I got to ski a pair of early production Hoji’s for most of December while we guided the GAH Freeride Camps with Hoji himself. It was an ideal test because we were trying to ski hard, smash pillows and just enjoy the powder. In the end it was about 15 days days between 1200 and 1700 vertical meters each with some heavy trail breaking. I feel like I put them through the paces!
Did I love them? Mostly.
Are they the best boot I’ve ever used? Clearly.
Weight: 1460g for size 27.5 For the rest of the tech specs you should search the net. There’s already lots of that info out there. But How Do They Ski?
I’m not a big guy (5'9", 160lb) and maybe lean more to the finesse side than power side but they were plenty stiff enough for me. Like the Mercury with the tongue in, the Vulcan with no tongue or the Salomon MTN Lab. But better than these because they are noticeably more responsive (quicker reacting) due to the remarkably solid connection of the cuffs in ski mode. There is no wiggle or slop like there is in most touring boots. I didn’t realize how much I’d gotten use to the slop over the years. It felt like going back to true alpine boots.
The other benefit is that they have a nice, more classic ski boot flex that just feels natural. Most touring boots seem to bottom out or deform and give out a bit when flexed hard. The Hojis don’t. At least for me. If you are a bigger person looking for the stiffest boot, this might not be it, but compared to other boots of the same stiffness these are a clear upgrade.
The ankle strap/buckle locks your heel down even though it’s a higher volume boot and I have skinny feet. The combination of the Hoji’s forward lean, upper buckle, powerstrap and ankle strap set me up in a real nice stance for skiing hard. I always add a bit of a spoiler to my boots and it felt great with how stiff these suckers are to the rear. The boot is also noticeably stiffer laterally than anything I’ve been on lately. Their last is wide, which worked great for me while touring. My toes had plenty of room and there were no pressure points. After a few days, I started tightening the ankle strap for more aggressive lines and loosening it for touring but that’s pretty quick and easy to do.
How do they walk?
They walk better than anything else I’ve tried in their class. Skimo race boots walk with less effort but compared to any boot I could picture skiing hard in, the Hojis win. The Hoji Lock lever at the back opens things up enough that you can walk with minimal resistance forward and none backwards. The range of motion is great (better than any boot I know of in it’s class) and allows you to bend your ankle forward enough that you don’t need to fiddle with heel-lifters ever if you don’t want to. That’s a significant upgrade over the Salomon MTN Labs I use, which have a hard stop when you try to bend forward in walk mode.
The lateral rigidity, and the way the cuff stays done up in walk mode, felt great while touring on side-hills or hard snow. I usually get ankle pain in other boots because I have them wide open while touring. The way the Hoji opens, you still have that support without restricting the forward/back motion.
What they don’t do:
With no toe welt, they do not accept standard crampons. That’s a problem for me. Dynafit has developed a crampon of their own to counter this but that’s just fixing a problem that didn’t need to be created in my mind.
Likewise, you can not use alpine bindings at all. That’s not really a problem for me but I imagine it will be a deal breaker for many.
I’d like to test them out with Kingpins sometime soon. They say it’s not certified for that but I think it could work. It looks like there’s enough of a lip around the heel but I’d have to try it.
Why did they go without the toe welts? Sex appeal I think but the “Speed Toe” should make walking a bit easier as it moves the pivot point of tech bindings further back to a more natural walking point. I have to admit, I didn’t notice it though. I did notice it was way easier to step into tech bindings with the stubby toe and nice tech inserts for what that’s worth. I also noticed the lack of long “alpine toe” when walking on dry ground. At ridge top in the Rockies I hiked them over scree and frozen turf for a couple hours (don’t ask why!) and it was significantly nicer than doing so in other boots. Is that enough reason to shorten the toe? Probably not for me.
Does the Hoji Lock really make a difference?
I wasn't sold at the start. I tour enough that my change overs are fairly smooth and doing up a few buckles isn’t a deal breaker. After a week though, I didn’t want to go back. It’s just so easy and works so well. You set your boots up in ski mode when you put them on in the morning and never worry about them again. I liked it. I think it would be great for people new to touring too. One less thing to watch them fiddle with at every change over!