Here’s a revelation: snowboard boots are key to the experience of riding snow. Yeah, snowboard boots are inherently comfortable, that’s one reason we like them. But every snowboarder rides differently, and wants different kinds of boots (duh). There’s different fits for different styles.
My go-to boots are old and rugged looking, floppy, to put it mildly – like they’d lived in a pair of bindings for the past decade. So I reached out to Nitro, who we’ve worked with on content, to try one of the brand’s boot options (of which there are many). The team at Nitro sent me the Skylab TLS to have a go with. My type of riding might be perfect for testing boots: mediocre to poor park rider (that still sends it), all mountain fun-hog, and serious backcountry aficionado (I like to splitboard). So that’s what I did: I beat the hell out of the Skylab and guess what? They’re still riding like a dream. So here’s my full take. But first, a bit about snowboard boot fit.
Snowboard Boots: Soft vs. Stiff Fit
Like I mentioned, there are as many snowboarding styles as there are boots to match. As a general rule (see very general), beginner snowboarders and park rats, often prefer softer boots with more flex. Beginners because stiff boots might make the whole experience uncomfortable right off the bat – park riders because they want more flex and versatility to perform tricks that can twist the body awkwardly. For setup on different park tricks, maneuverability and flexibility in the ankles is key.
Freeriders – if that’s not an uber-general term I don’t know what is – or those that are riding bigger, steeper lines, often look for stiffer boots that allow for more edge-to-edge control. If a slope is steep enough that your uphill hand is touching a wall of snow, trust me you want instantaneous control over your board. That and those that get into snowboard mountaineering might want to put crampons on at some point to really scare themselves, which a stiff boot allows for.
Then there are the racers, the gate chasers, where stances are different and the boots are hard. Hard boots (made from plastic) with little flex allow for holding an edge and carving at high speeds. Laying out over an edge at mach 10 is made much, much easier wearing a pair of alpine carving boots. Some snowboarders swear by them for all-mountain riding. Fit is all about the style of riding you like to do.
What I Loved About the Nitro Skylab TLS
The Skylab TLS is a bomber boot for both all-mountain riding and splitboarding. The Vibram Outsoles are tough when you have to hike or boot it, and reinforced if you ever need to strap on crampons. They’re just hardy as hell.
Then there’s the stellar Cloud 8 liner. I can’t rave about this enough. Aptly named (cause they feel like you’re wearing clouds) this innovative liner is both comfortable (like a pair of slippers) and adjustable. I have a knee issue on my left appendage so when I’m sliding on flat ground or simply walking, snowboard boots tend to flex my leg weird and cause pain. With this system, I was able to adjust by simply not snugging up the internal velcro on the tongue, and then using Nitro’s ingenious ILS (Internal Lacing System) to modify the fit and keep everything nice and loose on my left foot. This cut out all knee pain I’ve experienced before. So yeah, I’m a fan. That Cloud 8 liner also comes with internal ankle support, which works well to keep the boot stable, even if you want a loose fit like me.
For touring the Skylab is ideal, and it’s adjustable enough to work really well on the mountain. Further expanding on the fit, Nitro uses a Twin Lacing System (hence, TLS) for adjustability on the arc of the foot and the ankle. Snowboard boots have long used a similar system, but Nitro’s features a rad locking system that again, ups adjustability, which is so important to me and my style of riding (as I’m sure it is with you and yours). For an ever-so-slightly stiffer boot with the same adjustability, check out the Team TLS from Nitro, above. It’s been a proven winner for Nitro for years.
The weight on the Skylab TLS is also something that has to be mentioned. These babies are light, which only makes them more attractive as a backcountry touring boot. That’s weight that’s not being forced on your joints as you gain elevation in the mountains – which is always a good thing.
Drawbacks of the Skylab TLS
There honestly wasn’t much about this boot I didn’t love. A lot of snowboarders I’ve spoken with enjoy the adjustability of the BOA system for their feet and ankles. I can understand that POV. The Skylabs use the classic lace-up system, but Nitro offers a number of its boot models in BOA to satisfy that market, though.
On the durability side, the Skylab is constructed with a knit-like material over the outside of the arch and ankle, down to where it meets the rubber on the toe and heel. I haven’t had any issues with this yet (I have on other boots), but I could see a binding wearing down that material, especially with the rub that sometimes comes with ski mode as you’re splitboarding. Again, I haven’t seen this yet but just staying ahead of things here.
Overall Take on the Skylab TLS
The Skylab TLS is easily one of the most versatile boots I’ve used: from fit, to comfort, to weight, it’s everything you need as an all-around boot for both the backcountry and the hill. I would definitely recommend these to any rider who finds themselves in a wide array of terrain, from groomers to park, to sidecountry – and of course full-on backcountry touring. The Skylab TLS is a well done, well thought-out snowboard boot.
Editor’s Note: For more gear reviews and features on The Inertia, click here.