No other boot brand has done more with the 3-piece, external-tongue shell design than Dalbello. Dalbello didn’t just copy the Raichle design they adopted; they improved on it. They optimized its performance properties by playing up its strengths: a stout spine and sidewall construction extending from the lower shell; correct pivot location, a key element in this design’s successful execution; and a ribbed external tongue to manage flex and forward energy transmission.
From a performance standpoint, the brilliance of the 3-piece “cabrio” design is the way it blends lightning lateral reaction with a progressive flex that’s well suited to handling the shocks of off-piste skiing at speed. If this doesn’t sound like your kind of skiing, fear not: Dalbello makes several very different flavors using the 3-piece shell as the foundation, from super cushy ladies’ slippers to rugged Alpine Touring iterations, in fits that range from tugboat wide to daringly close-fitting.
Dalbello would have a complete collection if they stopped there, but they also have an end-to-end line-up of four-buckle overlap shells for all-mountain skiing, 2 race boot series and a catalog of kids’ boots that sell like candy. The overall line accommodates so many foot shapes in so many different shell structures, it’s meaningless to say, “I like how Dalbellos fit.” With Dalbello, you have to be very specific about which shell and liner combo intrigues you, as they span a wide range of fit environments and performance attributes.
Three stories dominated the headlines leading into the 2019/20 season: a new Panterra series, the near universal adoption of GripWalk soles and the debut of Lupo Air. The new Panterras didn’t look anything like the prior generation, despite sharing the same wide last and 3-piece shell structure. The 2020 Panterras were slimmer, sleeker and much lighter, but retained a 50-degree range of motion when in hike mode. For 2022, the Panterra series receives a new, “instant fit” liner and a new tongue. All Panterras come with GripWalk soles, as do 90% of Dalbello’s 2022 collection, including many kids’ models.
The absence of tech fittings on the Panterras tell you they’re for hiking around in-bounds; if you want to head to the backcountry, Dalbello has several other options. Dalbello’s Lupo series is directly derived from its non-hike Kryptons, and its hike mode retains the rigid spine that makes the Kryptons perennially popular. All the Lupos – there are now four – use Gripwalk soles, signaling that they’re equally at home in resort or out of bounds
Working the same backcountry turf as the Lupo line is the Quantum Free, a 3-model series introduced just last year. This ultralight, polyamide composite shell isn’t made by injection, as with any PU shell, but by bonding its two halves together. Its Vibram, fully treaded and rockered sole (ISO 9523) can only be used with Alpine Touring bindings. New to the Quantum family for 21/22 is Quantum Lite, made mostly from carbon composite and weighing in at a featherweight 860g.
Not content with this amalgam of boots all outfitted for hiking, for 21/22 Dalbello has added tech inserts and Gripwalk soles to the top models in its revered Krypton and Chakra series. The new, 98mm Krypton 130 T.I. ID and Chakra Elevate 115 T.I. ID still use a PU shell and cuff to optimize their in-resort qualities, and dispense with any sort of hike mode that might compromise rear support.
Three years ago, Dalbello debuted two new 2-piece overlap shells, DS in a medium (100mm) last and DS MX in a wide (102mm) shell, completing a collection that began with the original 98mm DRS family. The fully customizable shell and liner also featured a simple (ergo, possibly useful) cant adjustment and adjustable ramp angle. The medium last was generous and leaned to the comfort end of the fit spectrum. Almost all of the 2022 DS and DS MX models come with Gripwalk soles installed.
Also introduced two seasons ago were 2 new DS models that not only came with Gripwalk soles installed on their narrow chassis, they also used Grilamid for both the cuff and shell. This makes the updated DS Asolo Factory 130 GW and DS Asolo Factory 115 W GW crazy light (1830g and 1650g, respectively) and simpler to walk in than shoes. The 98mm DS Asolo last shape served as the foundation of a whole new series of DS Asolo models just last year, with new moldable liners and PU shells.
Dalbello’s take on heat molding is that it’s a fallback position when its boots aren’t comfortable right off the shelf, but it never hurts to cook shells and liners a tad to accelerate break-in and ensure a blissful first day. The MyFit package of heatable shells and liners are found across the high end of Dalbello’s 2-piece, four buckle boots and its signature 3-piece, 3-buckle cabrio models.
Dalbello’s core constituency of 3-piece fanatics will be relieved to hear its full menu of cabrio models returns essentially intact. The market for traditional, 4-buckle overlaps is already abundantly served, but for skiers who crave a 3-piece shell’s unique performance and fit properties, only Dalbello offers the most diverse selection of what ye seek.