The line between backcountry and alpine gear continues to blur as manufacturers seek to meet the needs of skiers who demand a true all mountain experience. Mobile upper cuffs and grippy soles benefit everyone from hardcore ski tourers to anyone who has ever braved an icy parking lot. This season Scarpa takes a stab this emerging all-purpose category with the Maestrale RS. An evolution of last season’s successful Maestrale, the RS integrates the same functionality and fit into a stiffer and more robust package. The RS weighs only 40 grams more per boot than the regular Maestrale, but still comes in at a svelte three pounds , seven ounces. It’s also 20 percent stiffer than the Maestrale, bringing its flex rating up to 120 on Scarpa’s scale. The RS also integrates beefier buckles and a stout 50-millimeter power strap into its design. I tested the Maestrale RS over eight days of sunup-to-sundown skiing in Chile. From morning groomer laps to hours of hiking and even a bit of heli-skiing, the RS saw it all.
With a movement range of 39 degrees in the upper cuff, the RS is at the top of its class for mobility. Mix in the Vibram sole and minimal weight, and there are few boots that can handle ascending better. The buckle/strap system isn’t quite as tour-friendly as the regular Maestrale, which uses catch bails on its upper buckles and an active powerstrap. Overall though, the RS feels incredibly agile while scrambling over rocks or skinning. I also found the slightly beefed-up liner of the RS to be more supportive while hiking.
Thanks to SCARPA’s three-piece shell and “Axial Alpine Closure” tongue—which acts similarly to a traditional three-piece tongue—the flex of the RS felt incredibly smooth and natural. When compared to a dedicated alpine three-piece shell such as those made by Full Tilt or Dalbello, the flex has a distinct ramp-up feel, due to the walk/ski mechanism. But after a morning using the RS, I didn’t notice it at all. I used the RS to drive a pair of 123-millimeter-waisted skis on everything from icy groomers to month-old, recycled powder. Not once did I feel the need for a stiffer boot. The RS may disappoint those looking for pure alpine performance, but for anyone who doesn’t want a race-bred boot the RS is more than ample. Mate it with a pair of today’s beefy touring bindings like the Salomon Guardian or Marker Duke and you’ve effectively reduced the need for a quiver.
The Maestrale RS has a narrow–for-its-class 101-millimeter-forefoot last, a snug-fit heel, and a medium-fit instep height. None of these features match my feet personally, but thanks to a custom-fit Intuition liner, I found I could get a comfortable yet responsive fit with minimal adjustments. I spent eight hours a day in them and never felt the need to do anything but unbuckle. However, folks with big insteps or extra wide feet should consult a boot fitter before buying.
The Maestrale RS straddles the inbounds/out-of-bounds fence as well if not better than any boot on the market. It isn’t the lightest, stiffest, or most walkable, but it gets high marks in every category. For those who spend more time outside of the gates than in—but who still want alpine performance—this boot is a no-brainer.