Once left for dead, the original three-piece ski boot is back and better than ever

What do you do when your favorite ski boot goes out of production? If you’re Full Tilt, you simply make it yourself.

That was the attitude of the fine skiers who started Full Tilt Ski Boots, bringing back the original three-piece boot design that skiers all over the world adored after it had been shelved years prior.

The story of Full Tilt is a winding, dramatic tale of innovation, defeat and ultimately resurgence. Before we take a look at some of the stellar 2019 boots they have available, we’ll take you on that journey in our three-act recollection of Full Tilt’s history:

Act 1: Creation of a Classic

Would you believe me if I told you Full Tilt’s boots were born from space-age technology? Well believe it or not, it’s not much of a stretch. Two of the most important designers of the original three-piece design that Full Tilt ski boots utilize, Al Gross and Dixie Rinehart, were NASA engineers in the 60s and 70s. Many of the solutions they used in the design of Astronauts’ space suits were implemented in their first ski boot prototypes.

Eric Giese at his desk in Aspen, CO

Working with former ski racer Eric Giese, Gross and Rinehart enabled their prototype boots to flex without any sort of bulge or distortion in the shell. Their boot featured a floating ribbed tongue instead of an overlap for a better flex, providing a significant increase in control. This design caught the attention of the Switzerland-based boot maker Raichle, who flew him out to present their prototype to Raichle President Heinz Herzog.

Raichle wasn’t sold as first. So, Giese hopped up on the conference table with one of Raichle’s boots on one foot and one of his own on the other, demonstrating just how much better his boot flexed. Just like that, Raichle decided to produce the first three-piece ski boot, which they dubbed the Flexon Concept.

Act 2: An Unwarranted Fall

In 1983, the owner of Raichle sold the company to Peter Werhan, the grandson of German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer. He led the company to new heights, and the Flexon became a hit with skiers around the world. Legendary skiers such as Bill Johnson and Nelson Carmichael competed and dominated in Raichle’s during this time, becoming beloved by professional and recreational skiers alike.

Just when things were taking off, tragedy struck. Werhan was involved in a car accident in which he would not recover from. After his passing, Werhan’s wife inherited the company, but the company’s momentum never recovered. Changing hands multiple times in the next decade, the Flexon boots eventually got shelved in favor of cheaper iterations that never truly lived up to the original’s performance.

In the ensuing years, the lack of production forced thousands of skiers who had come to love the Flexon boots to scour ski swaps and online marketplaces just to keep their favorite boots on their feet.

Act 3: The Rebirth of a Boot

With so much demand pent up for the original three-piece construction, it was only a matter of time before something had to be done. That’s where Full Tilt comes into the story. Full Tilt was created in 2006 by skiers who were determined to bring back to life the one-and-only original. They took the time to go back and search out the original molds, not some new and distorted version of the original. Full Tilt tested every feature, kept what worked and even threw in some of today’s top tech to make them work better than ever.

Full Tilt may not have invented the first three-piece boot, but they have stayed true to them. The revolution of the three-piece boot continues on through Full Tilt Ski Boots. That can be seen in Full Tilt’s 2019 line, which combine the classic design with some added contemporary features just for good measure. Let’s take a look at some of their offerings for this upcoming season:

The Ascendant

Full Tilt Ascendant

Taking Full Tilt boots to the backcountry, the Ascendant finally allows you to use a tech sole in the original three-piece boot.

The boot’s Tour Cuff has a ski/hike mechanism that delivers a 40-degree range of motion when the tongue is attached and a 60-degree range when you remove it, providing touring capabilities without sacrificing downhill comfort and performance.

The Drop Kick

Full Tilt Drop Kick

A favorite of freestyle and mogul skiers at this past year’s Olympic games, the Full Tilt Drop Kick got some major airtime (both on the courses and on the TV). It uses a Shock Absorber Bootboard that cushions big-air landings, so you can send it in full.

For the first time ever, the Drop Kick also has a heat-moldable shell to help alleviate pressure points and perfect your performance, a feature found on all of Full Tilt’s 2019 boots.

The Descendant

Full Tilt Descendant 8

Coming in three different variations (the Descendant 4,6 and 8), these boots use Full Tilt’s Evolution Shell for a more accommodating fit than their classic shell variations. The Evolution Shell has a 102mm last and a slightly wider fit to it. This not only provides a more comfortable ride for skiers, but allows it to fit a wider variety of skiers.

Committed to the quality of the originals, Full Tilt made it its mission to revive the style so skiers like you can once again experience the performance-packed nature of the three-piece boot. And for that, we are grateful.