by Kim Yamauchi, Tahoe Mountain Sports Ambassador
The Best Backcountry Ski Touring Boot is…
Six years ago I went on my first backcountry trip to Mt. Shasta. The plan was to skin up, then ski down. I had a Lange boot that had “walk-mode” so I thought that would work well. I had been doing some backcountry skiing, had some blisters from the boots, but just figured my feet had to get “tough”. 30 minutes into my Shasta climb though and my feet were miserable. By the end of that trip, my feet looked like raw hamburger and I was ready for a new back country boot.
Black Diamond Ski Boots
My upgrade was to a pair of Black Diamond boots. I figured I would change my ski setup as well and go to a Kingpin binding. These boots fit that binding system. My husband had a pair of Black Diamond boots so I figured these would be fine. However, it was not. Though OK for skinning due to the nice walk mode with a big range of motion, once in ski mode, it was like skiing in a slipper. The boot was way too soft.
I knew I had to upgrade again if I was going to enjoy being out in the backcountry. Adam at Tahoe Mountain Sports was extremely helpful and patient working with me and the various boots. My downhill boot is a Tecnica and TMS had a Tecnica boot that was made for backcountry. However, I felt like this might be like my original Lange with the “walk-mode”, providing a side-country boot, but not a true backcountry boot.
The winner is… Scarpa Maestrale RS
I knew Scarpa had a great reputation, and even though the boot was a bit pricier, I felt like the extra money spent for the Scarpa would be well worth it. In the end, that is every bit the case. The Scarpa is great in walk-mode. It has a 60 degree range of motion. The Tecnica range of motion was 44 degrees. The Scarpa flex was rated at 120. Both my Tecnica downhill boot and the Tecnica backcountry boot are rated at 105. But, this flex rating is how each manufacturer rates the flex within their own boot range. There isn’t an industry standard “flex test”. I’ve found that the Scarpa flex of 120 is fairly similar to my Tecnica 105. I can’t think of anything that I might change on the Scarpa after skiing this a number of days so far. I’ve even taken my setup “in-bounds” to see how it performs and it skis great.
The Bottom Line
The Scarpa Maestrale RS is not just a beautiful looking boot, it’s an awesome backcountry boot. I bought this boot a few months ago and could not be happier. It has a walk mode that provides a great range of motion and then once I’m out of walk-mode for the descent, it is nice and stiff, transferring power right to my ski so I can make turns in the worst of crud or the best of powder. The best thing for me though, my feet are totally comfortable.
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Kim Yamauchi is a lover of all things mountain! She’s been in Truckee with her family since 2012, but they’ve been enjoying Truckee as part-timers since 1998. When Kim can escape from her desk job, you’ll find her mountain biking and trail running, oftentimes with her dog Mochi in tow. When the snow is awesome – you’ll find her skiing – inbounds and out of bounds, or on her skate skis. When not in Truckee, she and her family like to find water and wind to enjoy their newest sport of kiteboarding. You can follow Kim on Instagram at @kimyamauchi
Kim is an avid outdoor enthusiast and enjoys playing in the mountains whenever she has the chance. You’ll find Kim trail running and mountain biking in the summer. In the winter months, Kim enjoys the nordic trails and downhill skiing. Her latest adventure is kite boarding, but she has yet to have much success with this new sport.