Backcountry ski boots are about compromise. Weight vs performance, warmth vs performance fit. And so on. Sometimes the compromises sort of cancel each other out, resulting in a boot that does a lot of stuff fairly well. Other times it all seems to work together in one direction that causes smiles when used appropriately. Scarpa Alien is an example of the latter category. This is a full-on “ski running” shoe that makes no bones about total ankle freedom, a super fast mode change system, and stunning lack of mass. To accomplish that, the non-carbon version we have here for this first-look does sacrifice beef in downhill mode. But that’s not the point. This is a boot you literally fly up the hill in, then fly down in whatever style works — all in good fun. Check ‘em out.
Scarpa Alien backcountry skiing boot, non-carbon version. Stunning lack of weight at 30.8 ounces (872 grams) per boot, size 28. In carpet testing it's obvious the carbon version (Alien 1.0) will offer quite a bit more side-to-side (lateral) stability in downhill mode, but we we're surprised how supportive this non-carbon version is considering the lack of plastic. You're not going to be driving gigantic skis with these, but that's not the point. The idea is freedom to fly.
The Boa lacing system seems to work quite well. Minimal weight for the snug fit it creates. No shell tongue but rather a semi-stiff fabric tongue that nests over the liner and is somewhat sealed by some foam strips on the underside of the shell. A gaiter system is provided to cover some of this (see below) but for longer backcountry days we feel this area might need better coverage to prevent moisture entry into the boot shell.
I noticed Scarpa molds an extra-deep slot for the tech binding rear pins. Could this be for a Tech 2.0 binding system using longer pins to prevent accidental release? We shall see.
Cuff mode latch is similar to ye olde F1, yet streamlined. Latch shown as if in the process of latching or unlatching, it stows nicely vertical and out of the way (as shown in first photo above).
Front buckle is set up so you get it adjusted, then leave it alone for the day as you do mode changes with the rear latch.
The sole is truly minimalist, but still has a nice thick blocky area under the toe so you won't wear it out walking to and from your skis.
Judging from our carpet test of the non-carbon version, we feel that the carbon version (shown here in manual) may provide much better lateral stability for bigger skis in non-race types of use. But don't discount the boot we show here, it is quite stiff considering how light it is, and with the correct type of ski should yield plenty of grins.
In carpet testing, cuff articulation in touring mode exceeds what's possible for the human ankle. So much for that issue.
Without the liner, cuff articulation allows the proverbial folding boot! Perhaps the ticket for airline travel?
The provided gaiter is definitely Euro. It doesn't extend down over the lower forefoot, where the faux tongue is exposed and allows possible moisture ingress.
What else? Dynafit patented Quick Step toe fittings will cut 1/100 second from your race time. User serviceable fasteners on nearly all hardware will make modding a joy. Minimalist power strap is cool. Liner is nicely crafted, with attention to ankle articulation, as well as some friction dots on lower heel to keep it feeling solid in the shell instead of slipping up and down as you stride. Enclosed sticker pack will leave no doubt about your footwear. Optional overlap liner available for those wanting a bit more downhill performance.
Note this boot is definitely marketed as a “race” shoe. Nonetheless, it’s quite popular in Europe to use race gear for backcountry touring, and you see that happening here in North America as well. We’ll of course review with that point of view, but yes, this is a full-on skimo race boot. All critique and expectations should be focused through that lens.
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