Jordan gets Skookumed

Post by blogger | December 22, 2009      

Um, is “skookumed” a verb? No matter. Scarpa worked hard on designing their Skookum backcountry skiing boot as the perfect blend of AT touring comfort with downhill performance. Action makes a verb, so there. This is a “first ski” report, but the Skookums really are looking to be the ticket. Details…

In trying to choose a boot for Denali, I knew I wanted something that was easy to get in and out of in the cold, but also one that was ok on the down. Tounge boots fit the bill for ease of entry, but I’m a skeptic when it comes to such boots’ downhill performance. Skookums may have changed my mind.

Out of the box and on the feet, Skookumed?

Out of the box and on the feet, Skookumed?

First, some fitting. When we de-boxed the Skookums and I tried them on at WildSnow HQ, it was immediately apparent that these boots would take some work to fit my deformed feet for sandal comfortable backcountry skiing. So I headed up to Aspen Sports in Snowmass, Colorado to meet with boot fitter Jack Rafferty. We started by heating up the liners as well as the shells to do some molding. (With the softer Pebax that most AT boots are made out of currently, even the shells can be slightly heat molded, the same way you mold a liner).

Skookums in the furnace.

Skookums in the furnace. Notice how the Solomon blower heater has a shield over the top to heat the rear of the liners. Regular blowers sometimes have trouble with heating the whole liner.

After the new shoes spent time on the heaters, the sweatfest began (next time, I’ll try out my VBLs!). We put both boots and shells on, buckled them up and I spent the next ten minutes or so walking around trying to make sure I was packing out the liners to get a fit that really molded to my feet. Even with aggressive molding, it was obvious the the large bone spur on my right foot needed additional attention. Jack marked it out and told me to come back the following day. Overnight he punched out the area to make room for the bump. I came by again the next day and tried the boots back on. Perfect. The pressure spot was gone, and it was time to give them a a ski test.

The critical punch for this cowboys feets.

The critical punch for this cowboy's feets.

I took the Skookums up the lifts for a couple runs that afternoon and found a few pressure spots, but decided that they might just be due to having the buckles a bit too tight. Maybe, or maybe not. Time will tell.

The following day Ashley, Jeff, and I headed out for dawn patrol in Marble, and I got to tour in the Skookums.

On assignment,!

On assignment,!

Yes, the Skookums know how to tour. They have plenty of movement for the uphill, and ski better on the down than any other tongue boot I’ve had. I thoroughly enjoyed the climb up to the top of Marble Peak in them, and see no real issues for Denali. I may have a couple of items to workout in terms of fit (for starters, I’ll mold another set of liners for Alaska, with more room), but overall I think these will be my mode of transport come June in Alaska. My only gripe with the boot is how close the bottom cuff buckle and the top of foot buckle come to one another, they really seem to get in the way of each other. Certainly something that can be dealt with, and shifting one or the other up or down might create a slightly more ergonomic boot. My feet stayed incredibly warm all day even in single digit temperatures, which is a great sign for Denali! I’ll report back after some more extended use. But for now, it looks like I’ve been skookumed!

Check our previous Skookum blogs.

(Guest Blogger Jordan White finished skiing all 54 Colorado fourteeners in spring of 2009. He’s a committed alpinist and ski mountaineer who always keeps his eyes on the Seven Summits. Jordan blogs here.)

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33 Responses to “Jordan gets Skookumed”

  1. December 22nd, 2009 12:51 pm

    Jordan, have you skied (and toured) Scarpa Matrix? If yes, how would you compare them to Skookums?

    I am currently using the Matrix which is also a tongue boot and there are only 3 buckles compare to Skookums 4. Personally, I find the Matrix kind of soft. I mean that the tongue appears to give in when I lean forward aggressively or when I hit an unexpected bump. So I am thinking of changing to a different boot.

  2. Jordan December 22nd, 2009 12:58 pm

    Hey Stano,
    I can’t say that I have toured in the Matrix, but having toured in the Tornado, the Factor and now the Skookum, I would call the Skookum the stiffest of those three. If you prefer a tongue boot, but still want it stiff, the Skookum might be a good bet for ya.

  3. December 22nd, 2009 1:13 pm

    Thanks for your reply. I see that you ski in slightly heavier boots than I prefer.

    So far, I didn’t build a preference towards tongue or tongueless boots, so I have my mind open to try anything.

    For example, I even ski my F1s without a tongue and on skinny skis they feel quite stiff in the forward lean direction, with a proper shim installed of course.

  4. Lou December 22nd, 2009 1:28 pm

    I’ve skied them both. Skookum is definitely more boot, though if you’re looking for maximum forward support you’d probably want to swap in the Skookum black tongues, which they include in the box.

    That being said, with today’s modern skis and technique, I’d advise anyone who can’t get enough forward support in a Skookum to look inward.

  5. Tyler December 22nd, 2009 2:22 pm

    Dang, if you can get those to fit Jordan’s alien feet, there is hope for everyone! I would echo Lou’s previous comment as well. The forward flex of a boot has little to do with how well the boot will help ones skiing. The fit, lateral stiffness, and rearward support will usually make the most difference. Take a look at differences of forward flex in world cup plug boots for a good example of this.

  6. Joe December 22nd, 2009 3:33 pm


    Are the shells any larger than you would normally use being a Denali boot? I was expecting to need an oversized shell, not just a specially molded liner with sock extravaganza.


  7. bob December 22nd, 2009 9:48 pm

    Any comment on the Spirit 4 boots. The bottom half of the boot is the same as the Scarpa Skookum with a more tour friendly upper. With the black tongue they seem to offer good support.

  8. Jay St. Charles December 22nd, 2009 11:54 pm

    Will be putting intuitions in my Zzeros later this week. Have some Matrices lined up to play with.

    In 1975 I watched a party of quite ancient Canadians take off downward from 16,000 on their skis (Paddy Sherman, Fips Broda and crew from Vancouver, yodeling too of all things!!) while our party from Tacoma drudged downwards on foot. Lessons learned!

    In retro, remembering the summit terrain, I see no reason why (conditons allowing) the summit down to the Crow’s Nest at 17’000 shoudn’t make a couple of fine runs.

    Makes me think a ought to make my own re-visit. Beautiful up there!

  9. Chris December 23rd, 2009 12:07 am

    Did you have a specific pair of socks in mind for denali? And do you have a specific brand or weight for normal use, or do you just use whatever you can get your hands on?

  10. Joel December 23rd, 2009 8:29 am

    I went from the Matrix to the Skookum…..The Skookum is heavier, but tours just as nicely in the orange tounge as the Matrix did (black tounge is not tour friendly). The difference in control on the way down is light years apart. Skookum is much stiffer in all directions and that ridiculously worthless power strap is replaced by one that actually provides some resistance. I’d say touring Matrix gets a 9 out of 10, and Skookum gets an 8. Downhill, Skookum gets an 8 and Matrix gets a 4.

  11. Lou December 23rd, 2009 8:43 am

    We got Jordan the largest shell size Scarpa makes and it’s just roomy enough for Denali, though once I get another look at them I might still advise him to get the toe area punched out a bit just for warmth. He’s fitting them with two sets of liners, one with a performance mold, and one molded more roomy for high altitude mountaineering.

    In terms of socks, all wool (other than the VBL sock) makes a huge difference in warmth, so it’ll be all wool. Smartwool is providing our socks, so they’ll be Smartwool, in particular their Ski Ultralight and their PhD Skiing models.

    I’ll let Jordan speak to his final choice of systems regarding his VBL and such. I’ve been setting mine up as well, so you’ll see a review of that in the coming weeks.

  12. Mark December 23rd, 2009 10:45 am

    I think Tyler’s point is worth noting; lateral stiffness can have profound performance influence. Skookum is stiff all the way around, and I noted this as among the stiffest of current boots I have skied, including Garmont Endorphin. The profound lateral stiffness of the Dynafit Zzero 4C might have an even more distinct effect. Haven’t tried those brick-hard black tongues that come with Skookum and Spirit 4, but they’re insanely rigid in my opinion. Might be good to beef up a softer boot such as a Matrix. By the way, has anyone skied the new Virus from Dalbello? Felt stiff and worthy of touring when I tried them on, but alas, it was only indoors.

  13. Sam December 23rd, 2009 12:53 pm

    Am I delusional or did Scarpa switch up the colors on their tongues? I bought my Skookums last year and the orange tongue seems to be the stiffer of the two. I haven’t skied the black tongues, but my black pair has cuts that allow them to deform much more easily than the orange ones (at least during hand flexing). So what’s the deal?

  14. Jordan December 23rd, 2009 8:06 pm

    Sorry, I was out in the BC today, but the socks will be smartwool as Lou said. I haven’t finalized my VBL yet, but I’m sure we will do some reporting on that as we figure out our systems.

  15. Lee Lau December 23rd, 2009 10:20 pm


    You’re not hallucinating. In an earlier Wildsnow review of the Skookum my tongues were the same as yours.

    At 160lbs soaking wet, I could barely flex Skookum with the stiff tongue and found they skied better with the touring tongue

    Bob, I thought the Spirit 4 and Skookum toured about the same (ie relatively well). The Skookum was noticeably stiffer

  16. chris davenport December 24th, 2009 9:21 am

    The Garmont Radium ws fantastic on Denali. In both ski trips there I went with normal size boots, no VBL’s and normally regular ski socks. The Radium tours great and is sweet on the down.

  17. Marten December 24th, 2009 4:39 pm

    “They have plenty of movement for the uphill, and ski better on the down than any other tongue boot I’ve had.”

    I bet from that comment that you have not skied the Dalbello Virus. I have tested the Tour for 15 days. It have more things that can mess up on Denali, but the performance is so much better.
    Virus Tour:
    Up hill: Slightly lighter but the great advance is that you can take longer steps.
    Downhill: Much stiffer, you ski almost like an normal alpine skiboot. I bit stiffer than DB Factor and Dynafit Virus.

    On the minus side of the Dalbellos are that there is more things that can break, the top buckle is slightly hard to totaly unlock an to maintain a slim boot wearing crampons the buckles are very slim, can be hard to unbuckle.

    Overall it is the best freeride AT boot on the market. Have tested it against Factor, Skookum, Radium, Titan.

  18. December 26th, 2009 12:22 am

    Joel, thanks a lot for you comparison of Skookum vs Matrix.

    My problem is that I have skinny leg above ankles…I mean that my calf starts a bit higher and is not very big (like runners have), therefore, I usually get a “lofty” fit around my shins in most buts. I picking my options for my next boot, so again thanks for your short review.

  19. Lou December 28th, 2009 11:24 am

    Marten, we’ve been waiting to do an honest review of Dalbello by using a production boot rather than a media sample. That process has been delayed for some reason, but we’ll be on it eventually. Meanwhile, there are indeed plenty of things one can google about Dalbello.

    What’s always funny to me about the latest greatest boot is how everyone seems to pant over it. Last year it was BD… before that, Dynafit ZZeus? And so on. The reality is that for most people just about any AT boot will suit them fine so long as it fits.

    Though it is fun to dream of how much a new boot will improve your life (grin), I’m certainly not immune!

  20. Mark Winter January 26th, 2010 12:28 am

    Does anyone know how much the Intuition liners can heat mold and compress (say, in % of total thickness) ? I am deliberating on a 30.5 VS a 31 liner in the Skookums… turns out the shells in those sizes are exactly the same so it’s just liner thickness we are dealing with. I use Scarpa Spirit 3’s for light touring and found the 31 liner was better for my feet… but they also seem to be getting looser season after season with further touring compaction. So what’s a better starting point?

  21. Lou January 26th, 2010 8:55 am

    Mark, they can compress a bunch, you just have to be careful you don’t get wrinkles if the liner is too long for the shell. I’ve actually found that using the largest liner for my chosen shell gives me the best mountaineering fit (room for toes), and even when I downsize my shell for performance fit I tend to use the biggest liner I can fit in it. Tricky stuff, as loose toes don’t affect most people’s skiing as much as they think, but they feel funny when you’re used to your toes being tightly gloved by the liner.

    Oh, and remember that a compressed liner will not insulate near as well as one that’s given room to puff out. So you’ve got to get the right compromise between all aspects of liner fit.

  22. Jim Sogi February 18th, 2010 12:32 pm

    How many mm can a fitter “punch” out a boot shell or stretch it?

  23. Lou February 18th, 2010 12:50 pm

    Jim, depends on the type and thickness of the plastic. Only your boot fitter knows for sure.

  24. Dalton March 8th, 2010 3:10 pm

    Hi all,

    Big thanks / Lee Lau and crew for the generous, honest an thorough iformation, reviews, photos, reports etc.

    Just wanted to say; +1 on the Skookum’s black tongue v. ultra stiff orange tongue. I’m also about 160lbs and find the flex on the black tongues perfect for anything; the up, anything that might be referred to as steep, powder, jumps and drops etc. even groomers – I don’t see any reason to have the ultra stiff tongue with my skiing style and this is my second season of assessing both tongues. I guess I’ve been looking for a reason to put in the orange tongues as I always thought of myself as an agressive skier but maybe not…maybe who cares, just ski what you like and how you like and don’t conform to manufacturer labels.

    Best regards!

  25. Dalton March 8th, 2010 3:19 pm

    Also, Lou, you da’ man.


  26. Lou March 8th, 2010 3:29 pm

    Dalton, did you get your colors mixed up, or am I mixed up? And thanks for the props, working hard here to bring you the goods.

  27. Dalton March 8th, 2010 4:05 pm

    Hi Lou,

    I don’t know which is mixed up but for me; the stiffer tongue is definitely orange, and the one they consider the touring tongue is black. Bought mine in 2009, used them in Spring and late spring, and beginning of season 2009-2010 to present. (Upon review of my initial post, it hasn’t quite been a full two seasons just yet). Not sure if Scarpa mixed it up to confuse us all in some diabolical plan to distract us from their quest for world domination.

  28. Lou March 8th, 2010 4:47 pm

    If not world domination, it’s definitely a wicked plot to confuse harried bloggers. Either way, good points about the tongues.

  29. Kjetil March 15th, 2010 8:44 am

    I’ve been skiing with these boots this season. It’s my first pair of AT-boots, in fact my first pair of boots ever (I used to be a snowboarder). My setup is definitly not the lightest out there with Obsethed-skis and Baron. But I’ve been doing several 3000feet climbs with this setup. Mostly I’m pretty happy with these boots, but I kinda feel like the stiff tongue is too stiff for the uphill. So I tend to put in the softer ones when I go hiking. I don’t really see this as a problem with the Obsethed-skis since they are so soft, but I’m really considering getting a stiffer ski next season (most likely with Dynafit-bindings).

    Anybody see a problem “driving” a stiffer ski like Black Crows Navis or Black Diamond Zealot with the Skookums with the soft tongue? Or will the change to Dynafit-bindings make the uphill so much easier that I could just as well use the stiff tongue all the time? Or isn’t there so much difference in downhill-performance between the stiff and soft tongue, like stated by other posters here?

    (Have in mind that I’m 5’7 and 215ibs – linebacker gone ski-junkie :biggrin: ) Sorry about the long post though!

  30. Lou March 15th, 2010 9:56 am

    Kjetil, a lot of this depends on your style and ski technique. Some skiers need a lot of forward support, others seem to be happy with a softer feel at the front of the boot. Thus, the answer for you is go out and ski!

  31. Randonnee March 15th, 2010 10:44 am

    In my big-guy view it is a matter of how one chooses to ski. My preference is smaller boots for ski touring comfort. My Zzero3C is the boot that I tour 90% of the time in powder on Manaslu and on firm snow on Seven Summit Superlight. I would expect to transiton to the TLT5 when it is available.

    Kjell you and I have similar BMII. I am 6’1″ and 225 on the light end (sometimes heavier) and I skitour 80 days and mountain bike probably more days per year and have the upper and lower body strength to move that carcass well.

    Over 20 years ago because of soft touring boots I developed a very smooth and balanced ski technique for ski touring. That was in contrast to bashing around on lift gear and Lange boots at work fulltime. Later, Dynafit bindings also demanded no-bash and smooth technique for me, so that was further refined. Now I prefer smooth and finesse- ride the ski, not driving the ski by pushing the boot. I find that balanced finesse skiing has advantages also in tricky snow and for less fatigue through the day.

    In my view, gear that works well for lift skiing does not tour well.

  32. Kjetil March 15th, 2010 5:14 pm

    I know, Lou. Thanks for the quick answer! Just trying to gather as much information I can (either to become more knowledgeable or more confused) before I shell out the dollars (or Norwegian Crowns) on new gear. I got the same advice last year before buying my current setup, and it’s definitely the best advice you can get. It’s only one way to find out what suits me, for sure. I think I’ll just take both tongues with me next time when I go to the lift, and change them during lunchtime to see if I really feel a big difference in downhill performance.

    Thanks as well, Randonee. I have lot’s of work to do on my technique, but it’s coming along. I agree with you that being more finesse helps in difficult snow, for me that would be snow that affected by wind on the top (don’t know the english word). In some other conditions I feel like I have to charge more through it though, since the ski I use can become too lively due to it’s softness.

    I’m sorry if this became off-topic. The boots will not be traded in next season, for sure. I think I’ll get another pair of skis/bindings that are more suited for the uphill and stiffer for the downhill.

  33. buddhistcowboy January 3rd, 2013 1:28 am

    so which is it – orange is stiffer or black tongue is stiffer? 2012 Skookum

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