Comparo Review – Scarpa Matrix and Spirit 3 Backcountry Skiing Boots


This post by WildSnow.com blogger  

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Scarpa Matrix and Spirit 3
Scarpa Matrix (left) and Spirit 3 randonnee backcountry ski boots. Click image to enlarge.

We’ve got the Scarpa Matrix and Spirit 3 here at WildSnow HQ, time for camparo!

First, don’t let the Spirit being a three buckle boot fool you. By mounting the buckles on thick plastic reinforcements, we have no doubt this shoe’s buckles act more like 4 1/2 — beefy and solid feeling. Matrix is three buckle as well, without the mounting system and thus with the slightly less supportive feel that “touring” type boots tend to have. But get this, weight of shells (size 311) is almost identical! Spirit is 53.8 ounces 1526 grams, Matrix weighs in at seven tenths of an ounce less, 53.1 ounces 1504 grams. Amazing. For less than 1/2 ounce you get the full beef and added height of the Spirit 3. How can this be? Simple, Spirit has a much more sophisticated dual density molding process that yields thinner and lighter plastic in numerous areas. Matrix backcountry skiing boot has minimal dual-density molding.

Black Diamond Verdict backcountry ski
Leanlock on left, height comparo to right.

Other interesting tidbits about these two boots. Both have the same leanlock mechanism but the Matrix has only one alpine lean lock position while the Spirit has two. We prefer only one, as in the heat of battle it’s all too easy to click the one you like least, then wonder why your knees are sore or you quads tired after the run. What’s ingenious about both boots is that the leanlock allow fine tuning of the forward lean angle by twisting screw on the outside of the boot, which in turn moves the thread/cam system visible in the photo above. While this adds a smidge of weight, it’s incredibly nice to tune your forward lean without resorting to shims and heel lifts.

Shell height is interesting. Spirit has asymmetrical side height, with the inside being about centimeter higher than the outside. As pictured above, Spirit is significantly higher on the side than Matrix (low side is shown), and the Spirit tongue is higher as well, but the rear spoilers on both boots are of equal height. The shell tongues are quite different. Matrix uses a classic one piece tongue with a ribbed hinge point, while Spirit has a two piece tongue that allows more forward freedom in touring mode, but doesn’t contribute as much forward resistance in alpine mode as the Matrix tongue. I assume the idea with Spirit is that the cuff contributes more stiffness, so the tongue can be relaxed. To that end, hidden in the Spirit cuff are small stops that limit forward travel in alpine mode — nice for a stiffer feel but easily removed for more progressive flex. As with most Scarpa ski boots, the tongues are easily removed for swapping or customization.

Our biggest problem with Scarpa is the high arch built into the shell, and while Scarpa claims to have reduced this a bit, we don’t see much (if any) difference in these boots. A high arch in the shell can make adding custom footbeds a chore for many people, and may cause hard to solve fitting problems for many different types of feet. To be fair, the high arch is created by using less material in the shell while sticking with a sole that has a defined heel, so it’s a necessary evil for weight reduction. Solution is to shim the forfoot up to effect a flatter platform. Doing so is a chore, adds weight, but generally takes care of the issue.

Both boots have Dynafit fittings of course, and the Dynafit toe sockets are mounted a bit farther back than other brand boots. This gives a slightly better touring stride but may necessitate remounting bindings to fit the shorter distance between toe and heel fittings. Both boots have a power strap, and both have the same type of buckles. Which to use? They’re both good performers in alpine mode with an obvious edge for the Spirit. Matrix will no doubt be easier to come by on a budget and perhaps tours slightly easier because of its lower side cut and overall less beef. In all, we’re amazed at what Scarpa stuffed into the Spirit for virtually the same weight as the Matrix.

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Comments

26 Responses to “Comparo Review – Scarpa Matrix and Spirit 3 Backcountry Skiing Boots”

  1. Anthony Rabinowitz October 13th, 2006 2:56 pm

    Lou,
    How do the Matrix and Spirit compare to the Megaride? How should we decide between Scarpa or Garmont for AT boot purposes?

    Thanks, Tony

  2. ray b. October 13th, 2006 3:45 pm

    gotta second that q. plus alternatives like dynafit. peace

  3. Lou October 13th, 2006 3:55 pm

    Anthony, I’d say the big difference is in fit and a bit in weight. Megaride has a bit less internal arch, but has quite a bit less volume, in fact, I have to use a whole shell size larger in Garmont for the same fit. My Garmont Megaride shell weighs 50 ounces even in larger shell ( don’t have factory weight, because I ground some rubber off the Garmont sole), probably because it has much less plastic being lower volume.

    P.S., I made a typo on the weights, fixed now.

  4. D Weiss October 13th, 2006 4:48 pm

    Thanks for the review, Lou. I have the Matrix and like them, but they are a bit ‘soft’. I’m interested to try out the Spirits. I like Scarpa boots, but I’m not a fan of the buckles, as they tend to wear out and break at the rivet, or wear out on the plastic ‘ratchet’.
    One nice thing about the Garmont’s is the buckle system.

  5. Justin Wilcox October 13th, 2006 8:14 pm

    So the fit of the Spirit is about the same as the Matrix? The forefoot is still significantly higher volume than the Megarides? I think you may have mixed the boots up in the review paragraph about the tongues. The Spirit has the hinged tongue, I dont think the Matrix does.

  6. Lou October 14th, 2006 5:47 am

    Justin, yeah, I need an editor! Thanks! The Spirit is indeed the boot with the hinged tounge. I fixed the blog post.

    The fit of the Spirit is about the same as the Matrix, and the Megaride has significantly less forefoot volume. All terrific boots and nice to have such choices! Most interesting thing to us is how well the Spirit skis with so little weight.

  7. Damian October 14th, 2006 3:06 pm

    Hi Lou,

    I use the Matrix for AT and also on a snowboard when a hard boot is needed for a tour. I have the 04/05 Matrix which is slightly softer, some say too soft. It is certainly a good enough boot for my intermediate skiing and I have found it the best AT boot for my snowboarding due to the softer shell and, very importantly, the middle ankle strap/buckle. The ankle strap gives good firm heel hold that snowboarders need. The Spirit’s strap is beefier and seems better designed for the job so my guess it would offer even better heel hold. Basically, both boots are great for crossing over between AT skiing and snowboard mountaineering (and even on-piste carving for the icy days using either skis or a stiff snowboard). Seldom can one boot do so many things.

    damian

  8. steve romeo October 14th, 2006 6:20 pm

    I made my first turns with the Spirit3 here in NZ a few days ago…and they do feel a bit stiffer and wider than the Matrix…maybe a little more forward lean as well…IMHO.

  9. Tim October 17th, 2006 5:08 pm

    Hey Lou, am I going to notice a difference between my souped-up Lasers (Flexon tongue, Thermoflex liners, spoilers, booster straps) and either the Spirit 3 or the Megaride?

  10. evan October 18th, 2006 4:52 pm

    i’ve been skiing the Spirit 3s since last feb–i ordered them from telemark-pyrennees. they’ve been great, and i’m thrilled with them. several 8 hour days have proven them to be almost as comfortable as my F1s, but the extra weight is definitely noticeable. they are powerful on the descents, that’s for sure.

    an interesting note: i have F1s and Spirit 3s in a 28 shell. the F1s are perhaps a tiny, tiny bit roomier inside, but here’s the interesting part: the shell is around 5mm longer. that means that i’ve had to re-mount some skis that were mounted for the F1s in order to use the Spirit 3s (i had the heels mounted toward the end of their adjustment range).

  11. Josh October 21st, 2006 12:21 pm

    I think of the Garmont forefoot as oval and the Scarpa as closer to round. For those of us with a high, weak arch the Scarpas fit better. A good bootfitter can use the forward lean adjustment and cant to really center the lower leg.

    The only stance issue left is varus/valgus. I stood on the custom measurement jig at Snowcovers in Whistler the other day and it turns out I’m about 1d varus. Who knew? Any ideas for correcting that (or should I even care)?

  12. George December 2nd, 2006 9:48 pm

    I am looking for a good AT boot that fits narrow low volume feet. Which boots do our recommend?
    I really like my 9 year old Scarpa T-1s (telemark) and (2004) T-2s, but I didn’t like the Denali Scarpa TT’s due to fit and stiffness.
    It sounds like the Matrix is softer and might fit.
    Do the Dynafits fit wide, normal or narrow feet? Thanks, George

  13. Lou December 3rd, 2006 6:26 am

    No question, the boots with less volume are the Garmont.

  14. Rune December 5th, 2006 2:49 am

    I’ve heard rumors of the sole on the Spirit3 wears quite quickly.

    Is that a problem you’ve noticed?

    And compared to the Megarides: Is there a difference in downhill performance (presuming perfect fit in both boots)?

    I’ve skied the Lasers for 8 yrs & been content. But the narrow fit of the Megarides entices me. However, I found the Spirits on sale & bought them and they feel tighter with the Thermos than my old Lasers. (I used old Raichle performance liners previously (non moldable)

    Thanks, Rune

  15. Lou December 5th, 2006 5:58 am

    Spirit 3 offers a bit more beef than Megaride. If you got them to fit then what’s not to love?

  16. Rune December 5th, 2006 9:44 am

    Lot’s of love already – just never had my feet in pair of Megarides ;)

  17. Dave S January 21st, 2007 11:27 am

    I give the Scarpa Spirit 3 two thumbs up for comfort and control!
    I was on the Mega Rides for 2 years and now thankfully have have had a Spirit-ual awakening.

    First of all I have low volume feet and narrow ankles. The MegaRides have a fairly square heel box that left my boney heels a blistering nightmare. The Spirits conform well to my teardrop shaped heels and the Heel Retention System (HRS) really does work. No more blisters! What is not to love!

  18. Rob April 25th, 2007 6:51 am

    I skied the spirit3 for most of the 06-07 season and thanks to euro internet stores I have the spirit4 for the end of the season.

    Sprit3-Most comfy boot ever for touring no question. My feet feel way better in these after all day walks than say my old denalis. However I feel the boot is a bit too squishy and the liner not thick enough to provide efficient power transmission to ski. I have had to back off the speed on a few lines this year to regain control. I also had to adjust the buckles alot to dial in the stiffness, which I dont normally do with my boots.

    I cant wait for the new Intuition liners I think the rubber sole will take up some volume for me and give me a bit less slop in there.

    Spirit4-So far It definitely skiis better. I do NOT think the plastic is stiffer than the sp3 although I have heard different. Exactly the same shell and pebax. However the subtle difference the extra buckle provides is noticable. Less rebuckling and the stiff “ski” tounge works way better on the way down but is a bit akward going up. (No big deal for short days) The big difference is that in variable snow this boots makes skiing way easier and fun. The buckles on these boots seem to be overly thick and I think could be lower profile. You end up with what looks like alot of metal on top of your foot, which collects wads of snow.

  19. Fletcher October 20th, 2007 12:13 am

    Those shoes are robotic.

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  21. Aaron March 22nd, 2010 7:29 pm

    Sorry to dredge up such an old post. I just got back from a week at a hut and wore my 2.5 year old Scarpa Matrix boots. Mid-way through the week I started to notice some numbness in one of my feet and it got progressively worse as the week went on. It’s mostly noticeable in the ball of my foot and the 3 biggest toes. 2 days have passed since the trip and the numbness persists. This problem has happened in the past with these boots after several consecutive days of skiing on them, but it’s a bit worse this time. The odd thing to me is that the boots feel very comfortable and I don’t think I was tightening the buckles excessively. Has anyone else here ever experienced this? Is there an area of the boot I should be focusing on modifying the fit or loosening the buckles so that I don’t have this issue in the future? Thanks for any suggestions you might have.

  22. gtrantow January 8th, 2011 8:06 pm

    2011 upgrade to 2006 Matrix boot — new intuition liners courtesy of my 2011 Scarpa T2 Eco tele boots. I pull my T2 Eco liners and put them into the Matrix boot for longer tours. The new liners work great in my Matrix boot due to the lace up Intuition liner.

  23. David Armstrong February 20th, 2011 6:59 am

    Lou, love the site. It/you have been super helpful (and entertaining) to a BC newbie… Anyone ever seen the lean-lock “cover” break off from Scarpa Matrix? It’s the mushroom shaped, white and yellow plastic piece that prevents liner from contacting lean-lock mechanism. My ’09 (bought new) have seen maybe 10 days and one snapped off after a long day of walking around the shelter in 10 F degrees; the other one shows signs of imminent breakage as well. I plan to attempt to return them but wonder if this was an isolated incident and/or if I could have somehow contributed to the failure. Thanks!

  24. Lou February 20th, 2011 7:17 am

    David, yes, I’ve seen that happen. Usually caused by folks sticking liners in the shell and accidentally folding the “lean lock cover” down. After doing that a few times it gets creased, then breaks as it is quite thin. Not sure of the fix, perhaps just tape it back on with a few inches of duct tape?

  25. David Armstrong February 20th, 2011 7:31 am

    Wow Lou, early morning immediate response, on a Sunday no less! I see how that could happen, but am positive I never folded it over. Regardless, turns out the boots (at least liner) is half size too small (I might lose my fourth toenail). Of course you can’t know where I bought them or their return policy, but do you think this breakage could warrant a return, and potential to up-size, or will they laugh at me? Thanks again for your insight!

  26. Lou February 20th, 2011 7:43 am

    David, guru sat-chit-ski-nanda can usually read minds, but somehow his powers are blocked off from the Scarpa office in Boulder. Word is that he can’t project through Pebax plastic, and the guys at Scarpa have created a secure environment by lining their wall with boxes of boots. Thus, the only way to find out what they’d do to help you is call them next week. :D

    Am indeed up and at it this morning, waiting to check our avy report then go hit it!

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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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