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Tuesday
Feb132018

Boot Unrest - What's old is new and the Scarpa Alien RS

Regular readers know that I spent last season giving the Arcteryx Carbon Procline boot a fair shake out. You can read my review here. Suffice it to say, I didn’t love it enough to spend another season in it. As my skiing has sought out steeper, more committing lines, I’ve decided that more support on the down is beneficial. I’m not talking the need for some sort of over-built free ride boot but simply something that “pushes back” when pressing forward in turns. I can make anything work but I want a tic more beef. 

I headed to SLC this past fall to visit Jason Borro and his capable staff at Skimo Co. As I wrote about here when he first opened his retail store, Jason is the proprietor of arguably the country’s and quite possibly, the world’s, best high performance ski mountaineering store. Skimo Co has only gotten better since. So, I traveled down for a long weekend of visiting friends, getting altitude hammered by the same and shopping for boots. 

Skimo Co has nearly all the industry offerings that are relevant in the race boot and performance ski mountaineering categories (yep, just made that up but you know what I mean). Two the most free ride appropriate boots they have are the Scarpa Maestrale RS and the Salomon MTN Lab. All the others are lighter and walk better.If you're really "all about the down" then these two will have you covered. But then again, if you're all that you're not reading this stuff. But I digress..

Fitting my low volume foot has always been problematic for me. Most boots are simply too boxy for my foot. Even Dynafit, the most historically low volume of the lot, has been creeping their width out each year since the TLT 6 went into the dust bin of history. Even that boot was better for me with an after market liner replacement (Intuition Pro Tour). So, trying on the new crop of boots is tricky for me because most would be better with a bulkier liner but many lack the buckle length and plastic volume to accept one. Tricky problem.

Dynafit TLT 6 Performance. It'll due for nowIn the end, I failed to find a boot that felt good enough for me to purchase. There simply isn’t that much exciting innovation this year in the daily driver category. As it turns out, I stumbled upon a friend’s website where he was selling a pair of TLT 6s still in the box for a song. What’s old is new. So, for the time being, I stay in the tried and true boot until something else catches my eye. 

Scarpa Alien RS

One boot I knew for sure I was going home with was a replacement for my tired Dynafit PDG. Now that I don’t race, I want a “near race boot weight” boot that will hold up better than their more svelte counterparts. Access in AK to some amazing ski objectives often requires tours of 25-30 miles. There are simply no roads up here like in the Lower 48. Unless one has a ski plane (which is common here) skiing these lines requires good old fashioned beat downs. Light boots, race bindings and small skis make things manageable. 

Likely the best entry into this category is the Scarpa Alien RS. With its race boot pedigree, the Alien RS fits my foot well with only a small punch for one of my bunions. The liner has been upgraded to a thicker Intuition version that has more warmth and substance than a pure race bikini liner. This should make long days more bearable. The upgraded Alien has a nice gaitor that seals out snow and a fully covered Boa compression system that dials in the fit. From Skimo Co...

The question of cord durability in the heel lock mechanism remains unanswered but Scarpa is close to having the best speed touring boot out. 

Cord shredding cam lock? PerhapsOne way suggested to me to decompress the stress to the cord lock mechanism is to add a powerstrap of some sort. I didn’t like the idea of having to pocket the thing on the up so I performed a simple mod and attached a Dynafit TLT 7 strap to the cuff semi-permanently. Behold...

I like the Dynafit strap as they’ve eliminated the pesky Velcro powerstrap that grabs the inside cuff of my ski pants. I HATE that. The cam lock buckle is slick. Hopefully, this mod will take some of the stress off the cuff and the cord and maybe improve downhill performance. Time will tell.

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Reader Comments (16)

I've been on the Alien RS all winter. IMO it's a replacement for the TLT6 not for the PDG.
For the weight, crazy.
No issues so far with the cord. I rarely adjust it, just open/close the lever between laps.
I wrap a booster strap around the cuff when driving fat skis (120) , but all winter on the Alp Tracks 100 has been fantastic (despite Scarpa's recommendation that the Alien limit is 85mm under foot!)

February 14, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterTony

Wow, Tony. I would not have expected anyone pushing around a 120mm ski on these. Great to know. I guess I'll have to start pushing things out a bit. Right now they're paired with a Voile Objective (82mm at a 171cm) and the mix is awesome. I put a Plum Race 150 on.

The only time I adjust the cord is taking the boot on and off. I find Booster straps to be both heavy and I don't want any elastic in the set up. The TLT 7 strap is light and works great. The built in metal grommet does the trick.

Funny, the day after I wrote this, the BOA snapped while skinning. BOA is sending me another set up. I've always felt that they seemed fragile although I don't think we actually see much failure in reality. I put a Voile strap around the mid foot to get through the day. It got me thinking about taking the whole thing out and adding a real buckle. Stay tuned for that.

February 14, 2018 | Registered CommenterBrian

well the fatties only come out in real deep powder, when I need the trail breaking help and 25 short is the call because anything steeper is too dangerous & any skinny ski is too skinny to move downhill on that mellow pitch and make turns, but still - it works, I didn't expect it to, & that's amazing.

I have a pair of maestrale RS that have 2 days on them and are gathering dust. Maybe when I ride a chair again....

I got a lot of vert, and stuff is starting to show wear, but nothing catastrophic. I put some shoe goo on some of the peeling off gaiter attachment points today. I've expected boa issues, but nothing yet.

oh and add loctite to some of the nuts I had the nut holding the ski/walk lever back off and fall out , but luckily it was while driving or walking through the grocery store after skiing. Unfortunately skimo is not stocking spare parts this year, which is a shame 'cause all that stuff is simple allen fittings/bolts and field-replaceable. Maybe I'll try scarpa direct.

February 14, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterTony

Hey Brian, as usual it seems like we tend to gravitate to the same gear year after year...
I started the season on the Alien RSs, but like you, had the Boa cable snap on me while skiing easy groomers with my daughter. Obviously this is not a catastrophic failure but it would have been a bummer if it happened on a long trip. Scarpa was good—as usual—at fixing the problem but I opted to switch to the Maestrales and just suck up the extra weight. I’m penduluming back to gear that’s more reliable than lightweight and I figure I could use the extra exercise anyway.
I think the Alien RS is going to be THE ski mountaineering boot once they get it dialed in though. It just needs a thicker Boa cable and a shorter posterior locking lever so you can use step-in crampons with the boot in downhill mode. Regarding stiffness, I live in the PNW and out of necessity (maritime snow=quantity over quality) so I was driving an108mm wide ski with the Alien RS and having a great time.

February 15, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJCoates

Tony,

....and to think I thought I was the only one cruising Whole Grocer in ski boots. I love that about the light shit. Put 'em on in the living room, drive to the trail head and hop out, ready to roll. I'm a firm believer that "light and fast" pertains to the parking lot, as well. No fucking around!

February 15, 2018 | Registered CommenterBrian

JCoates,

Funny you mention the BOA. Mine snapped on one boot after only about 3 hours total time in the boots. Disappointing. I'm happy to read about another person with a similar experience as both Jason at Skimo Co and BOA headquarters had never seen a failure like that.

My tendency here is to replace the BOA altogether with a standard buckle. The boyz at Skimo Co are rounding up the trinkets I'll need to do the retrofit. I'll do an update when I make that happen.

It's funny...light weight gear is what will get you further back but is also the biggest liability when you need it the least.

February 15, 2018 | Registered CommenterBrian

Why not the Scarpa F1? IMO a nice alternative to the Maestrale

February 17, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterTravis

Hey Travis,

I have little experience with the updated F1. I was glad to see they got rid of the gimmicky auto lock feature that ended up in the recall bin. A very expensive fail for Scarpa, no question. But the addition of the tried and true Alien lever was a welcome update. I've heard the boot skis fine but many have told me that it doesn't walk as well as others in the category. I was strongly advise by those who skied it to consider other options. As you suggest, it's certainly a trimmer option to the Maestrale. I simply have no time in them.

February 18, 2018 | Registered CommenterBrian

Nice to see a post again! It beats the hell out of the brief Instagram stuff. I wish I had the chance to try on the Alien RS, they look like a great light option but alas I'll keep slogging around in my Maestrale RS.

February 20, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJohn B

Glad you're hear to read it, John. Felt good to get something out. I have more.

I spent a long day out on the Alien paired with the Voile Objective and a Plum race binding. Conditions were a bit tricky but the set up worked. My skinny calves don't really fill out the upper cuff very well and this compromises performance, I think. I'm headed to the shop tomorrow to see if a boot fitter can fix this with some additional foam. Stay tuned.

And I'm sure you have not such problems with the Maestrale. Great skiing boot, from what I've heard. I got out today in silly good snow on my TLT 6 and DPS Wailer 112 Tour 1. Mindless fun.

February 20, 2018 | Registered CommenterBrian

Good to see you're back to blogging! The Alien RS was such a lust-after item in the skimo world this fall and I've been skeptical that the boot's performance would really pan out the way Scarpa hyped it. Lo and behold, not only are people racing in it at my local skimo race series, but as the comments on this post suggest, they're also taking it out on 100+mm skis on big objectives. Clearly it's a real contender in the two-buckle/"race-plus" boot category, which seems nothing less than hyper competitive right now. I've been trading back and forth between the TLT7 and the Spitfire 2.0, the latter being my choice for a boot that "pushes back" and skis well in sloppy conditions that push you into the back seat. Looks like the brothers Dorais are using it as their beef boot, too, when they're not railing down peaks in the Raceborg. I was in the F1 for a hot second but, as you alluded to, it doesn't walk nearly as well, even though it's got the best fit for my foot of them all.

Can this reader humbly request a quiver-contemplation post sometime this season, a la "my fattening quiver" a few years down the road in AK?? Would be curious what you're skiing/liking besides the Objective.

February 21, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterScott

Hey Scott,

Thanks for hanging around. I feel some energy moving in my fingers as the response has been positive. Obviously, there's a place in cyberspace for more long-winded commentary.

With my skinny calves, I still have some tweaking to do to my Aliens to make the performance up to snuff. I was able to squeeze a Pro Tour liner into my PDGs and that made a big difference. Sadly, there simply is not enough room in the shell of the Scarpa to do the same. The fore foot fits well enough but some foam at the upper cuff is needed to snug things up. Stay tuned for that.

The post idea is a good one. Easily done. I've been through some skis since the one you referenced so commentary is in order.

Cheers.

February 21, 2018 | Registered CommenterBrian

I second the Quiver Pos, Brian! And blogging in general! Don't get me wrong, I love the quick Insta-bang, but I definitely miss the meatier content on blogs that was all the rage 5-10yr ago. Especially when it's well-written and no-nonsense like here.

I'm very curious to try out a pair of Alien RS.

March 5, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterTony K

Thanks Tony. I know I've really enjoyed your long-format offerings, particularly those on your Teton traverse antics with Jason. We'll keep writing, if only for the mental exercise that keeps us sharp (hopefully).

March 13, 2018 | Registered CommenterBrian

Nice post! Thanks for sharing! May I ask if you have tried them for rock or ice climbing? I would like to know how they behave in couloirs o ridges since I would like to use them for approaching and alpinism also.

April 8, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterAlberto

Alberto,

Thanks for reading. No, I haven't used them much that way except for steep snow with crampons. They certainly scramble on easy rock nicely, mostly due to the great ankle movement. But I haven't ice climbed in them yet. I'd say others have done as much since they may be the most popular light skimo boot in the world right now. I see them everywhere on Instagram.

April 13, 2018 | Registered CommenterBrian

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