Dalbello Lupo AX120

I’ve spent the better part of the 20/21 season riding the Lupo AX as my full-time touring boot, with quite a few days spent riding it in bounds as well. For something intended to be a 50/50 frontside/backside boot, the whole Lupo series is just about as good as it gets. I think it’s up there with the K2 Mindbender and Tecnica Cochise for the best hybrid boots out there.

Our Overall Review

We have thoroughly tested - and read reviews from other experts and users. In summary, this is what we think:

3.8

Things we like:

  • check-mark
    Comfortable on the climbs, chargeable on the slides
  • check-mark
    The removable tongue is available in different stiffnesses
  • check-mark
    Pretty generous range of motion for a hybrid boot
  • check-mark
    Wider-than-average last is great for skiers with wider feet

Things we don't like:

  • check-markThe plastic is undeniably softer than you'd want
  • check-markGripWalk soles can be worn through if you're tromping through a lot of parking lots
  • check-markSuffers from the plight of all hybrid boots, not light enough for long tours and not durable compared to heavy alpines

Where to buy:

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Dalbello Lupo AX120

Weight

I’m going to open up my discussion about the Lupo AX with a caveat- I got my start touring in frame bindings mounted on titanal-reinforced skis with a pair of alpine boots that didn’t have a walk mode. Keep that in mind when I say that I had absolutely no problem carrying the extra weight instead of a 2-buckle ultralight boot.

With the tongue in, the Lupo AX’s stated weight is 1780g per boot, with the tongue removed in touring mode, they drop down to 1625g. When you factor in the liner’s additional weight, this undoubtedly leaves the Lupo AX on the heavier end of the competition when compared to the other extreme of the Atomic Hawx Ultra XTD at only 1130g per boot.

But, if you take the tongue off for your uphills, this leaves the Lupo AX very solidly in the middle of the pack. I consider the weight to be a small price to pay for what I believe the boot delivers in comfort and downhill performance. But before we get to that, let’s talk about how it does while climbing.

See the complete list of the best Ski Boots here!

Uphill Performance

While I feel that the Lupo AX120 shines strongest when pointed down the hill, Dalbello makes a concerted effort to keep the Lupo AX competitive in the AT boot market.

The most basic of these features is the rear walk-mode lever. You can easily switch into walk mode by applying some forward pressure and flipping the lever up. It’s one of the easiest to operate external walk mechanisms I’ve ever used. More importantly, it is less prone to freezing than more complicated rail-operated walk mechanisms.

The walk lever allows some rearward motion for short boot packs or walking around the resort. But to experience the full uphill benefits of the boot, you need to remove the tongue.

One of the recurring issues in the Lupo series is this removable tongue. Many of the boot’s uphill performance benefits come with the qualification that you need to remove the tongue before you get underway. While this tongue adds a couple of minutes to your transitions, the process is as easy as unbuckling your boots.

The Lupo AX 120 isn’t a skin track rocketship. The weight and tongue might be a deal-breaker for some of the minimalists out there, but for more casual skiers like myself, the extra minute or two spent on transitions isn’t a big deal at all.

Showcasing the much-debated removable tongue

Specs & Features

  • 100mm Last
  • Contour 4 "Comfort Zones"
  • Kinetic Response Tongue
  • Cabrio 3-Piece Construction
  • Low-Cuff Hinge Point
  • Twin Axis Cuff Alignment
  • 67° ROM Walk Mode
  • Removable Tongue
  • Hyperband Wide Profile Cuff
  • Dynalink Heel Retention
  • Micro-Adjustable Buckles
  • Inverted Toe Buckle
  • Optional GripWalk Soles
See the complete list of the best Alpine Ski Boots here!
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Downhill Performance

If you’re interested in a boot like the Lupo AX 120, chances are you’re largely invested in how it skis. For all of its faults and inefficiencies, the Lupo series doesn’t disappoint headed down the mountain. Even with all of the lightweight alpine boots hitting the market, the Lupo skis competitively well.

The downhill performance benefits of the Lupo AX couldn’t be more apparent than they were during the tenacious mid-January rain crust that we had in the PNW. Against my better judgment, I took them out to the resort and spent a handful of days touring during these stable, survival skiing conditions.

I was impressed with how damp they felt while chattering over crusty drainage channels. They didn’t slouch when it came to the finesse it takes to hook my tips into the snow under rapidly shifting conditions. They have what I’d characterize as a smooth and consistent flex. I could switch between aggressive forward driving and more centered feathering on a turn by turn basis.

I’ve also had the chance to ride them in deep snow. I never felt uncomfortable rolling off of big rocks, popping off of resort side-hits, or riding out chopped up sluff. I was a big fan of the support that the boot gave me when I happened to land something a little backseat, giving me a chance to pull my legs back underneath me before outright back slapping.

Comfort and Fit

My biggest draw to the Lupo AX is the 100mm last for my lumpy feet. I’ve never had a boot fit my feet so well out of the box. Although I didn’t ski in them without a little bit of initial work, I did spend quite a bit of time tromping around and trying my best to make them feel uncomfortable.

It was a revelation. Between the gracious 100mm last and the spacious toe box, I felt like I was skiing in a pair of trail runners. It was only a matter of a minor punch around the knuckle of my notably bigger left foot, and I haven’t had issues since.

I’ve stuck with the stock liners and tongue for the season, and I haven’t had issues with either. Their liners feel supportive enough for my fairly aggressive skiing, but there’s always the option to swap to the liner of your choice. You can also invest in an aftermarket tongue to further customize your setup to your preferences.

I think that the Lupo AX’s “all-day fit” coupled with the downhill performance benefits more than makes up for any inconveniences on the ascent.

The weatherproof gaiter under the tongue dependably keeps the weather out of your boots

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Related Reviews

Construction and Materials

The Lupo AX’s shell is made of the polymer irfran, a notably lighter and less durable alternative to the ever-dependable polyurethane. I think this choice in plastic (a thermoplastic elastomer or a mixture of rubber and plastic) is the AX model’s fatal flaw. I’ve seen a significant amount of cosmetic damage in less than a season of comparatively-light skiing. The plastic around the tec fittings and around the heel piece from alpine bindings are showing particular wear. There are noticeable imprints in the back of the boot from the alpine heel piece locking into place.

Thankfully the plastic is reinforced with carbon stringers. The Lupo AX 120 feels like a “true” 120 flex to me. I wasn’t at all disappointed with the stiffness of the tongue or the lateral stability that the boot provided. I’m not a crazy freeride skier, but I’ve thrown all the tricks in my book at these boots (including some very unintentional backslaps) and never skied away disappointed.

The Lupo pro is a full PU shell like most race boots or classic alpines, so it holds up a little better under duress. If I’m honest with myself as a skier, the Lupo Pro is too much boot for me. The AX’s wider foot accommodation, coupled with its availability in a 120 flex, made it much more appropriate for my skiing. I have my doubts about the long-term durability of the AX 120. If you’re a strong enough skier and don’t mind the additional weight and cost, I’d encourage you to go for the Pro model.

All other materials used in the boot are consistent with what you’d expect from boots in this category. Aluminum buckles are strong yet light, and the same goes for the cuff, made from a polyamide blend reinforced with fiberglass stringers.

Notable wear around the tech inserts after relatively light use

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The Lupo AX 120 and Other Sidecountry Boots

There’s no denying that the ski industry is seeing an explosion of interest in backcountry travel. More than ever, there’s a demand for gear that can tackle days of aggressive downhill skiing just as well as it can be coaxed uphill. In my experience, most of the boot fitters that I’ve talked to are more than happy to sell you a hybrid boot but will readily admit that what you’re ultimately getting is a compromise.

Lightweight, carbon-backed skis are notoriously pingy, ultralight boots tend to be less stable, and so far, hybrid bindings have been rife with their own set of issues. You’re never going to have boots in the weight class as ultralight skimo boots that ride downhill like PU race boots.

I dial back the type of skiing I do out of bounds, but I still like to enjoy myself on the descent. I also want to ride bindings that are DIN rated for the safety edge, and these kinds of hybrid boots make that more of a possibility. So, where do the Lupo AX’s stand compared to the rest of the competition?

To be as brief as possible, the Lupo AX 120’s are a great entry point into the scene, and they’re also suitable for more casual skiers who don’t mind pulling a little weight and don’t plan on tagging multiple peaks in a single day. In terms of the competition, the only category that they’re really dominant in is comfort.

They’re nowhere near as light as the Atomic Hawx. Nor do they ski as hard as the full PU shell of the Lupo Pro or, for that matter, an alpine boot in a frame binding. If you’re looking for something that will make you the fastest skier up the hill, I recommend biting the bullet and opting for an ultralight boot. And if you want the best possible downhill performance, the aforementioned Lupo Pro or the Technica Cochise are great options.

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While the Lupo AX120 is not without its faults, for my part, I’ve been very happy with the way it has performed under the worst conditions that I could throw at it. It’s not the lightest boot on the market, but the walk mode coupled with the removable tongue ensures that you’ll be comfortable walking from the parking lot and charging uphill on your highest heel-riser.

Ultimately the Lupo AX 120 is ideal for skiers who value comfort while on the skin track and competitive performance on the downhill. If you don’t care about the weight or don’t want to commit to a devoted tech setup, it’s a great entry point into the backcountry that lets you ski a little more like you would within the ropes.

See the complete list of the best Ski Boots here!

Our Overall Review

We have thoroughly tested - and read reviews from other experts and users. In summary, this is what we think:

3.8

Things we like:

  • check-mark
    Comfortable on the climbs, chargeable on the slides
  • check-mark
    The removable tongue is available in different stiffnesses
  • check-mark
    Pretty generous range of motion for a hybrid boot
  • check-mark
    Wider-than-average last is great for skiers with wider feet

Things we don't like:

  • check-markThe plastic is undeniably softer than you'd want
  • check-markGripWalk soles can be worn through if you're tromping through a lot of parking lots
  • check-markSuffers from the plight of all hybrid boots, not light enough for long tours and not durable compared to heavy alpines

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