Last summer we received a surprising email in the WL office: Vans would not be manufacturing any snowboard boots for the 14/15 season. A problem with their supply chain had meant they had lost a crucial factory and rather than rush out production with a new, untested company they decided to sit out a season, regroup and come out stronger for the next winter.
Which is exactly what they've gone and done. Earlier this month team WL was invited out to Mayrhofen - along with some of the Vans pro team - to test out some of 2015/16's line of boots. Before we start waffling about the models we were able to try out, here are some of the guys going through a few of the basic features.
Vans' big push for next winter leads with added customisation features across the board, giving you as many options as possible to get the exact fit you desire. As with all sales pitches, we were initially a tad sceptical with the technical jargon that opened proceedings, but after two days of riding round Mayrhofen we were pretty much sold.
We managed to test two models - the Implant and the V66 - both of which were some of the sturdiest, best fitting boots we'd ever put our feet into. The Implants come with traditional laces plus an added BOA just for the ankle region: all the testers present agreed that the ankle grip you get from this system is unreal. There's not a millimetre of heel lift, which translates into a much more responsive ride, easily retuned as it slackens over the course of a day.
Also present in the Implants is the (possibly dubiously named) Reach-Around tech, a power strap on the shins that can be worn either inside or outside of the tongue. This means riders can tighten things up on the liner to start with, then migrate the strap to the outside once the boots start to soften, or if they prefer a more aggressive, stiffer boot they can go all out from the start.
They also have one of the smallest profiles this tester has ever worn, enabling some riders to actually go down a size in bindings, a joy for anyone who skirts the thin line between standard width and wide boards. This author could comfortably ride a medium-sized binding in a size 10.5 boot!
The other boot we put through it's paces - the V66 - were a bit more supportive than the classic Hi Standard but definitely not 'full on.' They come with Vans' great inner lace pull that locks your heel in nicely, as well as a traditional lace outer.
They're quite wide and square looking; you definitely feel like you've got a solid pair of boots on rather than squishy trainers, without them veering into ski boot territory. Basically a great mid range, mid flex, intermediate boot. Simple but effective.
Essentially though, Vans are back for winter 2015/16, fighting fit and ready to take on the world of snowboard boots once again. If you find yourself looking for a new pair of kicks at the start of next season, it's definitely worth trying on some of the classic waffle grips.