If I were you I would go for the good stuff...why cheap out on something you are going to use a lot. As far as stiffness it really depends on what you want to do on the mountain. If you want a freestyle park boot you need it soft and if you are looking to freeride you need it stiff. If you want both then maybe a boot that is somewhere in the middle is best. I know the DC website has a stiffness indicator for each boot you click on, also dogfunk.com has info on what the boot is recommended for. I'm thinking about getting the focus boas because even though as far as I can tell most are on the stiff side, they can easily be loosened and tightened to adjust the stiffness based on that. I have burton hails from 07 now and I hate them they put my feet to sleep and hurt. They came with heel inserts which i tried but just made all the problems worse...without them however my heel moves a lot.