UPDATE: I was finally able to get these boots out on snow. Unfortunately, it wasn’t skiing (that’s happening soon) it was ice climbing. The outing included a couple miles of road walking, some snow hiking, steep gully scrambling, low angle ice, and a short lead on some WI2-3 ice. Considering I haven’t worn the boots for more than 10 minutes in my living room I’d say my first experience was a success. The boots were a little uncomfortable on the road (uneven compacted snow and some bare asphalt), but generally were quite comfortable and warm. Once off the road and on snow, and whilst climbing, they really felt like just another mountaineering boot. I used to have an old pair of Scarpa Invernos that were way clunkier than these things. If the X-Alps ski well we’re going to have a real winner on our hands. Stay tuned.
Today we’re taking a look at the S/Lab X-Alp Boot from Salomon. This is a new boot from Salomon that fits into the ultralight touring category. It’s not as burly as a LaSportiva Spectre or Scarpa Maestrale, but it’s much more capable on the down than your typical skimo slipper. My hope is that these will be a great option for fitness uphill sessions before work, ski/climb missions around the Northeast, and the occasional skimo race. As for riding lifts… I might take them out occasionally to practice getting down the mountain on light equipment. But, I imagine that I’ll prefer and have more fun on a heavier boot.
The first issue I want to address with fit is the idea that you’ll most likely need to size up. If you read any of the other reviews out there they all seemingly recommend sizing up to get the best fit. Now, I’m not saying they’re wrong… But, depending on what you’re skiing in now, these reviews could lead you to get the wrong size boot. I know, because I sized up based on their recommendations and it was too big.
Here’s my take. My normal boot size is a 27.5. I currently ski the LaSportiva Spectre in a 27.5. In most boots my ideal shell fit is the 27.5. So, based on the recommendations of the other reviews I ordered a 28.5. When it arrived I did a quick shell fit and it was much too big 🙁
So, I reordered the X-Alp in a 27.5 and low and behold it fits just right. Now, I should mention that I recently tried on the S/Lab MTN boot from Salomon and to my surprise I had to size down to a 26.5 to get the right fit. I don’t know if MTN boot fit is normal for Salomon, but let’s assume that it is. In that scenario my “normal” Salomon size would be a 26.5 and if ordering the X-Alp the right call would be to “size up” to a 27.5.
Anyway… I would say the S/Lab X-Alp Boot fits true to size. However, this obviously depends. That is why I would recommend always getting your boots from a reputable boot fitter to ensure you get the proper size for you. If you can’t find the X-Alp locally and have no other choice but to order online. Try and find one of the boots listed here to try on and then order accordingly.
Once I was in the proper shell size the X-Alp boots fit very nicely. They are not overly narrow at the forefoot. Though I wouldn’t call them wide. I often need the forefoot punched on my right foot, and with the X-Alp I don’t think that will be necessary. However, I won’t know for sure until I ski them a few days. The heel pocket feels secure, and I would say that the fit over the instep is low. I have a particularly low instep and the X-Alp fits amazing. Those with high insteps, or “high volume” feet should be careful.
The liner looks every bit a high quality liner and is again very lightweight without being overly light. It is obvious that this boot is meant for someone on the move and not for someone spending much time sitting on a cold lift. The seams are stitched and not glued. There is a cutout (red zone) of softer material to help improve articulation, and the upper cuff is quite stiff which seems to allow you to really tighten up the top buckle without things getting uncomfortable. The liner is fully thermo-moldable and has an interesting webbing strap that can be used to help tighten things up. Unfortunately, for my foot the strap is much too long. When installed and pulled tight it actually wraps all the way around the cuff and the velcro fastener falls over the tongue of the boot. This means I can’t secure it tightly, and it is hence relatively useless. I will probably try shortening the strap as it looks to be a nice feature that’s easy to use and effective… if only the strap were a couple of inches shorter.
At first blush both buckles and the power strap seem like pretty standard fare. Both buckles are micro adjustable. The lower buckle is meant to be toured and skied while closed and therefore does not have any kind of catch which would allow you to leave it open. I find that the lower buckle doesn’t produce any unwanted pressure on the top of my foot, but I do have a pretty low volume foot, so anytime I have any kind of pressure I see that as a good thing.
One note… The plastic that the lower buckles catch attaches to and wraps over the top of the foot. For me, when I tighten things up the end of this piece just barely bottoms out against the buckle. Because of this I’m probably going to have to remove some of the plastic from the end of this buckle once the boot breaks in to maintain the nice secure feeling the boot currently provides.
The upper buckle also seems well executed. There’s a wire catch that allows you to switch between touring (open) and skiing (closed) without having to worry about it coming unlatched.
The power strap is made of some very light and thin material, and has a nice camming buckle that is easy to get tight and seems secure. The strap itself is pretty wide and when tight appears to provide a good amount of support. I do wish there were an easier way to loosen the power strap as you have to push the cam tab to release it. With gloves this might be a pain, and a pull loop would have been nice. Also, I am a little concerned about the durability of the power strap material. It’s very light and thin and doesn’t inspire much confidence in the longevity department.
Because the upper cuff of the X-Alp boot is made up of more pieces than your typical touring boot, Salomon has included a lightweight gaiter that is glued to the lower cuff to keep out water and snow. It doesn’t appear to be waterproof, however it does seem plenty water resistant. Also, there is no zipper like on it’s sibling the Arcteryx Procline, and I think this is a pro and a con. No zipper means one less possible point of failure… Yeah! However, it also makes taking the liner in and out kind of a pain. Maybe there’s a trick I haven’t figure out yet. Time will tell.
The sole is made of Salomon’s Contagrip rubber. It looks nice, and the profile walks well around my living room. It’s thinness is probably one way Salomon tried to shave a little weight. I’m not a person who wears out soles, so I’m not too concerned.
The fore and aft range of motion of this boot is nothing short of amazing! With no plastic over the front of the ankle the X-alp walks as well as my mountaineering boots. That said, the real innovation with this boot (and the Procline series from Arcteryx) is that the cuff also allows for some lateral flex (23 degrees internal, and 12 degrees external). This should make skinning off-camber trails a little more comfortable, and improve walking/climbing comfort. In my living room test I found the X-alp very comfortable to walk around in. I assume this will translate to on-snow comfort as well and I’m hoping it will be an improvement over my Spectres. When skinning on an uneven track my Spectres can put a lot of pressure on my ankle. Nothing too terrible, but something I definitely notice. More comfort is never a bad thing.
I don’t want to speculate too much about the stiffness of the X-alp before actually skiing it. I’m sure the shell will flex differently in the cold, but my initial impression is pretty positive. The cuff hits a touch lower on my shin than my Spectres, but not as low as some of the other lightweight boots out there. Also, the flex feels quite progressive and ramps up nicely. It feels like you’ll be able to really lean into your skis and not have to drive from the ankles. At this time I’m excited, but only after some time on snow will I know for sure.
I’m really excited to get these boots out on snow. I’ll be pairing them with Salomon’s X-Alp Ski, and their MTN bindings. My plan is to use them for fitness touring before work, the occasional skimo race, and ski/climb objectives in the White Mountains. From what I’ve experienced so far, the X-Alp boot should fit the bill nicely. I have a few durability concerns, but isn’t that always the case with lightweight gear. Also, I’m curious about how they’ll ski. I think they’ll be plenty of boot for the setup they’ll be paired with, but I’m interested in what changes I’ll have to make to my technique. Now, we just need some snow!
If you’re interested in purchasing this boot, please first check availability at your local, independently owned backcountry skiing specialty store. They need your business and are a great resource for the community.
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