G3 Spitfire Ski, meet Maestrale RS Boot


This post by WildSnow.com blogger  

While this is primarily a review of Scarpa’s new 2012/13 version Maestrale RS backcountry skiing boot, I paired the shoes with new planks from G3. So this also became a review of next season’s G3 Spitfire LT skis. I was on production versions of these products made available for testing and review. (Photos and video by Lee Lau unless otherwise noted.)

Maestrale RS has already been previewed on Wildsnow here. The Maestrale RS is derived from Scarpa’s Maestrale alpine touring boot. Original Maestrale was wildly popular both for its Halloween pumpkin good looks (ha), performance, and for reasonable pricing (almost heretical in this very costly industry). This is Scarpa’s best-selling ever alpine touring boot. You can review Wildsnow’s review of Maestrale here as well as the long term review. To summarize my experience, you can think of the Maestrale RS as a stiffer, uglier version of the Maestrale with mounting hardware that isn’t problematic.

G3′s Spitfire LT adds an early rise tip to the older 2011 variant that ironically states in its G3 description that “you don’t mess with success”. I for one am glad G3 did mess with success. The new early rise tip made all the difference in the world for me in the characteristic variability of spring Coast Mountains skiing (powder interspersed with crust, glace, ice, and bushwhack). Yes, Spitfire LT is everything I look for in a spring ski – light, exceptionally quick and superior edge hold.

Scarpa Maestrale RS and G3 Spitfire in their natural environment.

Scarpa Maestrale RS and G3 Spitfire in their natural environment.

G3 Spitfire LT Skis – specifics
G3 Spitfire LT is a touring-specific ski with 120/88/111 dimensions (tip, waist, tail in millimeters) and a turning radius of 20m in the 177cms length tested. The Spitfire’s claimed weight is 1360g per ski; 1372g per ski (actual). Spitifre LT is made with G3′s “core light tech,” meaning a carefully constructed core using woods such as paulowania and poplar, combined with multi-axial fiberglass wrap.

Topsheet graphics

Topsheet graphics.

Mt Duke - Duffey

Mt Duke - Duffey secret ski touring region.

Scarpa Maestrale RS Boots
I’m not a fashion queen (which means obviously that I am a fashion queen) but can’t help feeling that someone sprayed Neapolitan ice-cream all over these boots! Thankfully that’s about the only major thing I can think of that I do not like about the Maestrale RS. From the preview article and my observations I provide the following nuggets:

- Four-buckle construction with the same by now familiar heel holding middle strap located in the sweet spot we wish some other boot makers were aware of.

- Maestrale RS has two ski modes; 16 and 20 degrees so its slightly more upright than before (hmmm, a trend?). With 40 degree cuff movement that wonderful walk mode is preserved.

- Fasteners use rivets now instead of removable hardware as first model had. Usually I’d say that’s a step backwards because many of us like to fuss with our boots, but given that last year’s hardware was problematic for Scarpa, overall a good thing.

- Shell is now made from grilamid/polyamide; a plastic that can be molded thinner and lighter than Pebax with same stiffness but adds cost to the boot (hence the price increase of around $100).

- Tongue remains Pebax but is noticeably stiffer than the tongue from the old Maestrale. I took the tongues off the Maestrale RS to compare with Maestrale and they’re interchangeable.

- Buckles are beefier which I am told by Scarpa contributes to boot stiffness. How that would be is mystifying. Isn’t a buckle just a buckle? Or perhaps buckles stretch? The huge buckles definitely detract from the elegance of the old boot and probably add a bit of weight — we suspect they’re mostly for shelf appeal. But beef can be good so we’ll let that one rest.

- Tongue hinges stronger than the ones on the first retail models of the Maestrale, but we feel they could be stronger. I’m not crazy about those little hinges as I’ve found them fragile and have broken them (replacement hinges are easily available from Scarpa). Interesting they’d make the buckles huge but not do much with beefing the tongue hinges. Mysteries of the boot market.

- Sizes are 24.5-32 for Maestrale RS, 22.5-27 for Gea RS (women’s version)

As to how reliable the hardware fastening is on this boot, I checked all the threaded fasteners (fewer now, as mentioned above) before field testing and the hardware was tight. After the 10 days I went over them again and all was still locked down nicely. I then proceeded to disassemble the hardware (continuing the fine Wildsnow tradition of messing with perfectly good equipment) and found the fasteners to have liberal amounts of red Loctite. Hooray!

I’ll end with observations for you weight weenies. The OE Scarpa Maestrale RS liner (custom made for them by Intuition) is 263g and is supposed to be beefier to match the beef of the boot. The Intuition luxury liners I’m going to stick in the Maestrale RS for testing are 220g. The shell weight of Maestrale RS is 1316g while the shell weight of Maestrale is 1305g, a minimal difference but nonetheless LESS instead of more. Maestrale RS is supposed to be 1559g (or 3lbs 15oz as stated in the PR in Americanese). My test pair of Maestrale RS measured 1579g but with my own Intution liners they come in at 1536g.

Scarpa Maestrale RS in eurotastic colours

Scarpa Maestrale RS in eurotastic colours

Side by side with Maestrale - looks pretty much the same profile

Side by side with Maestrale - looks pretty much the same profile

Axial alpine technology...yum!

Axial alpine technology...yum!

Buckles are beefier; purportedly stiffer but not as elegant as the old wire buckles. I leave the lowest buckle almost completely loose and really could take it off completely

Buckles are beefier; purportedly stiffer but not as elegant as the old wire buckles. I leave the lowest buckle almost completely loose and yes, could take it off completely as some guy named Lou tends to do to nearly all his 4-buckle boots.

Canting adjustment and ankle rivet that doesn't fall off

Canting adjustment and ankle rivet that doesn't fall off

G3 Spitfire LT Ski
My old spring ski (Atomic Tm:ex with Dynafit Comforts) is what can be politely called a “classic” setup. Relatively narrow (84mm underfoot), stiff throughout, now losing its camber, and with so little base material left that it cannot even be ground. I’ve been waiting for something exceptional to take its place. The G3 Spitfire LT appears to be that ski. Ever so slightly fatter but fatness is not what I look for in a spring setup.

Spring skiing requires a peculiar animal. Big long lines will hopefully go down with snow that will change dramatically with the elevation. There will be long slogs to skiable terrain with long approaches so the ski should be decently light. Terrain will be tight (either by way of couloir entries or tree exits) so the skis should be on the shorter side. Snow might be “firm” (codeword for impenetrable) and “sporty” (codeword for breakable crust) so the skis must have edgehold yet be versatile.

The old soldier TM:ex’s were not versatile with the stiff tips making them a tip-dive machine. While their old-school shape and stiffness definitely kept you honest I’ve become a big fan or “early rise” tips. Best described through a picture (see below), the Spitfire LT still has traditional camber but the tips splay a bit. G3 implements “early rise” differently throughout its ski lineup with the Spitfire LT having the least amount of rise, the Tonic/Zenoxide having a bit more rise and the fattest skis having the most rise to the point of almost being rockered. The effect of early rise is most readily apparent in crusty snow where no doubt I’d have been head-planting a few times on my old rig but which was handled with aplomb with the Spitfire LTs.

The light weight of the Spitfire LTs is appreciated on the uphill either on your feet or on your pack. Square ever-so-slightly upturned tails with a little notch cut for skins is always appreciated for touring-friendliness. On groomers they carve reasonably well only blowing out tails if you lean them racer style into corduroy at mach-looney speeds. They’re as quick as the dimensions suggest in tight turns and if your style is to bum wiggle wedel turns you’ll be pretty happy with these skis. Their limit is found for straightlining open faces; obviously they’re smaller skis and accordingly not the tool of choice for outrunning sluff on deep powder spine lines.

Spitfire LT (left) has a slight early rise tip compared with a G3 Tonic (right) which has more of an early rise tip

Spitfire LT (left) has a slight early rise tip compared with a G3 Tonic (right) which has more of an early rise tip

Twin One Glacier - Duffey. Pow at the top of this 700m run. Spring snow at the bottom

Twin One Glacier - Duffey. Pow at the top of this 700m run. Spring snow at the bottom

Scarpa Maestrale RS Fit and Impressions

Fit
I have a traditional Asian foot; which means that my forefoot is wider then what most ski boots are designed for and I have no arch to speak of. The Maestrale RS has the same last as the Maestrale so if you fit one you’ll fit the other (note that the Skookum, Mobe, Spirit 3 and 4 have a different last and were higher volume so do not extrapolate fit from those boots). Once I cooked the Intuition-made liner I could tour and ski the Maestrale RS without discomfort. In the size 27.5 tested, boot sole length was 306mm. The heel pocket isn’t tight so if you’re used to a performance alpine boot, there is not much anatomical shaping going on. If you have heel lift I’d recommend some padding and the services of a bootfitter.

According to Scarpa’s literature the stock RS liners are “beefier” version of Intuition Pro-tours hence their additional weight. The added heft appears to be in slightly thicker padding at the ankle bone and the forefoot.

Maestrale RS internals (right) look the same as the Maestrale (left)

Maestrale RS internals (right) look the same as the Maestrale (left)

Performance- up hill and touring
I’ve already bleated enough about touring in the Maestrale and Rush boots that I can fairly be accused of being a Scarpa fanboy. The Maestrale RS is no different, and frankly, It’s nirvana to skin uphill in a boot with so much range of motion (40 degrees of cuff range – going from + 20 to -20). So much cuff range and the relative light weight makes this a dream for self-powered endeavors. Note that the Maestrale RS (as with Rush and Maestrale) tours much better when you slack off all buckles and the power strap. This does mean slower transitions as you will have to go through the extra step of re-tightening buckles and the power strap as you prepare to go downhill.

Performance – downhill
No question the Maestrale RS is stiffer than the Maestrale. As mentioned earlier I took the tongues off both boots and compared. The Maestrale RS’s tongue had the same construction with a slight bellows in the middle (conducive to touring) but was was noticeably stiffer in flex. If anyone remembers from “back-in-the-day” when the Megaride was the de rigeur boot of choice and people were stiffening them up with Raichle Flexon tongues, the Maestrale tongue can be equated to the stock Megaride tongue while the Maestrale RS tongue can be equated to the Flexon purple tongue which was just shy of stiffness of the downhillers orange tongue. The Maestrale RS boot lowers also appear stiffer thus bearing out Scarpa’s assertion that the polyamide/grilamid Maestrale RS plastic is stiffer than the Pebax used in Maestrale.

How much stiffer? Suffice it to say that when I skied the Maestrale my advice was to crank the buckles and powerstrap tight to get the boot to become stiff. With the Maestrale RS I do not crank the buckles as tight and don’t even bother doing up the powerstrap. I don’t even bother tightening the lower buckle and could easily just remove that buckle without missing it. To compare against other boots in Scarpa’s lineup I’d have to say that Maestrale RS is stiffer than the Skookum boot. If I wasn’t so in love with this boot so much that self-doubt about my own objectivity is creeping in, I’d even go so far as to say that it’s comparable to the Scarpa Mobe (the boot I previously thought was Scarpa’s stiffest) at least in lateral stiffness if not in fore-aft stiffness.

This leads to an interesting quandary for Scarpa. The Maestrale was so good that it basically killed off the Spirit 3 and 4 line. The Maestrale RS takes it one step further and basically skis better or at least as well as the Mobe and Skookum while being a significantly better touring boot. It’ll be interesting to see how Scarpa can top this boot which, at this price point and performance level, we at WildSnow.com predict will be a worldwide favorite.

I wish I had the Maestrale and Spitfire on these trips I took to the Selkirks earlier in the year. I'll be long-term testing the Maestrale RS throughout next season.

I wish I had the Maestrale and Spitfire on these trips I took to the Selkirks earlier in the year. I'll be long-term testing the Maestrale RS throughout next season and perhaps that'll be one of the places where the new gear will shine.

Shop for Scarpa Maestrale backcountry skiing boots.

Lee’s personal biases and test conditions: I weigh 165 lbs and ski mainly in the Coast Mountains of British Columbia in the Vancouver/Whistler area. My skiing is usually in fairly high moisture-content snow and I am not a finesse skier. Accordingly, my preference is for bigger skis and boots. I ski about a 100 days a season, 70% of which days involves some backcountry skiing. I’ve spent 10 days on the Maestrale RS boots and on the Spitfire LT skis with 2 inbound days and the rest touring in powder and then in spring touring conditions. My personal skis are G3 Zenoxides, BD Zealots and Atomic TM:ex. My personal boots are the Scarpa Maestrale and the Dynafit ZZeus.

(Guest blogger Lee Lau is an avid skier and outdoorsman embarking on many adventures with his loving, and sometimes concerned wife, Sharon. He has over fifteen years of experience backcountry skiing and dabbles in mountaineering. In the “off-season” he is occasionally found working in his day job as an intellectual property lawyer when he is not mountain biking. As a resident of Vancouver and Whistler, British Columbia, Lee’s playground extends mainly to Western Canada, including South West B.C. and the Selkirks. Lee and Sharon share experiences at www.sharonandlee.net)

Comments

33 Responses to “G3 Spitfire Ski, meet Maestrale RS Boot”

  1. John May 4th, 2012 9:12 am

    Lee, I believe my Maestrale’s are size 27.0 and have a BSL length of 306 also. Did Scarpa switch their shell sizes so that they break at the whole size rather than the half? Might be helpful for some other people.

  2. Lee Lau May 4th, 2012 10:10 am

    John,

    I can confirm my 27.5s were 306mm so I guess that Scarpa did make the change.

  3. msulkers May 4th, 2012 11:39 am

    Lee, you are a Scarpa fanboy. Heard if Scarpa has any intention of going a bit wider on the lasts? Unfortunately, those new Maestrale lowers are a little on the slender side for us duckfeet, whereas the older boots could be persuaded wider.

  4. Lee Lau May 4th, 2012 11:46 am

    Mitch,

    Yeah I love those boots so always read my reviews of Scarpa with some koolaid. It tastes great! Apparently grilamid/polyamide can be punched and hold a punch but its got to be done c a r e f u l l y.

  5. ml242 May 4th, 2012 12:28 pm

    Are the 11-12 Maestrale’s the same as the old scarpa’s that change on the half shell? I’m usually a 26.5/27 and just ordered some orange 27s… it would be a HUDGE bummer if they were the wrong (larger) shell.

  6. Dave May 4th, 2012 12:40 pm

    I work with SCARPA, and can confirm that SCARPA shell break is on the half size and the next larger full size. So 27.5 and 28 are the same shell.

  7. Michael May 4th, 2012 12:42 pm

    Is Scarpa going to be making a Rush again for the 2012-2013 season? I don’t think I need the extra stiffness, but appreciate the lighter weight

  8. Lou May 4th, 2012 12:58 pm

    Michael, good question, it’s definitely a sweet boot for those who would ditch the fourth buckle anyway…

  9. ml242 May 4th, 2012 1:03 pm

    Dave,

    Thanks for the quick update. I just called your office in a moment of panic about my order and Steve also confirmed that Scarpa will not be changing the shell size breakdown from how they’ve done it in the past. Looking forward to my fourth consecutive pair of Scarpa AT boots, thanks!

  10. Maki May 4th, 2012 1:13 pm

    My (orange) Maestrale in 27.5 are 314, same as 28.

    “Maestrale RS has two ski modes; 16 and 20 degrees so its slightly more upright than before (hmmm, a trend?).” Actually this year 16-20 was the quote for the orange Maestrale, according to the italian website. I wonder if that has already changed, cause I remember that initially they were 18-22 (which for me was either too much or too little).

    Do you know if we can swap the bars keeping the rest unchanged? Also, any impression about slack in the lean lock mech? In 18° mode I find it excessive.

  11. Lee Lau May 4th, 2012 1:16 pm

    Maki i wonder if the sticker on mine is a mislabelling. I thought I was on a 27.5 but it must be a 27 per Dave as the embossed plastic clearly says 306mm BSL.

    It was 18 – 22 in the old boot.

    Don’t see why you couldn’t swap out lean lock bars or simply drill new holes. But I haven’t tried so don’t know for sure. I did take apart the walk mech just out of curiousity and its pretty basic – just make sure not to strip the tiny allen heads

  12. msulkers May 4th, 2012 1:55 pm

    Dave.

    Any word on the max punching the Maestrale shell will take? My Spirit 3′s (yeah, remember them?) needed to be punched 20mm on a 28.0 and that was a wider last than the Maestrale.

  13. Maki May 5th, 2012 1:57 pm

    Lee, look at the tongue of the original liner rather than the sticker on the shell. First three digits should be the size.

  14. rangerjake May 6th, 2012 1:20 pm

    Lee- are you on sample boots? Scarpa only does their samples in 25 and 27 for men and women respectively. So it would make some sense that yours are 27s. Or are yours the first batch of production for distribution this late summer/fall?

    As for removing the bar on the ski/walk mode, I have had to replace a few ski/walk mechs on Geas and Maestrales. Hammering out the pin on the bottom of the bar is no fun task. Actually it sucks and is very difficult to do. For what that is worth. As Lee says, the rest of the mech is pretty simple.

  15. Lee Lau May 6th, 2012 8:12 pm

    Jake – am told I’m on productions.

  16. Mark W May 6th, 2012 10:10 pm

    Would love to try that boot out. Maestrales hit it out of the park for nearly everyone at our shop.

  17. chrisg May 8th, 2012 3:10 pm

    Looks good, only comment is that since I have broken every buckle on both pairs of Scarpas I own…bring on the Beef!

  18. Bar Barrique May 10th, 2012 8:46 pm

    I was surprised to learn that Scarpa did not beef up the tongue hinges. I went through a set last year, and, again this year. It seems that a minority group of skiers have problems with the hinges. Love the boots otherwise.

  19. Lou May 11th, 2012 7:58 am

    Bar, I recall they did do one in-line change and make the hinges stronger, but it’s not very obvious and in my opinion they could still be a bit stronger. Looks like Lee felt the same way. Perhaps I should edit the review a bit to make all that clear, as again, they did beef the hinges up a bit from the first iteration. Those first ones broke constantly, I remember Louie breaking all his and making his own hinges. But again, they did beef them a bit. Lou

  20. Bar Barrique May 12th, 2012 9:41 pm

    The hinges that were replaced last year were undoubtedly replaced with the original version. This years replacements, I expect are the newer ones so; I guess I haven’t tested them yet.
    Great service from Scarpa, and, my local shop.

  21. stevenjo June 14th, 2012 12:25 pm

    Lee/Lou – Any idea how to get a hold of the RS tongues…? The old black and orange is a little under-gunned for my ridiculous new powder boards

  22. Lee Lau June 14th, 2012 12:59 pm

    I’ll ask Steven but don’t hold your breath since Maestrale RS isn’t hitting stores till late summer as far as i know. Usually aftermarket takes a bit longer

  23. stevenjo June 14th, 2012 5:09 pm

    Thanks Lee, I’ll check back in a while to see if you’re able to come up with anything.

    John

  24. stevenjo August 23rd, 2012 10:50 am

    FYI – I sent an email to Scarpa last week about possible availability of the RS tongues for purchase and wasn’t enthused by their response. Lee, sounds like you were right.

    “Hi John, We will have some available for warranty purposes, but not as an accessory part.”

    - John

  25. Rusty September 20th, 2012 9:41 am

    Lee,
    As a Zzeus owner (w/ powerwraps), I long for a progressive flex boot (at similar or greater stiffness), but with some weight loss. Is the RS a possible go-to? In your primary review of the Maestral, you say”…it doesn’t quite ski like an overlap boot and has that same slight harshness of power transmission characteristic of tongue boots..” Does the RS stiffness increase this harshness, or perhaps “dampen” it?

    Thank you for your time.

  26. Lee Lau September 20th, 2012 2:06 pm

    Rusty

    Its a bit better so far than the Maestrale because to get the Maestrale stiff you have to crank buckles and powerstrap tight. Generally speaking of course as I don’t have a full season on it yet

  27. mark October 31st, 2012 8:03 pm

    Lee,
    I am looking for a 2 ski quiver to ride this winter in Revelstoke, BC. What are your thoughts on a G3 Zen with the marker F12 for the hill and the Huascaran with dynafit rad st for touring both with the scarpa maestrale rs. Any info on how these would perfrom in the trees? Thanks, Mark

  28. Lee Lau October 31st, 2012 9:27 pm

    The Zen would be an amazing on the hill ski because its got so much power underfoot. Unfortunately I don’t know how the Huascaran skis

  29. Pietro January 24th, 2014 3:19 pm

    How would you compare the scarpa Freedom SL to this boot?

  30. Lee Lau January 24th, 2014 4:05 pm

    Freedom SL is ever so slightly stiffer but not by much. Maestrale RS tours a bit better – but not by much. Big difference is Freedom SL has replaceable soles

  31. Pietro January 24th, 2014 4:19 pm

    How would you compare Garmont Radium to both of these boots? Is the fit comparable? Thanks a lot for the input!

  32. Lee Lau January 24th, 2014 4:20 pm

    No idea

  33. Lou Dawson January 24th, 2014 10:47 pm

    Pietro, similar class in terms of how they ski down, on the up the Scarpa has significantly more cuff movement. As for fit, they’re totally different brands and models so no, the fit is not comparable. Lou

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