Blister Gear Review: Salomon MTN Lab "The Best AT Boot on the Market"

Blister Gear Review: Salomon MTN Lab "The Best AT Boot on the Market"

Gear

Blister Gear Review: Salomon MTN Lab "The Best AT Boot on the Market"

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Paul Forward reviews the Salomon MTN Lab Booth for Blister Gear Review

2015-2016 Salomon MTN Lab

MSRP: $800

Stated Flex Rating: 120

Available Sizes (Mond0): 24.5 – 29.5

Stated Last Width: 98mm

Size Tested: 27.5 / 311mm Boot Sole Length

Blister’s Measured Weight per Boot

  • Right Shell (1286 g) & Liner (320g): 1606 grams
  • Left Shell (1283g) & Liner (319g): 1602 grams

Days Tested: 10

Areas tested: Kodiak Island, Alaska. Porters Ski Area and backcountry, Craigieburn Valley Ski Area and backcountry, Mt Cheeseman Ski Area and backcountry.

Introduction

The MTN Lab is a boot that, according to Salomon, “hikes up like a lightweight touring boot, and charges down like a freeride boot.” That sounds great, but when I first read about the MTN Lab and saw pictures of it, I was not particularly excited.

There have been many new skis, boots, and bindings (especially over the past few years) that promise to be lightweight and touring friendly but still able to “charge” or “freeride.” In the realm of boots, the last product that actually did prove to be a significant improvement over existing technology was the Vulcan and that was released in 2012/2013. I have skied many new touring boots since that time, and haven’t found anything that was compelling to me as a Vulcan replacement. Until now…

Construction

The MTN Lab is a two-buckle boot with a locking cam type powerstrap. We are told that the prototypes were built off the popular Salomon Ghost boot, but with the last from Salomon’s alpine boot, the X Max 120 & 130. The intention was to create a walk mode that enabled the MTN Lab to ski like a bolted-together alpine boot, and the result of that project is this blue boot.

Paul Forward reviews the Salomon MTN Lab for Blister Gear Review

The lower shell is “Grilamid+.” (Grilamid is the same light, stiff, easily heat moldable plastic used on the lower shell of the TLT6 and 12/13-14/15 Vulcan.) Salomon claims that Grilamid+ has an additive that gives it a “livelier” flex, and that also holds punches quite well. The MTN Lab’s cuff is made of Pebax.

The fabric portion over the instep area of shell is the most obvious departure from most ski boots at first glance. It is designed to be 100% waterproof.

The MTN Lab Liner is a proprietary Salomon heat moldable liner. It has a well-padded tongue, eyelets for optional laces, and a flex zone behind the Achilles that allows for increased rearward range of motion when in walk mode. Compared to the Intuition Powerwrap LV that I typically ski in most boots, the MTN Lab liner seems to be higher volume through the ankle and cuff, and low volume around the toes and forefoot.

Fit

Salomon tells us that this boot is built on the X-Max 130 last. I’ve skied the X-Max 130 quite a bit over the past couple of seasons, and can attest that that the shell fit does feel very similar. When I get home to Alaska I will do more side by side comparisons, but I don’t doubt that it’s the same last.

I wrote about the fit of the X-Max 130 in my review of that boot, and Marshall Olson also described the X-Max fit in his excellent discussion of fit and boot volume from his review of the 14/15 Tecnica R9.8 130.

Like the X-Max 130, the the MTN falls on the medium-to-high volume side of the “98mm” lasted boots that I’ve used.

I have a high instep and this is definitely a painful spot for me in many alpine boots. In this regard, the MTN Lab works okay for me. I had to use a slightly thinner set of insoles than I typically use to lower my foot, but I’ve been touring and skiing in the MTN Lab for most of the past two weeks and on one long walk in Alaska this spring without too much pain, despite the boots being brand new.

As with the X-Max 130 (and the Cochise Pro 130), I have more volume/width in the shell around the ankle than I need, but the thicker stock liner fills this in well and provides good contact throughout.

I skied the MTN Lab for the first 3 or 4 days without any shell modifications. I did start to notice some sore spots on the outside of my little toe, especially when I got lazy and left my bindings’ heel lifts up when touring on the flats. (This is a common issue for me in many touring boots, most recently the Dynafit TLT6.) But a couple of strategic 5th metatarsal and 6th toe punches from Gnomes Alpine Sports easily remedied this, and I’ve been happy ever since.

Paul Forward reviews the Salomon MTN Lab for Blister Gear Review

The heel pocket of the MTN Lab also feels quite similar to the X-Max 130. For my foot, it offers a little better hold on my heel than the Cochise Pro 130, but it’s still not as good as the Dynafit Vulcan.

I’ve recently been skiing a Zip Fit Grand Prix liner in my new Lange XT 130 (review forthcoming) which produces excellent heel hold, and it’s possible that this liner could remedy my heel issue in any of these boots, though I don’t see myself touring in them as much.

It’s worth noting that the MTN Lab’s liner is the first stock ski boot liner that I’ve stuck with in memory. I’ve had liner issues (mostly with my instep) with almost every stock liner in the last 5-10 years, and have put Intuition Powerwraps in all of them with good results. I do get a small amount of instep pressure with the stock liner, so I might still try a Powerwrap at some point, but I think I could happily use the stock liner until it wears out.

NEXT: Cuff Alignment, Buckles & Powerstrap, Etc.

Also Watch: Blister Gear Review (and Unofficial!) in Hokkaido, Japan

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