Can’t Afford Carbon Fiber? Mod your SCARPA F1s

Post by blogger | October 27, 2009      
Ski mountaineering racing

Front view of finished product – or is this still a work in progress?

Unless you’re trying to win the Patrouille des Glaciers or Pierra Menta you can now make yourself a highly capable rando race boot by picking up a pair of used SCARPA F1 boots for about $200 to $250 (or buy some new) and then putting them under the knife (among other tools). Using a road bike analogy, I’d say it’s pretty similar to my humble used Klein Quantum aluminum bike with carbon fork and 105 components compared to, well, you know what’s out there.

My hand-me-down SCARPA F1 boots in a size 27 now weigh 4 lb 12.2 ounces (without any footbeds, for purposes of comparison), which is almost identical to the special “Race” version of the standard F1, except that the “Race” version is very hard to find in the U.S. even at full $700 retail. All of the following mods are feasible without any special tools or skills.

The following are pretty much all the standard mods for the F1 backcountry skiing and race boot. You can get far more exotic, especially in replacing the upper cuff with a carbon fiber after-market cuff from Europe, but all of the following are relatively easy and cheap to do. And they’ll save you the public embarrassment of showing up at a rando race with a pair of entirely unmodified stock F1 (the horror, the horror).

1. Shave away excess plastic on toe and heel lugs. The SCARPA F1 toe adheres to the AT DIN, but why? You can’t use it in a Duke anyway (because of the bellows), and even if you could, why would you? So I ground down the toe lip to make it a bit more like the Dynafit TLT4 and MLT4 boots that are compatible only with Dynafit bindings (or the Silvretta 300/400/404/500/505). Weight benefits are trivial, but climbs/tromps much better, and is still compatible with fully automatic crampons (i.e., wire toe bail). I also shave the heel a little bit, but only a little, since I still wanted the boots to be compatible with fully automatic or semi-automatic crampons. Whatever amount of grinding you choose, ensure that the Dynafit interface is still fully supported.

Boot mods

Assortment of toes, left to right: unmodified Dynafit Zzero4, modified F1, original non-DIN Dynafit MLT4.

2. Grind away sole rubber. Weight savings from doing this are significant, and vary depending on how much you grind. Rubber is very heavy, so the potential benefits are huge. Just be sure to keep enough in the arch if you might compete in any course that features ladder ascents. Also, be warned that the more rubber you grind away in the arch, the more flexible the boot will be. I still haven’t planed down the lugs much, since I lack a good tool for that, but that’s definitely on the to-do list. (Cheap little sanders don’t make much progress, Lou used a pro quality disk grinder with heavy disk sandpaper and a spray bottle of water.) Be sure to grind with adequate ventilation and wear a mask. Also, no matter what, do NOT grind underneath the Dynafit toe interface, since you need all of that rubber left there to engage the binding actuator between the pincers (toe wings).

3. Modify rear lever and cuff closure. All sorts of mods are out there for this. My pictured mod is relatively conservative, as I just gutted out part of the rear lever and replaced it with a simple 3mm accessory cord loop (which is kept from riding up too much by some duct tape). Still, this saved about 1.8 ounces and had no drawbacks. The more elaborate mods involve replacing pretty much everything except the rear lever with accessory cord. (defunct link removed 2015)

Backcountry skiing boot mods.

View of rear spine and some of the “speed” holes.

4. Remove power straps. This saves two ounces, as well as time in transitions. Plus if you keep the straps loose enough to avoid any stride length interference, then they’ll be flopping around and potentially causing problems.

5.Replace plastic tongues with simple cover. I was going to glue on some tongues from old winter work boots, but then I just used duct tape a few times for the ghetto racer look, and finally I just stopped bothering entirely with any closure. Saves 6 ounces, but more importantly, drastically reduces forward resistance when skinning. As part of this mod, reinstall the attachment for the rear lever so that it is in the more upright of the three forward lean positions. (The SCARPA F1 ships with the lever installed in the middle position.) With no plastic tongue, you want a more upright stance, since otherwise the rear cuff will be pitching you forward against where the tongue used to be, and you’ll always be fighting that over-the-handlebars feeling.

6. Remount instep buckle. I removed the plastic slat on which the buckle is mounted, then removed the buckle from the plastic slat, and mounted the buckle directly to the shell. I was disappointed to discover that this saved only a single ounce!

Backcountry skiing boot mods.

Instep buckle remounted directly to shell (i.e., after removing plastic slat, and then removing buckle from slat).

7. Replace liners with shorter model. I used some Morrow snowboard liners – which are genuine Intuition (re-branded) – and saved four ounces.

8. Use step drill on upper cuffs. I was disappointed to discover that all those holes saved only a single ounce. But oh well, looks kind of cool!

9. Shave bottom rear of upper cuff for enhanced rearward travel. I haven’t done this yet, since I think the boots already have more rearward travel than my flexibility allows, but this still might be on the to-do list.

Sound like too much effort? If you have the cash, just buy a pair of Pierre Gignoux and don’t bother looking back, because no one will be close enough behind you to see. Or for a good compromise, just get the Carbon SCARPA F1 or Dynafit DyNA.

Me backcountry skiing with my modded F1s. Yep, they still go downhill ok.

Me backcountry skiing with my modded F1s. Yep, they still go downhill ok.

(WildSnow guest blogger Jonathan Shefftz lives with his wife and daughter in Western Massachusetts, where he is a member of the Northfield Mountain and Thunderbolt / Mt Greylock ski patrols. Formerly an NCAA alpine race coach, he has broken free from his prior dependence on mechanized ascension to become far more enamored of self-propelled forms of skiing.)


17 Responses to “Can’t Afford Carbon Fiber? Mod your SCARPA F1s”

  1. Jonathan Shefftz October 27th, 2009 1:17 pm

    Just realized an important clarification is needed with regard to the Morrow snowboard liners: I have not owned (and never will own) snowboard boots, but rather some etailer was selling inexpensive Intuition thermo liners that had originally been intended for snowboard boots.

  2. Paul October 28th, 2009 2:45 am

    Really nice mod, and the outcome looks fantastic and really professional too! I don’t mind cutting up something expensive as long as I know for sure what I am doing and what I’m going to end up with.

  3. Euro Rob October 28th, 2009 3:16 am

    It\’s often more affordable to save a pound or three on the human side than on the gear 🙂

    The University of Innsbruck, Austria did a study about how much saving weight yields uphill in ski mountaineering. Trying to dig that up …

  4. Jonathan Shefftz October 28th, 2009 6:32 am

    Physical fitness and gear optimization are not mutually exclusive, so I don’t understand the point of the study as it pertains to rando racing.

  5. Lou October 28th, 2009 6:40 am

    My understanding is that It’s true that if you have much body fat, getting rid of a pound of body fat will speed you up quite a bit more than getting rid of a pound of gear weight. It’s just basic physiology, because the fat takes extra blood supply as well as adding weight, while the gear weight is just, weight. But once you’re fit and skinny, loosing too much body weight can cause health problems, because it takes a certain amount of body fat to keep your immune system optimized, and if you muscles are starved that’s unhealthy as well. Thus, in the case of the optimized athletic body, loosing gear weight at a certain point is your only choice.

  6. Jonathan Shefftz October 28th, 2009 7:03 am

    Yes, both gear weight and body weight should be optimized.
    But improvements in one realm are not mutually exclusive with regards to the other.
    So for those who respond to gear optimization concerns with “you should optimize your fitness instead,” no, you should do both.

  7. Euro Rob October 28th, 2009 8:28 am

    Oh I did not say people shoud go on a diet INSTEAD but just trying to question the proverbial gram counting. If you save a pound on gear that’s not bad actually.

    Lou, regarding the multiplier effect of less body fat i’m not sure. You don’t gain or lose blood vessels with the body weight after all, right?

    Here’s the link to the study “ENERGETIC ASPECTS OF DIFFERENT BINDING-BOOT-SYSTEMS IN OFF-PISTE SKIING” (abstract in english, study in german)

  8. Jonathan Shefftz October 28th, 2009 9:01 am

    Wow, that is indeed a cool study!
    But who’s going to translate it for us?

    Based on the abstract, the pictures, and the tables, seems to be like:

    – three different bindings were tested (all w/o brakes or leashes), Diamir 2 (much lighter than the currently popular Diamir models), Silvretta 555 (discontinued, and a bit heavier than the current 505 LSV), and Dynafit Tristep (similar to the Vertical ST/FT12 when stripped of brakes)

    – two different boots were tested, Scarpa Laser and Dynafit TLT4 (even though it’s not really compatible with the Diamir and Silvretta), both w/o thermoliners, so the Laser weight is roughly comparable to a Spirit 3, Megaride, or Helium, while the TLT4 weight is roughly comparable to a Zzero4-TF or F3

    – the choice of bindings made a huge difference

    – the choice of boots made only a relatively small difference, which is not surprising, since the weight differential between those two models is only several ounces

  9. Jonathan Shefftz October 28th, 2009 10:21 am

    Here’s a Dynafit ski boot even lighter than the new DyNA:

  10. jerimy October 29th, 2009 9:20 am

    I guess you could always try and build your own carbon boots…

  11. Mark W October 29th, 2009 12:14 pm

    I’m NOT Swiss-cheesing my Zzeros Jonathan!

  12. Lou October 29th, 2009 6:33 pm

    Jonathan, I probably should acquire those Dynafit 3-pin boots for my collection, but I just can’t bring myself to do it! What a great novelty item.

  13. Stano October 30th, 2009 12:56 pm

    Be careful with the mods guys because by new ISMF rules it is forbidden. But I don’t think we will be so strict in North America about this yet.

    Shaving weight is important whether on gear or yourself. Preferably we should start with ourselves first as there are more benefits to that :biggrin:

    I wrote an article about the newest lightest boots on my website as well as an article about vertical speed that has a lot to do with weight and slope angle. I believe they both fit this topic.
    You can have a look here:
    and here

  14. harpo November 28th, 2009 5:15 pm


    What tools did you use for steps 1) and 3)? In 1, would a dremmel work, or do you need a grinder?

    In step 3), the little bit of cord gives you enough leverage to pull the heel pin out of the slot in the shell?


  15. Jonathan Shefftz November 28th, 2009 5:39 pm

    Correct on all three points.
    Although note that for the final point, the boots were already used by the time I did my mods — with new boots, might be too tight a fit in that slot to use my just yank er out technique.

  16. harpo November 28th, 2009 6:30 pm

    Sorry J, you weren’t quite clear – what tool did you use to do surgery on the lever?

  17. Jonathan Shefftz November 29th, 2009 5:20 pm

    Sorry, my reply was rushed in between big ski days — I meant that, yes, a dremmel does indeed work, b/c that is what I used.

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