There is no adjustable cuff alignment on the MTN Lab which has large fixed pivots on both sides of the shell. This is the same as on most of the AT boots I’ve used, and is very similar to the X-Max 130.
Buckles & Powerstrap
I was skeptical of the MTN Lab’s two-buckle design, but I know a lot of good skiers who love the Salomon Ghost. After two weeks of skiing them in just about every type of snow imaginable—from fully refrozen coral reef conditions to soft cold pow—I haven’t once felt like the buckles were inadequate.
I appreciate the cam-locking powerstrap, which does seem to be providing some extra support. I’m sure it adds a few ounces to a pair of boots, but I’d happily carry that extra weight. The stock strap doesn’t offer much elasticity, though, so I’m planning to experiment with a Booster strap when I get home.
My only real quible with the buckle layout on the MTN Lab is the orientation of the lower buckle. Every boot I’ve ever skied with a buckle that closes outward and sits on the side of the lower shell has had issues with opening when I don’t want it to and catching on snow and rocks while climbing or postholing. In some situations (like my first pair of TLT5’s) that lower buckle has sustained damage as well.
It may be that Salomon needed to position the lower buckle where they did to maintain the two-buckle closure system of the Ghost, but I would much prefer to see that buckle sitting on top of the boot.
That said, we have not spent a ton of time postholing in New Zealand, and we have only done a couple of tours that involved much time climbing around on rocks. I have not damaged the buckle nor have I have caught it on anything at inopportune times. There’s little doubt that I’m going to be skiing these boots a lot this season, and I’ll report back if I have any issues.
The Fabric Over the Instep
The most notably weird thing about the appearance of these boots is the fabric covering over the instep of the lower shell. I have used the boots for 2 weeks including some time in wet snow and a couple of quick dunks on smaller creek crossings, and haven’t had any issues with water in my boots. I do wonder how these will hold up when I end up dragging the boots through some early and late season Alaskan bushwhacks, which are pretty common for me. As with the lower buckle of the boot, I’ll update here if I have any issues.
Prior to skiing the MTN Lab, the Ultralock walk mode on the Vulcan/TLT series was the nicest design I’ve used. Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been skiing three boots with newly-designed walk modes (MTN Lab, Atomic Backland Carbon, and the Lange XT 130) and all of them work very well. The MTN lab is very easy to engage and disengage, and can easily be locked or unlocked in one swipe of my hand in combination with loosening or tightening the upper buckle. There is zero discernible play when in ski mode. I’ll talk more about how they ski below.
AT boot soles are always attempting to balance a rubber that is sticky while climbing on icy rocks and snow, but still durable enough to hold up to years of abuse. I don’t have enough time on these to comment yet on their durability, but I can say that they are grippy on rocks and confidence inspiring overall.
Given how well these boots ski (see below), I’m partially inclined to wish for a WTR or even a fully alpine-compatible tech-sole option on these boots, similar to the K2 Pinnacle 130. While such a sole would not be as nice for walking and scrambling, it would allow for this very powerful, lightweight boot to be used in wider range of bindings.
I only include this because in the past there have been boots that seemed to fall out of spec and had issues with some bindings. While I do miss the “Quick Step” inserts from my Dynafit boots, the Salomon inserts have worked flawlessly over almost two weeks of bashing around out of bounds using two different pairs of G3 Ions and 2 different pairs of Marker Kingpins. I have skied with all four pairs of bindings in “Ski” mode the whole time without locking the toes on either binding / both pairs of bindings, and have had no pre-releases even when skiing through brutal refrozen snow.
At 1600g, the MTN Lab is much lighter than anything Salomon has previously produced for touring and is competitive with the Vulcan and other stiffer, dedicated touring boots with a downhill-performance orientation. (Stated weight of the Dynafit Vulcan is 1590g, and the Scarpa Maestrale RS is 1570g, for a size 27.
It also has plenty of rearward range of motion for anything that I might find myself doing. On almost every touring boot review I’ve written, I’ve mentioned that I think the current trend of trying to create huge rearward ROM is not helpful to me. I spend a lot of time skinning and scrambling across narrow and/or rocky ridges and, as long as the cuff goes a little past vertical, I tend to do fine. The MTN lab has more than enough ROM for anything I might do, including the occasional down climb—the only time when I’m grateful for a bit more rearward travel.
It’s worth noting that since this is the first touring boot I’ve been able to use with the stock liner, it’s also the first time I’ve been able to take advantage of the “flex-zone” in the back of the liner that makes rearward flex easier. The MTN Lab liner works well without any issues, and unlike the Intuition Powerwrap liner that tends to decrease ROM and shove my foot forward while walking downhill, the MTN Lab / stock liner combination is pretty comfortable walking downhill.
Like other dedicated touring boots that have in-molded tech fittings as part of the lower shell (as opposed to boots like the Cochise or Quest Max BC that have tech fittings molded into replaceable alpine sole blocks), the MTN Lab’s overall sole length is a bit shorter (311mm for the size 27.5 MTN Lab, vs 320mm for the Tecnica Cochise Pro in the same size) and the fittings are closer to my foot. I think this allows for a more natural and comfortable stride while touring.
Because the MTN Lab’s soles are still compatible with frame-style AT bindings and alpine bindings like Salomon Warden, the soles are not as compact as the (tech binding only) TLT6 but they do nicely for scrambling and hiking.
NEXT: Transitioning, Downhill Performance, Etc.