The Salomon MTN Lab is a great boot for advanced to expert skiers who are looking for an AT boot that is lightweight and agile enough for a comfortable hike, but can withstand some hard-charging descents.
2016-17 Salomon MTN Lab Review
Fit: Built around the same form as one of Salomon’s most popular alpine boots, the X-Max, it claims to have about a 98-mm last. However, I found this boot to fit quite a bit smaller than other Salomon boots that I’ve worn. As this is a boot that I purchased and will continue to ski in, I got some boot work done opening the toe box and creating a little more room at the base of my heels on the lateral sides. I did try on the 25.5, but felt that I would have too much heel lift (which ruined me in my previous touring boot), so I opted for the tighter fitting 24.5 + a little work.
Liner: The fully thermoformable liner is quite lightweight and does mold to the lower leg/ankle/foot very well. You can take these in to get heated up, or you can just ski in them for about a week. The liner is quite thin, which I particularly like. My concerns of the liner packing out too much have been put to rest after a season skiing in this boot. The liner also has a lacing system in place, which is very nice for getting a snug fit of the liner, while keeping buckles loosened for those ascents. I did get some blisters in these boots following my first tour in them, but it’s not an ongoing battle.
Performance (Ascending): The MTN Lab claims to have a 47-degree range of motion, which is quite stout compared to other boots in the freeride/AT crossover category. (For example, the Scarpa Maestrale RS is at 37-degrees.) However, I find it quite difficult to objectively measure this… 47-degree range-of-motion is a great thing if it is useable range-of-motion. That being said, I do find the walk-mode of this boot to be more than sufficient for long climbs and my hip-flexors are much happier in this setup! Salomon chose to go with a proprietary rubberized sole on this boot instead of a Vibram sole. I’m all for diversity and the sole on this boot has help up exceptionally well. I’ve done some ski mountaineering and have spent a bit of time ascending rock in these boots and the soles still appear brand new. They also have really good grip on rock, snow, icey surfaces. This boot weights-in at 1.6 kgs (3.5 lbs/boot), which is lighter than most boots, but heavier than a few, in this crossover category. Personally, I’m always willing to lug a little extra weight uphill (we’re talking ounces here…) in order to gain some aggression on the descents.
Performance (Descending): This is where I was the most skeptical of this boot right off the bat. I mean, the thing only has two-buckles! I tend to be traditional when it comes to boots – I like my 4-buckle boots, they keep my heel snugged down and enhance my control. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the claimed 120 flex felt true to form. The cuff fits slightly lower on my calf than my alpine boots, but I don’t feel that I’m falling forward over the front of my skis. (Note: I did feel like I was falling over the front of my skis when I first skied this boot, but later realized that it was the softness of the prototype ski that I was on, not the boot. So, if you decide to get this boot, don’t plan on skiing on noodles.) Once I got set up on an equally stout ski, the charging was on! Salomon included an oversized 24mm pivot to assist in the rigidity of this boot and also used a carbon spine in the back where the upper cuff shifts from walk to ski mode. Lastly, the ratcheted power strap acts as an upper buckle, and my mongo calves appreciate the micro adjustability of this strap versus the standard steps of a buckle. I should note that the flex of this boot is progressive, but does have an ultimate stopping point. It doesn’t feel too harsh and allows for nuanced control of your skis.
Putting It On/Taking It Off: Perhaps a silly thing to mention in a review, but something that has particularly stood out to me after a season in this boot. I put this boot on and take it off in walk mode. Also, I tug really really hard on the two loops that Salomon put on the liner (one on the tongue and one on the upper cuff) and I haven’t even as much as stretched the stitching. If I leave the boot in ski mode when I try to take it off, the liner wants to pull out of the shell. When that happens, it’s a pain in the betterski to get it back in.
Binding Integration: I used this boot with the Dynafit TLT Radical FT 2.0. You can use this boot with any tech binding, but not with traditional alpine bindings other than Salomon’s Guardian binding. The rubberized sole and curvature of the sole do not integrate with alpine bindings to receive a DIN certification.
Review by Jen