As a recent transplant to Colorado, I realized I should be in the market for a decent winter boot (that could optionally be used year round). There are so many options out there with so many mixed reviews. I'd like to keep the purchase below $200. Any suggestions?
There are two ways to tackle this, John. Once is to buy boots that are winter-specific, and leave it at that. The other is to buy a more all-purpose boot and adapt it for winter use.
The Isoltherm 6
The Isoltherm 6
If you go the former route, what you're looking for is a midweight boot that has a light insulation layer and maybe a waterproof bootie. A good example of that is the Merrell Isotherm 6 boot ($125). They're a winter-specific boot with PrimaLoft insulation, full leather uppers, a waterproof/breathable bootie, and outsoles that Merrell bills as being specially compounded for snow and ice. They also are designed to easily accommodate snowshoes.
Salomon's Beluha WPs ($150) take the "pac" boot approach by inserting a waterproof-breathable bootie on top of with waterproof leather outers, rubber toe caps, and internal insulated linings. Really good for soggy snow or snowshoeing, and decent for trail hiking. Not at all good for summer.
I sort of lean toward the idea of buying a decent all-around boot. Asolo's FSN 95 ($190) are an excellent midweight hiking/backpacking boot. Really just as waterproof as any "winter" boot, but because they're uninsulated they're great in the summer. You can add warmth any number of ways. Wear a thin Coolmax liner sock ($10) under a thicker wool boot sock (Smartwool Expedition Trekking Heavy Crew Socks run $20). Swap out the stock insole for a pair of Toasty Feet insoles ($15), which have special insulation that helps keep cold from creeping up through the sole. Or get something like Neosock Neoprene Socks ($20).
During warmer months, just put the stock insole back in, get some lighter boot socks, and you're all set.