La Sportiva Factory Visit & Ski Boots 2015-2016


Post by WildSnow.com blogger | February 18, 2015      

(This is part 4 of my La Sportiva visit. See parts A, 1 and 2.)

Italy is about shoes. The most common thing you see in Italian store fronts is shoes. Nearly every ski boot in the world is made in Italy. The country even looks like a boot on the map. Northern Italy is also about mountains, Alps, Dolomite. So if you’re going to run a climbing shoe and ski boot company, do it in Italy; do it since 1928; do it right. That’s the La Sportiva business plan. Check out my factory visit this past January.

Your friendly blogger at La Sportiva.

Your friendly blogger at La Sportiva. They built this new facility just a few years ago. Dolomite mountains rising above Val di Fiemme.

The company was founded on a simple patent for leather boot lacing.

The company was founded on a simple patent for leather boot lacing.

This is the  model for the ski boot lacing system from the 1940s. The Sportiva footwear company dates back to 1929 when Narciso Delladio, a craftsman from Tesero, Italy  built wood clogs and leather boots in the Val di Fiemme. In the 1940s Narciso developed an innovative lacing system that remained a design reference point for many years.

This is the model for the lacing system from the 1920s. The name Sportiva dates back to 1929 when Narciso Delladio, a craftsman from Tesero, Italy built wood clogs and leather boots in the Val di Fiemme next to the famed Dolomite mountain range. In the 1940s Narciso developed an innovative lacing system that remained a design reference point for many years. It actually resembles the modern ‘power strap’ used on most ski boots.

Original Italian patent for the lacing system.

Original Italian patent.

Early trade show.  Somewhat different these days!

Early trade show. Somewhat different these days!

Before rubber soles were made for mountain boots, you had either slick leather or hobnails. The choice was obvious but hut floors suffered.

Before rubber soles were made for mountain boots, you had either slick leather or hobnails. The choice was obvious but hut floors suffered.

Modern Vibram sole used on La Sportiva mountain shoes boasts lugs that are shaped to absorb energy as you fly downhill or walk on hard ground.

Modern Vibram sole used on La Sportiva mountain boots boasts lugs that are shaped to absorb energy as you fly downhill on a 3,000 vertical meter trail run in the Dolomite. The idea is to use the sole rubber as a better shock absorber instead of adding layers of foam (more grams weight) to the midsole.

In the early 1950s, Narciso’s son Francesco built a new advanced workshop near Tesero (in the same valley, see map below) where he produced leather ski boots. The La Sportiva brand was what you’d call “national” by the end of the 1960s, with perhaps a few boots being exported to North America. Later, the third generation of the Delladio family shifted the business to its “modern” focus on climbing boots and shoes, and now again to ski boots, with the recent addition of clothing and skis to create a complete line with unique Italian design flair.

La Sportiva did make beautiful leather ski boots into the early 1960s.

La Sportiva did make beautiful leather ski boots into the early 1960s. When the plastic revolution happened, injection molding was centered in Montebelluna, Italy south of here. At that time La Sportiva was choosing to focus on mountain boots and climbing shoes after a brief early attempt at plastic ski boots.

La Sportiva ski boots from the early days.  Yellow plastic boot was their only  injection molding product and was dropped in favor of  climbing  footwear.

La Sportiva ski boots from the early days. Yellow plastic boot was their only injection molding product and was dropped in favor of climbing footwear. Their timing was pretty good, as rock climbing experienced a boom in popularity beginning in the 1970s. La Sportiva built their brand on the sport, with notable success.

One of the early climbing shoes.

One of the early La Sportiva climbing shoes.

La Sportiva's shift back to ski boots came with the introduction of their beautifully crafted full carbon skimo race boot.

La Sportiva’s shift back to ski boots came with the introduction of their beautifully crafted full carbon Stratos skimo race boot in 2009. After that they proceeded with a full line of injection molded ski touring boots with the recently introduced 2015-16 models being an obvious progression in quality and innovation.

Stratos parts are made elsewhere, then hand assembled at a dedicated workshop at La Sportiva HQ.

Stratos parts are made elsewhere, then hand assembled at a dedicated workshop at La Sportiva HQ.

Craft work on the Stratos.  Your pair?

Craft work on the Stratos. Your pair? Got duemila?

Most interesting new item on the boots is a toe fitting that's said to work in standard tech binding fashion as well as with the Trab binding.

Most interesting new item on the boots is a toe fitting that’s said to work in standard tech binding fashion as well as with the Trab binding. I found that a bit hard to believe but bench testing showed that it could happen if everything is just right. As we always recommend, release checks on the bench will tell the tale.

Some of the La Sportiva ski boots 2015-16

Some of the La Sportiva ski boots 2015-16: Spitfire, Sideral, Starlet.

Summary of La Sportiva ski boot line:

Stratos — Ultra light and ultra expensive, carbon race boot. One-motion change between walk and downhill modes. About 555 grams per boot in size 27.

Syborg — Grilamid plastic version of Stratos, about 800 grams per boot in size 27.

Spitfire 2.0 — Influenced by skimo racing and the Stratos project–external lean lock and ‘one motion’ type closure. A sweet option for speed touring.

Sideral 2.0 & Starlet 2.0 — All around ski mountaineering and ski touring boot. Grilamid scaffo and ‘one motion’ closure system that’s more internalized than Spitfire. Three optional cuff lean settings.

Spectre & Sparkle — Some of the lightest boots you can find that can still be called out for “freeride touring.” Scaffo and cuff exoskell both made with stiff Grilamid. Other than the improved instep fit over original version, no changes for 2015-2016. A very successful boot that’s in high demand.

Two most important things for this coming season. 1.) The boots are claimed to work with both tech bindings and Trab bindings. 2.)The last of the Spitfire and Sideral is said to be more friendly.

Boot torture testing machine.

Boot torture testing machine. A cynical journalist might wonder if they just turn this on when bloggers are on the premises, but it looked legit.

Climbing shoe assembly line.  They make zillions.

Climbing shoe assembly line. They make zillions.

Leather cutting is laid out by hand for the most efficient use of the best material. Apparantly only a human mind can do this.

Leather cutting is laid out by hand for the most efficient use of the best material. Apparently only a human mind can do this.

Another view of the factory.

Another view of the factory.

Strict air quality regulations both inside and outside result in impressive air treatment systems.  Too bad the trucks on the Brenner are not held to the same standards.

Strict air quality regulations both inside and outside result in impressive air treatment systems. Too bad the trucks on the Brenner are not held to the same standards.

Like I said, a zillion climbing shoes.

Like I said, a zillion climbing shoes.

And now the reward for a long day of gawking.

And now the reward for a long day of gawking. We hit another restaurant that the locals knew would be brilliant. This one kept the farm-to-table local produce idea going strong with yet another world-class Italian meal.

I stuck with a classic but oh-so-modern concept: hunk of aged beef on a sizzle platter, roasted vegetables on the plate. Mom, I ate the whole thing.

I stuck with a classic but oh-so-modern concept: hunk of aged beef on a sizzle platter, roasted vegetables on the plate. Mom, I ate the whole thing. Tito was truly award winning, and looked quite popular. Best wishes to them.

Look for town of Cavalese on map below. That’s where I stayed while visiting La Sportiva. The factory is a short distance to the east from Cavalese.



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Comments

17 Responses to “La Sportiva Factory Visit & Ski Boots 2015-2016”

  1. Bjørnar February 18th, 2015 11:06 am

    Love La Sportiva!

    But yesterdays skitrip ended bad for my Spectre boot. Have used it for 40 days+, and suddenly it collapsed when I landed a little jump. The plastic around the walkmode is just broken. I have emailed the La Sportiva dealer here in Norway and hope they do the right thing and give me a new boot/pair. I love the boot, and are willing to give it a new chance. Exuse my bad english. -B from Norway

  2. See February 18th, 2015 11:45 am

    “(M)ade elsewhere.” That’s interesting. I’m assuming “elsewhere” is Asia. I’m surprised that Italy apparently hasn’t mastered competitive composite materials manufacturing.

  3. Brad February 18th, 2015 12:03 pm

    Love my Sportiva hiking boots the Omega GTX’s. Couldn’t make the Spectre work for my feet, went to the other common Italian firm Scarpa.

  4. XXX_er February 18th, 2015 1:47 pm

    On my second pair of La Sportiva Wildcats GTX which fit me like a glove, they have improved what was needed which is a heel pull to get them on and nicer color

  5. Mark Worley February 19th, 2015 10:14 pm

    Awesome stuff. Sportiva leads with amazing products. Can’t wait to see more.

  6. carlos February 20th, 2015 4:50 am

    you do not speak about cyborg model, will it still be on next season? has a great success here this season…
    You can confirm that the spectre too will be for both dyna and trab bindings (I understood only sideral..)?
    thx

  7. Morroi February 20th, 2015 5:23 am

    I love my Spectres (the fit, the weight, the good ankle support, etc) but I’ve had nothing but reliability problems with them: the walk /ski mode mechanism getting blocked in ski mode so many times I can’t even remember (not very nice when -like me- you tend to ski low elevation hills and do lots of up-down in a single day), the canting piece on the ankle getting lost somewhere (presently using a standard bolt and nut that I have to check several times per day to make sure I don’t loose them).

    Apparently I’m not the only one with problems with this boot (check forum on French skitour.com site).

    To me though the worst thing abut it is the lack of response form La Sportiva’s Spain dealer. I can accept being unlucky with the boots I purchase, but I can’t accept a brand not caring about their costumers experiences. If I were them I’d take more time looking after my overseas partners! 🙁

    Morroi

  8. Lou Dawson 2 February 20th, 2015 7:37 am

    Carlos, sorry about leaving out the Syborg “race” boot, just a mistake. It is unchanged as far as I know, and pretty much a non-carbon version of the Stratos Cube. I’ll edit that into the list.

    As far as I know, most of the touring boots will have the multiple binding capability, while the race boots will not.

    Lou

  9. Lou Dawson 2 February 20th, 2015 11:01 am

    FYI for everyone, the Sportiva boots compatible with Trab binding, 2015-2016:

    Spitfire 2.0, Sideral 2.0, and Starlet 2.0

  10. Dane April 10th, 2015 3:41 pm

    When will the 15/16 retail season start? really excited for the sidereal/tr2 combo!

  11. Elliott S. March 15th, 2016 9:44 am

    I have been enjoying my Spectres very much after 2 seasons and a total of ~60 days. However, I have had to replace the boot tongue twice, which cracks at the flexible area around the ankle, and also one buckle as the cable mysteriously started fraying. I have had excellent customer service and received replacement parts quickly and free of charge although it is a bit unfortunate that I have had to contact Sportiva on two occasions to replace parts. The replacement boot tongue they sent me only lasted about 10 days!

  12. Lou Dawson 2 March 15th, 2016 9:47 am

    Thanks for the heads up on the breakage. Would be good to know if this a truly first generation boot, which I assume it is? Trials of making one of the lightest boots out there… glad to hear Sportiva gives good support. Lou

  13. Elliott S. March 15th, 2016 9:49 am

    Lou,

    Yes I assume it is first gen (purchased in the fall of 2014). Good thing to note is that the second generation tongue and buckles will be compatible with the first, so there should be spare parts available for a little while. That is certainly a big bonus: to be able to easily replace parts at home.

  14. Al Olby January 8th, 2017 10:11 am

    I’ve had a pair of Syborgs for 2 years now and have loved them to bits with one important caveat.

    Recently when skiing breakable crust I got slung into the back seat as the crust broke and, though I didn’t realise it at the time, the effort to recentralise my weight put so much pressure against the top of my foot where the one strap is, it partially tore ligaments in my foot, leaving me sidelined for a good while. Pure conjecture, but I suspect this wouldn’t have happened with a boa type tongue which spreads the pressure more evenly.

    I think it’s important to realise that there are some limitations/trade offs when using minimal style boots like the Syborg. I think for training I’ll be opting for something with a boa tongue in future to help soread the load. In the meantime thankfully my Syborg inners fit my old Scarpa Aliens, whose own inners are totally shot!

  15. Lou Dawson 2 January 8th, 2017 10:29 am

    Excellent points Al, I’d agree, I think the best ski boot somehow does distribute buckle pressure, either through the use of cable weaving around, or with a layer of shell plastic. I think you’ll see a lot of ebb and flow in these designs over coming months and years. Never a dull moment! Lou

  16. kevin January 12th, 2017 3:19 pm

    I have been using La Sportiva products for 22 years and have always been satisfied. I have a pair of La Sportiva Spectres. They are light and they ski well, but have suffered in reliability. Both tongues broken (twice each) 3 deformed/broken buckles. Now, I’ve had the entire Canting bolt assembly fall out, into bottomless snow. My biggest issue by far is getting replacement parts. Nobody is returning emails or phone calls. All I need is a bolt that is worth less than $15.00, but without it the boot is worthless. I am considering returning all of my (newish) La Sportiva gear due to their lack of customer service/ availability of replacement parts.

  17. Kristian January 12th, 2017 3:32 pm

    I have also had poor customer service experiences with La Sportiva USA.

    You reading this Jonathon Lantz? Most recently I contacted them on December 6 2016 about a product defect.

    Annie Leavitt did not return my contact until December 13, 2016.

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