It wouldn’t be right to review boots without first running them through the ringer. So, that’s what I did. Vans Snow’s new Hi-Country and Hell-Bound boots, Sam Taxwood’s pro model, were designed to be the Swiss Army knife of boots, fit to thrive in any terrain and every condition. From icy terrain parks to street rail sessions, rainy cruiser mornings to inch-per-hour pow days, these boots held their own and then some. Over these past few months, they’ve become my go-to for almost every occasion.
The Hi-Country and Hell-Bound boots fit true to size and come with a flex rating of five-to-nine (one being the softest, 10 hardest). I have a high arched, narrow foot and they fit me snug. The stiffness is variable due to the boots removable tongue stiffeners which allow for a finely tuned fit depending on your preference. For me, they’re in on powder days and out while I’m riding park and street. Breaking in the boots took just a few days, which came as a relief in multiple ways: they weren’t too comfortable out of the box, which usually means they’ll blow out quickly; they weren’t too stiff out of the box, like “what is this, rock climbing?” The boots feature plush V3 Ultracush Liners which provide all-day comfort and feature The North Face’s Flashdry technology to wick away moisture. They cinch up via traditional laces and a zippered shroud conveniently covers the laces once they’re tied. The shroud keeps snow from building up on your boots, saving your feet from moisture seeping in and you from the headache of fighting to untie icy laces at the end of a long day of shredding. Above the laces is the Powercuff Strap which allows you to further customize the fit and flex depending on how you’re feeling or what you’re riding on any given day. As for warmth, they’ve been keeping my toesies toasty even with temps dropping all the way down into the low teens.
When it comes to riding street, park, resort laps and backcountry jumps, the Hi-Country and Hell-Bound boots are second to none. The aggressive flex comes in handy at high speeds, for stomping airs and confidently attacking rails. For these situations, I like a medium-to-hard flex with a bit of give around the ankles. The Hi-Country and Hell-Bound boots provide just enough leeway to properly press rails, tweak grabs and to catch your balance when coming around from spins all while maintaining enough stability to ride away from those tricks–even if that means powering through chunder or a nasty bomb hole lurking in your landing.
When it comes to riding steep lines, technical terrain and cliff drops these boots are great, but I must admit that in these circumstances I sometimes opt for Vans Verses—Bryan Iguchi’s pro model and my other favorite boot of all time. Because I spent several months prior to riding the Hi-Country and Hell-Bounds in the Verses, I became accustomed to the Verse’s ultra-tight, ultra-aggressive fit. I recently started riding a very stiff directional board that’s meant to go pretty much SFD and I discovered that my Verses performed better when paired with this board than the Hi-Country and Hell-Bounds did. That isn’t to say I can’t make this board work with the Hi-Country and Hell-Bounds. It goes, albeit it just goes slightly better with the Verses. Ultimately, my suggestion between the two boils down to this: If you like really tight boots and spend more time splitboarding and/or riding pillows, chutes and such, consider going with the Verses. If you want a boot that can not only hang but outperform most other boots in every condition, while still nearly rivaling powder-specific boots when it comes to riding powder, then get the Hi-Country and Hell-Bounds. If you’re crazy like me and want to have a quiver of boots in addition to an excessive quiver of snowboards, get both.
Aside from receiving numerous compliments on how they look, one of the most noticeable things about the Hi-Country and Hell-Bounds is just how unnoticeable they feel once I get going. In every situation aside from the aforementioned riding of steeper lines on that stiffer board, when I’m in the Hi-Country and Hell-Bound boots I haven’t had a second thought about what’s on my feet because they feel so natural and fitting. It’s like when you build your jump just right: instead of worrying about a janky run-in or the lip popping you funny, you can really just focus on hitting your trick. Although it takes away my excuse of blaming my boots (which was obviously never valid in the first place), now I almost never have to worry about my boots being the reason I’m not putting the landing gear down. They feel like they’re supposed to, like I hoped they would. Bottom line, Sam Taxwood’s pro model Hi-Country and Hell-Bound boots live up to the hype. I’m now months deep into riding them and since they’re only showing a bit of wear-and-tear, I’ll be riding them for months to come.
The Vans Snow Hi-Country and Hell-Bound boots retail for $329 and can be found wherever their products are sold. We recommend buying them from your local retailer.
Editor’s Note: Sam Taxwood recently posted a photo to his Instagram story of what looks to be the 2021/22 edition of the Hi-Country and Hell-Bounds in a black and white colorway.
Editor’s Opinion: They look fire.
ABOUT THE TESTER
Years Riding: 20
Weight: 150 lbs
Home Mountain: Jiminy Peak, MA
Local resort: Mt. Baker, WA
Riding style: Jibber turned freestyle-focused storm chaser.