Scarpa’s Skookum is a new downhill oriented yet Dynafit compatible AT boot they’ll be distributing for the 08/09 season. If you’ve wanted something that’s still good for those big climbs but yields more driving power than the Spirit 4, keep these shoes in mind.
I weighed the Scarpa Skookum boots on a kitchen scale: 1800g for a single boot (just under 4lbs). To provide some comparables the Mega Ride (my current and well worn boot) is 1640g while the Spirit 3 is 1650g. All these boots are size 27.
Tinkering with and modifying touring equipment is a time-honored tradition and boots are no exception. For example, many have modified the 4 buckle Garmont Mega Ride with stiffer tongues, higher performance liners and booster straps or have altered forward lean angles – all towards improving downhill performance. Scarpa has recognized and accommodated the reality of garage ingenuity by shipping the Skookum with booster straps and two types of tongues; a stiff downhill-biased tongue and a softer touring-biased tongue.
Another positive of the high-end Scarpa boots is that Intuition’s wonderfully warm and moldable liners are delivered with them as original equipment. The production Skookums will be delivered with Intuition’s new plug liner – supposedly stiffer but just as comfortable as Intuition’s already high-performance Speed Pro liners/Alpine liners which came OE in last year’s Scarpa offerings.
I took the picture below with a wide angle lens so there is some distortion to the sides of the picture – hopefully the lines on the siding will help restore perspective. The Skookum is picture center and is shown with the stiffer tongue. The front cuff of the Skookum is noticeably lower then that of either the Spirit 3 (left) or the Mega Ride (right). I suspect that the tall and stiff downhill tongue shipped with the Skookum will mean that the relative shortness of the Skookum’s front cuff will not be detrimental to skiing performance.
The Spirit 3 and the Skookum have similar lean angles; a two stage setting of either 19 or 23 degrees.
Note that the rear spoilers on the Spirit 3, Skookum, and Mega Ride are at about the same level so the rear of the boots are approximately the same height (ignore the height of the Intuition liners as they are my liners and will not come stock with the boot – see above note).
The walk mechanism of the Skookum is similar to the Mega Ride and departs from the circular mechanism used in the Spirit 3 and 4 from last year. The up-down flip lever used in the Skookum will be prone to clogging up with ice and snow when boot-packing and is susceptible to switching from downhill to walk mode on its own also when boot-packing. I am not sure why Scarpa chose to regress from last season’s design.
Front view of the three boots gives a better idea of the relative shortness of the Skookum’s front cuff. In contrast observe the remarkable height of the shipped downhill tongue on the Skookum as compared to the Scarpa tongue of last year on the Spirit 3. Note that both the Skookum and the Spirit 3 have the wraparound stiffening reinforcement around the bottom last of the boot shell. I anticipate that this harder plastic might help downhill performance as the bottom Pebax plastic shell of the Garmont Mega Ride (which lacks a similar stiffening reinforcement) flexes noticeably when the boot is engaged.
The next picture shows the interior of the Skookum and below that, the Spirit 3’s interior. A large removable spoiler is provided, a feature which the Spirit 4, 3 and the Mega Ride lack. Scarpa’s attention to detail can also be noted in that the buckles can be removed with tools. Why can’t all brands of boots do that, it seems so simple…? Note that the inside bottom of the boot is hard plastic; those with cold feet could possibly add some foam padding on the bottom interior of the boot. Also consider taping over the hard metal edges of the inside nuts of the buckles so that your liner doesn’t get prematurely scuffed (as with any AT boot).
Note the flex limiters on the interior of the boot; providing a hard-stop to prevent the boot from flexing too far forward. This is a design attribute shared by many of the newer crop of AT boots (including the Scarpa Spirit 4, 3, F3 and the Dynafit lineup) but not by the more venerable offerings (the Garmont Mega Ride and G-Ride or Scarpa Denali). These hard stops are intended to help disperse the force of downhill skiing not only to the cuff but also to the lower boot shell. Some users find this hard stop to be a too-harsh way of limiting travel — for example, I’ve taken to grinding out the offending plastic. As Lou has noted here many times, boots with things you can modify or remove for performance are much nicer than boots you have to practically build from scratch, so good to see that trend.
As stated in passing above, the Skookum comes OE with the Booster Strap, yet again showing Scarpa’s attention to detail. More, the stock Booster Strap is modified to make installation and use tidy and clean with the incorporation of velcro backing so that the strap can be stowed after it is tightened (and it can easily be removed if just the boot buckles are enough for you.)
This last picture shows the Skookum buckles. Style-wise they are not the most streamlined design. Indeed, in use in heavy snow, the buckles do trend to attract a fair share of buildup of snow. The Skookum’s buckles do not share the same heel-ankle lock-down positioning as the Spirit 4 and 3’s buckles and are in the more traditional ski – boot location. To keep Lou and those with his genes happy, there are also canting adjustments on the Skookum located on the inside and outside of the boot shell.
I am told by Scarpa that the top plastic cuff of the Skookum will be changed in some manner. As presently designed the plastic for the top two buckles on the Skookum contact the tongue prematurely. Scarpa feels that the prototype boot has restricted cuff movement in both uphill and downhill modes. I will attempt to take this into account when testing the boot’s on-snow performance. Skiing the boot will tell the tale, but I’m very optimistic about this shoe, perhaps it’ll even grace my feet next season.
Scarpa Press Release:
Unleashing the most sophisticated combination yet of downhill performance in a touring- and mountaineering-friendly package, SCARPA North America will release two new hard-charging freeride boots for Fall 2008, the Typhoon and the women’s specific Domina. In addition, SCARPA will also unveil the Skookum, a boot for big skis and big lines that are also Dynafit compatible.
For sidecountry adventures or ski touring and mountaineering with the ultimate in control, these three boots set the bar in the freeride/alpine-touring category. They’re ideal for the skier that needs a super rigid boot for aggressive terrain yet wants the versatility to put it in walk mode for that quick boot up the ridge or the tour to reach a steep descent.
SHELLS: Built with 100 percent Pebax, the best material available for building lightweight ski boots that can retain their stiffness over the widest range of temperatures, the Typhoon, Domina and Skookum employ dual-injected V-Frame power-ribs on the cuffs for extraordinary rigidity. A walk/tour mode keeps things comfy when not in downhill mode. Four buckles and a power strap lock things down for the ride. These boots come with hinged tongues for touring as well as ski tongues that easily swap out for a 20 percent increase in boot stiffness. The Skookum adds tech fittings in the lower shell for Dynafit compatibility. It also comes with Scarpa’s booster power strap.
LINER: Intuition liners are the best thermo-moldable liners in the business, renowned for resistance to pack-out and warmth, which is why SCARPA boots come stock with them. The new SCARPA Intuition Speed Pro liners, used in the Typhoon, Domina and Skookum, are built with an alpine-style tongue, which allows SCARPA to increase their rigidity, translating to a stiffer overall boot design. Yet the way they are stiffened on the back of the cuff means they still have excellent range of motion when in walk mode. Liners come lasted for men’s and women’s feet respectively, and the thermo-molding process fine-tunes the fit.
SOLES: Notable because it’s the only DIN-standard rubberized sole on the market that can be skied in alpine or alpine-touring bindings without changing out any parts, the SCARPA/Vibram Ride sole comes standard on the Typhoon and Domina. This offers the maximum security in the widest range of binding interfaces with excellent traction for icy conditions. For those who prefer a burlier lugged mountaineering sole, the SCARPA Rally lugged sole can easily be added to either boot. The Skookum employs a touring friendly lugged sole.
SPECS: Typhoon and Domina: 4 pounds, 3 ounces per boot (size 27); forward lean 19 and 23 degrees; Retail $699. Skookum: Retail $769.
(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 15 years of experience skiing, ski-touring 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, British Columbia, Lee’s playground extends mainly to Western Canada, including South West B.C. and the Selkirks.)