Dahu Ski Boots

When it comes to skiing, the grim reality is the most important part of your equipment – your boots – is often the most problematic and painful. Sure, there are the lucky few who haven’t had to spend time and money on custom insoles, liners and other technical fixes. There are even those who found satisfaction in walk models for getting to après or rear entry models that are easy to get in and out of. But for the majority of us, getting boots that fit and perform well can be more challenging than trying to straight-line Jackson Hole’s Corbet’s Couloir.

Enter Dahu Ski Boots, a Swiss brand that’s distributed throughout North America by a crew based in the Vail, Colorado area led by Clark Gundlach. The brand’s latest model – the Ecorce 1, which retails for $899 – features a sleek and stylish exoskeleton coupled with an inner boot that’s fully removable and does dual duty as stand-alone footwear. It’s an innovative approach that combines performance and comfort like no other, and one that has the potential to revolutionize ski boot design.

Forget everything you know up til now about the “frame” concept, where a comfortable inner boot is wrapped in a plastic exoskeleton to provide the support and stiffness needed to perform on snow while also allowing for a DIN-standard interface with all Alpine ski bindings. The Ecorce 1 bears no resemblance to the industry’s previous offerings – from the 1988 “Moon Boot” inspired Nava brand, which was widely panned by reviewers, to more recent iterations such as Envy (a snowboard binding with DIN toes and heels that allows you to wear snowboarding boots in Alpine bindings) and Apex (a more traditional “frame” boot offering).

“The Dahu Swiss ski boots are much evolved since their original design and launch in Europe,” says Gundlach. “A Cambium liner boot combines the best Italian leather for comfort and support, Primaloft insulation for added warmth, and a patented sole design that locks the inner boot into place in the shell.”

Though an avid skier, Gundlach spent more than 22 years at Burton where he was involved with creating some of the brand’s top-performing snowboard boots. It’s this unique experience of working on snowboard boots, but also riding two planks, which allowed him to work with his Swiss colleagues at Dahu to create something special.

According to Gundlach, the new Ecorce 1 that will debut this winter in North America has a completely re-engineered shell featuring high-performance composites, aircraft-grade aluminum in the Power Beam, and a new buckle system.

Dahu Ski Boots
Dahu Ski Boots

“The unique Corsair entry system opens wide for a smooth entry for the foot, and locks in place to provide the Cambium inner boot its on-mountain performance,” says Gundlach. “The Cambium inner boot itself can be worn outside of the shell too, thus providing the skier a comfortable walking alternative.”

The Ecorce 1 is available in five flex characteristics – three for men and two for women – which Gundlach says delivers a level of performance, convenience, and comfort not found in any other design.

Of course, you’d expect Gundlach to be bullish on these boots, as they’re his baby. But a test day out on the immaculately groomed slopes of Vail proves that the Dahu crew are onto something special. I cranked down the two-buckle system and had no issues, throwing down high-speed GS turns on the corduroy off of Northstar in a pair of the 120 flexers (also available in a 100 and 135 flex for men, and a 90 and 110 flex for women). Shin-bang in the bumps on Highline was non-existent and – perhaps best of all – at the end of my session, my feet felt great. The highlight? Being able to rip high-speed GS turns down Vail’s frontside after an aggressive day on the mountain and at the bottom, removing the plastic shell for an easy walk to après ski down Bridge Street in the inner boots.

While there are some features I’d like to see – there’s no tech toe for ski touring bindings – I was hard-pressed to find fault with Dahu’s approach. Is this the boot of the future? Only time will tell. But, Gundlach says “all of Dahu’s 2020 models have been snapped up by high-end retailers across North America and the company expects to sell out of product for the year.” In other words, while you can expect to see these boots on the hill and on feet next year, you’ll have to move quickly if you want a pair.