Brian Harder ripping steep Spring Cascade gullies in the RS
More from Brian here:
Admittedly this is a tough blog to write after the last two on the newest AT ski boots available. Easy thought because I spent the majority of the last winter's ski season and well into Spring and early summer skiing the Scarpa Maestrale RS. Lots of reviews out on the RS by the time I got mine. Many of them well worth reading.
A few of those reviews influenced my own decision. As it has been noted by others, "I can only ski so many boots!". I don't agree with every conclusions in all the reviews but Jeff's comparison helped my decision making a great deal.
Two boots in my opinion have recently changed the dynamics of the AT boot industry. The TLT5 and then the Maestrale RS. This season or next we may see other bench marks set. And then broken again no doubt.
The rave reviews as this boot was rolled out got my attention. Not a big fan of the orange Maestrale because I thought it too soft, too heavy and not the best range of motion in walk mode. As we have all seen things are changing very quickly in the back country ski boot world.
I had been talked into the Black Diamond Prime a couple of seasons earlier. Found it dismal by comparison to a TLT 5 P and pretty much swore off ever getting bit by "old technology" again. Even if that technology was only a season or two "old".
I have become fond of saying, "any of it ("it" being boots or skis or bindings) is so much better now than even 5 years ago it is hard to go wrong. I am pretty critical of what I want to ski in. Everyone has personal priorities. I certainly have mine. It is split between a climbing boot and a ski boot. I generally want one or the other. As an example the typical back country skier loves the Orange Maestrale. I wanted it to walk better or ski better.
In the photo above Brian is skiing a short pair of La Sportiva GTR mountaineer skis. Boot worked great hiking around and skiing some fun chutes. We both used a pair of RS doing the same on anything from mid '80mm under foot to 117mm under foot. From 168cm ski to 196cm skis. The RS will drive them all with some real authority.
First the basics:
Shell Size Tested: 28
Flex rating: 120
Ski tested with: everything fro a 78mm to 117mm underfoot ski, 168cm to 196cm
Footbed: Full custom cork
Modifications done to boot:
Environment of Conditions:
*Location of review: Crystal Mtn/ Alpental. Cascade back country
*Runs Taken: Winter, Spring and into early Summer
*Snow Conditions: you name it...
*Demo or Own: Own
+ it is a full blown ski boot
- tour mode could be better
Other boots in class:
Dynafit Mercury and ONE
La Sportiva Spectre
Average days on snow: 30+
Years Skiing: 30+
Skis in your Quiver:
Foot issues: very narrow heels, AA, , and very small ankles and lower calf for my size. I wear a size 12 street shoe, 45.5 mtn boot.
Aggressiveness: Finesse / Driver
Preferred Terrain off-piste, steep
A lot of great things to say about the RS. For me I find it a full on ski boot with a AT sole. I skied most of the Winter on a pair of 192cm DPS RPC using the RS and a Dynafit Speed Radical tech binding. Full on days of nothing but lift skiing with side country trips thrown in. The RPC is a very stiff ski and 115mm under foot. My experience was the RS boot and the RPC ski were a perfect match up for a ski and boot combo. Compared to some of my other boots the RS is a stiff boot (110 flex) with a shorter boot top height than I would prefer. I didn't own a stiffer more responsive boot. Most importantly I never felt like I needed a more responsive boot, even while I was one my biggest skis, the 192cm, DPS 138.
I don't think there is a ski (lift served Alpine or B/C) that the Maestrale RS won't turn with relative ease. I certainly haven't found one.
One of the best days ever last year was a rock hard Spring morning. I was using a La Sportiva Hang5s and the RS. The previous day it had gotten pretty warm after mid day with a high over cast. That night it cleared up and the temps plummeted into the mid 20s on top of the Mtn. The entire hill (Crystal Mtn) froze up hard as a rock, top to bottom.
This was the kind of day a nice pair of alpine plug boots and some serious shaped skis would have inspired more confidence. But that is not what I was running. I was hoping for an early morning thaw so I could enjoy the lift instead of earning my own turns. Till then I would ski.
Two things made that morning one of the best ski days of the year. First was the ski. A rather traditional build for camber and wood but 117mm under foot, 178cm long, the La Sportiva Hang5. It is a lot of ski under foot. One of the few skis I would take any where, for any condition in the mountains. The Hang5 is a solid performer. Drop me off anywhere with unknown snow and terrain? Give me the Hang5s and I'd be happy.
The second part of the equation was the boot. It was the first day of the season for really trying conditions. We had big dumps of snow all winter. All I had skied to date was some sort of soft snow. None of the usual Cascade Cement that can bog you down and be miserable on the wrong gear. The Maestralle RS was owning it. I literally could do no wrong in that ski/boot combo. Not that either is the "best" in category for those conditions. But the RS is an exceptionally squared away boot IMO.
There are so many really good boots currently available now for back country/side country skiing. You choice can/should easily boil down to what shell/liner fits your foot. The RC runs on the narrow side at 101mm. But wider than some of the most popular Dynafit offerings.
Th Maestrale RS also comes from Scarpa with a proprietary Intuition liner in the boot. Resembling but not exactly the same model as an Intuition Pro Tour. It is an exceptional liner. And as many hard core skiers are fond of pointing out, a new Intuition liner will cost you $200 or close to it plus the fitting charge. Scarpa dealers will normally heat mold the liners for you no charge. Nice discount on your new boots if you want to think that way ;)
OK, yes, I do like the boot. Yes, I use it for a long hard day of skiing be it side country or on the lift. I have been skiing the RS almost exclusively for a full season. It is my go to boot for side by side comparisons. I use other boots but few currently as much as the RS.
The tech fittings? Scarpa made a big deal out of the Freedom having "approved" tech fittings. Not only are the RS tech fittings "approved" but made by Dynafit. It is Dynafit's Quick Step In System.
Scarpa made life even easier by added little colored plugs to the boot toes as a visual guide to make it easier yet getting into any tech binding of your choice.
The Maestrale RS would not be reviewed here if I didn't think it was one of the best AT boots currently available. No question it is. If you are in the market for a high performance ski boot with tech fittings and a good walk mode this is a boot you simply have to try on.
The down sides:
Yep I have a few. And not everyone will agree I am sure. First up? My walk mode opinions (for every AT boot to date) are based on the performance of a a TLT5 Mountain unlatched at the cuff and no tongue in place. By that comparison the RS could walk better. I have no problem with the RS in walk mode and did a lot of boot packing in them. They fit crampons well if required. But I have never climbed anything technical in the RS. I would want a better walk mode, lighter weight boot and less toe on the boot sole. All is forgiven with me because the RS skis so well. Easy decision on what to use the RS for it is not a confusing boot for me. I can easily relate to the design intent.
The walk mode/ forward lean bar? This was a biggy which in turn opened my eyes to tech binding problems in general. Turns out you can easily lock the RS into a 16 or a 20 degree forward lean position. I inadvertently locked myself into the 20 degree position one days testing skis and boots and wondered where my "favourite boot" had disappeared to. Mind you I often ski with the RS in walk mode on moderate terrain so I like an up right and balanced stance. I felt really dumb when it was pointed out to me the boot was in the 20 degree position. The RS is softer flexing in that position as well. It was not a fun place to ski the RS for me.
Not the boot's fault. Operator error of course. But thought it worth mentioning so you would know about it.
Getting in and out of the boot? Ha ha! I ski the TLT5 and now the 6. I am use to fiddling with a boot to get in and out. The RS/Maestrale in general reminds me of a bear trap. Gotta be careful or it will take a finger off. Friends laugh at me. And there is a system to make it easier. But don't let the entry shy you away from the RS. It gets better with a little use. Just watch your fingers. You must be brave :)
Actual boot weights in a 28 shell:
no insoles on my postal scale
Maestrale RS 1590g
Maestrale RS 1590g $700
TLT6 1354g $1000
Spectre 1480g $600
ONE 1580g $650
Vulcan 1730g $1000
"Designed for people who like to drive big skis or charge hard in the backcountry, the Maestrale RS bridges the gap between alpine touring and freeride skiing. The lightest 120 flex ski boots in the world, this boots offers a walk mode with nearly 40 degrees of cuff travel, which makes them tour exceptionally well. At the top of the climb, however, switch them to ski mode and the Maestrale RS provides a shocking level of downhill performance, given that they tip the scales at 3lbs 7oz per boot (size 27). Details include SCARPA’s innovative Axial Alpine tongue design, polyamide construction, which yields the stiff flex, oversize, easy-to-use buckles, Dynafit Quick step in® tech fittings and a high-performance SCARPA Intuition® liner."
- Inner Boot: Intuition Pro Flex RS
- Shell | Cuff | Tongue: Polyamide I Polyamide I Pebax®
- Buckles: 4 + 45mm Power Strap RS
- Forward Lean: 16° & 20°
- Flex Index: 120
- Range of Motion: 37°
- Sole: Vibram® Cayman
- Weight: 1571g; 3lbs 7oz (1/2 pair size 27)
- Sizes: 24.5 – 32
- Binding System: AT, TLT
- Forefoot width: 101mm
- Product Code: 12044/501.1