Skiing on the Scarpa Skookum Backcountry Boot – Guest Review


Post by WildSnow.com blogger | May 14, 2008      

Text and photos by Lee Lau

This is a followup to my previous WildSnow Scarpa Skookum review, with emphasis on the subjective feel of the boots as opposed to quantitative measures. I got my impressions of the boot’s skiing and touring ability by comparing the Skookum against other boots that I have recently used: Garmont Mega-Ride (1650g), Dynafit Zzero 4 carbon boot(1585g), Dynafit ZZeus (1800g); Scarpa Spirit 4 (1870g). The Garmont MegaRide in particular is a four-buckle Dynafit compatible boot veteran now into its fifth year and serves as an adequate baseline for subjective impressions.

Backcountry skiing.
Lineup, Skookum in middle, Spirit to left, Mega Ride to right.

I skied the Scarpa Skookum with 185cms Salomon Guns, and with 178 cm Dynafit Manaslu skis. Both skis were mounted with Dynafit Verticals. The boots saw use over a five day period of ski touring; 2 days in powder and 3 days in corn and spring slush.

Reviewer’s biases
My ski touring career spans about 13 years, starting out on leather telemark boots and three-pin bindings and migrating to alpine touring setups consisting of Fritschi Diarmir Freerides and Dynafits with a variety of skis. My touring time mostly consists of day-trips, weekend multi-day trips and two or three multi-day traverses during a season. I weigh 155 lbs and ski mainly in the Coast Mountains of British Columbia in the Vancouver/Whistler/Squamish area. Local mid-winter snow is usually of the higher water content variety, thus necessitating bigger skis paired with boots that will drive them.

Backcountry skiing.
Approaching Anniversary Col in the Joffre Group – 1100m approach skinning

Touring – skinning performance
Skookum comes with two tongues: an incredibly rigid orange tongue and a silver, soft touring tongue. The tongues can be swapped without tools. I first tried the Skookum with the stiff alpine tongue and found that tongue-boot combination to be underwhelming. Even with all buckles undone, the boot felt stiff and blocky; almost like skinning in an alpine boot.

Backcountry skiing.
Scarpa Spirit 4 also comes with two tongues, similar to Skookum.

I was disappointed as my previous experiences had been to the effect that Scarpa’s boots were superior touring boots, having some of the nicest progressive flex patterns among boot manufacturers. Thankfully, my faith in the joy of Scarpa boots on the skintrack was restored when I put the touring tongue on the Skookum. The touring tongue transforms the boot; there’s a nice amount of freedom in the foot and gliding on the track feels natural. For me, the Skookum has that magical Scarpa touring feel – when you use it with the touring tongue.

Bootpacking and hiking
Spring skiing missions often involve foot travel, be it walking or climbing. Thus, in my opinion a ski boot is of acceptable quality should allow the foot traveling skier to get to their objective safely and in decent time, with at least a modicum of comfort. With that criteria in mind, Skookum passes. It’s certainly neither a 5.10 rock shoe nor a light, comfortable approach shoe, but it works. The boot’s sole has grippy lugs; it accepts crampons easily and the generous cuff movement and support allows a certain amount of flexibility for mildly technical moves.

Backcountry skiing.
Skiing the Joffre Peak spine line.

Skiing
If my comments are lukewarm with respect to the Skookum’s bootpacking/hiking performance and tourability it may be because the Skookum design is biased towards the downhill end of the uphill/downhill trade-off. To that end, Scarpa’s designers have succeeded. With the alpine tongue, I found the boot to be too stiff – almost dead in its feel. A heavier skier might need that support and appreciate it, but at my light weight the boots seemed to isolate me from feel of my skis. With the touring tongue installed, the boots were transformed. The fabled Scarpa progression was evident; small variations in fore-aft lean allowed me to control downward motion with confidence. The Skookum’s lateral stiffness is also more then adequate – laying turns through powder then dropping through variable snow with equal ease. (I received and skied prototypes that will be re-designed to introduce more progression into the production version of the boot. This will likely make a really good boot even better.)

I never did get to try the Skookum in hard-pack or groomers. I suspect that they would shine in that situation (especially with a narrow-waisted ski) due to their stiffness when equipped with the stiff alpine tongue – but that is not typically the primary reason for the ski tourer to purchase a boot.

Some quibbles: The catches on which the Skookum’s buckles engage are prone to icing up. A well – placed prod with a ski pole solves that. The Skookum buckles are difficult to engage, particularly when using the stiff alpine tongue. Perhaps some camming mechanism could be designed into the buckles?

Backcountry skiing.
Lee’s test zone — skiing Mt. Matier.

SUMMARY
Skookum is incredibly tuneable and is the closest I have seen to a one boot quiver; versatile enough for inbounds, general backcountry and traverses. Perhaps that is because Scarpa hasn’t really approached the Skookum as if it was one boot but has seen fit to accessorize it with various options that garage mechanics, hobbyists and professional boot fitters around the world have for years used to customize boots (eg., different tongue flexes, booster straps etc.).

In summary, Skookum tours well, is comfortable on bootpacks and hikes — and does drive those bigger skis just the way I like.

Cons:
* Relatively heavy
* Almost too stiff when used with the alpine tongue (lighter skiers should use the touring tongue)
* Buckles could be better

Pros:
* Smart design offers incredibly versatility with interchangeable tongues, removable spoilers, Booster straps etc.
* Terrific Intuition stock OE liner
* Will comfortably drive big skis

Shop for Scarpa alpine touring boots here.



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Comments

27 Responses to “Skiing on the Scarpa Skookum Backcountry Boot – Guest Review”

  1. Tom G May 14th, 2008 5:52 pm

    This is a good follow up to the first review. The first one left a lot to be desired in terms of describing how the boot acctually performed. Can you add some detail on how the boot fits compared to other Scarpa boots? I’ve found Scarpa AT boots to be quite wide and high volume, particularly in the forefoot, and I wonder if this boot is similar. Also, some additional comments on how this boot performs realitive to the others you mention would be appreciated. A potential boot buyer is almost always interested in learning how another boot skis realative to something they may already know. Of course this is completely subjective, but every bit of info helps. Thanks.

  2. Lee Lau May 14th, 2008 8:00 pm

    Tom,

    I put my own Intuition liners in the Scarpas and fit into them fine. My own boot is a Garmont MegaRide with Intuition liners. I have wide, flat feet. Some other friends of mine tried the boots and found them to feel adequately wide or even too wide (before liner molding) at the toe.

    You’re right about the previous article in that all I wanted to achieve there was a superficial look at the boot. I only had one day on them at that point and I didn’t think that was a fair review.

    I should have been more clear that when I said “stiff” I meant stiff relative to the other boots I have used.

    From stiffest to softest, this is my impression of the boots I have skied compared to each other. I would rate the Scarpa Skookum with the stiff tongue as just a tad less stiff then my alpine boot setup (Atomic Freeride 10:20 boots with plugs removed – a relatively soft alpine boot)

    – > Scarpa Skookum with stiff tongue

    -> Tie – Dynafit ZZeus – Scarpa Skookum with soft tongue

    -> Tie – Scarpa Spirit 4 and Dynafit ZZero Carbon 4

    -> Scarpa Spirit 3 and Garmont MegaRide.

    -> Scarpa F3

  3. Lee Lau May 15th, 2008 11:41 am

    I thought I might also mention some other things about fit:

    Skookum comes with a 4mm boot board inside the boot shell. This boot board slides into the lower shell and locks into place. This lowers the volume of the fit from a traditional SCARPA fit (SCARPA has comments both ways, that SCARPA doesn’t fit wide enough feet, and that they are not low volume enough, which tells me that SCARPA is somewhere in the middle, probably where you want to be as a starting point).

    This new boot board allows you to either have a lower-volume fit, or you can pull it out and increase the volume. Easy for people to do off the shelf, and it makes a dramatic difference in the fit.

    This boot board was introduced in the current year (the past fall) in the very downhill-oriented Hurricane (because skiers skiing a boot of that type typically want a tighter fit) and the women’s AT boots (the Diva and Star Lite, because women often have a lower volume foot).

    Next fall, this will be a stock item in those three boots, as well as in the Skookum, Typhoon, Domina, Spirit 4 and Spirit 3. SCARPA apparently had customer input to the effect of asking them to offer this to everyone, because the skier can totally customize it themselves.

    So to summarize, pulling that board out of the Skookum would increase the overall volume, leaving it in decreases the total volume.

    Now if the boot still has too much volume, remember that the Skookum will come with an Intuition liner. Intuition liners are reknowned for being incredibly receptive to thermo-fitting. When I put Intuition liners in my MegaRides to replace (admittedly packed-out) G-fit liners I was amazed by how much more space they took up to the extent that I had to expand the buckle settings in my MegaRides.

    So as for foot width, certainly shells are somewhat of a limiting factor, but Intuitions have a much wider range of volume (they both puff out more and pack down more when heated correctly under the guidance of someone who knows how to fit them well), thus they will fit a far wider range of feet than will a boot with a traditional thermo liner. Again, the key being when the Intuition liner is properly molded.

  4. Tom G May 15th, 2008 12:09 pm

    Thanks Lee Lau, that additional info really helps. I’m skiing the Zzero 4 CF now, but I agree with you that the Scarpa boots seem to be the superior boots when touring (I was previously in a Matrix). I really like the Spirt 4 but the forefoot fit is just too wide and high volume for me, so I’m intriguied with new boot board shim. The flex comparision is really helpful too. Also I seem to recal reading somewhere (was it your review?) that the Skookum has a flatter non-arched boot board that is also appealing.

  5. Lou May 15th, 2008 12:43 pm

    For correct fit, of more importance than shell toe width (which can easily be compensated for), is how the heel pocket works for your foot. But that’s harder to evaluate, it usually requires molding the liner and skiing in the boots for a day. Demo of this stuff is so important, too bad it’s not easier to do.

  6. Tom Gosiorowski May 15th, 2008 7:34 pm

    Indeed, for me the most important aspect of fit is around the ankle and leg. But, after that I’m always looking for a boot that dosen’t require me to add a bunch of foam padding, shims, etc… My base line for comparrison is my alpine race boot, and while it’s true that I wouldn’t want to skin in that boot I also wouldn’t rather ski downhill in anything else. It is unfortunate we can’t more easily demo gear, but oh well. And for those of us trying to buy on the cheap online these online reviews, even though subjective, sure are helpful.

  7. Jordo May 16th, 2008 1:13 pm

    The Scarap promo video displayed their nifty new Intuition+tongue liner, but from your photos it looks as if the boots you skied had the stock wrap liner (?)

    Wonder why they decided to shorten the cuff on their downhill-oriented boot? Makes the tongue look huge!

  8. Lee Lau May 19th, 2008 12:01 am

    Jordo – I skied with my own tongues. I didn’t want to cook the liners with which they came. These are prototypes and didn’t have the tongue liner. I have pictures of the new Intuition tongue liners but didn’t get the shots in time to post with this review.

  9. Lee Lau May 19th, 2008 12:02 am

    Whoops – I mean I skied with my own Intuition liners

  10. Briann January 11th, 2009 4:57 pm

    Lee, in your opinion, could one do longer multi day tours with these, if their weight were compensated for with a lighter ski and Dynafit binding? I am having a tough time getting a good fit in some of the lighter boots and these fit me so well.

  11. Alfred February 12th, 2009 7:59 am

    What exactly are the unique dynafit mounting instructions for the Skookum that I have read are different than other dynafit compatible boot?

  12. Alfred February 12th, 2009 8:03 am

    when I tried on the skookum in the store I noticed that when flexed forward the second buckle and the third buckle banged into each other. Has anyone else noticed this and is it a concern?
    al

  13. Jonathan Shefftz February 12th, 2009 8:24 am

    “What exactly are the unique Dynafit mounting instructions for the Skookum that I have read are different than other Dynafit compatible boot?”
    — Some Scarpa boots have the toe interface set further back from the leading edge of the boot toe.
    — Therefore, adjustments are necessary both for the mounting jig length and the fore/aft positioning of the jig on the ski.
    — For the TLT Classic/Speed, with the very small fore/aft adjustment range, this is very important, since otherwise the gap can’t be set correctly, and the mount is pretty much botched.
    — For the Comfort and Vertical ST/FT, it’s far less critical: you’ll just end up with a little more adjustment range in one direction than the other, and you’ll be slightly off the midsole mark on the ski, but so little that it’s highly unlikely to be noticeable.

  14. ZLP January 19th, 2010 8:59 am

    All –

    Any thoughts on this boot for long multi-day tours, or is it just too beefy? Trying to really think about this boot vs. Spirit 4s and Radiums for Haute Route type trips, but want to be able to ski hard on the down… Thanks guys.

  15. Adam November 8th, 2010 10:03 am

    Wanted to add my $.02 on this boot after touring on them last season. They are actually pretty light, lighter than the famed Scarpa Laser from days of yore. With the touring tongue they feel pretty ok, but still resemble a “hiking in an alpine boot” feel to me. For the record, I am coming from a decade of touring and ski mountaineering in telemark boots, so my bias is towards a bellowed boot that walks well. Also, I have no toured on some of the lighter, more articulated options like the F3, so I have no frame of reference in the AT boot world to say whether or not these compare well to other, stiff-soled AT boots.

    While I have toured almost solely on telemark gear, I have kept skiing alpine at the resort throughout the years, so I can adequately assess the downhill capabilities. I really like the Skookum in this realm. I am a big guy (190lbs), but I have been skiing for 3 decades and spent ample time racing as a youth, so I feel I can verily say that I am a finesse skier. I skied the Skookums in powder, crusty sarstrugi, corn, slush and ice. While certainly not as beefy as the beefiest alpine boot out there, I would have no hesitation skiing in the headiest terrain whether that’s steeps or billygoating cliffs. I was surprised to find this out about a tongue boot. Also, while they ski supremely well with the stiffer tongue, I have found it overkill for my style and despite being a big guy have put the touring tongue in for full time use. I ski pretty fast and aggressively at times, and do huck some, so I feel confident asserting that this boot is made for modern freeskiers that want to get into some sidecountry for wilder terrain.

    I’m planning on taking these on a longer, 3 day tour this coming winter and am quite nervous, though. Given my propensity for less boot I am wondering if these will be too much boot for the journey. It will be mostly a traverse in the Colorado Rockies with skiing on the way, and I am feeling like the F3 might be a wiser choice. Given my inclinations, for me to say this in public frames my sentiments about how the Skookum tours.

    Another way of looking at it is that while they skin absolutely fine, especially since most of my backcountry is day tripping in the Indian Peaks, RMNP and Berthoud Pass, if there is potential for substantial hiking involved I feel like I would rather go with a different boot.

    As said, for the modern freeride crowd pairing these with wider skis these boots are a homerun. I think it’s pretty interesting seeing what guys like Hjorleifson are doing on Dynafits, and see this boot as falling right in line with the push in backcountry skiing that he represents.

  16. Lou November 8th, 2010 10:18 am

    Great to get your take Adam! Thanks!

  17. john November 8th, 2010 12:44 pm

    I’m looking for the forefoot dimensions for the tlt 5 mountain? Anybody have the width at the forefoot? I know that its an basic dimension but a good starting point, any experience with punching the shell, looks like it’s not a good option. For what it’s worth I have heard that the forefoot width is 104mm, curious about this after trying them on in skinny skis.

  18. Lou November 8th, 2010 1:33 pm

    John, I just had a long conversation with Skian about punching TLT 5. It’s not that easy but can be done. Personally I wouldn’t do it, especially for forefoot width as you’d be trying to punch the area where the boot articulates.

    When I get a pair here, I’ll mold foam to the inside then measure, then publish the result.

  19. Lee Lau November 30th, 2010 11:38 pm

    Adam,

    That’s really nice to get your take. In particular its good to see I’m not the only one who prefers skiing Skookum with the softer tongue. I also agree with you that if I had a choice between a F3 and Skookum for a traverse I’d probably go with the F3 if there was going to be that much traversing and flat areas

  20. Lee Lau November 30th, 2010 11:41 pm

    john,

    What’s your current boot? Fwiw Fede tells me that the liner can thermomold quite a bit. My forefoot’s a bit cramped in an unmolded TLT5 liner. To compare, I fit the stock Scarpa/Intuition liners without any molding.

  21. Jon Moceri December 1st, 2010 8:26 pm

    I’ve skied the Dynafit TLT 5 Mountain for a few days now.

    I’ve got a wide foot that measures 100 mm with a prominent “6th” toe. I had the TLT 5 punched at the green plastic part of the toe. No heat, just a cold punch. So far so good.

    I had the stock TF-X liner heated first with the usual toe caps. So far my feet have been warm and comfortable. Although, I am a little disappointed in the liner. I was expecting a fit more like what I have in my Inuition Powerwraps that are in my Zzero boots.

    Just for kicks, I tried the TLT 5’s with a Inution Pro Tour liner. No go, way too much volume for this boot. I couldn’t even get the upper boot buckle to close. Maybe Inution will make a lower volume touring liner.

    I’ve also found that I need to tighten the buckles a bit more to get good downhill performance in heavy, cut up snow.

    But otherwise, I had a very delightful day on my Pontoon, Dynafit Speed binding and TLT 5 boot!!!

  22. Gary February 22nd, 2012 1:39 pm

    Any body using this boot at resorts. Is it burly enough to be a one boot solutionfor backcountry and at resorts with fat skis?

  23. Matt February 23rd, 2012 12:02 am

    I have used my Skookums with the stiff tongue with 181 Coombacks and Marker Barons in the resort the last few times out. The first time, I felt they were a bit soft compared to my Nordica Speedmachine 10 boots that I also use on the same skis. Now I am of the feeling that any difference in ski ability isn’t worth the time it takes to adjust the bindings to switch back to my alpine boots. I think it’s as much a matter of getting used to a boot that feels “different” than what I was used to as it was any real difference in performance. I am 175lbs and the resort skiing was mostly packed powder off-piste and firm groomers.

  24. Lou February 23rd, 2012 2:12 am

    Matt, to an extent I totally agree with you. There is a limit, however, where the boot is so soft that you make up for it by using your foot muscles excessively as well as working your body core extra hard. After a few resort runs, when all that fatigues, that’s sometimes when he boot is “too soft.” That’s why I constantly harp on the difference between using gear for “backcountry” and “resort,” because in the U.S., “resort” usually means lots of laps and vertical, and of course moguls. But mainly, my point is if you’re human powered, you’re probably not going to do enough downhill in a day to exceed the bit of extra strength you need for softer boots, but take them to the resort and ride lifts, different story.

  25. Gary February 23rd, 2012 9:24 am

    Lou, Thanks for your comment. What I am trying to do is find one boot that works at the resort and in the backcountry. Or maybe a bettey way to say it is what boot might be the best compromise. I ski at least 70% at or around the resort. The majority of my spring skiing is in the backcountry. I especially want one boot to travel with as I frequently do resorts and tours. I am using the Skookum now and it is feeling a little soft.

    I am a good skier but 53 years old, weigh 140 and dont huck clifs more than about 6 inches high. I’m thinking about eithe the Dynafit titan or Scarpa Mobe. Any thoughts?

    By the way, Thanks for your reviews. I refer to them frequently.

  26. Matt February 23rd, 2012 9:42 am

    I agree with what Lou said. I expect that if I spent a day at the resort in soft heavy snow, there would be a point where I wished for a stiffer boot that would support me more, versus using my own strength to support myself. With that said, it seems like at Gary’s 140 lbs. vs. my 175 lbs, the perceived stiffness of the Skookum would be quite a bit more for Gary than for me.

  27. Adam February 23rd, 2012 9:50 am

    I’d like to chime in again since more than a year has passed since I chimed in with my last impressions.

    I’ve spent ample time on the F3 now, and do indeed like it. If it’s any indication of my preferences I has very little trouble driving 110 waisted skis in the backcountry with the F3. This was 100% 3-dimensional snow, although it did vary from blower to heavily consolidated. I could ski a day at the resort with them on a 100 waisted ski, but it would be a lot of work.

    I put my feelings on these boots out there because the general feedback for F3s is that they are extremely minimalist and “just enough” boot on a light weight ski to get down.

    I start with this because it indicates my preferences and tastes, because it obviously affects what I think of the Skookum, too.

    The Skookum does get tiring by the end of a resort day, but I still find it perhaps the most optimal compromise between bc and resort.

    I picked up the Mobe this year and love it, with one caveat: it doesn’t have the same walking/skinning ROM. It’s subtle, but adds up. It is lighter than the Skookum, and a vastly superior resort boot, but what it gives up is that ankle articulation. I find it perfectly adequate for a day of skinning/hiking in places like Berthoud Pass, Vail Pass, Jones Pass and other less mileage intensive single day touring destinations. If I were getting out to really chase loads of vertical I’d want something with better articulation.

    With that out of the way, one of the greatest mileage loggers I know, Fritz Sperry (makingturns.com) does it all in Dynafit Titans. I don’t fit them well enough to try, but from what I hear they have all the power and stiffness that a big boot like the Mobe does, and lightness, too, but they also tour EXTREMELY well. Another fan is Marshal Olson who reps for DPS skis, and his words on the Titan can be found throughout the ‘net and on TGR’s infamous forums.

    Scarpa fits my foot best, so I’m wed to them and accepting their strengths and weaknesses and all that means, until another boot maker produces something that works. But if I could, I’d look seriously at the Titans, especially for a user that wants a resort AND bc boot.

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