Review: Lange XT 120 (2014)
- clean, progressive ride
- comfortable but snug fit
- limited walk mode
- 9lbs 4.5oz (pair/26.5)
Lange's XT 120 is a slightly-softer version of the XT 130. Both boots feature a walk mode switch which allows you to release the cuff for enhanced walking mobility.
Like the 130, the XT 120 is best thought of as an Alpine boot with a walk mode, rather than a true Alpine Touring model, though thanks to its (again, slightly) softer liner, the 120 at least approaches touring-capable comfort and range of motion. Depending on how they fit you, you may find them comfortable enough for short touring—maybe even easily so.
I wanted to try the 120 specifically to see if I'd notice the reduced stiffness of the 120-flex rating—and if I'd care. The answers are (1) maybe and (2) no. Without a 130 on hand for direct comparison, I'm turning instead to my RS 130 shells as a benchmark, which are noticeably stiffer. Or perhaps more accurately, they engage sooner against the shin.
Nevertheless, on the hill, the XT 120 proves to be a downhill delight, with a smooth, progressive ride that is never sluggish or sloppy. This reinforces my sense that on modern skis, we just don't need that much stiffness anymore. Boots should be stiff enough to keep you from mushing forward, subject to taste, so heavier skiers may want to upgrade to the 130; everyone else will probably love the 120.
What really strikes me about the 120 is how useful the walk mode switch proves to be even if you never intend to use the boot for backcountry or even sidecountry skiing. Just crossing the parking lot in walk mode is made much easier with a quick flip of the switch. Similarly, lunch in the lodge is more comfortable, as are each and every instance of stairways.
I will venture to guess that walk-mode capable boots will soon be dominating Alpine lines, with fixed-cuff boots found only in the most specialized (likely race) models. There's no longer any downside to them. As for touring, the flex seems about appropriate here at the 120 level, but effective range of motion in walk mode is limited, and overall weight (topping nine pounds) is high.
You just don't get a lot of extra room to allow for foot swelling here, though admittedly the XT 120's tight fit is part of what makes its downhill performance so compelling. Provided it fits your foot, I think the XT 120 is an excellent choice as an Alpine-only boot. As for backcountry use, I'd need to see considerable break-in from the liners before I'd consider touring in them—though downhill performance is unquestionably sublime.