We’ve had a pair of Scarpa F3 kicking around here since early winter. They’ll be up at 24 Hours of Sunlight in a few days being borrowed by one of our team members (along with other dads, I’m coaching a team of three teenagers and one 20-something, more about that tomorrow and reports all weekend). I’m glad the F3s will get some good use at Sunlight, but I’m bummed they’re out of my possession, as they’re the perfect boot for doing longer, lower angled tours such as approach routes for the Colorado 10th Mountain Huts. Since we published hutski.com, I’ve found more excuses for those types of tours, and with warmer spring weather it’s time to do some trail research.
|Scarpa F3 — backcountry skiing boot of choice for long, low angled trips.|
Obviously, the stand-apart feature of the F3 is a metatarsal bend “bellows” not unlike the ubiquitous plastic telemark boot. Difference is that this bend is not tuned for adding power to a telemark turn, but rather to add ergonomics to your stride while using Dynafit bindings. Scarpa also makes another boot, the F1, that does the same thing. But the F1 is more a dedicated randonnee race boot that’s slightly less beefy in downhill mode.
In touring mode, while striding out on low angled terrain, you can sense the advantage of a metatarsal bend. It feels more natural, keeps your feet warmer due to increased blood flow, and makes your stride more efficient than that with stiff soled boots. That said, in my opinion the bellows adds no advantage on steeper climbs when higher heel lifts come into play, and even induces a slight sag during each step that uses up energy. Thus, this is indeed a fairly specialized boot you’ll want if you do much low angled touring, or just need the comfort and warmth of being able to bend your foot.
|The boys getready at WildSnow HQ, molding F3 liners for team member Mike, fitting skins, and goofing around with things like riding a bongo board next to our glass bottle collection. Glad they’re good athletes. Don’t worry, the snowmobile helmet is not part of 24 Hours of Sunlight…|
Using the F3 in alpine mode is a positive surprise. It’s only a 3 buckle boot, but with a tall cuff and tongue as well as a power strap, they ski fine. Just remember to have the proper size shim fixed to your ski under the boot bellows, otherwise you’ll feel the boot squeegee under your foot as you make turns, more, if the boot sags too much it can even cause inadvertent heel release. The shim is easy to install, but height is critical so two options are provided that accommodate various Dynafit binding models. Beyond that, you could also use the cool Scarpa shims that slide into the Dynafit crampon fitting.
Tip: When you install shims for Scarpa F3 or F1 boots, make sure they’re large enough and positioned in a way that doesn’t cause them to catch in the boot sole lugs during side release. By the same token, keep the shim lubricated by rubbing with alpine wax.
What’s not to love? Most people will find that a simple liner molding gives them a good fit in the F3, but some of us will need more work to compensate for the high arched last of the typical Scarpa shell. For hiking or snow walking (sans skis), I wish they’d get rid of the randonnee semi-duckbill toe. In fact, one wonders why in the world this boot has a standard toe? Isn’t it only intended for use with Dynafit bindings? At any rate, in my opinion they should re-design the toe to match that of boots such as Dynafit TLT, which has no duckbill. One other thing: The high tongue works well for the down, but tends to resist your shin during the long touring strides allowed by the bellows. While it would slightly compromise downhill performance, in our opinion a two piece tongue such as that of the Spirit 3 would be a better choice. Indeed, if I can come up with a pair of those I’ll probably swap them in. All above are minor complaints. This is a boot we’re using, and it works.
So, what we did with the F3 is combine it with a lightweight pair of Black Diamond Stigma mounted with super light Dynafit TLT bindings. When doing long low-angled routes into the huts I carry two sets of skins, one straight cut mohair that glides like crazy, and another wall-to-wall nylon for breaking trail or doing steeper climbs. I carry some nordic wax as well, and dab some on when conditions warrant. Our F3 setup is a joy to use and makes my part time job as a “hut researcher” a lot more fun. More, bellows boots are easier to walk around in so they’re excellent when you’ve got to hike up a dry trail for a few miles — or stand around and have a trailhead brew after the trip. In all, yes, F3 is indeed the cat’s meow!
Weight: 1484 gr 52.4 oz for size 28, one of the lightest boots out there.
WildSnow.com publisher emeritus and founder Lou (Louis Dawson) has a 50+ years career in climbing, backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering. He was the first person in history to ski down all 54 Colorado 14,000-foot peaks, has authored numerous books about about backcountry skiing, and has skied from the summit of Denali in Alaska, North America’s highest mountain.