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 don’t look anything like the prior generation, despite sharing the same wide last and 3-piece shell structure. The 2020 Panterras – like most of the Dalbello line, the Panterras continue unchanged for 2020/21 – are slimmer, sleeker and much lighter, but still have 50-degrees range of motion when in hike mode. All Panterras come with GripWalk soles, as does 90% of Dalbello’s 2021 collection, including many kids’ models.
The Lupo Air introduced last season strips the touring boot to bare bones, and what bones it has are made of “Grilamid Air,” a new ultralight formulation. Of course it has GripWalk, tricked out in Vibram, along with a new cable closure system and walk/ski mechanism.
Working the same backcountry turf as Lupo Air is the pure BC Quantum Asolo, a new 3-model series for 2020/21. This ultralight, polyamide composite shell isn’t made for in-resort skiing, so it falls outside Realskiers’ scope of competence to comment on.
Last year 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 feature a simple (ergo, possibly useful) cant adjustment and adjustable ramp angle. The medium last is generous and leans to the comfort end of the fit spectrum. Most of the 2021 DS and DS MX models come with GripWalk soles installed.
Also introduced last season 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 returning DS Asolo Factory GW and DS Asolo Factory W GS crazy light (1750g) 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 for 2021, 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 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.