Art director Chris Rowat left his crayons long enough to take the Hoji Free 110 ski touring boots for some backcountry wanders. He liked them. A lot. This is his review.
Full disclosure. I started out split-boarding but decided that skis were better for multi-day traverses. So I taught myself to ski and this is only the third pair of ski boots I’ve owned. My first boots were a pair of used Scarpa Denalis. At the time I knew nothing about ski boots, and this big, burly boot seemed to do the job. That was 17 years ago. My second boot was the Dynafit Zzero4 Green Machine. This boot was a big change from the Denali. Much lighter, it was a pleasure to walk and climb in. In ski mode the boot felt fine, but I wasn’t skiing very aggressively. Turns out it was a soft ski-boot. But I managed, or let’s say I got used to skiing a pretty soft boot. I learned the term “margarine container,” which I’m told means that after 10 years a boot’s plastic will lose stiffness, or perhaps it’s just a reference to the flexibility of certain lightweight ski touring boots. By the time I was ready to retire them, they were very comfortable, but worn-out and getting softer by the year. Jump ahead to the winter of 2021 when I got the Hoji Free 110 because it seemed like the next logical step to replace my worn out Zzero4s.
Snapshot: Hoji Free 110 Ski Touring Boots
- Pros: It walks great and skis great: great stiffness for the weight, one lever changes to ski-mode
- Cons: As a unisex boot, the 110-flex might be too stiff for a light woman
- Price: Cdn$900
- Who Should Buy: If you’re looking for a ski-touring boot that is stiff enough to handle hill-laps on a powder day, but also light enough for long days of touring, but also walks great.
- Who Shouldn’t Buy: Those who only ski the hill or do rando racing.
- Helpful Hack: With any boot, don’t be afraid to go back to the store you purchased them at a few times to get the fit just right. The Hoji has lots of room to work with for molding to your foot. Some new lightweight boots are so thin they don’t want you punching them.
- Author’s overall rating: 9.5/10
I got the boots in early March, just before a week-long hut trip to Snowfall Lodge near Revelstoke. I had the SIDAS liner heat-molded once, and got out a few times to try and break them in before the trip.
The first thing I noticed was the brilliant lever-system that allows you to switch from ski to walk mode with one gesture. The Hoji lock system operates both the cuff buckle AND the power strap. At the beginning of your tour you put the boot into ski-mode, tighten up your buckles as tight as you want for downhill performance, then with the operation of the rear lever, you can loosen the upper part of the boot and release the forward lean. You will probably still loosen your heel-retention strap and your forefoot buckle, but no more pulling your pants and powder cuff up to constantly loosen and tighten those upper straps. Dynafit calls it the “pants-always-down” concept. And it works. After reaching the top of your run, you reach down, flip the lever, and immediately you are in a tight, stiff, forward-lean position, ready to descend. It’s a brilliant piece of design. It locks your forward lean, and tightens your top buckles. The boot offers 55° of cuff rotation in walk mode, which seemed adequate in my use. I never had to loosen the powerstrap further to get the forward lean I needed for climbing.
The sole is a nice POMOCA lugged sole with the standard rocker you would expect for a boot that is meant to be walked in. The QSI “quick-step-in” tech inserts are also what you would expect. There’s a small groove below the pin hole to assist in stepping into your tech binding. Nothing surprising here. This model has a proper toe welt that allows it to be used with automatic or step-in style crampons, AND also with the new hybrid binding systems. The original version of the Hoji did not have the toe welt. Also, I have to say I was impressed by the heat-moldable SIDAS liner. It is durable and stiff and moldable without being too heavy. It has a stiffness that seems to be a good match with what the boot is designed to do.
Dynafit has refined the Hoji shell over the years. They have added more material in important stress areas and reduced it in others. Recently they beefed up the cuff lean-stops to improve the stiffness of the boot in ski mode. (see photo) A local shop commented that the Hoji also has lots of room to work with for molding, whereas some of the newer boots coming out are so thin and optimized that they don’t want you punching them out. The Hoji Free is a lower volume boot, so it felt great on my narrower feet. If you have a wide foot, or wider ankle bones, the new Radical Pro might be for you.
During our trip to Snowfall Lodge, I skied the boots for two days. They were plenty stiff for me at 180 lbs and 6’2”, but I’m not a charger. But after 2 days my friends’ boot broke. Fortunately, I had also brought my splitboard setup, so I graciously loaned him my brand-new Hoji’s. What a friend. I know. My friend is a very experienced skier, and spent the rest of the week pounding out long days: skiing steep couloirs in amazing stability, boot-packing up peaks, and generally running around like Greg Hill. He went places I wasn’t comfortable going. After the trip he went out and bought a pair for himself.
My conclusion: this boot will allow you to do a 2000-metre day of touring, but also rip some laps at the ski hill either in tech-bindings or the new hybrid bindings. A boot that tours well and skis decently is the sweet spot of the industry. This boot is right there.
Hoji Free 110 Ski Touring Boots – The Deets
- Price: $900 Cdn
- Material: Grilamid combined with glass fibres. Grilamid has a high resistance to cracking, and good “punchability”
- Weight: 1,550 grams (size 26.5)
- Flex: 110
- Liner: heat-moldable SIDAS
- Forward lean in ski mode: 11°
- Walk mode cuff range: 55°
- Pomoca full-rubber outsole
- More info: dynafit.com
Author’s Note: Mountain Culture Group is not paid for these reviews. They are honest expressions of our opinions. In some instances we are given the product to keep but that does not sway our assessment. If we dislike a product and feel it would score a rating of less than 5/10, we simply won’t review it.