3-Buckle Cabrio vs. 4-Buckle Overlap

The title sounds like a cyber-style remake of a “Rocky” movie, or the next sequel to one of the many super hero type movies out there. But it’s not that far fetched. And more importantly, it’s about skiing.

The information here will help you understand the differences between 3-buckle cabrio and 4-buckle overlap style boots. The difference, as noted here, are a first person account from one of the Avie’s Ski / Sports staff trying out and comparing the styles.

So you better understand the starting point, both boots were used pretty much “out-of-the-box.” The liners in the Krypton Pro boots were heat fitted, mainly because the Intuition ID wrap liner should be heat-fitted. I did not heat fit the DS 130 boots because they felt great right out of the box, and heat treatment is suggested if needed. In each boot the factory provided footbed was replaced with a Sidas 3Feet custom footbed, sold at Avie’s Ski / Sports.

The History

For several seasons I skied in a pair of Dalbello Krypton Pro 130 boots. These are a 3-buckle cabrio boot with a 130 flex rating. They are very snug fitting, high performing boots.

Cabrio style ski boots have 3 buckles, making for very easy foot entry, and exit. It is almost as easy as slipping into a regular pair of shoes. Seriously. No grunting or groaning or twisting and turning of the foot to try and jam it into the boot. Pull apart the liner and in the foot goes.

Then Dalbello came out with the new DS line of boots, whose design is taken right off the mechanical drawings for their DSR race boots. The Avie’s sales rep for Dalbello, Scott Heald, took us through how DS boots are put together from different injection molds to add stiffness while reducing weight. Scott had been skiing in Krypton Pro 130s and made the jump into DS 130s. So I figured I would try the same, then pass that along my findings to you through this comparison article.

The Contenders

Overlap (left) vs Cabrio (right)

Krypton Pro 130 is a 3-buckle, cabrio-style, freeride, 98 mm last (width) ski boot. The boots are stiff, narrow, and high performance. They provide progressive flex as the tongue of the boot is pressured by the skier. The progressive flex allows the skier a great deal of finesse in how power is applied to the ski. The boot and liner are also designed to be more impact absorbing. These are great assets for those playing in the park, the bumps, and the woods.

DS 130 is a 4-buckle, overlap-style, 100 mm last (width) ski boot. They are a stiff, high performance boot designed after the Dalbello DSR race boot. That little bit of extra width provides for a little bit more comfort. Power transmission to the ski is nearly immediate, and precise. These are great assets for corduroy carving control freaks who want a bit more comfort than that provided by traditional race boots.

In The Shop

Entry | Exit

The first difference I noticed is that the DS 130 boots, like all 4-buckle overlap boots, were way less fun to get my feet into. I admit I was a bit out of practice after sliding my foot oh-so-sweetly into that pair of Krypton Pro boots for the past few years. Round One—ease of entry and exit—definitely goes to the Krypton Pro. Hand downs, no questions asked. Not even a close comparison.

Fit | Comfort

Once in the DS 130, the fit is quite nice. The newly redesigned liners are plush and comfortable. Despite the extra 2 mm of width—which I thought might be too much space—the boot fit incredibly well. I always had just a bit too little room in the toe box of the Krypton Pro boots, especially for my left foot, which is a bit bigger than my right foot. It’s not that Krypton Pro is uncomfortable, but they are not comfortable. The DS 130 fit was quite comfortable. That made up for the struggle to get into them. Round Two—comfort without any fitting—goes to the DS 130 boot.

Heel Hold | Positioning

While the DS 130 boots were very, very comfortable—no worries about keeping them on all day long—I did wonder if that extra 2 mm would be too much once clamped in and I was flexing into the front of the boot and tongue. But once I clamped down and adjusted the micro-adjusting buckles for a snug fit, I found my heel to be nestled nicely in the heel pocket of the boot. When I flexed forward and tried to lift my heel, it felt no different than the response in the Krypton Pro boots. Round Three—foot position and heel hold down—was a tie.

Standing around in the lodge or living room or ski shop in a pair of ski boots is a bit different than having them out on the slopes and clicked into a pair of bindings attached to skis. So off I went with the Dalbello DS 130 boots to the slopes to give them a workout.

On The Slopes

I have skied the DS 130 boots a couple times now. Each session was on my “go to” Volkl RTM 84 skis so that I had a good reference point for comparison to the Krypton Pro 130 boots. I skied on beginner, intermediate and expert trails. In all instances a big focus was on carving, and how the boots would make the skis respond and perform. That’s how I normally play on the slopes, so it makes for a fair comparison. Conditions were typical New England conditions—packed powder groomers that had hard crust underneath, with patches of ice here and there on the trail.

On slope, a first, and quite noticeable difference was that the DS boots put me up over the skis more so than the Krypton Pro boots. This is likely due to the slightly different forward lean characteristics of each of the boots. The stance puts the skier in a more positive position for controlling the skis quickly and powerfully, as a ski racer would want and need.

Ski Control

There is a distinct and definite difference in how the boots make the skis respond. Krypton Pro 130 gives a more subtle command to the skis to respond, reducing that subtlety in a progressive fashion as pressure into the front of the boot is increased. DS 130 produced more or less immediate response from the skis when pressure was applied. Increased pressure to the front of the boot pushed more power into the response of the ski, but in a very immediate way with the DS 130 boots.

Krypton Pro 130 allowed for a bit of relaxation; I could get in the “back seat” a bit and not have the skis decide they could have their own way. Not so with the DS 130 boots; there was a definite “tipping point.” When I backed off, relaxing just a bit too much in my stance over the skis, control was diminished, and quickly.

I thought I could carve a ski pretty good in my Dalbello Krypton Pro 130 boots. And I could. But not nearly as well as when my feet were slipped into the Dalbello DS 130 boots. The 4-buckle overlap style boots gave complete and immediate control so I could tip the ski and bury the edge into the snow quickly and with great power. In the Krypton Pro 130 boots, tipping the skis into the snow was a slower, more progressive action that ended in a carve, but one that was not nearly as forceful and complete as from the DS 130 boots.

The Winner

Krypton Pro 130 is a winner because of their ease of entry and exit, and because of their progressive flex nature. They allow me to totally control, with a great degree of finesse, how I want to power the skis.

DS 130 is a winner because of their greater width and comfort, and for their ability to power the ski the way I want immediately and forcefully.

So which boot wins Round Four—Control? Each boot handles control in a rather different fashion, so it would depend on any individual skier to make that judgement. That’s a good thing because it gives skiers some interesting options.

You can already see the endpoint of this debate—there is no single “winner.” Because the contest really isn’t equal. The winner will be whatever boot style best fits your style of skiing. But how might you decide which boot style—cabrio or overlap—is the best for you?

What’s Best For You?

Go back to the “Skier Need To Know—Boots” page and finish reading about ski boots. If you read it already, read it again. Think through how you ski, how you want to ski, and you may alight on the thought of which style ski boot might be best for you.

Are you a control freak who wants immediate response to your commands? Consider the overlap carefully. Are you a strategist that wants a more thoughtful response to your commands? Consider the cabrio.

Stop in at Avie’s Ski / Sports and try on a pair of both. Clomp around a bit and see if one or the other “speaks to you.”

Which Is Best For Me?

After all this, what’s best for me? Honestly, I am still not sure. After trying out the DS 130 boots for the above comparisons, I spent the next two seasons in the DS 130 boots clicked into a pair of Blizzard Quattro RS race-style skis. I can say that those two seasons on the slopes were some of the most fun times I have ever spent skiing.

The DS 130 boots provided immense control over the high performing race-style skis, and the combination was heavenly. Never have I skied at such speeds with such supreme control. Once used to the set up, it never crossed my mind that the skis would not respond 100% when the boots said turn left or turn right. I felt like Spiderman on skis the way they stuck to the snow regardless the speed or tightness of the turn.

So, DS 130 was the ultimate winner? Well yes, for a while. Alas, as this skier enters his mid-60s he finds his stamina and staying power is not quite what it was even 5 years earlier. While I could have a blast on the DS 130 / Blizzard Quattro RS combo, it could only last a morning. The set up is very demanding; recall the above comments about DS 130 not letting you relax much. If I wanted to continue to ski the entire day, and I did and do, then I needed to part ways with that beloved pairing.

My next adventure—for the 2020/2021 season—will involve another cabrio-style boot—Roxa Element 120 IR. These boots are a bit less stiff, and the progressive flex nature of a cabriolet boot will allow the bit of relaxation this aging body needs on occasion. They also have an adjustable 99-101 mm width last, allowing that little bit of extra wriggle room I liked so much about the DS 130 boots. The Roxa Element 120 IR boots will get clicked into a pair of Volkl Kanjo or Nordica Soul Rider skis mounted with Marker Griffon bindings.

If you want to see the assessment of the Roxa Element 120 I.R. ski boots, click here.

[updated October 2022]