Touring / Cuff Mobility
As I’ve written before, all of the boots in this ultralight category tour and climb exceptionally well. If you’ve never used one them, you’re in for a treat on the ascent. They all offer way more fore/aft range of motion than I could ever need, and I honestly don’t think there is a meaningful way to say that one is significantly better than another in this regard. Depending on foot shape, ankle mobility, and other anatomic factors, it’s possible that some skiers might disagree with me, but suffice it to say that all of the boots in this category are excellent for touring, and the X-Alp falls right in line with the other boots in this category.
It is worth noting the built-in lateral mobility of the cuff on the X-Alp and the Arc’teryx, which I also mentioned in my review of the Procline. My initial impression is that this mobility is a subtle benefit on the skin track and slightly more noticeable when hiking on rocks and bushwhacking through snow-less terrain in the spring.
I recently went on a tour with a friend who wears the same size boots, so we swapped out boots part way up the ascent between the X-Alp and the Dynafit TLT7. With that back-to-back comparison, I found the difference more significant than I’d previously appreciated, but I personally wasn’t ready to call it a dramatic difference. My ski partner, however, thought the difference was remarkable, and much preferred the feel of the X-Alp to the TLT7 on the skin track.
Overall, I do think that the lateral touring flex of the X-Alp and Procline makes them marginally more comfortable than the other boots mentioned for walking and skinning, but I wouldn’t say that the difference is huge — you, however, might feel otherwise.
As I’ve written previously, I should start with the caveat that the Atomic Backland Carbon, Dynafit TLT6 Performance, Dynafit TLT7 Performance, S/Lab X-Alp, and Scarpa F1 Evo are all very close in flex, and small differences in fit, buckle tightness, or swapping out stock power straps for a Booster Strap can make any of these boots flex a bit differently. Also, as I’ve mentioned many times in my reviews, adding a stiffer liner (such as a wrap-style Intuition), will notably boost the stiffness of any of these boots.
As Jonathan mentioned, the S/Lab version of the X-Alp feels pretty progressive for a boot in this category. I’ll go into a more detailed comparison with other boots in this category in the upcoming Deep Dive, but for now, suffice it to say that the X-Alp flexes a little deeper before it starts to ramp up compared to some of the other carbon-fiber reinforced boots that ramp up to max flex pretty quickly. Once I got used to it, I enjoyed the flex of the S/Lab X-Alp, and found that it provided more suspension than other boots in the category.
The rearward flex of the S/Lab X-Alp is quite good for a light touring boot, and was there when I needed it to pull myself out of the backseat. Like other boots in this category, the S/Lab X-Alp performs best when the skier is staying centered, and this is magnified when skiing with a heavy pack. But those who haven’t tried these kinds of boots before may be surprised at how much rearward support they have.
The S/Lab X-Alp is right in line with other carbon-fiber reinforced boots in this area, which is to say that they are quite good. I skied them several times on powder skis that were wider than 120 mm, and on firm, spring snow, I had no issue laying them over into high-edge-angle, cleanly-carved turns.
Overall Skiing Performance
Overall, I took to the S/Lab X-Alp very quickly with its good fit, comfortable liner, and adequate flex for a variety of skis and conditions. I’ll spend some time directly comparing boots in this class in my upcoming Deep Dive Comparisons article, but overall, I had a great time skiing these with a variety of skis and in a variety of conditions. As I’ve written several times, all boots in this category will require some adjustment for aggressive skiers who are used to stiff, alpine boots. But when skied with a balanced stance and an awareness of snow conditions, these boots can be skied hard and fast.
NEXT: Comparisons & Bottom Line