While the Dahu boot (based in Switzerland) was released in the North American market just before the Covid pandemic, this was our first chance to test the boots and according to Dahu they are treating the 2022-23 winter season as a re-introduction of the product now that things are returning to a bit more normal program.
Our women's test team is a particular tough bunch--both in how they ski (all day long, everywhere and well) and also in how they respond to newcomers (testers and boot models alike)! So as you might imagine, the new Dahu design met with some serious barriers that it had to break down to earn a silver medal in its first foray into our annual boot test.
At first glance the Dahu appears a little different, with its lack of buckles on the lower shell, but three-piece constructions aren't uncommon--it's how this three-piece hinges open, both to the front and rear that sets it apart. Yes, the shell releases so that the front tongue drops forward and the rear cuff flops back allowing the lace-up inner boot to enter or exit while on the skier's foot. Our test team has encountered other such designs in the past and found them to be a mixed bag of good, bad and otherwise, but its interaction with the Dahu was notable for the fact that testers discovered that it could ski!
The women's Ecorce 01X is available in both a 90-flex and a 110-flex and our testers put the stiffer model through the ringer. Depending on how a tester initially approached putting the boot on affected their overall opinion of the experience to a large extent. Testers who put on the form-fitted inner boot (which strikes one as a hybrid of motocross, snowboard and fashion snow boots) first and then attempted to fit it into the fully opened shell were met with some challenges and a few cuss words here and there. The fit tolerances between the liner and shell are quite tight, which avoids slop in the movement chain but makes slipping the liner into place a little tricky, though easily done with some practice and while seated. Testers who left the liner in place within the shell and loosened up its lacing system and unlatched the tongue to let it hinge forward, away from the liner, found that they could slip a foot into place without any hindrance. Said another way, testers who put the boot on this way said it was the easiest boot to put on they'd ever experienced. Lacing up the liner is a matter of pulling on the lace handle, running the lace lock down into place, wrapping the lace slack around the pull and stashing it into a small keeper pouch built into the liner tongue. Getting the shell tongue re-attached requires attaching two clasps on the medial side then the two buckles on the lateral side. Once the entry and closure protocols were managed once, testers didn't have any issues going forward. But yes, figuring out the system had a make-it or break-it influence on the tester's experience.
The inner boot is undeniably comfortable to wear and walk about in. It serves as a pretty cool looking snow boot and might be the best apres ski boot we've ever tested, however our test team wasn't about to let the liner's sexiness gain it any advantage--it had to ski or it was out.
How does it ski? Well, let's talk about how it flexes first, as that is the second most important thing about the Dahu boot--the combination of the tallish feeling liner tongue and highly tunable lacing tension there enables a well-distributed fit along the shin that oozes comfort, but in a snug and firmly cushioned way. Then, coupled with the characteristically even flex feel of the three piece shell construction the fore-aft movements in this boot are natural and comfortable in a way often not felt in more traditional designs. The 110 flex tested exemplified this positive element, offering a long--but not collapsing--flex feel that remained consistent in both pressure and comfort against the shin throughout its range of flexion. Chronic shin bang sufferers, do try to get one of these on your feet.
It does ski quite well, according to testers who were surprised at the blend of power and agility that the Dahu offered. The inner boot is mated to the shell with very close tolerances and the inner boot is not a mushy moccasin, so transmission of movement and energy was direct and accurate, testers said. The common complaints that several testers mentioned were related to stance. The out-of-box geometry is slightly more upright than the current norm, and the lateral set-up is a little softer to the inside edge than most. The fore-aft issue is easily solved with an in-box offset bushing that can be swapped onto the rear cuff which tips and locks it into a more forward position which most testers preferred. The lateral issue is remedied with material glued to the medial aspect of the shell, essentially filling the gap between the liner and shell since there is no lateral cuff adjustment mechanism offered on the boot. Testers also noticed that the exterior boot sole runs longer than traditional boots of the same size--not by a lot, but by enough that it's noticeable when walking and will certainly require adjusting or re-mounting bindings for skiers making a boot switch but choosing to keep their ski and binding set up as is.
What about bootfitting options, testers wondered? There aren't many fitting features outside of minor in-liner tweaks and liner heat molding. There's a possibility of a little grind or gentle stretch in certain spots, but this is not what the boot is really designed for. It's designed to fit well out of the box for the average foot shape, but it happens to fit extremely well for the typical foot's trouble spots. Testers who normally require forefoot expansion or ankle bone punches cited that the Dahu fit those areas nicely in its stock set-up. Testers' advice to customers is to be satisfied with the boot's fit as it is when considering a purchase, not hope for a fit that could be. Our test team pointed to the boot's ease of entry and exit and classic three-piece flex feel against the shin as the Ecorce 01X 110's best qualities, closely followed by a super out-of-box fit and good-enough all mountain performance to make it worth a look. In fact, after the boot test experience, two of our testers who are in charge of their shops' hard-goods buying brought in Dahu as a new line for the coming season. We think that's worth mentioning.