With backcountry skiing on the rise and many downhillers opting for touring set-ups, the lines between alpine and AT gear have begun to blur. In the ski boot world, one result is “crossover” models, which are designed for stability and power on the descent while trying to keep weight and stiffness in check for the uphill. We put the women’s Atomic Hawx Ultra XTD 110 through a season in the backcountry and reaped the benefits of its lightweight feel on the skin track and prowess on the descent. Below we break down the Hawx’s uphill performance, downhill performance, comfort, weight, warmth, and more. To see how it stacks up to the competition, see our article on the best backcountry ski boots.
At 2 pounds 14.6 ounces per boot and with 54 degrees of flex, the Atomic Hawx Ultra XTD 110 W is light and nimble enough to tackle long days and big climbs in the backcountry. In walk mode with the buckles completely open, the boot does a nice job of mimicking my natural stride. I don’t have to use my heel risers even on exceptionally steep slopes, which is my preference. And although noticeable when compared to the more generous 74-degree Backland—Atomic’s backcountry-specific boot—the Hawx’s range of motion actually exceeds my ankle’s, and any more would have been wasted. Further, since the Hawx takes its “frictionless pivot” from the Backland, it offers the same smooth cuff movement on the ascent.
Between the comfortable forward flex and rockered, rubber Walk to Ride (WTR) sole, the Hawx is equally at home during bootpacking adventures as it is on the skin track. WTR soles typically are less rockered than touring-specific models, with hard plastic pieces where the boot interacts with the binding at the toe and heel. This construction makes them similar to traditional alpine boots, but with more grip for better traction and walkability. Personally, I always have always disliked bootpacking and avoided it at all costs. But thanks to the Hawx, I’ve officially become a convert. The boot confidently grips hardpack, ice, and rock with ease.
The beauty of this crossover boot lies in its versatility. The Hawx Ultra XTD excels on the uphill but it is even more impressive on the way down. The stiff Grilamid shell, combined with the 110 flex and “Energy Backbone”—a reinforced plastic band that runs along the rear of the cuff—gives the boot remarkable stability, confidence, and control on the downhill. Further, the forward lean—15 degrees by default, which can easily be changed to 17—creates an optimal and natural stance as I cruise down the mountain. I should note that at 125 pounds, I’m not a heavyweight, nor am I aggressively charging icy moguls or catching big air. But as a confident skier in a variety of terrain, I appreciate that the Hawx provides excellent power transfer between foot and ski. It truly is built to match the downhill performance of a much heavier, stiffer boot.
In walk mode, the Hawx XTD is exceptionally comfortable. The boot features Atomic’s Memory Fit technology, which allows the shell, cuff, and liner to be molded with an in-store heating and cooling process. I’ve had other boots heat-molded with minimal effect, but Atomic’s Memory Fit is a true game-changer (Atomic claims this process can expand the forefoot width up to 6 millimeters and ankle width up to 10). As someone with a hard-to-fit foot, I was concerned that the 98-millimeter last would be far too narrow. But while the forefoot was tight out of the box (circulation-blocking tight), the heat molding gave the boots a comfy fit and restored blood flow. That said, I found the Hawx still has an overly snug heel pocket—putting them on requires a coordinated team effort (more in “Fit and Sizing” below). But once on, the heel is pretty much locked into place and I have not suffered a single hot spot or rubbing all season.
In ski mode, however, the Hawx isn’t as impressive from a comfort perspective. While the fit remains the same for me in both walk and ski mode, I experience significant pressure points on my shins and calves when going downhill. The shorter cuff height and wider shape of the women’s-specific boot causes it to constantly dig into the back of my calf, and I can’t wait to unbuckle at the end of each run. That said, my calves (just like my feet) are often difficult to fit, and this issue could be unique to my body or perhaps remedied by a different liner.
At 2 pounds 14.6 ounces for a women’s size 25/25.5, the Hawx XTD is quite light for its playful downhill performance and ease of touring. This reduces the effort of each step, particularly when paired with a lightweight ski and binding setup. While backcountry-specific boots often run a bit lighter, I find that the Hawx’s confidence-inspiring downhill ability is worth the added few ounces. Even compared to other crossover options with similar versatility and construction, the Hawx’s weight is hard to match. For example, the Lange XT Free 110 W LV (3 pounds 9.1 ounces) and Rossignol Alltrack Elite 100 LT (3 pounds 4.6 ounces) come in a bit heavier and offer less range of motion (43 and 50 degrees, respectively). For climbing, this makes the Hawx a better overall performer and solid one-quiver boot.
Similarly, downhill-specific ski boots—even ultralight ones—come in significantly heavier than the Hawx XTD. But while the Atomic is very light for its functionality and offers a competitive range of motion, a stiffer backcountry boot like the Scarpa Gea RS (2 pounds 13 ounces) will be better-suited for touring exclusively. And for strict resort-goers, the Hawx’s lightweight construction is less precise when carving on hardpack than a downhill-focused boot like the Lange RX 110. But again, it’s the versatility that wins out here, and the Hawx HTD is one of the top crossover boots on the market for 2018-2019.
The Hawx’s perforated liner is breathable without sacrificing warmth. But the key here is a well-fitting boot and liner to promote proper circulation, warmth, and comfort. Too much room can make it difficult for heat to stay trapped, while too little can cut off blood flow. I skied the Hawx for some time before having the liners heat-molded, suffering numbness in my toes because of poor fit. Since taking the boots to a retail store to have the Memory Fit technology molded, I’ve had no issues with numbness or lack of circulation. I have noticed that my toes get cold when I’m sitting on the lift, but this is normal when I’m not moving and the Hawx otherwise has been warm and comfortable during higher-output skinning.
The Hawx features four easy-to-adjust buckles and a sizable power strap. I personally prefer traditional buckles like these over newer tensioning systems and cables because of the ease of handling with gloves and cold fingers. And similar to most alpine boots, Atomic thankfully didn't sacrifice ankle buckles to shave weight (unlike touring-specific options like the latest Backland, which only has one). While this all adds some heft, it also makes the boot more powerful and supportive. However, I did find that the power strap, although wide and sturdy, sits fairly high on the boot with only its lower half on the shell. It often slipped off the boot onto my shin, which likely contributed to the pressure I mentioned earlier.
The Hawx takes its ski/walk lever from its backcountry sibling, the Atomic Backland. Called the Free/Lock 2.0, it’s similar to that of the Scarpa Gea RS: it swiftly releases the boot into walk mode when raised and locks into ski mode when lowered. When in ski mode, a notch in the lever securely attaches to a small horizontal steel pin. While fairly easy to use, I found that the pull-tab for switching to walk mode was a tad short and finicky at times—it needs to be pulled at a precise angle, otherwise it won’t budge. For comparison, the lower-profile, horizontal lever parallel to the upper buckle on the Salomon MTN Explore W is much more user-friendly and intuitive.
Atomic’s heat-moldable Memory Fit 3D Platinum liner is impressive in both comfort and fit, regardless of foot shape. To minimize discomfort, the area around the Achilles tendon (below the calf but above the heel) is made with a softer, more pliable material. Unfortunately, this material also compresses more easily under pressure, and the seams holding the fabrics together create some accordion-style folds that make putting the boot on rather arduous. That said, I don’t notice the liner at all while skinning or skiing, which is perhaps the highest praise a liner can receive. After three months in the Hawx, the liner remains supple with no signs of wear or packing out.
Build Quality and Durability
Like most other top-of-the-line ski boots, the Atomic Hawx Ultra XTD 110 utilizes high-quality, long-lasting materials. The Grilamid shell is durable, lightweight, and resists changes in temperature to ensure the boot flex isn’t heavily affected by fluctuations. But buyer beware: only the top-end versions of the Hawx Ultra XTD sport this dependable material (the women’s 110 and men’s 130), while the others have polyurethane cuffs. And similar to Salomon’s weight-saving design on their MTN lineup, Atomic thinned the walls of the shell in less-stressed areas and reinforced it in those where more flex and torsion are expected. After over three months of heavy use, the boots are only showing slight cosmetic wear on the shell and rubber soles, but have otherwise withstood my rather vigorous testing.
I typically wear a size 24.5 ski boot, but found the Hawx XTD to fit unrealistically small, so I sized up to the 25/25.5 (292-millimeter BSL). The boot’s under-foot adjuster allows changing the size from 25.5 to 25, but I ended up keeping mine at the half. And as mentioned, the heat molding helped significantly with comfort—the Hawx fit like a glove afterward, once I was able to get my foot in.
Even in the larger-than-normal size, getting the Hawx on and off was often a team effort because of the sharp angle at the heel and bunching of materials. While I balanced precariously on one foot, my husband would wrestle with the boot on my other. After some practice, I choreographed my routine and can now manage to do it on my own (most of the time), though it’s still far from graceful. It can be near-impossible at the end of a long day, and I’ve been known to give up and keep the boots on during the start of our commute home. But as it warms, the boot expands a little and gets easier to remove.
Men's and Other Versions
We tested the women’s version of the Hawx Ultra XTD boot, and it also comes in a men’s version: the Hawx Ultra XTD 130. This boot uses identical materials and has the same range of motion, but offers a stiffer flex and weighs slightly more at 3 pounds 2 ounces. You can also get the women’s XTD in a 90 flex and the men’s in 100 and 120 flexes, but remember: these don’t sport the same Grilamid shell, instead opting for polyurethane. Atomic’s downhill Hawx Ultra lineup (the non-XTD boots) is another option for those who spend their days entirely inbounds.
What We Like
- The Hawx XTD is extremely versatile: it’s lightweight on the skin track yet powerful and stable on the descent.
- The Memory Fit liner technology provides a hot-spot-free fit and can be heat-molded to your foot.
- The WTR sole is great for bootpacking and is compatible with many bindings.
What We Don’t
- The boot is extremely difficult to get on and off because of the acute angle at the ankle and heel pocket.
- Despite fitting well in the foot and ankle areas, the boot dug into my shin and calf on the downhill.
- The power strap has a tendency to slide off the cuff.
|Atomic Hawx Ultra XTD 110||$700||2 lbs. 14.6 oz.||98mm||130||54°||Grilamid|
|Scarpa Gea RS||$795||2 lbs. 13 oz.||101mm||120||60°||Grilamid, carbon|
|Salomon MTN Explore W||$600||2 lbs. 13.3 oz.||98mm||90||63°||Grilamid|
|Lange XT Free 110 W||$600||3 lbs. 9.1 oz||97mm||110||43°||Grilamid|
|Rossignol Alltrack Elite 100 LT||$550||3 lbs. 4.6 oz.||98mm||100||50°||Grilamid|
For backcountry skiers, the Scarpa Gea RS (and men’s Scarpa Maestrale RS) has proven itself to be a touring favorite. A stiffer version of their popular Gea, the RS is designed to be light on the skin track and extra powerful on the descent. At 2 pounds 13 ounces, it’s on the lighter side for alpine touring boots and lines up with the Hawx cost-wise at $795. That said, the Hawx XTD is a crossover boot for a reason—it offers a great balance of uphill and downhill performance. The Scarpa Gea RS, with its 60-degree range of motion and low weight, is a better pure backcountry boot; but if you’re looking for a quiver-of-one for the resort too, the Hawx is the more versatile choice.
Compared to another crossover model like the Lange XT Free 110 W, which is made for downhill-minded backcountry-goers, we still think the Hawx wins out. Why? With the same 110 flex and a weight of 3 pounds 9.1 ounces, the XT Free offers perfectly respectable climbing capabilities in walk mode. That said, the added weight and limited 43-degree range of motion make the XT Free a less efficient option on the way up. For resort-goers who take short outings into the backcountry, the XT Free is a fine choice. But for longer uphill slogs, we give the nod to the Hawx XTD.
Finally, we’ve also been testing Salomon’s latest backcountry boots. Stacked up against the Hawx XTD, the women’s MTN Explore W is about an ounce lighter, comes in $100 cheaper, and offers a more generous 63-degree range of motion. But while made to tackle steep descents with the control and confidence of other class-leading AT boots, the Salomon MTN Explore W’s lack of stiffness (90) was apparent in ski mode, resulting in a harsh feel while driving forward. If you’re looking for one boot to do it all, we’d stick with the Hawx XTD for more versatility.
If you’re thinking about buying gear that we’ve reviewed on Switchback Travel, you can help support us in the process. Just click on any of the seller links above, and if you make a purchase, we receive a small percentage of the transaction. The cost of the product is the same to you but this helps us continue to test and write about outdoor gear. Thanks and we appreciate your support!
Depending on the seller, most products ship free in the United States on orders of $50 or more. International shipping availability and rates vary by seller. The pricing information on this page is updated hourly but we are not responsible for inaccuracies.