One year later: mods and thoughts on the La Sportiva Solar
How much boot do you need, really? The La Sportiva Solar (and its carbon cousin the Skorpius) present a strong argument that the average ski tourer could be well served with more of less. While not quite full on ski-mo weight weenie light, the impressive lack of heft to these boots combined with the range of motion, speed of transitions, and decent downhill performance nails La Sportiva’s stated goal of a “lightweight touring boot for general backcountry skiing.”
I started skiing the Solar midway through last season (read the initial WildSnow review), and they have been my go-to boot for this season of local tours, resort laps, and a recent hut trip. The massive articulation (68 degrees) has been a revelation in uphilling comfort and performance for me; almost eliminating my use of risers, and makes every other boot I’ve had on my feet feel clunky by comparison. The Swing Lock deploys rapidly, and even with the upper cuffs buckled, and heels locked in, the range of motion on flat exits almost rivals that of my tele setup.
The two buckle closure system makes for rapid transitions; particularly since the upper buckle / velcro strap arrangement is low-profile enough to open and close under ski pants. The lower spider buckle arrangement has proven to be susceptible to ham-fisted operation. It broke at the upper guide, then around the plastic rivet. Both instances occurred when I tried to swing the instep buckle from completely open to fully closed in one motion, instead of closing each stage of the buckle separately, which insures that the cable is properly set in the guide before the final pressure is applied.
When I first started skiing the boot, the tight fit over the instep was the primary discomfort I noted, stating “ I probably wouldn’t go on a long hut trip with them.” Breaking the upper guide forced me to run the cable in the lower/tighter position which exacerbated this issue. Snapping the guide around the plastic rivet inspired a safety wire fix that allowed for a bit more room in the cable closure, and mitigated the issue of the tight instep. Just this weekend, I took them on a trip to the Harry Gates Hut, a route remarkable for not necessarily for its length (a little under 7 miles), as its flatness. With the safety wire mod, I never noticed any issue with instep pressure, and the quick access to range of motion came in very handy on the very flat exit, which required several miles of double poling / faux skate skiing.
Though the flex is only rated as 90, it skis admirably well for a two buckle boot driving my 120mm waist Line Magnum Opus skis. In my preferred environment of low-angle pow jibbing, tree runs, and exploratory bushwhacking, I never find myself wishing for more boot. Only on in-bounds days of navigating chopped up snow piles have I found myself bumping up against the performance limits of the boot.
If the Solar were a mountain bike, it would be in the category of 4-5” travel trail bikes such as the Ibis Ripley. Neither the Solar or the Ripley are likely to be your first choice for spinning laps on the chairlift, but for the very broad “average” ability skier/rider out to earn their turns on backyard adventures, it hits a sweet spot between enjoyable uphill efficiency, and sporting descending capability.