017, 17:50

The situation

Recently, carving has become trendy in soft boots community. We see the word "carving" back in the catalogs. It seems that we (all alpine riders: racers, freecarvers and extremecarvers) managed to gain some interest from all snowboarders on the social networks and on YouTube. Probably a larger public is going to realize that hard boots are really cool too! Such gear is adding power, performance and precision. Actually, riding both soft boots and hard boots in function of the snow conditions (as we do in the Swoard team) should become obvious with time, especially because of the climate change causing often hard snow and rare deep powder. Thus we believe we will see more and more people coming to alpine gear after years riding only with soft boots.

Future of alpine snowboarding is directly related to future of hard boots. The more brands, the more choices, the more visibility of our sport, and the more new alpine riders. The problem is that creating hard boots is very expensive (half a million of Euros for a totally new model in all sizes; no joke here). That's why there are only 2-3 brands around... Creating soft boots is much easier and cheaper because no molds are required.


New projects in the air

Whatever the future, at some point it has become clear for Swoard team that supporting our sport meant the need of creating new hard boots, despite all the financial risks (our passion is pushing us). Thus we worked secretly since 2013 on a new hard boot model with a famous Italian company (as 80% of hard boots in the world are made in Italy). We went till a prototype made of parts taken from ski boots, including many modifications, and then to 3D printed boots (which are too weak for riding but useful for various checks). We reached the next step... meaning a big investment for the molds... when we heard in 2016 start about the project of Mountain Slope and the "Northwave boots revival", named Point .951 in reference to the original .950 and .900.

Thus we have immediately put our own project in standby, because we thought that the plan from Mountain Slope was very promising. Indeed, Jacques and Patrice have been big fans of Northwave hard boots since day one. They have widely promoted the Point .900 (indirectly the Point .950 too) through this Forum since 2002 and the picture in the middle of this Web page.

Northwave.900-modified-Swoard-2002.jpg
Northwave.900-modified-Swoard-2002.jpg (20.29 KiB) Viewed 538 times

The old picture showed already their modified spring system in 2002, what started a trend for spring kits which we still see nowadays for all boots. Many riders wanted to buy the very last Northwave (.900 and .950) which were still available after the end of their production.

Thus we believe in Mountain Slope's project of course. We support and congratulate them! There is no doubt that during the Olympic Games next winter we will see some winners wearing Point .951 !


What for extremecarving?

Our goal is precisely to figure out what works the best for our original extremecarving technique. We will play with different plastic stiffness and spring systems. Our needs are different from what is required in racing. This doesn't mean less performances, but different performances because of our "push-pull" technique and surfing philosophy. The timing with the legs for example is very different in a slalom: stiffer hard boots are required (Jacques and Patrice were racers long time ago before developing EC). Most alpine snowboarders are not (or no more) racing: they just want to freecarve and to make different turns.

We have got four pairs of new Point .951 and we will test them intensively with the Swoard team all winter long, on all snows and pistes. You can count on us to share our experiences with you and to tell what fits well to most of us.

Here are the new boots we got in September for our tests:

New.951-tests-team-Swoard.jpg
New.951-tests-team-Swoard.jpg (75.47 KiB) Viewed 538 times

There are two plastic stiffness: "120" and "100". The 120 boot is the stiffest, and has the mention "World Cup" on the shell close to the toes. The 100 is softer. Both plastics have to be tested, though the boot flex should be rather controlled by the spring system. But there is also the lateral stiffness which counts, as well as the way the efforts are transmitted... and the comfort.


What about UPZ?

Till now we recommended to the newcomers the boots UPZ (particularly the RC-10 model), but at the condition to change the spring system (some riders in this Forum are proposing nice ACSS kits).

We are very excited, because we learned that UPZ will show new things this winter. We can't say too much at the moment, but soon we will get some of these new pairs and will test them intensively from December. We will share our feedbacks and make comparisons with Point .951, trying to stay as objective as possible. Of course the feedbacks may also depend on the feet shape of the various riders.

Probably UPZ will stay a reference for the performances/price ratio. Again, the more brands the better, so everyone can find the best for his feet shape, his ride technique, and his budget.


Tests by the Swoard team

In this thread below, we will give progressively our feedbacks after tests on the snow. Patrice had already the chance in July to ride the .951 with Hansruedi from Mountain Slope. His first review is given below.

Next intense tests by all the team will start in December.


Test days for the public

Great news! It will be possible to test UPZ and Mountain Slope during two events of the Swoard Demo Tour 2018 !!

:arrow: UPZ during the SDT in Hintertux (16-17 December, 2017)
We will have several pairs of the new 2018 models from UPZ. Sizes should go from Euro 41 to 45. If necessary, we will mount our ACSS spring systems on some pairs.
It's a good opportunity for you to see the new things and to test them.

:arrow: Point .951 during the 15th ExtremeCarving Session in Zinal (27-28-29 January, 2018)
For this Swoard event in the past, we were used to invite Tooltonic because we are fans of these fantastic sharpening tools. We admire and support Jean-Bernard who created them.
In the same way it's natural that this year we invite Mountain Slope, and especially the genius designer (named Roger) who we admire for what he created more than 20 years ago, the legendary Northwave .900 and .950. He will be present with several demo pairs for the public at the stand (and on the snow too).


Conclusion

There is something in the air... There are some good vibes around snowboard carving in general and alpine snowboarding. The fact that some persons are investing money in alpine snowboarding, especially in an expensive project, is a very good sign. The new alpine boots will be visible worldwide, showing to the professionals and the public that our sport is really alive.

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First tests in July 2017

Postby fivat » Thursday 12 October 2017, 18:10

First tests in July 2017

At the beginning of July, I could ride alone with Hansruedi from Mountain Slope on the glacier of Stelvio (Italy, close to Switzerland border). Warm thanks to him for the time he took, his kindness and his intact passion!

He did bring me various boots of shell C for my feet size. I could test both plastics "100" and "120", as well as two different springs. I came with my modified Northwave .900 for comparison.

Unfortunately the snow was very wet and sticking, so both Hansruedi and I could not really ride dynamically as we are used to. Actually this summer has been globally very bad on the glaciers of Europe (lack of fresh snow, high temperatures and rain). But at least I could get first impressions about boot geometry, flex, comfort and control.

Test-Patrice-July-2017.jpg
Test-Patrice-July-2017.jpg (42.89 KiB) Viewed 535 times

Geometry:

Both geometries of .900 and .951 are almost identical: a great work has been made by laser scan to redraw the boots (the Northwave were made with old techniques). Some parts have been improved, with thicker plastic on the important places like the rotation axis. Many pieces and buckles are stronger.

Flex:

This is the most important worry for the extremecarvers, who like perfect feet hold, but some softness in the flexion with a good progression. We need to bend the knees enough for the "pull" during the transitions, while we "push" the legs in the laid turns. In some sense this is closer to freestyle than racing, but with power and fluidity.

I felt the "World Cup" model (= "120") really too stiff, even with the provided red springs, for normal carving and "push-pull". But for sure I will spend my winter trying various springs and tongues. The hard shell ("120") can be something good for the racers as for the extremecarvers, because the flex is not controlled by the shell (while we see a lot of shell deformation in other brands). Springs can be easily changed. Tongues are of type "100" and "120", and can be sanded down if necessary.

The "100" model had better flex to my taste, but this may be related to the softer spring (blue one) and the tongue which were mounted of course. As we could not ride fast (sticking snow and no steep slopes on the glacier), I don't want to make premature conclusions. But I can say I felt "at home" like with my old Point .900 but stiffer.

Comfort:

I have arched feet, what is the worst shape... With the original liners, I got pain on top of my feet. So I switched to my old liners, and I felt much better.
The liners coming with the .951 are from brand "Ultralon". They seem very well made, with a rigid cuff, but they don't match my feet. I don't worry about this: it's normal, as it's mission impossible to find liners which match all feet on the planet.
Almost all the racers who got their .951 this summer have made injected liners.

The most important is the shell. The liners can be changed easily, and everyone has to find what works for himself. I you feel good in your old liners, keep them!

Control:

There was no steep slope for extremecarving (linked fully laid turns). So I will give other feedbacks during the winter. At the moment, the boots are very promising!


To be continued this winter! :D
Big thumb up for Mountain Slope! :bravo:

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Re: New models of hard boots and tests for extremecarving

Postby slayer » Thursday 12 October 2017, 22:42

Hands up who hasn't been waiting for this post. :-)

I think the advice should be, if you go for hardboots, spend the extra for injection moulded inners from the outset *unless* you have the feet dreamed of by the designers... save other liner testing costs and half a season?
Most hard boot liners are never going to be as accommodating as soft boots liners, so why bother offering a substandard solution?

The hard boot industry would do well to come up with a way to make this less an artform, and more accessible. Like, offer injection moulding as part of the purchase...like you would with high end ski-boots. I watched my wife's ski boots (rental!) being moulded and I couldn't help feeling that the technology and accessibility for ski boots is far in advance of snowboard hard boots...coolers, heaters, different range of plastics, etc. If it costs half a million to do a basic boot, why not do it properly, Elon Musk style...? :-)

Another observation, as a relatively new EC'er, when I showed my hard boots to my UK 30-strong softie-folks at our own yearly event, they were in a sort of awe, because they don't see this stuff in non-alpine countries...yet, there is always a hard-core group in every single country on the planet! If they knew a way to get to where all you folks are, without spending 3000 CHF/EUR to get there via trial and error as some sort of badge of honour and initiation, they would be right there with you.

This year at our big softie meetup, I will offer my board and boots to whoever wants to try (and has my size of feet). There was a lot of curiosity there.

cheers,
Slayer.
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Re: New models of hard boots and tests for extremecarving

Postby fivat » Wednesday 18 October 2017, 17:17

slayer wrote:I think the advice should be, if you go for hardboots, spend the extra for injection moulded inners from the outset *unless* you have the feet dreamed of by the designers... save other liner testing costs and half a season?
Most hard boot liners are never going to be as accommodating as soft boots liners, so why bother offering a substandard solution?

Yes, injected liners (= foam liners), or at least thermo liners, should be an obvious purchase for most alpine snowboarders experiencing pains. Of course buying both boots and liners has a price. But we change them less often than the boards...
I'm sometimes surprised by friends who complain about the price of hard boots... but do not hesitate to buy several kites at 1500 € per piece for kitesurfing. 8O

The racers don't hesitate. As I wrote:
fivat wrote:Almost all the racers who got their .951 this summer have made injected liners.
But maybe there is also a psychological aspect: "I will lose the race if I don't have this". ;-)

slayer wrote:The hard boot industry would do well to come up with a way to make this less an artform, and more accessible. Like, offer injection moulding as part of the purchase...like you would with high end ski-boots.

UPZ is proposing foam liners and termal liners which you can get directly with the shells. That's great!! You can purchase the goods and then go to a shop for the injection. The point is to find a good specialist, who knows alpine snowboarding.

slayer wrote:If it costs half a million to do a basic boot, why not do it properly, Elon Musk style...? :-)

:D This would cost more millions, and the alpine market is really too small for guys like Elon Musk. ;-)

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