After a season of skinning up Ajax, I finally decided to take the plunge and purchase a pair of alpine touring (AT) boots.
Traditional ski boots are great for going down the hill, but they are not designed for trudging up the mountain — they are way too heavy and have very little flex. So if you like blisters and want massive thigh muscles use your regular boots, otherwise invest in a pair of AT boots such as the Scarpa Maestrale RS.
The Maestrales are incredibly light, almost stupid light, with each boot weighing just under three and half pounds. Through some sort of magic space-age technology the boots don’t sacrifice stiffness when locked in ski mode, with a rating a flex rating of 120 — just as stiff as a pair of expert downhill boots.
From a comfort perspective, Scarpa has managed to create a four-buckle boot that fits like a sneaker, especially when the “walk mode” is engaged. The Intuition liners can be heat molded to your foot to create a custom fit, although to date I haven’t needed to take that step since out of the box the boots are so comfortable. The boots have a Vibram sole for those of you crazy enough to boot-pack the Highland Bowl or if you happen to be rock climbing with your AT skis. Additionally, the Maestrales are designed to work with a tech binding, a.k.a. Dynafit, virtually guaranteeing the lightest AT setup on the market.
Scarpa has done a great job with balancing weight and performance in this model but don’t expect them to ski like a traditional alpine boot. In fact, the boots are so light that I find them to be a bit squirrely when skiing downhill, plus I find myself wanting a little bit more flex in the boots on the steeps. The biggest drawback of the boots is noticeable when skinning up: The tongue of the boot liner constantly slides back down into the boot, and the supplied liner laces don’t seem to hold the tongue in place. As a result I find myself having to stop and yank the liner back into place, otherwise it begins to bunch up on my instep and cut off the circulation. You must also take care when buckling the boot to ensure the plastic cuff is seated correctly so it doesn’t jam into the outside buckle and potentially break it.
All ski boots are not created equal, and there a lots of options on the market including Scarpa, Dynafit and Black Diamond. The helpful folks at the Ute Mountaineer will ensure that you find the right fit for your ability, skiing needs and foot shape. Knowing that I will never find the perfect boot, the Maestrale comes awfully close.
Get Your Own:
Scarpa Maestrale RS
Ute Mountaineer, $699