2017-2018 Salomon MTN Explore Boot

Jonathan Ellsworth reviews the Salomon MTN Explore Boot for Blister Gear Review.
15/16 Salomon MTN Explore

Salomon MTN Explore Boot

Available Sizes: 24.5 – 29.5

Size Tested: 26.5

Stated BSL (26.5): 301mm

Stated Flex: 100

Stated Last: 98mm

Stated Range of Motion: 63°

Blister’s Measured Weight:

  • shells, no liners: 1126 & 1135 grams
  • stock liners + laces, no footbeds: 281 & 281
  • shells + stock liners: 1407 & 1416

MSRP: $700

Test Locations: Santa Fe, NM backcountry

Ski / Bindings Used: 186cm Volkl BMT 109 / Marker Kingpin 10

Days Tested: 3

Reviewer’s Feet: Left foot: 27.0cm long, right foot: 27.5cm. C-width, narrow heel. High arch / high instep (on a scale of 1-10, it’s an 8 or 9). Fairly stable, solid platform. A bit of pronation. A good amount of ankle range of motion (i.e., “dorsiflexion”).

[Editor’s Note: Our review was conducted on the 15/16 MTN Explore, which returned unchanged for the 16/17 and 17/18 seasons, apart from graphics]

Intro

By now, you may know that we have been very, very impressed by the Salomon MTN Lab. In fact, we’ve named the MTN Lab our 15/16 product of the year.

(If you’d like to read ~6000 words in defense of that, see Paul Forward’s review of the MTN Lab and my own review of the boot.)

And as I noted in my review of the Lab, I had this sneaking suspicion that the MTN Lab’s sibling, the MTN Explore, might be a very interesting product in its own right—and not merely a dumbed down / price point version of the MTN Lab.

In short, my suspicion was correct. The MTN Explore is also a high-performance boot.

Jonathan Ellsworth reviews the Salomon MTN Explore Boot for Blister Gear Review.
Jonathan Ellsworth in the Salomon MTN Explore boot.

I’ve now got about 25 days in the MTN Lab, and I was out this past Saturday and Sunday touring in the MTN Explore. And since we’re getting approximately 2.3 thousand emails a day asking about the Explore, I wanted to offer some initial impressions.

Caveat: I’ve only toured three times in the MTN Explore, so I reserve the right to modify these impressions as I get more time in them—and especially once I do some back-to-back-to-back laps with the MTN Lab and the MTN Explore. Having said all that, I’m comfortable with these initial conclusions, so if I do revise any of these opinions here, I expect those revisions to be subtle and not full reversals.

Weight

Take a look. And then I’ll just wait while your brain processes the differences:

Blister’s Measured Weight – MTN Explore vs. MTN Lab

Shells, no liners: 1126 & 1135 grams  // MTN Lab: 1257 & 1246 grams

Stock liners + laces, no footbeds: 281 & 281 // MTN Lab: 288 & 303 grams

Shells + stock liners: 1407 & 1416 // MTN Lab: 1545 & 1549 grams

 

I suspect that some folks will be psyched by the weight savings of the MTN Explore, while others will shrug at the ~140 grams-per-boot weight savings.

For me personally—given the kind of touring I generally do: sub-six hour tours with few long, flat approaches, and often to some fairly steep lines—280 grams per pair isn’t a huge deal to me. You might feel differently.

Range of Motion

Understandably, the ROM of the MTN Explore vs. the MTN Lab has received a lot of attention. Salomon claims that the MTN Explore has 63 degrees of ROM, while the MTN lab is listed at 47.

Paul Forward and I both are fine with the ROM of the MTN Lab. I’ve been touring in the Lab multiple times since I wrote my review of it, and my practice is to open up all the buckles completely.

Can I feel the end of the MTN Lab’s ROM when taking longer strides? Yes. But on steep boot packs, or relatively steep skin tracks (though I haven’t walked up any Mt. Superior-style skin tracks yet in these), the ROM feels totally fine—to me.

Jonathan Ellsworth reviews the Salomon MTN Explore Boot for Blister Gear Review.
Jonathan Ellsworth in the Salomon MTN Explore. (photo by Justin Bobb)

So not surprisingly, the MTN Explore also feels fine. I.e., very good. So far, where I notice the increased ROM most is on flat sections where I’m inclined to stride out and glide. I personally have not felt any obvious difference / improvement when booting up steep chutes or on steeper sections of skin track.

NEXT: Flex, Skiability, Etc.

20 comments on “2017-2018 Salomon MTN Explore Boot”

  1. You guys nailed it. I’ve been searching the web for the difference in Lab vs Explore cuff heights for awhile. Then BAM! Blister comes along and flushes out the details. I love my TLT6s, but the the cuff height is low and the forward flex a tad soft.

    At 5’9″ 150 lbs, will the Labs be too stiff? I ski the Fischer RC4 130 for alpine.

    • Thanks, Dan. The MTN Lab – not the MTN Explore – is the better comparison to the RC4 130. I’ve got 25-30 lbs. on you, but I love the RC4 130, and I love the MTN Lab. As I noted in my MTN Lab review, the Lab won’t have the best-in-class-type of progressive flex like the RC4 130 – to me, the flex of the RC4 stands out as being really buttery smooth rather than being particularly stiff. But given those notes / qualifiers, I suspect that the Lab is the better play for you than the Explore, UNLESS you sometimes feel that the RC4 is more boot / stiffer than you want / need. If that is sometimes or often the case … then the Explore becomes more of a contender. Hope that helps a little?

  2. Hey guys, great review!

    I just have two questions left unanswered:

    1) Would you say the fit is more or less identical between the two boots?

    2) Do the boots stiffen up at all when they get cold? I’ve heard they don’t due to the plastic they’re made of, but I find this hard to believe and I’m on the cusp of the MTN Labs being too stiff, even in the nice warm shop.

    Cheers!

    • Thanks, Tim.

      1) As for fit, roughly speaking, yes, they feel “the same.” By which I mean … I can’t yet say that they feel “identical” – but they are coming from the same mold, just different materials. I did a quick shell fit with each boot, and very similar, definitely. Not willing just yet to say “identical.”

      2) Hmmm, good question. My two days so far in the MTN Explore were not cold — the beauty of northern New Mexico: warm temps, bluebird skis, cold, dry pow. So not in a position to speak to those. I’ve got a lot more time in the MTN Lab, and can’t say that I’ve found them to clearly, definitely stiffen up a ton in cold temps. But that seems like a subjective enough issue that I don’t feel too comfortable telling you “Definitely Yes” or “Definitely No.” On the other hand, the more worried / nervous you are that the MTN Lab might be stiffer than you want … seems like you’re a pretty good candidate for the MTN Explore? (Cf. the above review…)

  3. WOW thanks for the info…since you already hinted at it. Is there a Backland Carbon review in the making? I feel like the MTN Explore hits the sweet spot quite well but I also heard really good things about the Backland Carbon regarding downhill performance. by that I mean in its weight class. I am not expecting it to be on a level with the Explore and certainly not the Lab.
    If you review the Backlands could you maybe include a photo to compare the cuff hight to the Explore?

  4. +1 on the Backland review request. I fall on the light/fast/uphill-oriented side of the spectrum and would love to hear some about how they fit and ski. Can’t find much on the Web about that boot. You guys rock.

  5. I have a super high instep. Wondering if the foot beds of the Mtn Explore are removable so I can shave off the bottoms a bit. Also wondering if the tongue where it meets the instep is heat mouldable as well. Thanks for such an awesome review of these boots!

  6. I currently have Backland Carbon’s sitting unused in my room because in warm temperatures and “variable” conditions those fruit boots have more flex in the lower shell than my ankle can support, including with a skinny ski. Other than that the canvas ‘gaiter’ that velcro’s to the liner has already ripped in a couple places, the bolts used to adjust things like buckle position and lean angle are so soft that they can only handle breaking free from the factory locktite once or twice before stripping, and the cuff bushings are already showing significant play (after a dozen ski days, and at most 100 flat touring miles). I would return those boots if I could.

    Now in cold temperatures and pristine powder I had a damn good time swinging RMU Apostle’s around, so if you’re fine with a one trick pony, the Backland is a comfortable and light boot that walks literally like a shoe (with an ankle brace). But they are certainly not a quiver of one boot, not even close.

    For reference I’m 5’8, 150lb, fairly cautious skier.

  7. Another killer review! Having a direct comparison between what seem like the 2 best LV lasted backcountry-freeride boots is really helpful. I just had 2 things I was curious about if you have time.

    1. I’ve been skiing the RX130LV as my alpine boot and touring in the quest 120 max for a while now, but am looking to find a good 120~ flex touring boot that doesn’t make me haul over 2 kilos per foot on the uphill, while still allowing me to charge. Because of having an extremely narrow foot, the 98 lasted salomons are a great option. A lot of the time I feel that the RX130 is more boot than I need at 145 pounds, even being a fairly aggressive skier. The 120 max has served me well, but I don’t know if I could tolerate a lower cuff, and I have no idea how the cuff height, flex, etc compares to the MTN explore. Any experience or knowledge of how the support, flex and fit compare between the quest max and the explore?

    2. Also, do you think throwing a powerwrap in these boots would make this more of a “solid” 120 flex, and possibly lessen the effect of a lower cuff without sacrificing a large amount of touring ROM and stride? Or in my case is the Lab probably a better option?

    Thanks so much, and keep up the awesome reviews!

    • Hello, i am also wondering how the cuff height of the quest max bc boot compares to the Mtn explore. Any info would be appreciated. Thanks!

  8. I am assuming the heels on these work nicely with the kingpin binding? I am looking into this setup, and some of the newer offerings (ie: Dynafit TLT 7) look like they might not have enough of a heel to really lock in.

    • Did you get an answer on this? Riding the same binding.

      Also did you end up with the Explores? I’m 5’9/155 and thinking the Labs will be too stiff for me so considering the Explores and looking for some feedback.

      • No answer received
        But I got these boots for my birthday present.
        They adapted to the barons, but must say my other boots (Alpine atomics) fit better, especially in the heel area.
        The boots feel incredible, so light, so easy to hike end good grip in iced and rocky ridges. The also fell really solid underfoot por the dh. I got the 27, but since I felt they weren’t fitting exactly as I wanted/had tried before. So I returned them, as they were 27.5…
        Short affaire
        But very happy with them
        Hope this is useful

  9. I have been Skiing on the K2 Pinnacle 130s for about 2 years now and have been looking in to the MTN labs from Salomon. Im looking for more of a touring orientated boot then that of the K2, as i purchased some Kingpins last year. How would you compare the stiffness in these boots while on the downhill, as i can guarantee the MTN lab will outperform the K2s on the uphill. I don’t have much else to compare to as the K2 was the first boot i ever skied on just looking to see if you have anymore insight on comparing these 2 boots.

    Great reviews love reading your in-depth reviews on products

  10. Curious about this… got the MTN Lab when it came out but at 165 pounds, that boot fell like it’s made of rebar when the snow is beat up. Do you think getting a softer pro tour liner from intuition will help soften the boot up a bit?

      • Hey, Ryan – I’m not certain that a softer liner, since as we’ve noted, the MTN Lab (like pretty much every other lightweight ~130-flex AT boot) doesn’t have the most progressive flex in the world. So while I haven’t skied the boot with anything other than the stock liner (which I really like), I think the shell itself is accounting for a good bit of the stiffness.

        Having said all that, I think it totally makes sense to try a softer liner — I just can’t say how drastic of a difference you’ll find.

        Finally, it really does sound like you’re basically the perfect candidate for the MTN Explore…

  11. Do these boots have a skier weight limit? I’m 190 lbs and have been skiing in a Rossignol Alltrack 130 for in-bounds skiing. I’m drawn to the explores over the labs because of weight and ROM, but I’m a little worried that they won’t be stiff enough for me. Or will the flex just be something I have to adapt to? Im not looking for a boot that will ski just as well as a dedicated alpine boot, just the best performance/weight.

    Thanks

Leave a Comment