After becoming a dominant force in snowboard boots, BOA is expanding its Fit System dial closure hardware to alpine ski boots for the first time, a major new initiative that the company has spent nearly $10 million developing.
While buckles on traditional hardshell ski boots have been the norm for decades, the reaction from consumers thus far has also been positive. When a limited amount of ski boots with BOA Fit System’s dial closure hardware went on sale in Q1 of this year, they flew off the shelves.
“We sold through in a matter of weeks,” said Matt Miller, marketing manager at Elevate Outdoor Collective, the parent company of K2. “The sell-in of the product was very, very strong.”
The Daily spoke with BOA CEO Shawn Neville in an exclusive interview about the development process and how BOA plans to scale its ski boot business.
“There is a possibility that (alpine) could actually get to equal or greater than our snowboard penetration,” Neville said.
A Natural Progression for BOA
During Neville’s first year as a CEO six-and-a-half years ago, he looked at the future of the company and thought it was an obvious progression for the brand to get into ski boots.
Prior to the move, BOA’s technology had been used on footwear in several other markets including snowboarding, running, cycling, hiking, and mountaineering.
“We were already at the top of the mountain in many factors,” Neville said. “But one of the glaring omissions was alpine downhill skiing.”
One major obstacle was that skiers put a lot of torque on their boots.
“At the time, there was a feeling that maybe it wasn’t possible,” he said. But Neville was the new guy with the vision, so he spurred his team to figure it out.
Neville went to the company’s board and said this may take $7 million to $10 million to develop.
“My belief was that it was truly possible, and that we could make it profitable,” he said. “If we could make it a reality, BOA would be on a different trajectory in terms of consumer perception and the playing field that we could have in the future. It seemed like it made sense.”
The move into ski boots is expected to be a major growth vehicle for the company, which generated $210 million in annual sales in fiscal 2022 and employs 300 people around the world.
The current iteration of BOA on ski boots places a single dial that tightens over the mid-foot area, with buckles used on the upper part of the boot.
Eventually some premium ski boots will have a dual-dial system where the upper part of the boot also uses a BOA Fit System.
But for now, Neville pointed to the technology’s ability to lock in the mid-foot and stabilize the heel, creating more responsiveness for the skier.
“Not only did we think we could make a more elegant solution, because normally people aren’t super happy about getting in and out of their ski boots, but we wanted them to be more excited when they were actually performing in them,” he said.
BOA hires numerous athletes, including elite skiers at the World Cup level in Europe, to stress test its products. The company is also in the middle of finalizing its downhill racing testing and will be evolving into high-performance race boots, Neville added.
“By next winter you’ll see World Cup athletes wearing BOA,” he said.
A little under 20 styles of ski boots with BOA technology should be on shelves around the world in a “few thousand” stores in late September – early October, primarily at specialty retailers.
After this season’s launch with the four brands mentioned above, BOA plans to announce its next series of partners.
Neville expects market share in the next five to seven years to reflect that of its snowboard market share, which he says is more than 70%. Over half of those snowboard boots have a dual dial.
“We don’t know exactly how far this will adopt, but I will say the response from the alpine ski community is vastly better than the snowboard community when we first launched,” he added.
BOA expects alpine ski boots will be the largest part of its business in 10 years.
“If you want to call this the biggest technological innovation – I’ll leave that to others,” Neville said. “We just think it’s super cool.”
The talk about putting BOA dials on K2 ski boots started back in 2019 at the Outdoor Retailer Snow Show.
K2 has been incorporating BOA Fit System hardware on some products for about 20 years, including snowboard boots.
“It was a natural progression for us when they started creating some chatter around wanting to do alpine,” said Miller of K2. “But we knew going into it that it wasn’t just throwing a dial on the side of a boot. We had to do something different that would make us stand apart from other manufacturers.”
That meant a complete redesign of the boot shell from the ground up to accommodate the BOA system.
“It’s not easy to design a ski boot that works for every foot,” Miller said. The shell K2 designed can work with a variety of foot shapes.
Miller himself noted that he has a “tremendously” wide foot of 129 millimeters. He typically must stretch and heat his boots to make them fit.
“With the BOA Fit System, and the way it wraps the foot, as opposed to the classic collapsing of the instep, I had to do very minimal work to get these boots to work,” he said.
K2 is releasing several models including the Recon, the Anthem and the Mindbender with BOA hardware. Prices range from $599 to $699 for a pair.
Those models have the BOA dial on the mid-foot with buckles on the upper shell. He expects dual-dial K2 boots to come out by the 2025-2026 season.
Miller expects BOA to have a similar sizable impact on the ski boot market as it has had on the snowboard boot market.
“Having all of these other manufacturers get on board really adds a lot of validity to the product,” he said.
Another aspect that validates the BOA product is the focus on performance.
“The last thing we wanted to do was put a product in the market that was inferior to a buckle boot or didn’t meet the performance perspectives.”
K2 tested the hardware with professional freeskier Sam Kuch.
“It was a great opportunity for us to get a high-level athlete, someone who really pushes the sport, and skis incredibly steep lines,” Miller said. “That boot holds up for him.”
While traditional buckle-style ski boots might not disappear completely, their numbers could dwindle.
“There’s still going to be a need for buckle boots,” Miller said. “But I do see a majority of our boots becoming BOA in the future.”
Bart Schaneman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.