Review: Garmont Radium (2011)
- king of the A/T hill?
- overlap construction
- stiff and lean
- weight: 7.5lbs/pair
Garmont's overlap-construction Radium is arguably the new King of the Alpine Touring Hill when it comes to blending low weight and high performance.
The Radium weighs a modest half pound more per pair than Garmont's excellent Mega Ride, and for those eight ounces you get a very noticeable boost in stiffness and downhill control. In terms of feel, my first impression of the Radium was complicated. "Harsh" was the word that first popped into my mind—but I immediately loved the way I was skiing on the Radium.
Split Mountain's South Face
Unlike the Mega Ride, which uses a hinged tongue design, the Radium employs the overlap construction typically found in performance Alpine boots. There is little question in my mind that overlap boots deliver superior downhill performance. The Radium's stiffness is immediately noticeable, and it translates directly into enhanced control.
On icy, refrozen machine-grooved corn snow, I skied the Radium back-to-back versus the Mega Ride. The conditions perfectly exposed the liabilities of the venerable Mega Ride. Specifically, my edge control on the Mega Rides was poor enough to make me quit after one run—I couldn't get my edges to bite. Switching to the Radiums on the very same skis, I felt instantly in control, and my confidence soared. Conditions were hardly what I would call enjoyable, but the Radiums made it possible for me to ski without feeling like I was constantly in danger.
That extra control is likely to translate directly into the ability to drive heavier, wider skis, and as indicated, to better cope with a wide range of challenging snow conditions. Perhaps more importantly, however, the Radium gives you the ability to ski more like you do on your Alpine rig: carve powerful turns on hard snow, pressure your edges, and do it quick, quick, quick.
So where does the harshness come in? In my opinion it is a direct result of the Radium's low weight. The Radium shell has a very slender profile (unlike, for example, the Black Diamond Factor), with a relatively slim liner that puts your foot in close contact with the shell. There isn't much padding between your shin and the Radium's stiff Pebax plastic—and you'll notice this right away.
On the downhill, the Radium is lean and active. Some might call it twitchy, especially on harder snow. This is likely to be no problem for expert skiers, but those seeking a more forgiving ride may struggle to adapt. Purely subjectively, the Radium is no match for the silky-sweet feel of the Black Diamond Factor, but the much-heavier Factor is far beyond the Radium's weight class.
The stiffness of the Radium raised climbing concerns for me. I put the boot through a solid day of climbing in the San Jacinto Mountains, and I did notice that the extra stiffness reduced comfort on the uphill compared to my Mega Rides. I found it wise to keep the Radiums unbuckled going up, with the power strap kept very loose; this helped cope with the Radium's somewhat reduced range of motion in walk mode.
Like Garmont's Helium boot, the Radium's build quality is superb, though both boots share the same annoying quirk that flexing the boot hard forward can pop open the instep buckles (at least in the 26.5 shells). As with the Helium, the Radium is said to have been designed to add more room to the toe box (compared to the stingy Mega Ride). My toes remained very snug, however, and the boot would likely require some shell work for a viable long-distance fit.
Unlike the Factor, there is no question that the Radium is a Alpine Touring boot, and this for me makes it a strong contender for best-of-show. The Radium delivers all the downhill performance you can ask for in an A/T boot at a very competitive weight. This might not be the boot for the most intense (and exhausting) ski mountaineering climbs you can think of, but for the best blend of up and downhill performance, the Radium is indeed the new King of the Mountain.
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