Last winter SCARPA introduced upgrades for their ever popular Maestrale ski touring boots. I’ve been skiing in Maestrales for years now, and was excited to try the upgraded version. (Note, for clarity we’ll call this boot the RS “2” though according to SCARPA it’s still simply called the Maestrale RS.)
I first tested the boots during a day of cat skiing at winter 2017 Outdoor Retailer. In my first look review, you can read thoughts on that brief test, as well as technical info on the boots. We went into quite a bit of detail about the changes from the Maestrale 1. There’s also lots of good discussion in the comments of that post.
The new Maestrale RS is definitely an evolution of the 1.0 version (as opposed to being an entirely different boot). The basic structure and functionality is similar; however, almost every part of the boot is changed or updated.
A major upgrade is the walk mode mechanism. SCARPA took the simple external lever used on the F1 and Alien series of boots, beefed it up, and installed it on the Maestrale boots. This allows the boot to have WAAYY more range of motion in tour mode. Another notable change is the material of the upper cuff. SCARPA uses a fiber reinforced plastic that significantly increases stiffness. The buckle setup on the toe of the boot is reworked, the two forefoot buckles being replaced with a single large buckle that uses a metal cable to spread the load. The old hinge-to-the-side tongue opening is gone as well, with the hinges replaced with rivets. The new tongue functions similarly once the boot is on, but the rivets make it a bit tricker to get on.
The liner of the boot is reworked. SCARPA changed the location of some of the stitching, ostensibly for more comfort. They got rid of the removable velcro-attached tongue, a welcome change, as the velcro caused fitting issues for me.
After testing the Maestrale during the OR show last year, I was impressed. A little later I got a pre-production pair to test up here in the PNW. I used the boots during the last part of the winter and quite a bit in the spring.
After a few months of skiing the boots, I can say that the RS 2 is certainly a bit stiffer than the former RS. It’s a small increase, but I definitely felt it and appreciated the added support in a few hairy moments of going fast in bad snow. More, due to the added stiffness I found myself much more comfortable with this boots as ski resort footwear.
In contrast to subtle downhill performance changes, the improvement in the walking mode isn’t hard to notice. The first time I flipped the RS 2 into walk mode, it was obvious that they would be fantastic for striding. It’s said by SCARPA that the new pivot increases the degree of rotation from 37 to 60 degrees. The old Maestrale series (as do most other AT boots) had a walk mode that pivoted with quite a bit of friction. The new pivot latch pivots completely out of the way — less friction than the old style.
Walk mode in summary: The rear walk mode flex of the Maestrale is essentially as good as it can get. My ankle flexibility limits me more than the boot. The forward walk mode flex is a bit stiffer than a super light “hike optimized” AT boot, but still impressive.
The boots are slightly lighter than the old Maestrale RS’s. Our pre-retail boots weighed in at 1324 grams for just the shell, and 1624 for the liner, shell, and my footbed. I suspect most of this can be attributed to the removal of one buckle. Nonetheless, it’s a feat that the techs of Montebelluna managed to lighten things up a bit while retaining or improving functionality.
I did have a problem with the walk mode lever in my pre-retail boots. Once in awhile they didn’t easily lock, usually because of snow in the mechanism. SCARPA assures us this will be mitigated on the retail boot version. Once we test we’ll revisit here and edit, but we felt we had to mention until we’re sure this got fixed.
I prefer the toe buckles of the 1st generation Maestrale to the new cable-pulley buckle on the RS 2. That is the only change that I think may have been a bit of a step back.
In terms of overall buckle configuration, for myself the furthest front buckle on the old Maestrale was mostly useless. I’m glad SCARPA got over the “4 buckle” hangup, and eliminated what has been called the “vestigial.” The single buckle that replaces the two is supposed to spread the load out and mimic having two buckles. However, I don’t think it feels any different than having only one buckle on my old Maestrale (I removed the front one). It is more complicated, and might be a bit heavier. The biggest drawback is that the buckle doesn’t stay clipped to the cable when it’s not tightened. I like to loosen my lower buckles when I’m skinning, and the head of the RS 2 buckle always ended up twisted around and getting caught on things. If SCARPA would just add a small catch on the buckle (as is provided on the top buckle of the boot) to hold the wire, this wouldn’t be an issue. (There may be some mitigation of this with production model.)
Conclusion: The SCARPA Maestrale has been an incredible boot since their inception, so I can’t really say the RS 2 is a massive improvement. However, they are an excellent evolution. Stiffer, lighter, and a better walk mode? In the end, I found myself taking the RS 2 on a few trips where I would have normally used a lighter, more uphill oriented boot. More, they tended to be on my feet at the resort. All proof that this rework, works.