It’s unlikely that Atomic management foresaw just how much its boot brand would come to depend on a modest line of recreational boots it launched 13 years ago. Called Hawx, its unique feature was vent-like creases on both sides of the forefoot, perceived as a fit benefit but actually designed to improve energy transmission to the sole. The original Hawx came in only a single, 100mm last in a limited number of flexes for men and women. Atomic chose the aggressive commercial tactic of underpricing the Hawx line relative to market leaders; the Hawx 80, for example, retailed at $299, an irresistible cost/value relationship.
Once it had a toehold in the market, Atomic began to pile on the improvements. It enhanced the Hawx liners, changed the shell structure, added a narrow and a wide last and made the shells (and liners) heat-moldable just as this feature was gaining wide market acceptance. Of all the smart moves Atomic made to evolve Hawx into a brand unto itself, the wisest was to not just make narrower and wider Hawx originals (now called Prime), but to make the wide Magna a truly exceptional wide boot, with the widest aperture in a conventional shell, and likewise create a narrow boot, Ultra, that feels as close-fitting as a compression sock.
While we wouldn’t recommend it as a commercial strategy, a shop could limit its boot inventory to a full complement of Hawx. As long as its bootfitters took full advantage of all the fit and performance features found across the line, very few customers would leave its care unhappy or unshod.
The ubiquitous adjective applied to nearly every non-race boot in today’s market is “lightweight,” a trend Atomic spearheaded when it introduced Hawx Ultra 3 years ago. (Note to bootfitters: the upper cuff on the Ultra 130 S isn’t Grilamid anymore, but stretchable PU.) Last season, GripWalk soles, now the de facto norm, became standard issue across the Hawx collection.
This year, the Hawx triad of Ultra, Prime and Magna undergo another universal switch, this time to a new inner boot, Mimic, so named for its easy adaptability to any foot shape. The heel and ankle areas are anatomically pre-shaped, creating an instant sense of accurate envelopment.
Another point of emphasis this year is the Hawx Prime XTD backcountry boot. It’s essentially the resort Hawx Prime with a simple and super-effective hike mode (54o-degree range of cuff motion.)
One rung above the Hawx collection lies Redster Club Sport, a 96mm-last chip off the Redster race block. We haven’t had a chance to ski the Redster Club Sport quartet, a pity, as it’s as precise a recreational race boot as you can find.
The biggest news in Atomic boots last season was the unexpected return of rear-entry boots to a mainstream boot-maker’s collection. The Savor series targets the occasional skier who Realskiers would classify as a Tourist. Tourists prioritize convenience, comfort and safety over technical considerations. Given that the Savor models have no internal cables to retain the foot, it’s wide (102-104mm) last is best reserved for equally wide feet. Atomic deserves credit for recognizing the potential of the rear-entry design, although this incarnation, by aiming low, falls well short of the design’s performance possibilities.