Aliens Experimented on My Feet — Scarpa, That Is

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This post by WildSnow.com blogger  

Or actually, my feet tested Scarpa Alien rando-race boots.

The boot, total.

You have to hand it to Scarpa for innovation. This thing is so different from most boots that the name works. Alien it is. From the Boa lacing to the minimalist cuff and tennis shoe fit, you can't believe this boot will ski. Surprisingly, it does. Look at the weight and you'll know why I was a skeptic: 32.4 oz, 918 grams per boot (size 28), liner is 7.5 oz.

From the side, showing rear latch system.

From the side, showing rear latch system. Rearward cuff articulation is enough for a fly swatter fracture of the ankle if you're not careful, and forward is ridiculous as well. Once adjusted, the one-motion latch system works fine. Power strap seems pre-historic considering the modernity of everything else.

Internal stiffener is what makes this boot work.

Secret of this boot is an internal stiffener strut that connects both rear pivot rivets (which incidentally are removable for user service or mods).

Alien from rear.

Ever think you'd get to see the rear end of an alien? Here you go.

Boa tightening system works amazingly well.

Boa tightening system works amazingly well, but probably best on a boot with a fairly flexible lower shoe. Considering the lacing system and anti-gravity nature you might mistake these Aliens for wimps. Do not do that. This variety of Greys, though yellow, are actually quite stiff and skiable when all locked up (in a racer, non progressive flex big fast turn sense of things, anyway.)

Scarpa Alien gaiter for backcountry skiing.

Overall, a couple of testers and I were pleasantly surprised by this innovative ski boot. They’re obviously quite specialized to racing or fitness uphilling. Still, technology from those disciplines tends to filter out to regular backcountry skiing gear. That will be interesting. Kudos to Scarpa for the high level innovation.

Comments

18 Responses to “Aliens Experimented on My Feet — Scarpa, That Is”

  1. Scott Nelson April 12th, 2012 12:38 pm

    Thanks again Lou for letting me test these out. I thought they were pretty cool. I’d definetly use them for fitness uphilling and the occasional race, but probably not so much for backcountry touring use. Took them up for a few laps on typical spring freeze / melt snow (sort of corn…) at a local ski area that’s super friendly to uphillers. Some initail pros and cons from my limited use perspective:

    Pros:

    Insanely lightweight (perfect for uphilling laps)
    Comfy liner (fit my narrow heel, wide forefoot well without molding it)
    Resistance free tour mode (no pinching; like wearing a running shoe uphill)
    BOA lace system worked great (wraps foot well, locks foot in, easy to adjust)
    Tour / ski mode lever improved over F1 (lighter, easier to use)
    Felt / worked great without a forefoot bellows
    Skied well enough on the down (surprisingly stiff, but not very progressive flex)

    Cons:

    Not a very progressive forward flex in ski mode
    Exposed liner on forefoot (definetly would get wet in inclement weather)
    Velcro closure strap at liner top ( Pain to close, I’d just cut it off…)
    A niche boot; not as versatile as an old F1 which I could ski anywhere
    Fairly high cost for consumers; less boot = higher price??
    Didn’t really make me any faster (grin), but they looked cool…

    I think if the price came down, I’d get a pair but just primarily for uphilling or an easy, quick tour in the Spring, like corn skiing off Independence Pass or something. Still amazed at how light they are, and how well they ski in spite of that. Wonder if the carbon version has a more progressive flex? Can you get a pair of those for us to test?

    Scott

  2. lc April 12th, 2012 5:09 pm

    Thanks for the review Lou.

    As someone who likes racing or “fitness uphilling,” I’m really intrigued by this boot. I currently have the TLT 5 Mountains which I love, but they really lack the forward flex that some of the real race boots have when skinning a steep slope–my stride is shortened by the flex of the boots I currently have.

    I wish there was a good comparison on the interwebs of the 1.0 carbon version and the plastic version that explain differences (like a flex rating? durability?) and details from someone who has skied in both versions of the boot.

    Anyway, can’t wait to try them out.

  3. Mark W April 13th, 2012 6:41 am

    Can’t wait to see this boot evolve. Future iterations should be similarly amazing.

  4. wick April 13th, 2012 7:57 am

    Team Crested Butte Approved! We rock both the carbon and plastic cuffs in the CB backcountry and race day….HUGE improvement over the old F1 Carbon…(if your foot fits). Everything from refrozen to pow, steep or mellow….it handles it all. We love the fact that it has lost its bellows, this really helps to create a stiffer boot on the DH’s. Once again, if they fit, get ‘em!

  5. aviator April 14th, 2012 5:04 am

    please lets not exaggerate the “innovation” here

    this boot design has been around for about 10 years
    pierre gignoux invented it

    boa lacing stems back to the 90s

    the alien is a very soft boot
    buy a pair of used pg xp500 for the same money or less
    it’s probably 10 times stiffer

  6. Toby April 14th, 2012 2:15 pm

    The basic non-carbon Aliens we are talking about here have very soft lower boot indeed. Personally I found that I would need just a little bit more stiffness on the lower shell (and maybe an added instep buckle). They are having some sort of funny feeling of non-progressive cuff flex combined with loose, loose heels. This leads to having a feeling of “flying over the handlebars”. Setting the fwd lean more upright did help a bit. I also realize that the so called power strap didn’t add much ‘power’ at all. The lower boot is flexing too much anyways. Tight pulled pwr straps actually make them feel even odder I think. There is also lack of torsional stiffness. Lower boot is flexing sideways similar to XCD leather boots,.. eh !

    But please don’t get me wrong, Alien still skis OK for 850g boots without carbon fiber.

    Pros: Superior uphill skinning due to low weight and frictionless cuff motion, excellent walking properties: pattern grips well and the BSL is very short, Fast mode changes, Fast to put on, etc.

    Very good boot for speed training and for spring tours with short and light skis. Some real light weight class people could find these boots to serve all they needs expecting the skiing skills are superior.

  7. Lou April 14th, 2012 11:04 pm

    Toby, that feeling of non-progression in the flex is common for true racing boots. The solution is indeed to get the angle where you like it, and after that adjust your technique so you can ski enjoyably. Rando race boots are not conventional AT ski boots. Very different. Some folks will find they love the efficiency they provide on the up and be willing to adjust for the down, others will stick with more conventional boots. The TLT 5 from Dynafit is a nice compromise between the two ends of the spectrum, though the forefoot flex detracts. The new model from Dynafit for next winter, the ONE, has the TLT type cuff latch, no forefoot flex, but unfortunately went back to a DIN shaped sole so it lacks the cool shorter sole feeling of boots such as TLT5 and Alien, disappointing but still an option.

  8. Brian April 15th, 2012 2:34 pm

    Funny to read someone spraying about the PGs. Yes, they’re innovative as hell and stupid light but they break with too much frequency. Simply a problem with most all carbon boots these days. None are immune.

  9. aviator April 15th, 2012 4:45 pm

    @ brian, my PGs don’t break but you post about your plastic tlt5s falling apart
    THAT is funny :P

    racers who win races break a lot of carbon boots, therefore carbon boots break with too much frequency?

    like lou always says, there are mistaken causality theories all over the place when things break

    racers who win races ski HARD and they break anything, carbon OR plastic
    they would break your tlt5s into little pieces too, but they don’t use them because they are too heavy

  10. marc syrene December 30th, 2012 7:38 pm

    Tried this boot on at Rock and Roll in Gunnison and it felt great. I ski in leather mountaineering boots (La Sportiva K-3) with old silveretta cable bindings and love the feeling of my leather boots. I don’t have to do anything weird with my hips when skiing powder, I can let my ankles handle all the subtleties and it is a very ergonomic way to ski. I grew up racing alpine but now mostly just back country in the southern San Juans (consistant good powder usually). So this may just be the boot I am looking for as the last poster said it reminds him of a leather boot. Any one have any comments about the boot sole or foorfoot flex on the alien as they do not have the bellows? I did’nt really pay that good of attention to that at the store as I could hardley get passed how light they were. It would be a good thing to me if they have flex there for a more natural stride.

  11. wick December 31st, 2012 9:48 am

    Marc – None of the folks I’ve talked to who ski on the Alien miss the bellows on the uphill, …like the old F1. Consequently, the Alien skis DH so much better as well; a lot more confidence inspiring boot at greater speed. Its a trade off most folks will love. Get ‘em!

  12. Lou Dawson December 31st, 2012 10:33 am

    Flex at the ball of the foot is so over rated, it’s basically an artifact of telemarking as well as some skimo racing that did a lot of low angled striding where it did help a bit, but was contradicted by the energy the flex absorbs on steeper uphills due to sag. Overall, I can’t emphasize enough that flex is NOT something to shop for unless you are certain you need it.

  13. zippy_the_pinhead January 1st, 2013 4:08 am

    Hi Lou,
    Obviously, I like ski boots with “ball of the foot flex” (“bellows” in tele parlance) for the downhill. As you allude, in flatter terrain it is actually very helpful as you can get a great stride by stepping off the ball of the foot (as you would in a diagonal stride on classic XC skis) and get some excellent glide. In flat or rolling terrain, I find myself pulling way ahead of my friends on Dynafits or any other AT binding. If skins are waxed liberally, glide is further improved.

    I would imagine the main advantage of the bellows on an AT boot is that it would allow the ball of the foot to flex while walking with skis off. If you do a lot of that, for e.g. on an approach or over dirt/rocks/etc (or even on the way to the bakery to pick up a nice strudel) it can make a big difference.

    Flexing at the ball of the foot also helps circulation. My feet tend to be a lot colder in my Factors (work boots) than my T1s (party shoes) which obviously have the bellows.

    It’s also worth pointing out that there is a shim available that needs to be placed under the ball of the foot when using a boot with a bellows and a Dynafit binding. The shim is needed to avoid the bellows flexing and possibly causing a release from the binding when in locked in for downhill mode.

    I guess if you are mostly concerned with uphill/downhill performance with AT bindings and don’t do much walking with skis off, the bellows would be superfluous.

    Just my $0.02, your mileage may vary.

    Happy trails!

    Zippy

  14. wick January 2nd, 2013 11:59 am

    Zippy – I do all kinds of skiing/racing in my Aliens…I’ve had the F1′s for 7 yrs prior to last yr getting the Aliens (along with three of my mates…). We all had previous yrs of tele experience prior to the 7yrs in F1′s …none of us miss the bellows, even for flat tours or walks to the pastry shop…or driving to the trail head in them! We all just did a 8.5 hr, 22 mile, 4600′ New Yrs Day tour with very low angle skin tracks. The start of the tour was -12F and finished with 4F, breaking trail ect. No one had cold feet, and no one missed the bellows…just some real world experience (and I like to think we have some ;) ) that I’d like to share….and yes you can polka all night in them too!

  15. zippy_the_pinhead January 5th, 2013 3:52 am

    Hello Wick,
    Thanks for your thoughtful response, and for sharing the results of your “real-world” experience.

    Perhaps I’m misreading the tone in your post above, but it sounds like you’ve got your polypro (or are you a merino guy?) in a bunch over my personal opinions and observations as stated above.

    I almost spent this morning composing a long response to you, but decided to spend some time in the skin-track instead.

    I believe you when you say you are able to polka in your boots, but I bet you’d be more nimble on the footwork if you could bend your foot at the instep. After all, that’s how a foot is supposed to work.

    As I said earlier, just my $0.02. Your mileage may vary.

    Now I’m off for a midnight strudel.

    Happy Trails!

    Zippy

  16. Lou Dawson January 5th, 2013 6:29 am

    Zip, you are indeed misreading the tone of Wick’s post.

    As for bellows, sure, they’re bellows and have an effect on how a boot feels while we’re wearing it. The opinion of most folks over here at WildSnow is that they’re totally unnecessary for efficient and enjoyable backcountry skiing. If you’re wanting to debate that, fine, but please keep the level of discourse up high and be a leader in that, not a follower. Thanks, Lou

  17. David January 8th, 2013 8:55 pm

    Lou or others, can you comment on sizing and fit vs TLT5? Thx

  18. Leszek November 28th, 2013 3:57 pm

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Welcome to Louis (Lou) Dawson's backcountry skiing information opinion website and e magazine. Lou's passion for the past 45 years has been alpinism, climbing, mountaineering and skiing -- along with all manner of outdoor recreation. He has authored numerous books and articles about backcountry skiing and is well known as the first person to ski down all 54 of Colorado's 14,000-foot peaks, otherwise known as the Fourteeners! Books and free back country news and information here, and tons of Randonnee rando telemark info.

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