I have spent a lot of time skiing boots that require the use of replaceable tongues to optimize uphill and downhill performance. While I’m quite comfortable using the tongues and have had no issues with them, I certainly don’t miss them while skiing the MTN Lab. Transitions are the easiest I’ve ever had on any boot: flip two buckles and the walk mode, cinch down the power strap, click into the heels of the bindings, rip skins and Go!
Transitioning back to climbing is similarly easy. I don’t even have to mess with re-adjusting the velcro since all it takes is a simple touch of the cam buckle on the power strap to loosen it. Very nice.
Simply put, the MTN Lab skis like an alpine boot.
My first run on the Salomon MTN Lab took place after a three-hour hike on Kodiak Island one damp day in June while out looking for a few summer turns on my old 187cm Dynafit Manaslus (light, stiff, relatively long sidecut radius) down 1500 vertical feet of sun-cupped summer snow. By my third turn, I was railing high speed turns more confidently on those skis than I ever have, and I honestly felt like I was in an alpine boot—an alpine boot that weighed 1600 grams and had rockered soles and a walk mode that didn’t feel out of place skinning up a mountain eight miles from my car.
In over three years of testing for Blister, this was probably the most impressed I’ve been with a new piece of equipment.
Since then, I have skied another 10+ days on the MTN Lab, and I haven’t wavered from my opinion that these ski like an alpine boot. The forward flex is not the most progressive of any alpine boot I’ve ever used, (see below for alpine boot comparisons) but I’m 195 lbs. in street clothes, and I’ve never wished for the MTN Lab to be stiffer.
Flex, Flex Rating, and a Few Comparisons
Manufacturers flex ratings often seem arbitrary, so I don’t usually pay much attention to them. But I’ll be surprised if I ever feel like I need a stiffer AT boot than this. I also suspect that once I’m able to do more back-to-back comparisons with other alpine boots that it will be very close to some of the 130-rated boots I’ve skied.
For now, I can say that prior to that first day in the MTN Lab back in June on Kodiak, I had recently guided a summer heli skiing trip in my 14/15 (unchanged shell for this year) Cochise Pro 130. A week or so later when I finally skied the MTN Lab, I was blown away by how close it skied to the Cochise I’d been on for much of the year. I wouldn’t be surprised if they have as stiff of a forward flex as the Cochise Pro 130, and I’ll do some back-to-back testing this winter and provide updates.
I spent a day on this trip riding lifts at Porters Ski Area alternating back and forth between the MTN Lab and the 15/16 Lange XT 130 with Zip Fit Grand Prix liner. I even skied a few runs on a pair of 185cm Blizzard Cochise while wearing one of each boot.
The mildly increased forward lean of the Lange was the first thing I noticed, but the progression of the forward flex was the most marked difference. While the forward flex of the MTN Lab is very similar in stiffness, the Lange is significantly more progressive—it felt a bit like the Lange was a mountain bike that has a couple of inches of extra suspension.
That said, the MTN Lab still has a progressive flex that ramps up nicely as I sink into the boot, it’s just not as smooth and progressive as the Lange, and lacks some of the Lange’s rebound. (Having said that, I also think that the flex of the 15/16 Lange + Zip Fit is also more progressive than the X-Max 130, and I wonder how much difference I will find between the X-Max 130 and MTN Lab.)
One final note on flex and skiing performance concerns the liner: as I noted above, I’ve been using Intuition Powerwrap liners in all of the other boots mentioned in this review (except for the Lange XT). It’s well accepted and consistent with my experience that the Powerwrap adds some stiffness to almost any boot when swapped for the stock liner. So for a fair comparison, I’ll try the MTN Lab with a Powerwrap as soon as I’m able.
On the skis I’ve ridden and the conditions I’ve skied in so far, the MTN Lab feels laterally as stiff as an alpine boot. I’m looking forward to seeing how they do on my big powder skis back home, but I’m confident that they’ll work quite well.
A lot of skiers will be curious about direct comparisons between the MTN Lab, the Dynafit Vulcan, and some of the other stiffer touring boots out there. We are going to put together a Deep Dive on this topic very soon, and will also update with comparisons to the Dynafit Khion as soon as we get time in that boot.
The Salomon MTN Lab is a ~1600 gram AT boot that skis very much like a high-performance alpine boot. It has an excellent walk mode and convenient features. The MTN Lab is easily one of the most impressive products I have reviewed, and I can’t wait to spend more time on them this year.
(Note: Check out Jonathan Ellsworth’s 2nd Look review of the Salomon MTN Lab)