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.
The Ecorce 01X in the 120 flex option is Dahu's all-mountain model which represents its best-selling and most-available for try-on model at dealer locations. We tested it in the All-Mountain Traditional medium width category alongside nine other models (all traditional four-buckle overlap designs) to see how it would fare within this most-competitive boot test group. At first our test team was surprised that it wasn't instantly out-classed, and then they were shocked that the Ecorce 01X 120 ended up comfortably holding its own in the middle of the pack. By the end of the ten-day test period and many individual tests on the boot later, our test team declared the Dahu brand, and this model in particular, the good surprise of the test. Bravo Dahu!
There's a lot to unpack when covering a brand new model and especially so with a design as unique as this is. Let's start by not unpacking the liner from the shell--while you could unpack it (and marching around in the closely fitted, long lace system liner is an apres warrior's dream come true), it is not the easiest way to get into and out of the boot, which when done properly is hands-down one of the very best features of the Dahu system. With the liner loaded into the shell, its rearward-hinging cuff locked into normal skiing position and the forward external tongue (it is a three-piece design) released and out of the way it's ready to suck in some foot. And it does! With the long lace system (many eyelets, lots of slack and a handy lace lock) completely loosened up, the slide into the boot is easier than any other boot on the market, period. Same with getting it off, release the shell's external tongue, loosen the liner's lace system and bam, you're outta there. This entry and exit protocol is the best way for skiers who intend to use it like a traditional boot: get to hill, put on boot, ski, take off boot when done, leave. However, for those who want to deploy its secret apres ski weapon or enable a rapid switch from skiing to driving, the rear portion of the shell can be released as well and the liner (with foot) can be pulled out easily and the snow-boot-stomp-around can begin. Getting the liner (with foot) into the shell system is a little trickier but with some practice it's accomplished, and done so most easily while seated.
But 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 120 flex we 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 (for those who have one) 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 external 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 around the typical foot's trouble spots. Testers who normally require forefoot expansion or medial 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 120'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.
“Very good, very comfortable--the fully laced liner helps to give the feel of complete envelopment. The shell is perfectly matched to the shape of the internal liner boot. Very good new technology, I skied it with the accessory more-forward-lean button installed and it was just right. Great connection to the the ski. The 120 felt less critical than the 135 as it is soft enough to easily overcome the tall cuff pressure. So damn easy to get in and out of! This would be an excellent choice for older skiers chasing that ease and comfort of the old Salomon rear loader phenomena. I could also see ski coaches, patrollers, and ski teachers using this product. ” -- Jim Schaffner
“Comfort is well addressed and the 120 feels more flex appropriate for all mountain skiing than the 135. The stance of this system is tuned for efficient skiing. The flex of this 120 is strong enough for advanced skiing with a dynamic aspect for ease of use. This model flexes and absorbs variation in terrain and clumps of snow. It is more forgiving and user friendly than its stiffer brother 135. The edge control can be varied and feathered as is appropriate to the conditions. The 120 has solid free skiing character--versus other frame systems I have tested, this one skis on par with traditional boots. ” -- Bob Gleason
“Very good overall fit. Once you figure out the process it goes on easy. Very strong once on edge. It takes a few runs to get a feel for it but given a chance it really rips. ” -- Kevin Gabriel
“Fantastic fit in the liner--super instep to shin closure and flex feel, and this doesn't change for the worse when mated with the shell; they've created an anatomical medium that won't require a lot of fit work for the average foot. Actually skis very well--I prefer the extra forward lean bushing installed and a little bit of shimming between the medial shell and liner for a slightly stronger edge set-up, but it's pretty damn close and good out of the box for most all-mountain applications. ” -- Mark Elling
“Very comfy boot--excellent fit in navicular area and lateral column has plenty of room. Feels good on the forefoot and heel. Very upright feel with normal rear cuff release button. Once release button is changed for slightly canted forward button the boot feels much more balanced. ” -- Pat Sullivan
“This system has a feeling of bulk and massiveness. It is not inherently quick. This system is warm, but a bit cumbersome to put on if you keep the liner on your foot. It takes effort to insert the inner boot into the exoskeleton. ” -- Bob Gleason
“Not sure we need this animal in the kingdom. Kinda like a platypus. But maybe it will find a niche in the market. ” -- Kevin Gabriel