The third boot I tried in my quest for the perfect alpine touring boot was the Dynafit Gaia TF-X, the company's premier women's alpine touring boot. (Check out tips on buying AT boots and a review of the Black Diamond Shiva in Quest, Part I and a review of the Scarpa Diva in Quest, Part II.) I've put in a bunch of days on the Gaia, including five days of phenomenal touring in the Purcells of British Columbia. The verdict: favorable.
My favorite thing about this boot was its touring mode. The liner has a tongue, of course, but the shell wraps around like a typical alpine boot. This means that when it's all undone, it flexes evenly and easily. You don't get a big bump of plastic all up in your shin like tongued shells. Even on a day of nearly 4,000 vertical feet of skiing and skinning and 4 miles of traversing, it gave me no issues whatsoever. That's pretty good.
The ski mode was reasonably aggressive for powder skiing—certainly more so that the squishy Dynafit models of yesteryear—but it simply has too much give for precise turns on hardpack. The cuff also comes up a bit short, meaning it gives less support for taller girls. I'm 5'6" and it was okay. (The lower cuff could be a boon for gals under, say, 5'4".) Weighing in just under 8 pounds per pair, the Gaias aren't exactly the lightest boots on the market. That said, I think they're worth their weight in comfort.
This boot fits a medium to narrow foot well, and, like the other boots I tried, has a thermomoldable liner. The heel cup helps keep you locked in, and the four buckles are easy to lock down and resist icing up. Though they're somewhat heavy and the least stiff of the pairs I've tested so far, the Gaias would be my pick for two reasons: They fit my feet the best and I love the comfort of the tour mode for day-to-day use. (For skiing really rowdy terrain, I'll use something stiffer.)
I have one pair of alpine touring boots left to beat into the ground: the Garmont Lusters. The contest is on...