In doing the things Tony Lamiche loves to do in the mountains—some of which are rather extreme—it’s obviously important to have products he can not only rely on, but that are also comfortable. After all, the Salomon athlete and mountain guide from Chamonix spends a fair bit of time doing things most people only do on the weekends, if they do them at all. So there was no one better to test and help develop the new S/LAB X-Alp Ski Touring Boot over the last few years than Lamiche.
“The goal was to make a boot that was great for ski touring and able to climb, and the R&D team at Salomon has done that with the S/LAB X-Alp,” Lamiche says. “The walkability is great, the skiability is very good, and the fit inside is great, too. So it’s a perfect combination. These boots are for the person who wants to do a full day of touring, where fit is important and comfort is important.”
Two winters ago, Lamiche and fellow Salomon mountaineer and freeride team member Alex Pittin used their prototype S/LAB X-Alp boots to ski La Nant Blanc in Chamonix, a face that had been skied just a handful of times in history. They were not the only ones to test the boot in its development stages. Liv Sansoz climbed and skied the Matterhorn in the S/LAB X-Alp boots, and Kilian Jornet took them to Everest and spent his "play" days climbing and skiing on the world's highest mountain in them. So it’s fair to say these boots have been put through their paces.
So what was the design goal? The S/LAB X-Alp touring boot was designed to be a mobile, versatile lightweight option on the uphill, while still delivering the downhill ski performance required of athletes like Tony. The boot features a unique 3D rotating cuff that provides lateral range of motion (23 degrees external and 12 degrees internal), making steep traverses and technical steeps easier. To deliver downhill performance, Salomon engineers used a construction that has been proven in the MTN and QST Pro boot concepts. A carbon cuff for rearward support and Sensifit™ shell for power transmission give you confidence to make reliable, enjoyable descents. The S/LAB X Alp boot is also lightweight because every gram matters when you're bagging multiple peaks in the same day. At 1,190 grams on each foot, you won't be wasting any weight.
“It’s not that the boot allows me to do things I could not do before, but it is much more comfortable and my day can be much longer in this boot,” says Lamiche. “It’s a real touring boot. I can start from the bottom of the valley in Chamonix and ski the mountain from the valley all the way to the top and back again, and it is a much more efficient use of my energy.”
For Lamiche, the major difference in the X-Alp compared to other touring boots is its ability to do a variety of things he might encounter on a day in the mountains. He often mixes, climbing, ski touring, and then downhill skiing and says there is nothing more versatile. “For ski touring it’s as good as the other boots, but when you are doing the mix between climbing, walking ski touring, the boot is way more efficient,” he says. “It’s not like a hard shell where you walk like a robot. With this boot, you can walk more closely to running shoes. That’s the big difference between this and another boot.”
At just 1,190 grams the S/LAB X-Alp is comparable in weight to many touring boots on the market, but the ease of use sets it apart for Lamiche. “When you arrive to the top, you just have to touch one button to close the boots,” he says. “You are always tired in the mountains. It’s hard to do anything, even touch your feet, so it’s really appreciated when you can do just one movement and go ski. All I do is remove my skins, touch the button to lock the boots, click into the ski with my heel and I’m ready to go after 30 or 40 seconds.”
In the downhill, Lamiche says the X-Alp is the perfect complement to lightweight touring skis, which will never overpower the boot. There was no better proving ground than climbing and skiing the Nant Blanc, as Lamiche and Pittin have done. “The boots were really good because we had to climb a lot so they were perfect for that. They were very light and I was comfortable,” he explains. “After we skied the steepest part, you have a really nice, long run. Then you arrive at a place of ice and rock and you are walking almost all the way to Chamonix. I was able to walk and climb almost like a running shoes. I arrived to Chamonix at 8 p.m. and was not tired. Normally when you finish your day, you’d be destroyed. For me it was a really good memory because I’ve got exactly what I need all day.”
The Nant Blanc is certainly not for everyone. In fact, it’s hardly for anyone. But Lamiche says that for someone who wants to ski a bit at a place like Chamonix’s Vallee Blanche, then climb a couloir or ice climb with skis on their back, the X-Alp is a perfect tool. “Before, we would go with two pairs of boots,” he says. “Mountaineering shoes for the climbing and the ski boots to ski down. Now you just start from the car with your ski boots and you go all day long and it works perfectly.”