I’ve been a fan of Scarpa’s Maestrale line of touring boots for years, with my current go to being the RS version (review here). The Maestrale RS is fairly light, and tours well, while still being “enough” boot to drive big skis. As with every touring boot, it is a compromise. For me, the compromise is on both ends of the spectrum: it doesn’t have the tour-ability of a light skimo boot, but also it gives up a bit of beef on the down, compared to a more alpine-like boot. That lands the RS right in the middle, which works very well for much of the skiing I do, especially in mid-winter.
I tend to like a beefier boot for the ski area, and backcountry tours that are more focused on having fun on the down. I’m often willing to sacrifice a fair bit of uphill performance to have a boot that can hold up to some air and speed. The fact is, I’m not a good enough skier to ski well in wimpy light boots. The Maestrale XT, a stiffer version of the RS new for this year, looked like an excellent option to fulfill this niche.
Since many potential Maestrale customers are going to be deciding between the RS and the XT, I’m going to focus this review on comparing the two.
Features — similarities and differences
The XT is similar to the RS, with small, but effective changes. The tongue and lower shell are mostly unchanged. They look like they came out of identical molds. The lower shell has the same hybrid construction; Grilamid combined with LFT (fiber-reinforced) plastic. The tongue is “split” to allow the boot to flex in walk mode. While still made out of Grilamid, the upper plastic shell is an entirely new shape. It’s slightly taller (about 1cm taller on the back). The front of the cuff also has more surface area. The XT and the RS both have three buckles, but the difference is where they are located. The RS has one over the lower shell, one over the instep, and one around the upper cuff. The XT has a similar lower buckle, but removes the instep buckle and replaces it with an extra buckle on the upper shell. The upper shell also incorporates a burly, stretchy power strap with a cam buckle. The other major change for the boot is the walk mode mechanism. It’s still external, but uses a different locking system that looks heavier duty, and also allows for forward lean adjustment; 14-18 degrees.
These changes of course have the effect of making the XT a stiffer, heavier boot. The forward flexibility in walk mode is slightly less on the XT (56 degrees) compared to the RS (60 degrees), although it’s still quite good for a boot that is this burly. While investigating this reduced forward flexibility, I was surprised to find that it is entirely due to “stops” molded into the shell. These stops aren’t engaged at all in ski mode, but they keep the buckles on the upper cuff from hitting the forefoot buckle when in walk mode. The RS has these stops too, but they are situated farther back, and thus allow the boot to have a slightly wider range of motion. This is possible since the RS only has one buckle on the upper shell. These stops could theoretically be ground off to give the boot more range of motion, however then the lower cuff buckle may need to be moved or modified. Perhaps that’s something I’ll mess with in the future.
My favorite aspects of the boot are the small improvements. The stretchy cam power strap is very well designed. Although “cam” power straps have become somewhat ubiquitous, they often require you to thread the webbing through the cam when donning or removing the boot. The XT power strap incorporates a “tension hook” into the cam buckle to enable you to quickly unhook the strap without unthreading the webbing. This is a major upgrade, especially in cold or snowy conditions. The new ski/walk mechanism is also significant. One of my few gripes with the Maestrale RS is that the ski/walk mechanism is very prone to icing up. So much so that I habitually clear it out before every run. The XT’s mechanism appears to be much less prone to icing; it didn’t happen once during my testing.
Since these two Maestrale models are so similar, you might expect them to fit the same. Surprisingly, they don’t. Despite matching shell molds, the XT comes with a plastic boot board underneath the liner and the RS liner simply sits directly on the plastic shell. This boot board is about 6mm thick at the heel and takes up quite a bit of volume.. My foot is a fan of this; I usually have to add a few layers of something under my insole to take up volume in Scarpa boots, especially after the liner has packed out. The XT’s fit was snug right off the bat. The boot board can be modified, or removed entirely, to get a higher volume fit. The cuff of the boot is also made to have a narrower fit, although I couldn’t feel this in my testing, likely due to the fact that the cuff has more adjustment than the lower boot.
Uphill and downhill performance
Overall the XTs performed well. I skied them on big skis (188, 115 underfoot) on several pow days. They are powerful, and feel nice and supportive. I noticed the increased stiffness when I landed wrong off a few drops. They also tour effectively, especially in comparison to other heavy duty boots out there.
My biggest question was how the XT’s compare to the Maestrale RS. The verdict? They honestly feel quite similar. It was hard to quantify the difference after a few days of powder skiing in the XT’s. To get a more direct comparison, I decided to try wearing one on each foot during a few short ski days.
Side by side on snow comparo
On the first skin, the differences became immediately apparent. As previously mentioned the XT has less forward flexibility in walk mode. This isn’t very noticeable when wearing the XT’s on their own, but the contrast between them and the RS’ is immediately apparent when wearing both. I could feel the boot stopping my leg a bit when I was at full extension during each stride. On the other hand, I didn’t notice the slight weight increase of the XT. When I clicked into downhill mode, the difference between the boots was barely noticeable. They skied remarkably similar. However, I should note that I only skied fairly easy, low angled terrain with good snow with this dual-boot setup. I wouldn’t be surprised if the XT’s extra stiffness became much more noticeable and beneficial in more difficult ski conditions.
The RS will likely keep its spot as my “go-to” boot, due to it’s slightly lighter weight and better range of motion. However, the XT is perfect for charging hard, and even resort skiing. This could also be an ideal touring boot for a larger, more aggressive skier, or a one boot quiver that would work well everywhere from the resort to long tours in the backcountry.
SPECS Maestrale XT
Sizes available: 24.5 – 32
Material: Carbon Grilamid, Grilamid/Pebax, Pebax
Forward Lean: 16 +/- 2 degrees
Cuff Articulation: 56
Buckles: 3 buckles (+power strap)
Binding Compatibility: Tech, AT
Here’s some yummy weight numbers (size 27.5):
Shell (without liner or boot board): 1270 grams
Liner (without insole): 238 grams
Boot board: 28 grams
Total weight: 1536 grams
Numbers for the Maestrale RS (size 27, one shell size smaller than 27.5) for comparison.
Shell (without liner): 1178 grams
Liner (without insole): 258 grams
Total weight: 1436 grams