Waymaker Carbon 130 - Full Review
There has been a big change in freeride boots in recent times.
5-6 years ago, if you wanted a boot for the back country you were looking at light weight offerings from brands like Scarpa and Dynafit, which unfortunately failed to offer the support needed for the way in which a new generation of skiers were playing out of bounds.
With the release of products like the Marker Duke binding, a whole new wave of skiers were venturing into the steep and deep and they needed boots to let them charge hard. Fast forward to today and nearly every brand has a range of boots available with some form of walk mode. They tend to fall into one of two categories: the lightweight true touring options and their burlier freeride siblings.
The Atomic Waymaker Carbon 130 certainly falls into the second category. This is a serious boot.
The shell and the cuff feature the same plastics used in the Redster 170 race boot - admittedly in a thinner form – and it also utilizes the carbon spine borrowed from the Redster series. However, unlike the Redster, the Waymakers are designed with all day comfort in mind instead of a single race run.
The Livefit section is the lighter lighter material with the lines running down it
The shell uses a roomy 101mm last and also uses Livefit on the lateral (outside) portion of the forefoot. If you have not seen Livefit before it is basically a soft section on the side of the shell designed to relive pressure in the common 6th toe area; a bit like the soft toe of the SPK boot. The material its self is not rubber as many people think, but in fact the same PU plastic used on the rest of the shell; just with a different hardness formula. The soft section is both chemically and mechanically bonded to the rest of the shell during production so is completely water tight and can even be stretched and punched like a standard shell. What this all means is that the shell offers a very comfortable fit to the forefoot, especially for people with wider feet like myself.
One thing I do want to touch on here is the larger fit. Some people I know complain about this, but personally I think what Atomic have done is quite clever. Traditionally, high performance boots have basically been close relations to full on race boots. The fit is tighter, which is great if you have a narrow foot, but not all high performance skiers have slim feet. I'm a perfect example, I ski hard, but my feet measure 106mm wide in a size 26. This rules out a lot of boots for me, so having something like the Waymaker - which offers both a high volume fit but also a very high performance - is perfect.
A big factor for many people when buying this style of boot is the cuff range of motion and the Waymaker fairs pretty well here, with 35 degrees of cuff movement. More important in my opinion, is the way in which the boot performs when in locked mode. Many boots on the market feature a walk mechanism, which when engaged does not lock the cuff to the clog, like often happens in a conventional overlap boot. This gives a softer, less progressive flex which is not desirable when ridding bigger terrain. The walk mechanism on the Waymaker locks the cuff to the clog when closed, giving a very similar flex to a traditional boot.
I have the Din compatible alpine soles installed rather then the tech soles
Like many boots on the market, the Waymaker can be set-up with traditional alpine soles or tech compatible touring soles. The soles screw directly into metal inserts in the shell which mean you can exchange them as often as you like, not something which is possible on boots where the screws go directly into the plastic shell.
Staying warm in boots is a big factor in maintaining comfort, especially out in the back country, where stopping off at the lodge to warm up is not an option. In this area the Waymaker excels. The liner uses Thinsulate insulation in the toe box, an area which is traditionally very cold, as most liners don't have much foam in the toe box. The other part of the boot which aids in warmth is a little more unexpected, as it uses a foam which is both extremely lightweight but also highly insulating.
Having previously spent some time in the Overlord 120 - a boot which features the same lower shell as the Waymaker - I new roughly what to expect. The 101mm combined with the generous instep does give a mid to high volume fit. The heel hold is still good, especially with the 15 degree forward lean of the cuff, which really helps bed the heel into the liner and gives extra toe comfort.
I found that in the Overlord I had to punch the big toe to give me some extra space and I fully expected to have to do the same with the Waymaker, but found the added forward lean meant my toes were further away from the front. The cuff gives a supportive mid volume fit, with the buckles only lightly closed.
Talking of buckles, some may question why there are two cuff buckles and only one foot buckle. The answer is pretty simple. In a well fitting boot, the shell itself holds the foot and the buckles only act to close the overlap and make the boot watertight; meaning one buckle can achieve the same job and save weight. The cuff is what really lets you drive the boot and it is where the power comes from. Using two buckles and an oversized power strap gives the best performance and lets you drive these boots much harder than those which only use one cuff buckle.
I must confess that these are my personal boots and I have had them for about a year now. The initial fitting only consisted of adding my footbeds and moulding the liners - I needed no further work and to be honest they offered a very comfy fit from almost day one. I have made only two slight changes over the year. The first was to add the slight heel lifts, which come supplied in the box, as I was not really getting heel lift, but was getting some pain in the inside of my shin on the left foot. I determined there was a little to much space over my forefoot, so adding the heel lifts raised me into a better position. Since adding the lifts I have had no shin pain.
The other change was more one of personal preference. The rear spoiler on the Waymaker is quite curved and I found on back seat landings it was hurting my calf. My solution was to take some of the soft rear spoilers from an SPK and add them to the existing spoiler in the Waymaker. I'm sure this is mostly just me being used to the soft spoiler of the SPK, a boot I used for years, but I do like the added comfort it gives.
I have found the fit to stay pretty consistent throughout my year of use. The laces on the liner really help give you a snug fit in the top of the cuff and I have not found any issues with packing out yet.
So How do they Ski
When I initially got the boots I was a little nervous about the 130 flex. There quite a bit stiffer then the park boots I was used too. My first time really using the boots was on a trip away to Morzine in France. Straight away I found a big difference to what I was used to.
The cuff was so positive that I was edging like I had not done in years. The lack of give in the cuff meant I could really lean on the skis and drive the edges as hard as I wanted. At higher speeds the stiff forward flex really gave me confidence to hit things, knowing the boots would not give beneath me. I was hitting things harder and faster then I had in years and it was all thanks to the power of these boots giving me the confidence that my legs could take the hits.
Another nice benefit was getting less tired than I would in softer boots. Being able to lean gave my legs chance to rest a little, compared to always having to stay balanced in a softer boot. I did wonder how the rigid foam of the boot board would handle the hits and although you do feel impacts more then you do on an active board, I was pleasantly surprised how good it felt. Over the rest of my time in France I got to ride some of the best powder I have ever seen and the boots never failed me.
This season I have been back in Whistler and really tested the boots in a variety of conditions. From days in the park to hiking big lines, these boots have seen it all.
When using them with park skis I do sometimes find them a little much. The cuff is not very forgiving and I find on cold days something like the Ghost FS 90 I revived recently or simply the Waymaker 110/Overload 120 is better suited to the demands of the park. However once you get onto some wider skis, the Waymakers really shine. My daily driver is a pair of ON3P Jmo's in 186. They are a pretty big ski, but they absolutely charge. Skiing these hard with the Ghosts got scary at times, but the Waymakers can really drive the ski. However it wasn't until I got on some Bent Chetlers in deep wet snow that I really appreciated what these boots can do. For the first time I had a boot which could drive the wider skis.
Big skis get deflected much more, which puts a lot of force through the boots. Skiing the Bents fast really made the Waymakers come to life. They didn't feel stiff, just drove the skis better then anything I had ever used. I was dropping into things not worrying about the impact, as I knew the boots would take it and I would not over-flex. If you spend most of your time on wider skis, these boots should be high on your shopping list.
Up until this point I have not had chance to use these boots for any long tours, so I am afraid I can offer no real insight there. However, as I said before, long multi day trips are not really what this boot is made for. I've used them for short hikes to access zones not accessible from the lifts, scrambling over rocks and boot packing some longer ascents, with the walk mode working well each time. The soles offer good grip and a rubber section on the bottom of the shell does help when things get slippery. So although you may not choose this boot for a five day back country trek, it will perform excellently for what the majority of free riders do in the back country.
Working as a boot fitter I get to work with a lot of top end boots on a daily basis, so for me to choose a boot to ride regularly means it has to be pretty good. Fit is obviously a big factor, but being a fitter I can make most boots work. I have skied quite a few different freeride boots from various companies and I can honestly say these perform better then nearly anything else out there. If you want a high performance boot, which can also help you access more of the mountain, then I suggest you check them out.
One thing I do want to add here is a bit of a challenge to Onenerdykid and Atomic in general.
Although I love the wide fit, having a lower volume version of this boot would open it up to so many more skiers. My proposal is a 99 last with memory fit rather than Livefit, which would mean Atomic could build a really low volume clog in the knowledge it could adapt to bigger feet in fitting. Make it a little more NS friendly too, becasue although I like the 130, maybe 120 would be better for BC kickers etc; and please also add a soft boot board.
If they can make that boot alongside the regular Waymakers and with the new Backland boot, Atomic could have the back country pretty well wrapped up.
Have you tried these boots? If so add your review of them to the review system here.
Thanks again to Peter with the words and thanks to my girlfriend Anna for the photos.