Expert Review: Atomic Hawx Prime 120 S Ski Boots · 2021

Published on 10/18/2022 · 6 min readThis review is my honest opinion of the ski boots, which I purchased with my own money in October of 2020.
Tomasz Macieik, Ski Expert
By Ski Expert Tomasz Macieik

Atomic Hawx Prime 120s. All photos courtesy of Tomasz Macieik

About this Review: This review is my honest opinion of the ski boots, which I purchased with my own money in October of 2020.

My take

The Atomic Hawx Prime 120 S is an excellent intermediate to advanced boot that allowed me to take my skiing to the next level while maintaining a comfortable fit. These boots allowed me to go from skiing blues and some blacks to hitting some of the toughest terrain in the Pacific Northwest.

Crushing some heavy pow at Crystal Mountain

About the gear

  • Model: 2021 Atomic Hawx Prime 120 S
  • Size: 26.5 (305m)

About me

  • Height: 5’10”
  • Weight: 180 lbs
  • Street shoe size: 10
  • Experience: 17 years of skiing

Test conditions

  • When I bought these: October 2020
  • Days tested: 65 days
  • Skis: J Skis Hotshot and Rossignol Black Ops Gamer 118
  • Bindings: Look Pivot 12 GW and Atomic Warden 13 MNC
  • Where I’ve used it: Crystal Mountain, Snoqualmie, Baker, WA; Jackson Hole, Grand Targhee, WY; Whistler Blackcomb, BC; Mt Bachelor, OR; Snowbird, Alta, Brighton, UT
  • Terrain: Groomers, powder, crud, chop, steeps, moguls, and trees—basically everywhere

How they perform

Heel Hold
Claimed Stiffness Accuracy

What I was looking for

I had my old beginner/intermediate focused 90 flex boots when I moved to Washington. While they were fine on East Coast groomers they quickly showed their weakness in pacific northwest terrain and powder. My heel was not locked in, they were soft, and still had fit issues. I was quickly improving my ski ability so I wanted boots that would perform well and allow me to progress to all sorts of terrain.

These boots are comfortable enough to relax in on the mountain

Why I chose this gear

I bought the Hawx after going to a shop to see a bootfitter and trying on various pairs of boots. The Hawx were by far the best feeling. I remember other boots either crushed my toes or created strange pressure points. The Atomic Hawx Prime 120 fit me snug right out of the box and had a lot of extra features included, such as heat molding, to help make that fit even better. With its solid price point and a great fit, it was a no-brainer.

Taking a break after some hard riding at Whistler Blackcomb

What I love about them

  • Accuracy of Claimed Fit: The Hawx Prime is Atomic’s medium last (100mm) version and provides a locked in, comfortable fit for my wide foot. Atomic designed the liner specifically to keep the heel locked in.
  • Comfort: These are the most comfortable ski boots I’ve ever had. They have kept me warm even in zero cushion socks, and the liner has excellent cushioning.
  • Flex: These boots have a very predictable flex that allows me to push it hard without buckling. They flex when I expect them but give me the stiffness I need when skiing harder terrain. Atomic claims a “True Flex” additive in their shell makes the boot flex predictably in a wider range of temperatures. As I improved, I put in the second screw in the back to make it even stiffer. I’ve skied these in single digits and during sunny, over 60-degree spring days and they’ve done great.
  • Weight: The Atomic Hawx is one of the lightest alpine boots on the market. It features Prolite technology to cut material weight and reinforce in key zones. This boot made my bootpacking to hike to terrain way easier. The only way to go lighter is to go for a touring-specific boot.
  • Resort: These boots will ski anything at the resort well. I’ve never felt them lacking in any terrain or snow conditions. They inspire a ton of confidence.
  • Adjustability: This boot has plenty of features to adjust it for a perfect fit. It comes with a mimic liner and memory fit shell for heat molding both. The buckles can be adjusted to go tighter without going to the last notch. It has a powershift in the back to adjust the flex up or down by 10 points, as well as put the forward lean to 17 degrees or down to 13 degrees. The box comes with shims to decrease volume in the cuff area and inserts to decrease the size by half a size.

Driving these hard down a steep entrance at Mt Baker 

Issues I’ve encountered

  • Accuracy of Claimed Stiffness: While the boot is stiff, its shell is not as thick as other 120 rated boots. I found myself quickly resorting to adding the second screw to stiffen it.
  • Grip: The bad news is that these boots have very firm soles that scratch up quickly, leading to some slippery grip on firm surfaces. The good news is the soles are removable so adding in gripwalk soles is an option.
  • Durability: I’ve experienced normal wear and tear on the boot but the plastic chipping on the toe sole did worry me as that could affect the safety of the boot-binding connection. The paint on the buckles is also very inconsistent. Some buckles are stripped while others are fine. Another thing I noticed is that sometimes my bottom buckles will come undone after a crash or particularly hard skiing.
  • Other: The default shin strap on these boots is not very good. It is hard to get it tight since it has no give and is largely just one piece of velcro going through a loop. It is also big in the shin so it can interfere with the top buckle. I have more of an aesthetic gripe with the boots too. This year (2021), the color options are either an obnoxiously bright all red or a super boring all gray, while in the previous and following years there are better colorways with interesting color accents.

I have experienced some plastic chipping

The paint on the buckles chips away very easily

Favorite moment with this gear

My favorite moment with the Hawx Prime was when I finally got to ski it in some classic deep and heavy Pacific Northwest powder. In my old boots I’d lose the heel lock and their soft flex would buckle under challenging off-piste conditions. These boots immediately felt composed, locked-in, and intuitive. Powder and bumps went from a grueling challenge to a dream.

Value for the money vs. other options

I’ve heard this boot described as an above average boot for an average price and I’d agree. It is cheaper than the stiffer 130 model and some other higher-end brands like the Lange RX 120 and Dalbello II Moro. But it isn’t a budget boot either. I bought it for around $600 new and it is likely cheaper now since it is two years old.

Final verdict

The Atomic Hawx Prime 120 S is a perfect fit for intermediate to advanced skiers looking for a boot that can give them a locked-in, snug fit on an average to wide foot right out of the box. For the average-sized men’s skier whose goal is to improve and tackle more challenging terrain, the 120 flex is a great place to start. This boot has taken everything I’ve thrown at it and I don’t see myself switching any time soon.

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