I’m wearing a Scarpa Alien boot on my right foot and a Montrail running shoe on my left, and without looking, it’s hard to tell the difference. The Alien is the latest full-on race boot from Scarpa and one of the things I love about it is that it is so completely, apologetically specialized that it is hard to compare to anything else out there, including running shoes. For many years, the Scarpa F1 boot dominated the world of Ski Mountaineering racing to the point that the starting lineup at a race was referred to as “The Green Line” due to F1′s being green and everywhere you looked. At the time, the F1 was also a state of the art race boot, but as racers started to tweak the living hell out of their boots by slicing, drilling, milling and grinding them, new rules were put in place to ensure that boots were hitting a minimal level of safety by having a certain amount of tread on the bottom and would work with crampons. New boot makers started to get into the market and although the F1 was still popular, it took extensive home modifications to make it competitive.
In sailboat racing, certain classes of boats are designed to hit a set group of requirements, and the Scarpa Alien does the same thing with ski mountaineering race boots. An alternative name for them might be “Barely Legal” (legalesse miminalissimo in Italian) and they are intended to be competitive right out of the box, although for $1,000 more, you can get a carbonfiber infested upgrade called the Alien 1.0 which shaves a few grams.
Although the Aliens are intended for racing, they also work well for ultralight ski touring, especially when coupled with short little skis and basic Dynafit bindings. In Europe, this type of skiing is known as “Ski Running” which is an apt description of the activity. It’s about as far from Freeriding as you can get, but considering you can double your vertical and halve the weight, it has its advantages.
I first got into skiing on racing gear after an aborted traverse of Baffin Island left us with no other options but to ski steep chutes on spindly gear. I was initially paranoid about skiing committing lines on F1′s and 160cm skis, but after a few runs I got use to it. The key is to be very centered, which is much easier if the snow is consistent. Skiing punchy, crusty, gloppy snow on race gear is no fun, but powder, foam or corn are no problem.
One very unusual thing about the Aliens, or F1′s for that matter, is that in steep terrain, they have the potential to actually be dangerous if the rear heel latch comes undone as the boot instantly, and dramatically goes into tour mode. With many boots this isn’t such a big deal, but because racing boots have such incredible ankle flexation, this means you can end up flat on your back with no warning.
Details to follow once I get them molded to my foot and hopefully, when we get more snow.
Help support StraightChuter.com and crank up your vertical harvest with a pair of Scarpa Alien Alpine Touring Boots from Backcountry.com. Click on the photo below…
Category: Gear Reviews