Gear Review: Scarpa Alien RS

A quick note: I’m not an amazing skier by any definition. I go uphill; then I go downhill. Slowly. So keep that in mind as you read my opinion.

The alien RS on 40 degree East Coast Hard pack

The alien RS on 40 degree East Coast Hard pack

This is just my second “lightweight” touring boot. The first was an Arc’Teryx Procline Carbon. Late last winter, as my wife’s belly rapidly expanded with a baby to the point where it was creating its own gravitational field and NASA was ready to classify it as a dwarf planet, I began to have fantasies of long spring ski days on Mt Washington. I had a pretty light setup at the time; Maestrale RS boots (the latest iteration), Black Diamond Helio 95’s, G3 Ion Lt’s, an Osprey Kamber 32 pack, and a Camp Speed Comp helmet. Probably several pounds lighter than the majority of jabronis that I see on the rock pile but nothing compared to the lightweight whips that Andrew Drummond and his crew were rocking. And as I thought back to the drudgery of booting up the gullies in Tucks, I figured that there has to be another way.

I started tearing through my gear room looking for anything that was out of date, anything that I wasn’t using any longer. I hawked it all on the internet. Eventually my Paypal account had a worthy sum of money in it and I went searching for the start of my uber-light, all-day-on-Washington-in-the-spring kit.

A number of boots came across my radar that would suit my needs but many of them had their flaws. Dynafit PDG: not big enough at the time (Size 14 feet. I wear a 30 in Dynafit and 29.5 in Maestrales). Fischer Travers Carbon, too high volume for my skinny feet. Scarpa F1 (2017 version): not that much lighter than my new Maestrales. La Sportiva Sytron: again not big enough. Arcteryx Procline: Had a pair, fit was miserable, skied like garbage IMHO. Scarpa Alien RS: Hmmmm, maybe these will work.

I did a bunch of research and decided to risk the fit without trying them on. After all, I fit into Maestrales nicely, could the Alien RS be that much different?

Fit

It turns out the Aliens are a way different fit than the Maestrales. My big toes were thoroughly jammed into the front of the boots, kinda like a climbing shoe: no slop. But everything else fit marvelously; My narrow foot didn’t slide side to side; My heels had only a minimal lift when walking in them; The veiny arch-tops of my feet weren’t crushed by the Boa closure on the top; and my skinny, weak calves didn’t flop around inside the cuff. I decided to try them out. After all, maybe I could punch the toes despite the included warning that said, very specifically, to not punch them.

Scarpa Alien RS-Weight.JPG

1123 Grams For a Size 30 Scarpa Alien RS

The Alien RS are a beautiful combination of simplicity and efficiency. I couldn’t believe that a boot manufacturer would use string to keep a ski boot together. Never mind that such a closure would allow for decent boot performance. But I’ve come to appreciate this crazy contraption. A single swing of the lever at the back of the boot (neatly tucked away to not catch on rocks or snow) both tightens the upper cuff and locks the boot into ski mode. My old Dynafit One boots had a buckle that did the same thing but it took a huge amount of effort to get the cuff to clamp around my calf, and then there was the power strap and the middle boot buckle to fiddle with as well. Prior to having a single device to tighten the boot and change to ski mode I would have thought this to be unnecessary. After all, it doesn’t take long to tighten a power strap and flick another buckle over. But now that I have such a convenience, I never want to go back. It’s the ultimate in simplicity.

Now if only I could get those damn toes a bit of room. I heat molded the Intuition liner myself, a process that I’m very familiar with at this point. I made sure to pad out my toes and the balls of my feet: the two typical problem spots that I have. The molding definitely helped and made for a nice feel in the boots. I felt that the liner in my Proclines did not change very much after molding. But my toes are completely pressed into the front of the toe box even after the liner molding. Despite this shortcoming (yes, the pun was intentional), they’re probably the most comfortable pair of ski boots I’ve yet owned. Not a single blister or hot spot after thousands of feet of skinning, booting, and sliding; even in warm spring temps-a typical disaster combo for my feet from sweating inside the boot. Even with the tight toe box I’ve yet to lose a toenail or experience any lasting pain in my toes.

An added bonus for these is the traditional heel and toe welts that match well with my Petzl Leopard LLF crampons. I’m happy to not need a special adapter (like the Dynafit TLT 7 or PDG 2) or need to use a full strap connection.

Nice and lightweight boot/crampon setup with Duct tape anti-balling plates

Nice and lightweight boot/crampon setup with Duct tape anti-balling plates

Performance

These boots are light, like crazy light for what I’m used to. But they have a nice, tall cuff on them, something I missed on my Proclines; and they fit very snugly. But I needed a proper lightweight ski to pair them with. Luckily, Ski the Whites was blowing out last season’s Transalp 80 skis and Andrew Drummond hooked it up. I ended up going with a 170cm length on Andrew’s suggestion: 14cm shorter than my Helios. And we mounted the new Fischer Tour Speed Lite 2.0 AKA Dynafit Super Light 2.0s to round out the package. I now had an uberlight ski setup for the backcountry.

How do they ski? I’m probably not the world’s best judge of their skiing ability but I would say they’re far more capable than I am. I think most of their shortcomings are from my lack of skills more than their lack of skiability. I definitely can’t charge as hard or as frivolously with the Aliens as with my Maestrales or even my old Dynafits. In heavy dense snow, especially when used with wider skis, the boots require a lot more effort to drive the ski. But on soft corn or the rare east coast powder day they’re perfectly capable. Of course, you could ski those types of snow with 2x4s strapped to your feet.

Last February I had a great day on Washington in the boots; skinned up into Tucks, booted up right gully to the east snowfields; then down right gully, back up and down sluice before running into some friends. We skied out down little head wall through the shrubs and crossed over to Gulf of Slides trail and up the main gully. This was scraped to firm snow/ice and kinda sketchy on the new light boots but the whole run down the GOS trail was spectacular corn. I ripped past several groups of snowboarders taking weed breaks on their run down. Absolutely perfect boots and skis for that kind of day.

They also faired well on a recent all day adventure climbing North Gully in Huntington Ravine. We got to the top of the summit snowfields and then dropped down Right Gully and the Tuckerman Ravine Trail and then out the Sherburne. This type of climb would have been rough in a heavier, clunkier boot.

Summary

In summary, I’d say the Scarpa Alien RS is only limited by your imagination and your abilities. The fit is great for those with a low volume foot. They’re light. They skin, ski and climb well. They’re extremely fast to transition. And they’re light as hell. Did I say that already? Now if I can just get that toe boxed punched out a bit....