Examining the latest addition to the Scarpa Family
Written by Adam Fabrikant
This past February, I arrived home to a pair of boots sitting on the doorstep. I have yet to take them off. I was intrigued by this newer lighter boot, one that could offer a game changing ski touring experience built upon the well-received Scarpa Alien RS — the F1 LT.
This new boot had big shoes to fill as a replacement to a modified Dynafit Vulcan I’d used exclusively for seven years prior. A little about me, 5’ 8”, 135lbs. I work as a ski and mountain guide and ski full time. My ski season typically starts in the Chilean Andes in October, followed by winter in the Tetons and Greater Yellowstone, and then spring in Alaska. All of my skiing is human powered; I rode lifts two days this season while teaching an avalanche course. I enjoy long days, 10+ hours with lots of vertical and mileage. Living in Wyoming we joke that we get our miles as well as vert.
Since acquiring the F1 LT, I have skied them exclusively over some 50+ days. In terms of numbers for vertical/ mileage just assume I skied them more in the last few weeks than most will do in a season. These boots have skied the Grand Teton, Middle Teton, South Teton, Nez Perce, lines on Mt Owen, Teewinot and many other Teton High Peaks. I went on a hut trip in the Centennials out of West Yellowstone and recently did a three day traverse in the Gros Ventre Range in them. They’ve seen lots and lots of powder skiing and a good amount of technical rock and ice climbing. So, is the F1 LT my new do it all ski boot? Read on.
Alien, F1 or…Super Alien?
The design of this boot is simply a blend of two well-received Scarpa boots. WildSnow’s first impressions from the OR show revealed that this boot is a baby of the F1 and Alien, but which one is it really?
The upper cuff is closed by a velcro buckle similar to that on the F1, with numbers that make it easy to see how tight you prefer. Currently “13” works well for me, with the highest number being 14. I have found it easy to open and close the cuff and see no need to mod the cam. I can even close the upper cuff without moving my pant gaiter up for short descents where I don’t care to tighten the power strap and adjust the tongue into place.
Borrowing from the F1, there is also a thinner “power strap” above the thicker, numbered velcro buckle. Initially I thought I would remove this as I had removed the power strap from my Vulcans instantly. However, on the F1 LT the power strap has a clear purpose. It helps keep the cuff closer to my skinny calf and therefore the boot skis better. I have grown to like the power strap in a boot this light and I have no intention to remove it.
The ski/walk lever has been improved from the Alien RS. It now has a spring and clamps down well. The interface can get iced up, though I have not had any major issues with it yet. This is probably the largest change from the Alien RS.
The F1 LT comes in at an advertised weight of 990 grams in a 27.0 compared to the 920 grams for an Alien RS, which begs the question: what do you get from these additional 70 paperclips/ grams?
One, a slightly reinforced upper cuff. This, along with the improved cuff closure and power strap, make the F1 LT ski roughly 30% stiffer and more progressive than the race-inspired RS. They walk identical to the RS.
You also get a slightly more complicated transition. Instead of the RS’s one motion flick, the F1 LT is a 3 step process taken from the F1. Fine by me. I do not race and as the ski runs and climbs in the Tetons are long, I am typically not rushing my transitions. If you plan on yo-yoing short laps, the need to streamline transitions may be more important, an easy mod would be to remove the upper power strap.
The BOA closure for the lower part of the boot has not been changed from the Alien RS. This is my first ski boot with a BOA closure and it works fine. For me if the BOA failed it would not be a big deal; for short descents, or when my feet are tired I don’t even clamp it down. I understand the benefits of a BOA compared to traditional buckles, but it definitely does not lock my heel down as well as a good old buckle would.
Overall I would call this boot a super Alien rather than a FL LT… It walks like an Alien, does not look or feel like a traditional ski boot and still has the Alien marking on the rubber sole…Super Alien. I definitely have a future in marketing.
The last few weeks have been transitional with the need for different skis. I have paired these boots with three different Black Crows ski setups including:
Navis Freebird, 102 underfoot, 169, Dynafit Expedition, Pomoca Race 2.0 (pink)
Anima Freebird, 115 underfoot, 176, Dynafit Speedturn, Pomoca Climb 2.0 (yellow)
Nocta, 122 underfoot, 177, Dynafit Superlite 2.0, Pomoca Climb 2.0 (yellow)
My first few days in the boots were with my old intuition pro tour liners, after about 5 days or so I was able to get the stock liners molded and have skied them since.
Scarpa uses Intuition Foam in their stock liners which is great. In my experience intuition liners are warmer and more comfortable than most others on the market. In the past, I have had to replace my stock Dynafit liners on day one, which is expensive. The F1 LT liner is more robust than the Alien RS Liner, but skimpier than the F1 liner. At 210 grams (sans footbed, but with stock spoiler) it is light, however the upper cuff and the tongue have a nice rigid feel. The cuff has velcro and it comes with a built in adjustable spoiler. The velcro allows you to either make the spoiler higher or lower depending on the height of your calf. I have been using the spoiler thus far and enjoy the forward lean for downhill skiing. After a month of hard use the liners are packed out and if ski shops were still open I would be trying to mold a fresh pair of Intuition pro tours; they’re significantly heavier but provide more support and would take up more volume.
I typically ski 25 boots, but after having tried on the Alien RS and finding them too tight to ski, I decided to upsize the F1 LT to 26. I have small, skinny feet with a few issues. I have had frostbite on my big toes twice in the last two years and I have neuromas, nerve pain in my feet from too much time in boots. The 26.0 fit me well out of the box. If anything they are probably a little too big and if I could I would try on a size smaller to see if the heel retention could be improved, but still long enough to keep my toes happy. I put a boot shim underneath my custom footbed to take up more volume which has helped. I have done no other modifications besides traditional liner molding. My toes can wiggle around freely, which as a ski tourer trying to log big days is a trade off I am ok with.
The F1 LT is a little wider in the lower shell than the Alien RS, roughly 99-100mm last. For some, myself included, the narrow last of the Alien RS was too small for long days. By making the last bigger, this boot will likely fit more people better.
This is hands down the best walking boot I have ever put on, better than Dynafit PDGs and TLT 5s (possibly the best boot ever?). Last week when walking 22 miles on a ski traverse with lots of flat travel, I felt as if I had the right tool for the situation. At 72 degrees, the range of motion front and back is insane and the numbers don’t do it justice. With just fabric in the tongue and lower cuff section above the heel pocket, there really is very minimal resistance. I do not “bottom out” when leaning back on the flats and the gradual resistance when leaning forwards is perfect for steep skinning. The huge forward range of motion matches well with my expedition bindings that do not have heel risers.
I skin with the BOA and upper cuff fully open. For technical climbing I have fooled around with different options. When climbing Nez Perce, moderate fifth class rock with crampons, I decided to stay fully open which worked fine.
A few weeks ago when climbing the Grand Teton via the winter normal route, Stettner-Chevy, I decided to close the upper cuff, tighten the BOA and keep the boot in walk mode. That worked well for moderate ice climbing.
The F1 LT shines on the skin track, but what about the down? Although lightweight, the boot has some punch to it. The cuff wraps tightly around my calf, important for ski performance in minimalist boots. As a small man, these feel stiff enough for most conditions. The torsional rigidity is great, when edging on firm snow they feel solid. On firm snow with no surprises they ski great, 50° hop turns no problem.
The boots hold up fine for fast skiing in good snow. They do not have a ton of progressive flex, but more than most boots within this weight class. However, when things got variable, I got tossed around a bit. This is partly due to the fit of the boot, but also because there is just not much material around my foot and ankle to absorb the bumps. While skiing the Apocalypse Couloir a few weeks ago I encountered firm and variable wind pressed snow, I was still able to ski aggressively and fast but it felt a little looser than I prefer.
One issue with any ski boot in the 1 kilo category is durability and the Alien RS was known for its lack of it. Last spring on Denali and Foraker, one of my partners had the Alien RS, he broke the cuff closing mechanism, a piece of string, and he was scrambling to make his ski boots work well. My partner on the Grand Teton a few weeks ago had the Alien RS on and he was dealing with a similar problem, broken string… The interface between the gator and the lower boot has been known to be an issue in the RS, improved upon for the F1 LT, but still a potential issue.
By replacing the string with a more traditional cuff closure, Scarpa seems to have alleviated this particular issue, but I have found other weaknesses worth mentioning.
First: cracks have formed in upper cuffs of both boots. Both shells have these cracks in the same spot, I can hear the plastic clicking when I am skinning sometimes. One boot has cracks on both pieces of the orange overlap plastic. They do not seem to be growing in size.
Second: leak potential between the built in gator and the lower boot is something I’ve noticed (and friends that ski the Alien RS have brought to my attention). This area seems to be holding up well on my boots so far, but buddies have had to seam seal the interface over time.
I have been testing the F1 LT with really wide skis and therefore generating more force on the boot. Realistically they pair best with my 102 underfoot Navis. I pushed the boot far beyond what it was designed for by using wider skis in steep and deep terrain.
In a few weeks time when I get out my 91 and 76 underfoot skis, these boots are gonna feel beefy!
*Update from Scarpa: Adam had a pre production model. 20/21 Production models will attempt to address these two issues. We are optimistic that these mods, and keeping the skis under 110mm should help. In general the F1 LT appears to be a more durable upgrade to the Alien RS. See the photos and captions below*
So are they my ideal Vulcan replacement? Not totally. I’ve been on the one-boot quiver train for the last ten or so years, but I like the F1 LT enough to change my mentality. For me, this boot will eventually become the minimal half of a two-boot quiver. Once the world stops ending and December rolls around next season, I will want a beefier boot that can be my daily workhorse and lend more dependable durability to my larger powder skis.
At 1070 grams with liner, spoiler, footbed and shim, though, these things rip. If you want a free ride boot look elsewhere. If you want a boot that can ski the steeps, tour like a pair of running shoes and be enough boot for making GS turns, the F1 LT may be your ticket.
The F1 LT will be available to purchase Fall 2020. Shop for other Scarpa boots here.
Adam Fabrikant lives in Kelly, WY with his partner Erin and their dog Juniper. He works full time as a mountain and ski guide. He enjoys adventures to the far flung, making ski turns in absurd places, lapping powder like someone is going to take it away and endurance odysseys.