Guest Review – Scarpa Skookum Backcountry Ski Boots

Post by blogger | April 24, 2008      

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.

Boot Height
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.

Scarpa backcountry skiing.

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).

Walk/Ski Switch
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.

Scarpa backcountry skiing.

Front Height
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.

Scarpa backcountry skiing.

Interior Details
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.

Scarpa backcountry skiing.

Scarpa backcountry skiing.

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.

Scarpa backcountry skiing.

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.

Shop for Scarpa Skookum AT ski boot here.

Other useful links
* Lee’s Spirit 4 and F3 review.
* Scarpa video previewing the new line of boots for 2008-9
* Previous WildSnow Skookum first look.

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.)


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34 Responses to “Guest Review – Scarpa Skookum Backcountry Ski Boots”

  1. Dongshow April 24th, 2008 4:53 pm

    slightly off topic but because you mentioned it. Does anyone know where I can get some Raichle tounges for my Mega Rides. Other then buying a cheap pair of boots on ebay?

  2. Bdc April 24th, 2008 9:34 pm

    Is this the same guy -I’m sure it is, but if I am wrong I apologize – who questioned Greg Hill’s pursuit of a MILLION vertical last year? Pass the salt please.

  3. Lou April 25th, 2008 6:39 am

    BDC, perhaps so, but what’s your point?

  4. Bdc April 25th, 2008 7:47 am

    Hi Lou. The wording of your comment is quite ironic. The guest reviewer asked exactly that about Hill’s quest. As a result, I would take his review with “a grain of salt”. I simply think someone posting a ski touring review would understand a goal like that and if not, then I’m not willing to put a lot of faith in the review.

  5. ethank April 25th, 2008 7:59 am

    Lou, Clarify something. As far as the din compatible rubber soles. Is he saying that the typhoon and domina are the only rubberized sole that fit either alpine and at binders?? Does the Skookum fit all bindings also??
    He says that the skookum employs a touring friendly lugged that the same as what he calls the Scarpa/Vibram ride sole. Or is burly rally sole not compatible in an alpine binder. thanks.

  6. Lee Lau April 25th, 2008 8:57 am

    BDC – I questioned Greg’s point in doing a 10 peak Spearhead. I was out of line and hypocritical given my own predeliction for the odd death-march now and then. I apologized publicly. All that is on Greg’s blog so you can verify it for yourself.

    Ethan – the Skookum can fit in a Freeride binding or any other similar AT binder. The sole is definitely rubberized and it feels and walks like the Spirit 3 sole. It’s definitely touring-biased in that respect

    Dongshow – the odd shop might have some Raichle tongues but otherwise the only way to get it would be second-hand.

  7. Doug April 25th, 2008 9:15 am

    You can contact Scarpa in Boulder. They can hook you up with the info you need to purchase a new tongue. I recently thought of switching tongues but put it off after replacing the factory strap with a power strap. Also shimmed my footbed to reduce volume and went with a very thin sock and all that seems to have increased control and sensitivity.

  8. ethank April 25th, 2008 9:50 am

    Lee/ Lou, Does the skookum fit in an alpine binding without changing the sole????

  9. Lee Lau April 25th, 2008 9:59 am


    The Skookum will fit in an alpine binding without changing the sole especially if the alpine binding has toe height adjustment. You’re on your own about the question on safety and reliability of release.


    Doug is right. A stiff Scarpa tongue will fit in a MegaRide to replace the stock tongue. Other popular modifications include putting in a stiffer liner, putting on a booster strap and putting on a rear spoiler.

  10. Dave April 25th, 2008 10:29 am

    Dave with SCARPA here. For what it’s worth (in case its useful given the questions), the Ride Sole – which comes on the Hurricane and Tornado Pro currently and next year’s Typhoon and Domina – has been tested and approved for use in alpine bindings, and it can be universally skied in either alpine or AT bindings.

    You can also swap out to a lugged mountaineering sole in any of the above boots, but SCARPA recommends skiing that sole – as well as the sole on the Skookums – only in AT bindings, regardless of whether it actually fits into an alpine binding. The Ride sole was designed specifically to achieve the full range of release capabilities required in alpine bindings.

  11. Lou April 25th, 2008 10:41 am

    So in other words, according to Scarpa the Skookum should only be used in AT bindings, even though it could possibly snap into an alpine binding.

  12. Lou April 25th, 2008 10:48 am

    So, Lee had foot-in-mouth disease and apologized, then writes what I think is a pretty good unboxing of the Skookum.

    Sorry, I’m just not seeing that as a big deal.

    That said, If any of you EVER think our reviews are falling short, be sure to speak up. Like I always say, every comment is read and taken under serious consideration. So thanks Bdc for voicing your concern.

  13. Lee Lau April 25th, 2008 11:09 am

    Here are some other points which I failed to mention in the review which have come to light from other questions:

    – From the draft Scarpa 08 workbook the Skookum comes in sizes mondo 21.5 to 31

    – The Skookum has a removeable alpine style bootboards and not the curved arched instep bootboards. You can see that bootboard in the interior shot of the Skookum above

  14. Doug April 25th, 2008 12:20 pm

    FWIW, in a pinch, on short and steep couloir tours I’ve taken out the liner out of my Technica Diablo which has a built in stiff tongue. Though it doesn’t tour as well as my stock liner. Also have been working on skiing in a more neutral position, which Lou spoke of earlier in the season. I find that with my Mega-ride lean lock placed in a more upright position I get the light touch I’m looking for and can ride the ski more comfortably without torgueing the boot. Seems to wok for me and have delayed buying an aftermarket tongue.

  15. Bob in Horseshoe Bay September 16th, 2008 11:20 am


    What’s the difference between the Scarpa Skookum and the Spirit 4 in terms of downhill performance?

  16. mikebromberg December 5th, 2008 11:29 am

    Lou or Lee,

    Do you think it would be possible to retrofit a Typhoon cuff and tour assembly onto the Scarpa Hurricane.

    If you going to ask why not just buy the Typhoon, it’s because I bought the Hurricane last season and wanted a tour mode all along…

  17. Lou December 5th, 2008 5:42 pm

    Probably. But where would you get a Typhoon cuff and tour assembly?

  18. Cameron January 27th, 2009 1:08 pm

    Hi guys – Now that we are 2 months into ski season, any performance reviews of the Skookum? How does it handle touring & downhill? How does it compare to the Scarpa Typhoon? I am not a weight weenie, have fritschi freeride bindings and do a mix of resort and backcountry (mostly day trips) in the Sierras… I think this is the boot for me. Plus I need a 23.5 or 24.0 and this is one of the few boots that comes smaller than a size 25.0 (BD, Dynafit and Garmont don’t have a men’s boot below 25.0). Last question… what makes the Skookum so expensive? It is 10% more expensive than other Scarpas and most other AT boots. Thanks!

  19. Lou January 27th, 2009 1:10 pm

    Cam, I’ve got ’em here and am working with them. Got a bit behind on the boot testing due to the big EU trip. Soon.

  20. Cameron January 27th, 2009 1:10 pm
  21. Lou January 27th, 2009 1:29 pm

    Yeah, and more coming.

  22. Rob Staudinger January 28th, 2009 7:19 am

    I’d love to hear more about the Skookum! It’s hard to compare reviews by different people, so your take would be much appreciated, Lou. If you could weigh in how it compares to the ZZero4 and the ZZeus respectively that’d be great (it seems to be between the two in terms of weight).


  23. OMR March 2nd, 2009 5:16 pm

    Looking at the Skookum I’m both impressed and disappointed. Some aspects, like the buckles and shell, look to be improved over previous generation Scarpa’s, but the power strap and walk/ski lever look old-school. Specifically, the power strap buckle looks to be an after market replacement, complete with rough edges and not nearly enough velcro for a solid hold, especially when using the power strap as a feaux, fifth bucle. The walk/ski lever is the old type which has given me problems with premature switching (S. Denali’s); even my pant-cuff has sometimes activated the walk mode while skiing. Reminds me a bit of the rocker launch days of my tele past. I haven’t hiked or skied the Skookum, so who knows?, but without refinements I’m not ready to buy.

  24. Lou March 2nd, 2009 5:30 pm

    OMR, I’m not sure about the walk mode issues, but I can tell you the power strap is indeed not a logo branded piece of webbing with some velcro on it, but rather one of those EXTRA BEEFY affairs that’s got to be the burliest power strap I’ve ever seen, so you can at least take that off your doubt list! Go check a pair out on the shelf, the finish is actually pretty good.

  25. J Waite June 24th, 2010 8:35 pm

    I purchased the skookums in April. After two heat mouldings and a punch out job, they still kill the feet! Put the softer toungue in which helped, as well put the liners from my Garmont endorfins. Was better but still a foot killer! I can sled in them all day but once attached to the ski’s, in less than 10 turns I’m cursing them for the crule and unusual punishment. Very discusted in these boots. I have them matched up with the Dynafit FT12 and on Prior Doughboys. I have tried them on my B3’s with the same outcome. Any ideas are welcome……or $450.cndn and there yours size 27. JRW

  26. J Waite September 27th, 2010 6:09 pm

    Has anyone tried the Skookums with the foot bed removed? Just a thought! remove the bed, fill the heal opening with a cushion, maybe JUST maybe they won’t kill my feet…….if not! into the wood stove they go. JRW

  27. Lou September 27th, 2010 7:37 pm

    J, did you try a different boot fitter? What seems to be the problem other than that they hurt?

  28. J Waite September 27th, 2010 9:02 pm

    No, As above they have been re fitted 2 times since the original fitting. they kill the feet on the ball directley behind the toes. I think I will try removing the hard foot bed, repalce with a soft heal and see what happens.

  29. Lou September 28th, 2010 6:27 am

    J, yeah, don’t give up, BUT not every boot has the best last for every person. If you have a mis-matched foot/boot, that’s too bad but don’t blame it on the boot but rather on a mis-match. Lots of people fit the Scarpa last quite well.

    In terms of Scarpa in particular but also many other AT boots, it is common for the “foot board” (meaning the surface your foot sole rests on) to be shaped rather than flat. Many boot fitters work assuming the foot board is flat, as it is in most alpine ski boots. This results in no end of problems for some folks, including myself.

    So, it is indeed wise to look at the footboard. But rather than taking it out and leaving it out, the way I’d work is by shaping it. If you mess them up you can get another set from Scarpa.


  30. J Waite September 28th, 2010 6:31 pm

    Thanks for the advise Lou, I will let you know how it works out. JRW

  31. Max January 20th, 2011 2:54 pm

    Hi, What’s the main difference between the Maestrale and the skookum. Just getting started in touring. I’ve done a few 2 hour climbs in alpine boots and I’m ready to buy a real touring boot. The reviews seem to like the Maestrale better. Any tips??? Thanks!

  32. Bar Barrique January 20th, 2011 11:11 pm

    Max; you have to try on a few boots to see which one fits you the best. Reviews of AT boots are useless unless the boot being reviewed fits you well.

  33. Lee Lau January 21st, 2011 1:12 am

    Hey Max – best to start doing some reading. Maestrale lighter. Skookum stiffer. Like Bar said though, fit is the most important thing

  34. Rob March 29th, 2011 11:02 am

    Dissapointed that scarpa removed the forward lean adjustment. I think the forward lean on the skookum and shaka are too far forward.

    The Scarpas have two forward lean settings 19 and 23 degrees. The Black Diamond Quadrant offers 14 and 18 degree angles(feels better)

    Don’t get me wrong I ski aggressively in the front seat, but if the angle of the boot is too far forward you cannot leverage the ski and you have less flex range. Also your legs get very tired from fighting your boot trying to stand up straight all day.

    Looks like I might have to do a 15 degree mod to my skookums. Looks easy enough to drill a new hole in the adjuster.

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