Salomon, the venerable French outdoor sports conglomerate, began in 1947 as a small family run manufacturer. Long since, they’ve expanded into all aspects of skiing as well as a multitude of outdoor and mountain sports. It should come as no surprise that their early forays into AT continue to accelerate. I have had the good fortune to try some current and future products…
Lou has already expounded on some of these offerings such as the Salomon Mountain (Atomic Backland) tech binding. I can only reiterate all of the accolades he bestowed. The phrase “elegantly simple” keeps popping into my head. Nothing left out and nothing extraneous. Clean, basic, solid and highly functional all rolled into a 295 gram package (without brakes, 390 grams with brakes).
His Blogness is so excited about the Salomon (Atomic) ski brakes I am beginning to worry about him. I can see why that is, as the brake’s independent function from the rest of the binding is as easy as flipping a simple lever.
Back to binding functions, equally easy is turning the heel housing in either direction to go from ski to walk mode as well as flipping the climbing aids (heel lifters) with your pole.
Another nice feature is the 30mm range of adjustment available on the binding heel track. Own more than one pair of boots, as many of us do for different applications? No problem. Buying new boots next year but dread the thought of a remount on those new skis from last year? Don’t worry, you have options.
Also welcome is the binding’s wide screw pattern which I believe lends itself to driving bigger skis. I found the Salomon tech toe to be as solid and easy to get into as anything currently on the market. Just slide your boot up against the front bumper and step in. (Boot locator bumpers on tech binding toes can be an acquired taste. They do often help with entry, especially for novices. But if your boot toe is icy or muddy they can make clicking in more difficult. This binding is no exception.) To check out the screw pattern up close and personal, template and dimensions here, if you need the template for a mount the key to printing is to use your printer scaling adjustments.
Where do I place the Salomon Mountain ski touring binding on the spectrum? It is not a bare bones, stripped down to the minimum skimo race binding. Nor is it an over burdened, over engineered model with unnecessary features attempting to solve problems that don’t exist. It is everything you need in a high performance touring binding and nothing more.
Another noteworthy addition to the Salomon line up for next season is the S Lab X-Alp ski. Lou also reviewed this plank after his Salomon press junket last winter. Many people are referring to this as the “Kilian Jornet model” as apparently his input was integral to its design. Put simply, this is a niche ski that fills many niches. (See end of post for information about Salomon’s “S Lab.”
The X-Alp ski utilizes Salomon’s now familiar carbon/flax core pared down to 980 gram in a 164cm length. With its 79mm waist, rockered tip and 17mm turn radius, it offers a versatile alternative to the full blown ski mountaineering race ski you may be tempted to press into service as a touring ski. Nonetheless, this is totally appropriate as a citizen’s skimo race ski — or the tool for those hut trips when socializing in higher on the agenda than the skiing. (Promise, I’ve never ever done a hut trip like that, but I’ve heard they exist.)
“Lightweight” types of use aside, X-Alp skis surprisingly well for such a light and narrow plank. Thus, the aspiring Kilian who is looking to go fast and light need look no farther for a ski that can handle most anything they may encounter along the way.
I skied the X-Alp for uphill fitness and backcountry corn runs. It likes to be tipped up on edge and performs best that way. On edge they carve well and carry more speed than their length would predict. They are fun, easy to ski and highly responsive to modern technique. That said, at 164cm I encountered a decided speed limit as well as a tendency to chatter on boilerplate snow. A longer length wouldn’t be much heavier and probably would have skied better for me.
In summary, X-Alp is not a one ski quiver but it is a nice tool to have in the tool chest. Give it a ride, feel like you are flying through the mountains.
Update: I recently took the X-Alp out on a full blown tour. As expected they were stunning on the up and in particular the slightly shorter length of my testers made uphill kick turns seem like ballroom dancing. Conditions were variable but the X-Alp proved highly forgiving despite their relatively narrow footprint. As previously mentioned, they do have a speed limit — they are not a freeride oriented ski by any stretch of the imagination. They do chatter on hard snow and I would not want to rely on them in a steep, narrow, icy couloir. Mainly, I verified that the X-Alp is more fun and higher performance than one would expect of something this skinny.
On the opposite end of the Salomon ski spectrum is the QST 106. The new QST series (92,99,106,118) has proven quite popular for Salomon as a mainstream alpine ski as well as a freeride oriented AT ski. The QST utilizes a carbon/flax laminate, full wood core,a titanium plate underfoot for increased torsion and a koroyd core tip and tail for lighter swing weight and dampening. At approx. 3700 grams a pair these are not for the faint of thighs, though pairing them with lighter weight tech bindings does make the weight reasonable for what you get on the down.
I found the QST 106 to be one of the smoothest and most damps skis I have been on in recent memory. This also translated into a very predictable experience. Some might say this sounds like a preamble to dull and boring — that is not the case. In fact, it is these characteristics that allow one to push the QST and have confidence knowing it will be right there along for the ride. The geometry and soft flex allowed for very easy entry into the turn, regardless of speed or turn shape.
My very first turns on the 106 were slow and round as I dropped off a ridge, not sure if the snow was wind affected or how the skis would react. Realizing it was all pow and the skis were doing exactly what I wanted, it was time to increase the speed and turn radius. Three thousand vertical feet lower down, on the apron, I was able to go silly fast sweeping long arcs or playing slalom racer with the sparse, little trees that were the only survivors of repeated avalanches. The runout in this area is a series of ramps and gullies that require tight, shorter turns. Considering the wide open ride I’d just experienced, I was surprised at how agile the QST was in this tighter situation.
Interestingly, at the resort I did find the ultra damp feel of the QST to be a little sluggish when trying to drive the ski as hard as possible or on firmer snow. As is mentioned often here on WildSnow, sometimes resort skiing simply is not ski touring, and a ski that’s excellent in the backcountry may not be ideal for lift-served piste. I found that to be the case, though if required you could indeed travel the world with this plank as a quiver of one.
The ultimate statement about the QST comes from one of my close friends and frequent skiing partners at home and in travels around the globe. One of the best skiers I have ever known or witnessed, for decades he has been in search of AT touring gear that will stand up to his demands. Ski after ski, boot after boot and binding after binding has come back bent, broken or defeated resulting in another deflating experience… Finally, with the QST (99 in his case), he has found a ski that stands up to his performance demands and durability requirements. As he put it recently, “I don’t mind carrying a little extra weight knowing that I have a ski that does what I am looking for.”
Nuff said! All in all, I look forward to the continuing involvement and evolution of Salomon in the world of AT.
Skis such as X-Alp are designed in Annecy, France at the Salomon S-Lab design center. Below, check out Salomon’s “official” explanation of the S-Lab philosophy.