I can’t seem to swing a dead cat with out hitting white these days, both in the form of snow that is finally coming our way in Colorado, and all of the white boots I’m surrounded by. You’d think the the manufacturers must have all used the same bin of plastic pellets to make their boots (perhaps they did, it’s Montebelluna after all). Yet despite the confusion of white, one shoe has stood out. So far the Scarpa Maestrale RS has become the go-to boot I grab as I head out the door.
Yep, for those of us in the trenches, who work cat, heli or patrol and recreate on tours long and short, sidecountry, hike to terrain in bounds, ride lifts and want the best weight-to-performance ratio, the Maestrale RS is in my opinion the shoe of choice.
It wasn’t all that long ago that to achieve the kind of ski performance offered by the RS you had to strap on eight to ten pounds of beef and forego significant cuff articulation. Between better materials and engineering, downhill performance once reserved for those heavy boots is now combined with superb cuff mobility in touring mode. With RS this is all wrapped in to one neat 7lb. package (give or take a few ounces). Plus, due to a standard DIN sole you have the freedom to choose between tech or frame bindings per your whim on any given day. (9523 touring boot standard, not alpine, simply meaning it’s not a short trimmed sole and will function in a binding such as a Fritschi Diamir.)
Scarpa RS employs the unique axial hinged tongue design that defines the Maestrale series. Obviously Scarpa feels this adds to the performance of the boot and all evidence seems to support their theory (idea being that the lower part of the tongue is solidly anchored to the boot shoe, rather than floating in a small tab at the toe). That said, the side hinged tongue does make getting in and out of the boot a bit more difficult than some boots. It requires a very specific sequence of events which when employed makes it easy to slide in and out. After a few days the magic sequence becomes second nature and only a minor inconvenience. But try and short change the process and you will just frustrate yourself with pinched fingers and too much time penalty.
I went all-in with new boots this year when I sold all of my last season’s boots at the local swaps this fall. My first day of skiing this season was also my first day on the RS. So much for that old familiar feeling. Right off, compared to other AT boots I’ve owned I noticed I was in a stiffer boot that begs for modern ski technique. Forget the a-frame and knee angulation because these babies reward parallel legs, lateral motion and hip angulation. Just tip and turn. At first the stiffness was unnerving for my 128 pounds. I felt a bit defensive and on my heels. The next day I put a heel lift in under the liner and all of a sudden I was in the driver’s seat: power, agility, responsiveness with a nice progressive flex all rolled into one.
But early season in Aspen meant being relegated to man made snow and groomers only. What about once you get off the artificial piste and onto Mother Nature’s natural surface? Luckily the ski gods smiled on me with a quick one day trip to Targhee where the early season conditions were faring much better. Skiing the variables of natural snow and a variety of terrain requires subtlety and finesse as well as power. The RS answered the call allowing for all of the adjustments I needed to make for the snow and terrain I encountered.
Most importantly is powder. Yes, even with Colorado’s dry winter we’re getting in some pow days now that wetter (ha) February has rolled around. The RS once again proved subtle providing support while adjusting fore/aft balance, making quick moves in the trees or letting them run in the wide open. When the snow felt supportive I could drive the skis from the front of the boots, and when necessary I could stand in the neutral sweet spot and let the Maestrale’s keep me there without a fight.
I really appreciate that Scarpa uses the highest quality Intuition liners for their boots. The liner in the RS is no exception. That said, I did switch to my Intuition Powerwrap liners in short order due to my very skinny lower legs, ankles and heels. The Powerwrap takes up the extra space, while the stock liner would not. I have no doubt the extra material between my leg and the front of the boot made them stiffer and put me in a more upright position. Hence the heel lift.
Beyond my own fooling around with liners, comments regarding fit and performance have been universal from everyone I have talked to that has skied the RS. From my normal up front and skinny in the back feet, to my business partners wide feet and my friend with the ugliest feet in Aspen, all have been able to get an adequate fit (albeit my circle knows the importance of working with a boot fitter and custom liners when necessary). All of us have commented on the RS being stiffer than what we were used to and glad for the enhanced performance.
Here is a good testimony to sum it up: After borrowing my boots over the course of a couple of days, my business partner at Aspen Powder Tours proclaimed “these are real boots” and promptly ordered a pair. He’s probably owned 75 pairs of boots over a lengthy career, and skied in three times that many. ‘Nuff said.
(Guest blogger Bob Perlmutter and his wife Sue live in the Roaring Fork Valley of Colorado, where Bob manages Aspen Mountain Powder Tours, a snowcat skiing operation. Bob has sought adventure skiing over the past thirty years, in the nearby Elk Mountains as well as locales around the world. Presently, he is reeling it in close to home and enjoying his biggest adventure yet, fatherhood.)