2nd Look: Salomon MTN Explore Boot
Available Sizes: 24.5 – 29.5
Size Tested: 26.5
Stated BSL (26.5): 301 mm
Stated Flex: 110
Stated Last: 98 mm
Stated Range of Motion: 63°
- MNC (Multi-Norm Compatible) bindings
- Tech (“pin”) bindings
Blister’s Measured Weight:
- shells, no liners: 1126 & 1135 grams
- stock liners + laces, no footbeds: 281 & 281
- shells + stock liners: 1407 & 1416
Test Locations: Craigieburn Valley backcountry, NZ; Grand Targhee, WY
Ski / Bindings: 189 cm K2 Shreditor 112 / G3 ION 12, 185 cm Kitten Factory All Mountain / G3 ION 12, 184 cm Bibby Tour / Marker Kingpin 13
Days Tested: ~25
At the beginning of the 15/16 season, we published Jonathan Ellsworth’s review of the Salomon MTN Explore along with comparisons to the Salomon MTN Lab, which was our Product of the Year last year. Jonathan came away from his time in the MTN Explore so impressed that this year, we gave both boots a “Best Of “ award.
While Jonathan focused on the MTN Explore vs the heavier and stiffer MTN Lab, I’ll be offering my take on the MTN Explore as a lighter skier who is used to softer boots, with more of an emphasis on longer tours and jibbing.
Like Jonathan, I’ve been very impressed with the MTN Explore, so much so that if I had to pick only one pair of boots for all of my skiing this season, the MTN Explore would be the easy choice.
As we’ve said many times, the best way to make sure any boot will work with your foot is to go in and try it on with a good boot fitter. That said, I can provide some generalizations about the fit of the MTN Explore.
My foot is the correct length for a 26.5 shell, but I have a very high instep and arch, and a pretty wide forefoot. So I often size up to a 27.5. I wore the MTN Explores in a 26.5, and with some minor boot work, they are fitting very well.
Initially, I tried them with the stock liner and found that there was just not enough volume for my fat feet. I swapped in the thinner liners from the Fischer TransAlps, and while it’s not as stiff, the thinner, already molded liner made a huge difference. However, even with the thinner liner I found that when putting the boots on, the upper shell does a number on my instep, to the point where I can’t just slide my feet into these boots. Instead I set my foot in the cuff correctly, then stomp down to minimise the agony of sliding through that upper shell.
The toe box on the 26.5 MTN Explore is not as wide as that on the 26.5 TransAlp (especially after the TransAlp had been vacuum fit to my foot) but a sixth toe punch fixed that issue, and according to my boot fitter, there’s plenty of room to stretch the toe box even more.
The one odd thing that both Jonathan and I have experienced with these boots is blistering on the upper inside of the heel. That’s particularly odd since Jonathan has had no such issue ever in the MTN Lab. I remedied this by wearing super thin liner socks under my ski socks (Thanks for the suggestion, Paul Forward) and we expect that sock liners will work for those who experience a similar issue, or else people’s feet will callous up and do just fine in these boots.
Salomon claims a 63° range of motion for the MTN Explore, and while it’s no Fischer Travers Carbon (80°) or Atomic Backland (74°), the MTN Explore still has more than enough mobility for any day tour I’d go on, and most bigger trips, too. Combined with its impressively low weight means I wouldn’t hesitate to reach for the MTN Explore, even on days where I anticipate some serious vertical gain.
To reiterate the point, this boot doesn’t feel like some super light slipper on the way up, but it doesn’t ski like one on the way down, either. It is better to regard it as a lighter Salomon MTN Lab, not as a heavier Dynafit TLT 6 or Scarpa F1.
Other than the blistering issue mentioned above, I haven’t run into any issues while touring in the MTN Explore. The walk mode is easy to use, doesn’t accidentally lock up at inopportune times, and doesn’t have any play or slop.
I have noticed that the plastic around the toe of the boot has gotten chewed up faster than I expected by tech pins and walking on rocks but so far it’s all been cosmetic damage, and I’ll report back if I run into any real issues.
While the MTN Explore’s low weight and great ROM make it a good option for most ascents, its performance on the way down is what has really impressed me. The MTN Explore swings well above its weight when it comes time to lock things down and make turns.
I’ve spent most of my life skiing softer boots (mostly Full Tilts) and I’m a more centered skier, so I don’t need or want race stiffness from my boots. That’s part of the reason why the MTN Lab never really appealed to me — I don’t need that much boot.
That said, when skiing last year in the Fischer TransAlp, I felt like I overpowered that boot more often than I would like, especially when jibbing in the backcountry. I experimented with stiffer liners and a Booster Strap, but even with those additions (and at a significantly heavier weight) the TransAlp never skied as well as the unmodified MTN Explore does. The MTN Explore instantly feels stiffer, more locked in, and more responsive. It’s not quite as forgiving as the TransAlp, which felt like it had a more linear and softer flex, but as long as you stay in the driver’s seat, the MTN Explore feels at least as stiff as its stated 110 flex.
I do notice the lower cuff of the MTN Explore (and wish it had a higher one like the MTN Lab) but it’s comparable or higher than the Full Tilt Descendant I skied last year, and I got used to the cuff height quickly.
The MTN Explore skis well enough that — as someone who is used to softer boots for inbounds skiing anyway — I wouldn’t hesitate to use it inbounds with WTR-compatible bindings. It’s not the most forgiving ride, but it’s powerful enough to drive any ski in my quiver in most conditions, something I wouldn’t say about the TransAlp.
Durability, Comparisons, Etc.