2nd Look: 2018-2019 Salomon MTN Lab AT boot

Paul Forward reviews the Salomon MTN Lab Booth for Blister Gear Review
Salomon MTN Lab

2018-2019 Salomon MTN Lab

Available Sizes: 24.5-29.5

Size Tested: 26.5

Stated BSL (26.5): 301mm

Stated Flex: 120

Stated Last: 98mm

Stated Range of Motion: 47°

Blister’s Measured Weight:

• shells, no liners: 1257 & 1246 grams

• stock liners + laces, no footbeds: 288 & 303 grams

• shells + stock liners: 1545 & 1549 grams

Shell & Cuff:

• Grilamid+ lower shell

• Alpine Pebax cuff

• Carbon Fiber BC Spine

MSRP: $800

Test Locations: Taos & Santa Fe, NM backcountry; Arapahoe Basin, CO; Canterbury, NZ backcountry

Bindings Used: Marker Kingpin 13 and 10; G3 ION 12

Skis Used: G3 Zenoxide 105; Moment Tallac; G3 Synapse 109; Volkl BMT 109; Blizzard Zero G 108

Days Tested: ~20 (so far)

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 Lab, which was renamed the “S-Lab MTN” for 17/18, but was not changed for 16/17, 17/18, or 18/19, apart from graphics.]

Jonathan Ellsworth reviews the Salomon MTN Lab for Blister Gear Review
Jonathan Ellsworth in the Salomon MTN Lab, Porters Ski Area backcountry, NZ.

Intro & Backstory

We’ve recently published Paul Forward’s review of the Salomon MTN Lab, and you need to read Paul’s review before or after mine, since Paul and I come to this boot from two different places:

Paul has been on a never-ending search for the best AT boot out there, while I gave up on AT boots a number of years ago because I hated how they skied, as well as how they fit.

The result was that I wasn’t really doing long tours, but would do shorter tours (3-6 hours round trip) usually in unbuckled alpine boots. I’d usually come home with pretty bad to very bad blisters, which again, says something about how much I disliked AT boots.

(For the record, this also has a bit to do with how Blister ended up getting its name.)

So despite the fact that Salomon’s product manager was excited to show off this new boot at SIA last February, I honestly wasn’t interested. The boot seemed too light to actually ski well, the fabric on the toe box looked gimmicky, and it just didn’t seem at all to be the boot that was going to get me to stop touring in my alpine boots.

But I knew that we ought to at least get a review up on these, and I had already agreed to take a look at an AT boot that I was actually more curious about, the Fischer Transalp Vacuum TS.

 

 

So I began to tour in the MTN Lab last April / May.

After 1 tour, I didn’t hate this boot.

After 2 tours, I realized that I wasn’t merely tolerating these boots.

After 3 tours, I began to freak out a bit, because I found myself thinking that these actually ski quite well.

After 4 tours, I had come to really like these boots, because:

(1) They climbed very well — as well or nearly as well as the Fischer Transalp TS, far better than the old Black Diamond Factors that are still rotting somewhere in my garage; and 1.2 million times better than my unbuckled Lange RX 130s.

Jonathan Ellsworth reviews the Salomon MTN Lab for Blister Gear Review
Jonathan Ellsworth in the Salomon MTN Lab, Porters Ski Area backcountry, NZ.

(2) On the descent, it wasn’t obvious that my alpine boots would be skiing world’s better in the same terrain and conditions.

In other words, my strongly-held opinions about AT boots were under serious attack.

A few more tours, and I was trying to suppress my astonishment. These boots were fantastic.

But I didn’t want to admit that, so I went to Arapahoe Basin for several weekends in late May & early June to ride lifts and A/B the MTN Labs against two of my favorite alpine boots (Fischer Vacuum 130 and the new Tecnica Mach 1) to prove that the MTN Lab wasn’t in their league.

That didn’t work out exactly as I’d planned.

And to jump to the punchline here, for those of you who also hate AT boots—and especially those of you coming from low volume, 120 or 130 flex alpine boots—you need to check out the MTN Lab.

This is also why I knew we had to get Paul Forward into this boot, to see if the guy who hadn’t given up on AT boots felt as strongly about the MTN Lab as I did. So we got him the boots, and you can read his review.

It seems to me that there will be two primary camps: (1) people who want to know whether the MTN Lab is as good as or better than the Vulcan, etc., and (2) those who, like me, mostly want to know how much / whether this boot sucks compared to alpine boots. Paul will be posting his Deep Dive “Vs” review of the MTN Lab vs. the Vulcan for those in camp #1. I’m here to address camp #2.

NEXT: Stiffness, Sizing, Fit, Last, Etc.

49 comments on “2nd Look: 2018-2019 Salomon MTN Lab AT boot”

    • Good question, not sure. But I just re-read Marshal Olson’s review of the RS, and two things stood out:

      (1) the 102mm last as oppposed to the 98mm last of the MTN Lab
      (2) Marshal emphasized the progressive and not-terribly-stiff flex of the RS, and likens it to a Raichle #8 tongue. That doesn’t sound terribly similar to what Paul Forward and I found to be true of the MTN Lab.

      But clearly, those 2 points aren’t the full story. We’ll see…

    • Yep. I normally put that info at the top of the review, but that got left out. It’s added now. But to copy it here:

      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 (aka, “dorsiflexion”).

      I tend to be suspicious of “exact” shell fit numbers (down to the mm), but mine is roughly: left foot, ~7mm. Right foot, ~4-5mm.

      Hope that helps a little.

      • Hi Jonathan,

        Thanks for answering my previous question on the MTN Explore review, the info was really helpful. I went for a boot fit recently and the Lab was the only touring boot providing a nearly decent fit on my very long (left foot just over 30.0, right foot just under 30.0), very thin, low volume feet. I didn’t end up getting any boots, since they only make the MTN Lab up to a 29cm shell, which gives me around a 10mm shell fit, which I felt would be too tight to tour in (the toe box seems fairly low volume which doesn’t help). I’d be very happy to ski in them, but I was concerned about toe bang etc on long tours. I noticed that you’re running a much tighter shell fit than that, could you comment about how comfortable they are to tour in wrt to the shell fit? Do you get any toe bang/would you expect to on multi day tours? Do you have any wiggle room in the toes, or any issues with cold toes?

        Many thanks,
        Tim.

  1. Thanks for the great review!

    Have there been any observations regarding the MTN labs compability with Dynafit Beast bindings? Since pretty much every other Salomon boot has a problem with those.

  2. Great review, both of them. I thought it was a brilliant idea to have the boot reviewed by two testers from two totally different angles.

    I would like to get back to your decision to keep also a pure Alpine race boot. In what situation you planning to use the Alpine boot and not the MTN lab? Only resort in-bounds or also for mechanized backcountry skiing (heli, cat etc)? Or in other words, do you see the advantage of the alpine race boot purely for skiing slopes or, despite how good the MTN lab performs, is the flex and the fit of an alpine boot still preferable also in the back-country if you know you don’t need to hike that day. So if you know you don’t need to walk ever because you go heli-skiing, which boot would you take?

    If the boot fits my very narrow feet, I am pretty sure I am ending up with the MTN lab.But I am having always issues with my very narrow heel. Over the past years I found only a handful of race boots that had a heel pocket that kept my heel locked despite fully customized liners. I currently tour with a pinnacle, which I gladly replace with a much more touring oriented MTN lab. the question is, should I give up my Salomon race boots as well (would need to renew this year) or is a alpine race boots still the better choice all else equal.

  3. “figuring out how in the hell to get the progressive flex of the best alpine boots into a very lightweight AT boot that has a walk mode. I don’t know how you do that”

    Check out the Dalbello Lupo T.I. Disconnecting the walk mode from the flex pattern is how you do it. Fairly tough to do on an overlap boot.

  4. Thank You Jonathan. If you can get that info, that would be the first I have seen online about it, I have been searching for dayze. You guys are the best.

  5. Just to clarify you believe this will work 100000% with a Beast 14? Just coming off a Tib Fib fracture which I believe was caused by the Quest Max 130s and the beast combo even though they were all altered and supposedly set up right. What do you think of this boot compared to the Khion and Freedom? Is the skiing position better than the old Quests ?

    Thanks

    • might be good to consider a certified safety binding like the duke or guardian for your uphill needs. With these tech options, it doesn’t seem like you can guarantee release.

      • I will swerve this boot until a few more people have skied it hard. I am loathe to mix and match tech bindings again after reading a few shockers online about them failing. BE good to read the Khion reviews

        Thanks

  6. I ski/tour on dynafit One ( i have flat duck feet) and while they walk/climb great and the fit is great after I got them relinered ( thanx to bootroom in chamonix). The only slight gripe I have is that they flex a bit weird compared to an overlap boot (I ski on ancient rossi bandits with >>300 days) which has a nicer more progressive flex. Do these have this ‘flex a little, then hit a brick wall’ feel ?

    cheers.

    JR

    • As for the progressiveness of the flex, and whether these ‘hit a brick wall,’ I’d say no. But I’d also say that that is a subjective point, and as I noted, the flex is not as progressive as a good alpine boot or the Lange XT. But I’ve just skinned and skied another 3 days in these boots, will be skiing them again this afternoon, and I’m still very pleased with them, and still stand by everything I wrote in my review.

      Also, I should start getting time in the MTN Explore boot in the next day or two, and I’m still very curious to see what the flex and ROM are like compared to the MTN Lab…

  7. Hey Jonathan,
    Great review as always. I have a question regarding the durability of the sole. If this were the only boot one had in one’s quiver, then do you foresee issues arising with the longevity of the sole? I usually keep boots for 3-5 years and just change out liners and soles(if possible). The MTN Lab boot does not have a changeable sole and that is really my only concern with them. Their fit was perfect for my foot and the in-store flex was right up my alley, but I don’t want to have to replace them in 2 seasons of ~100+ days/season(seeing as they’ll be resort & backcountry boots). Thoughts?

    • Been getting this question a lot, and from a lot of ski patrollers wondering the same thing. Most honest answer: I don’t know. I’ve got about 23 days in mine so far, and the soles look great. But I’m not ready to say that these soles are somehow clearly far more durable than typical soles, so go scramble around on a bunch of sharp rock for 300-500 days and they’ll definitely hold up. I could keep writing, but mostly, I think you’ll have to make the call. But if the fit and the flex seem perfect, then damn, getting 2 seasons / 200 days out of these – which does seem reasonable to me – that doesn’t seem like an exorbitant worst-case scenario.

  8. Hi guys,

    I have also tested a number of touring boots last season including the MTN LAB. AS per your review I found they fitted my low volume medium narrow feet well and the DH performance was great.

    The one downside I found was the limited forward range of motion when hiking and skinning. I admit this is compared to some lighter touring boots, like the TLT6 etc. I felt it was something that I had not noticed in my own pair of Quest max BC 120s. i found it was most apparent when hike up or down steeper terrain. It may not be the range of motion that is the problem but rather the abrupt nature of the end of the flex.

    What did you think?

    You guys at Blistergearreview do a fantastic job. Welldone on that.

    Mark

    • Thank you, Mark.

      If ROM is the primary concern, then Salomon makes a product for that, and it’s called the MTN Explore. And thankfully, I will start getting time in that boot in the next couple of days. Best case scenario, that boot won’t feel world’s softer than the MTN Lab — though again, I think many skiers won’t need all of the stiffness of the MTN Lab (Paul Forward and I both agree on this). I.e., Paul and I both feel that the MTN Lab feels comparable to a 130 flex boot, though it is a stated 120. So if the MTN Explore (stated flex of 110) feels like a very solid 110 or maybe even a 120 … and it has more ROM (which it does) … then it could make a whole bunch of skiers very happy.

      But as for the MTN Lab? Per Salomon’s own description, the boot does not have as much ROM as the MTN Explore, but you’re getting a ~130 flex boot. And that’s a “compromise” that Paul and I are both fine with. My practice is to skin with the upper buckle completely undone, and to leave the power strap undone, too. And interesting, unlike you, I’ve noticed hitting the end range less when skinning on steeper terrain, and more on mellow terrain – where I’m inclined to lengthen my stride more.

      In sum: I’m fine with the ROM of the MTN Lab. And I can’t wait to get time in the MTN Explore so that I can report back to those who place more value on ROM than I do, talk about how that boot’s SKIING performance.

      • Hey Jonathan,

        Looking forward to your upcoming assessment of performance of the MTN Explore boot. Just an FYI, the production /retail boot I have indicates 100 Flex; though I saw plenty of prototypes with the 110 flex printed on it.

        F

      • Thanks for the in depth reply Jonathan.

        It will indeed be interesting to see if the MTN explore will hit that sweet spot for a lot of people.

        I’ve had had some more experience comparing the boot since my last post.

        Firstly I agree with you and Paul, the flex on the LAB is close to 130. They felt very similar to my old RX130 Langes and potentially stiffer in warmer conditions.

        I’ve mellowed in my views of the restricted ROM in the LABs. In the past I have prefered to skin relatively steeply with low climbing aids. I now agree, with a slightly different approach to skinning, the compromise between ROM and obvious downhill performance, is small.

        I’ve also been skiing a set of 14/15 Vulcan which for all round performance I would still put at no.1 for a capable touring boot, but I think the MTN LAB might just take its crown for downhill performance.

        Mark

  9. Hello.
    Great site, been following for quite some time. I just bought this boot based on your positive reviews.
    “The MTN Lab has 13.5 degrees of forward lean, which can be reduced to 12.5 degrees with the brackets that come with the boot.”
    I don’t understand how this should be done? What brackets?
    The default forward lean is acceptable, but if possible I would like it to be a little more upright. (an optional change of only 1 deg seems strange though)

  10. Hi Jonathan…. I’m in your camp on the AT boots, and also get the sense we have similar approaches to skiing overall. I have the Cochise Pro 130 as my alpine/short tour boot, and Sportiva Spectres for proper touring. So in a two boot quiver, would the MTN Lab be a straight swap for the Spectre, making it a nice complement to the Cochise? Any thoughts on comparing the MTN Lab to the new Atomic Backland? Also, glad you got the membership underway so we can help support you and your reviewers in such thankless work as having to test these things for us….guess someone has to do it….

    • Hi, Mark – I haven’t skied the Spectre, but Paul Forward has. And Paul’s review of the Backland should be coming soon (we just posted his ‘Vs’ review of the Dynafit Vulcan and MTN Lab – you should check it out.) But what you need to know: the MTN Lab vs. Backland is absolutely apples-to-oranges. And in terms of ski-ability, the MTN Lab is going to be much closer to the Cochise Pro 130 than the Spectre. The Spectre and Backland are the proper grouping — though Paul’s Backland review will say more on this. I haven’t skied the Cochise Pro or the Spectre (as you know, I’ve been avoiding AT boots for the past 5 years or so), so take this as a grain of salt: but I believe that if your quiver was the Cochise & MTN Lab, you would ski the Cochise in the resort, but never tour in it again. And if your quiver was the MTN Lab and the Spectre, you would ONLY break the Spectre out when you were willing to greatly prioritize the uphill part of touring to the downhill part. You’re welcome to ask Paul the same question, but I’m confident he’d agree with me. And you’ll see his Backland review soon…

  11. Hi!
    I’ve only skied in the mtn lab boots one day now but I got this nasty pressure point on my shins. Second day I opted for another boot cuz of the pain. Have you encountered this? and do you have some advice?
    As for skiing, they worked great, I do have a lot of room in the forefoot so I might want to use the volume reducer insole but they did ski well!

  12. Thanks so much for this great review. I was wondering if you could do a bit more of an A/B on the XT 130 LV vs. the MTN Lab, especially in terms of (1) fit, (2) downhill performance, and (3) uphill walking performance.

    I currently have the 130 Cochise Pro, which I purchased several years ago because at the time I think it had the best downhill performance of the AT boots on the market. But, because I have a very low volume foot, I’ve had constant issues trying to get the fit of these boots right. I likely will be buying a new boot, and downhill performance is very important to me. I use these AT boots as my 1 boot quiver, for both resort and backcountry. With my low volume foot, it seems like the MTN Lab and the XT 130 LV are the two best bets on the market. I would love to get your thoughts on these two side by side.

    Thanks so much.

  13. Hi Jonathan! I just came across this website and I have to say the reviews I have read so far are some of the best I have ever seen.

    I’m looking for a touring boot that will work in my 2011/2012 Marker Duke binding and I really like the sound of the MTN Lab but I can’t seem to find any information on if it would work with my bindings. I can’t afford AT boots and a tech binding at the moment and am tired of touring in my alpine boots hence the need to find a boot that will fit with my Duke.

    Any thoughts on this?

    Thanks!

  14. Hey Jonathan / Blister Team – I have the same question as Steve above! I have been touring in my alpine boots with my Bibby/Baron setup and the MTN Lab look to be a good option with their downhill performance if they are compatible with my bindings. So 2 questions:
    1. Are they compatible with the Marker Baron bindings (2014)?
    2. If they are would you recommend them still or would you advise I stick with my alpine boots to better drive a heavier/bigger ski like the bibby?

    BTW – Bought the Bibby last November based on your reviews and they truly are as as much fun as you guys said they are! Keep up the good work guys!

    • Ryan – I spoke with a shop in my home town and did some further research and the MTN Lab boot does seem to be compatible. I bought a pair and had the shop adjust my bindings; I haven’t skied them yet but they seem to fit just fine in the binding.

  15. I have the same question as Paal above. How do you adjust the forward lean? I don’t know what you are referring to with “brackets that come with the boot”. And an internet search don’t turn anything up.

  16. Thanks for the great review. I’m really liking the way the MTN labs sound. I am using a CAST system with Saloman WTR 13’s and my alpine boots converted by Lars. I can’t find anywhere if the WTR’s are compatible with the MTN Labs. I called their 800 # and the rep on the phone said they were but sounded pretty unsure of that. I would think that the WTR’s with the adjustable toe height would work? Have you heard anything for sure or have a way to confirm?

    Thanks a ton, J

    • The short answer is neither DIN nor WTR bindings for the Salomon MTN Lab ski boot.

      Check out page 82 of the Salomon tech manual : http://salomontechnician.com/uploads/salomon_tech_manual_15-16.pdf

      “WINTER CONTAGRIP SOLE (Fig. 1)
      Full rubber sole Touring Norm ISO 9523 compatible with ISO 13992 touring binding norm and “MNC technology” binding.
      Not allowed to work with “WTR technology” binding and ISO 9462 alpine binding norm.”

      The major issue is that a sliding AFD plate is required for such AT boots to guarantee a DIN release at the toe. The Salomon MTN Lab ski boot sole is ISO 9523-compliant, meaning is it compatible with the following ISO-9523-compliant alpine bindings only : Salomon or Atomic Warden MNC, Marker Lord MNC, Marker Griffon 13/Jester 16/Lord SP 14. For a listing of ISO 9523-compliant Marker bindings, please check out : http://markerusa.com/bindings/

  17. Thanks for the great review Jonathan, i was looking into buying either the MTN Lab 120s or the Lange XT 120s to use as a one boot quiver. I will be skiing the 2016 Bibby’s paired with Salomon Guardians. I will be doing a majority of my skiing within the resort but i will spend a couple days out of the year touring but these wont be any longer than a day trip at most. I spend most of my days looking for rocks to jump off of up to 25 feet and need a boot that can take a punch.
    Mike had a similar question in mind, “I was wondering if you could do a bit more of an A/B on the XT 130 LV vs. the MTN Lab, especially in terms of (1) fit, (2) downhill performance, and (3) uphill walking performance.” A little A/B on the Labs and XTs would be great.
    Thanks,
    David

  18. Great review, you say one of your favorite alpine boots are Mach 1 LV, that is the boot I ski in a 26.5, what size Mountain Lab did you ski?

    Do you need to have the liners cooked to mold to your feet, or are they like others, just wear them and they will mold by themselves?

  19. Hi all,

    I’m pretty fixed getting myself a pair of this awesome boots but I’ve just checked what’s new at SIA and Salomon caught my eyes with the new S-Lab.

    It looks like a combination between MTN Lab and the upper cuff from Arc’teryx Procline.

    My quick question before I make the jump on Labs: will this upcoming boot be an improvement over current ones or Salomon take for new segment more touring / mountaineering segment? Since I like downhill performance from them I would like to know if I should buy now or wait for next year?

    • Actually, there was a forward lean adjustment on the boots that Paul Forward and I reviewed. Salomon included a swappable bracket (in Fall/Winter 15 & 16) that allowed the boot to be adjusted from 13.5 to 12.5. But in Fall/Winter 17 (when the boot went from blue to the new lighter blue / baby blue) the bracket was fixed. And it remains a fixed bracket in the subsequent (black) edition of the boots.

      • I have the same ones as pictured with the green buckles/trim, but no bracket was provided.

        Using a Lange RX as a base, I measure the ML cuff to be 3 degrees more forward, putting it at about 15d.

        My ideal lean is 12-13 degrees, so the boot feels too far forward for me. What has helped is swapping the stock strap for a booster and putting it inside the shell. This provides the twin benefits of decreasing the lean and making the flex more progressive. With shims to take up some instep, it feels pretty dialed.

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