Forums Boots Scarpa Alien Initial Impressions and Mods
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  • #778542
    Taylor
    766 Posts

    I wanted to offer some initial impressions on the Scarpa Alien, and more generally on the use of an AT set up.

    Background
    In the world of alpine touring (AT) boots, the Scarpa Alien falls into the “tour lite” category of boots. On the spectrum of bigger/heavier/more substantial to compact/light/less substantial boots, the Alien, which is intended as a ski mountaineering race or race practice boot, falls on the compact/light/less substantial end of the spectrum. It is very compact and very light; it consists of shockingly little material. It comes in a plastic and carbon fiber (1.0) version; the carbon fiber version is lighter, stiffer and way more expensive. You can read more about the boot and its features Scarpa’s website; I’m going to focus more on their use for splitboarding.

    null

    I am using the plastic version in Mondo 30 for U.S. size 12 and 12.5 feet. Each boot weighs 1050g. The boot liners, which seem thinner than those of other boots, were heat molded to my feet with an EZ-Fit footbed. The boot fitter did not “punch” the plastic. The fit is excellent. I’m 6’4″ 225#. I’ve been using them stock, unmodified, on a custom 187 Donek gun with 14/15 Phantom bindings. I’ve been out on them ten or so days, riding settled and fresh pow in trees, glades and open sub-30 degree terrain. My riding style is surfy and fast with lots of ankle flexion, front-foot pressure and fore-aft weight throws. My freeride boot-binding preference is extremely soft. Though I am no stranger to hard boots (on race boards), this is my first foray into AT boots for splitting; given my penchant for flexibility in boots and bindings, this foray, for me, is risky.

    Flex
    These boots are soft. My biggest concern going to an AT setup was ride-mode flexibility. Medial and forward flex, especially in my rear foot, is critical. I need to be able to drive my back knee in and forward to lower my center of gravity and, on heel turns, rotate my hips. Among the boots I’ve felt (carpet tested, but not ridden–Matrix, TLT6, Sideral, One) the Alien offered the softest medial/forward flex. Carpet testing proved out on snow: helped some by Phantom canting, the Alien affords enough ride-mode flex. It feels good, I can get low. I do not plan to modify them.

    Forward / medial flex:

    Ride-Mode Feel
    On balance, I like it. Forward flex is controlled by pre-setting tension on a buckle on the front of the cuff, which is connected by a cord to the ride-mode bar on the back of the boot. The looser the cuff tension, the more flex. I keep both cuffs loose, and the ride mode flex feels good. I can get low and drive my back knee. The flex on the boot does not feel as progressive as a soft boot, or a bigger, soft AT boot, like a Scarpa Matrix; this feels as if it’s the result of the scant material of the Alien relative to these other boots. There are no hard stops flexing forward.

    The biggest change from a soft boot set up is the rearward ride mode flex. It’s a hard stop. The Alien has a relatively upright position for that stop, so it doesn’t affect riding as much as it could. But it’s a big difference. On one hand, it offers more precise edge control. On the other hand, it is a more rigid, less forgiving feeling that I could see becoming obnoxious on harder snow surfaces. This is where a more substantial boot with a thicker liner, like the One, would offer more cushion and suspension. We’ll see if this is a real problem in the spring.

    Size and Boot-Out
    These are extremely compact boots. There’s just not much to them. For big footed riders that’s good news: I ride back foot at -5 deg, so toe and heel drag are a concern with any new boot. For a given size, the Alien has the shortest boot sole length of any AT boot. The mondo 30s have a BSL of 313 mm. For perspective, the Sideral is 317, TLT6 is 327, Scarpa Matrix is 337. In fact, the Alien is over a half inch shorter than my soft boots. So, for big footed riders concerned about boot out, the Alien is a good choice. Despite their compact size and relatively thin liner, my feet have remained warm. I have ridden in conditions as cold as lower teens and upper single digits.

    Touring
    Touring is vastly more comfortable and efficient than my soft boot set up. This system is light. The boot is a scant 1050g. The lack of weight on my feet is noticeable. Sidehilling is better than in softies, but not nearly as much as I’d expected. The bigger issue is stride length. The Alien has excellent fore and aft cuff articulation–maybe more than my ankle. My stride feels about 30% longer and way more natural and comfortable. In tour mode, it really feels like you’re wearing a sneaker. The forward articulation coupled with the boot’s pivot point on the tech binding allow me to drive my knee deeper into a step, which noticeably improves skin traction on steeper uptracks.

    A view of cuff articulation:

    null

    Concerns
    My primary concern with this boot is durability. I’m a big, strong dude, and it’s a little, lightweight boot. Time will tell how well it holds up. I will say this: based on the feel of the boot, were I doing lots of mountaineering, and frequenting rocks and ice, I would likely have opted for a more substantial boot like the TLT6. But my primary purpose is shredding pow, or spring corn, and so we’ll see how it holds up for that. I have read some complaints about earlier models of these boots being wet, but with the addition of more plastic to this year’s model, mine have thus far remained dry.

    @sun_rocket

    #778545
    permnation
    272 Posts

    Excellent write-up! I have some questions, but will do some research and re-read your post before asking too many. You mention powder shredding and surfy style, could the boot be ridden in a tight tour mode for more flex like no-back style in a soft setup? Is it as comfortable on your foot in ride mode as a softboot strapped in? Thanks

    #778548
    Taylor
    766 Posts

    Perm:

    You could ride it with a taught cuff in tour mode, but given its generous rearward flex, it’d offer a lot less rearward support than a highback-free soft set up. I suspect you could get away with doing so on the back foot, but not the front. I will try the back foot and report back.

    As to ride mode comfort — it’s not as cushy as a soft boot, but the fit to my foot is much better. So, I’d say it’s equally comfortable, but different.

    – T

    @sun_rocket

    #778678
    permnation
    272 Posts

    Thanks for the info. I am starting to like the idea of a flexy hardboot setup mainly for the dynafit touring simplicity. One of my old riding buddies used to heckle the shit out of hardbooters from the lift and that has stuck with me…fond memories. Comparing the 2 setups is like apples to oranges…carving corduroy vs. riding pow/splitting. Looking forward to more ride reports.

    From your experience, what is more friendly on the knees and ankles, hardboot or softboot setup?

    #778694
    HikeforTurns
    1113 Posts

    Nice write up Taylor.

    The biggest change from a soft boot set up is the rearward ride mode flex. It’s a hard stop. The Alien has a relatively upright position for that stop, so it doesn’t affect riding as much as it could. But it’s a big difference. On one hand, it offers more precise edge control. On the other hand, it is a more rigid, less forgiving feeling that I could see becoming obnoxious on harder snow surfaces. This is where a more substantial boot with a thicker liner, like the One, would offer more cushion and suspension. We’ll see if this is a real problem in the spring.

    Yes, too much on the heelside can be an issue (notably on hard surfaces). That is one reason I stuck with the dynafit boot for easy mod of the rear. The One liners are nice too, I’ve left mine stock. I plan on slotting the forward lean down a titch for the rear and maybe getting rid of the spoiler too.

    The forward articulation coupled with the boot’s pivot point on the tech binding allow me to drive my knee deeper into a step, which noticeably improves skin traction on steeper uptracks.

    I can’t stress this benefit enough, especially for big foot riders in softies. If your toe hangs much over the front of the soft binding, you are booting out which results in snow buildup and a lot of wasted energy. You can see below that even the Pros suffer with this, it looks like his max touring angle is maybe 45 degrees, vs at least 90 with any dynafit touring pivot point. It’s just so much better having the pivot point on the tip of the toe. You are also much less likely to be lifting the ski off the snow like as seen here and in the latest Jeremy Jones TGR flick.

    Pros in Fitwells
    My main issue with the Alien when I saw it a couple years ago was warmth, but I have trouble keeping my feet warm.

    #778705
    MountainDog
    20 Posts

    Very interesting. I didn’t realize they had a plastic version. I’d only seen the carbon version and it was way stiff!

    #778733
    Scooby2
    563 Posts

    Regarding the highbacks on those, I think a cool mod could be to replace the heel latch with a latch that has two slots back to back. One would be for strong support for exit trails or hard smooth snow (and located custom for each foot), the other slot would allow more backward lean for sensitivity in good quality snow without allowing you to fall flat backwards all the way.

    #779070
    Taylor
    766 Posts

    Regarding the highbacks on those, I think a cool mod could be to replace the heel latch with a latch that has two slots back to back. One would be for strong support for exit trails or hard smooth snow (and located custom for each foot), the other slot would allow more backward lean for sensitivity in good quality snow without allowing you to fall flat backwards all the way.

    Yup. With rubber or soft plastic stops.

    @sun_rocket

    #779098
    maniacdave
    564 Posts

    Regarding the highbacks on those, I think a cool mod could be to replace the heel latch with a latch that has two slots back to back. One would be for strong support for exit trails or hard smooth snow (and located custom for each foot), the other slot would allow more backward lean for sensitivity in good quality snow without allowing you to fall flat backwards all the way.

    Thirded. Been pondering the Aliens as my next boot as well, but the rear latch is gonna be super rigid on the heelside, like the F1s, replacing it with something with a bit of give would be nice.

    That was Pontus

    #779228
    FloImSchnee
    287 Posts

    While I agree with most of the things said in this thread,
    there’s a much simpler solution to that problem:

    I can’t stress this benefit enough, especially for big foot riders in softies. If your toe hangs much over the front of the soft binding, you are booting out which results in snow buildup and a lot of wasted energy. You can see below that even the Pros suffer with this, it looks like his max touring angle is maybe 45 degrees, vs at least 90 with any dynafit touring pivot point. It’s just so much better having the pivot point on the tip of the toe. You are also much less likely to be lifting the ski off the snow like as seen here and in the latest Jeremy Jones TGR flick.

    …Touring Risers: http://www.voile.com/voile-splitboard-accessories/voile-splitboard-touring-riser.html

    #780057
    Zude
    364 Posts

    Try making some spoilers for the hard stop feeling (i was playing with some old shinguards with foam pading, then I found the ones Sportiva supplied). Spoilers seem to distribute the weight over a larger area of the calf and it makes my boot feel better on the back lean.

    #780319
    Taylor
    766 Posts

    You mention powder shredding and surfy style, could the boot be ridden in a tight tour mode for more flex like no-back style in a soft setup?

    I finally remembered to try riding rear foot in tour mode this morning. I loved it. For my style, in lower angle pow, at least, it felt great–softer than a soft-boot, by a lot.

    @sun_rocket

    #788213
    rsn
    8 Posts

    Regarding the highbacks on those, I think a cool mod could be to replace the heel latch with a latch that has two slots back to back. One would be for strong support for exit trails or hard smooth snow (and located custom for each foot), the other slot would allow more backward lean for sensitivity in good quality snow without allowing you to fall flat backwards all the way.

    Thirded. Been pondering the Aliens as my next boot as well, but the rear latch is gonna be super rigid on the heelside, like the F1s, replacing it with something with a bit of give would be nice.

    I agree a lot with this idea. I am in the process of developing a replacement of the rear locking mechanism bar with one that has contiguous rubber on either side of the bar that the swinging piece locks into. My reason for wanting this is due to the discussed ‘hard stop’ mentioned by multiple riders in this forum. I am working with a mechanical engineer to develop the best model before programming it into a CNC machine. I would like to run the idea by as many users of the boot as possible before dumping money and more time into this idea. Any advice or criticism is welcome and wanted. Please excuse the crude drawings, I am not the one with SolidWorks skills and want to fail early in the idea of it’s a bad one. In the drawing, the main idea is to replace the swinging bar/arm with one that has high density rubber above and below to allow progressive and increasing resistance with increasing pressure (the harder you flex on a toe side turn, the more the rubber compresses, the greater the resistance the rubber elicits in return). Hopefully my link to the image works here… See link below.

    http://postimg.org/image/ttd27ojoj/

    #788215
    Scooby2
    563 Posts

    rsn, My thoughts are that I would want to own and ride at least one pair of the boots and progressively drill holes in the highback and/or cut slots to see if you can get a comfortable degree of shock absorption just by increasing the flex in the upper part of the highback first. It might not even bother you personally depending on your weight and height.

    Why leave the highback more rigid than you want then add something to make it feel more flexible if you can just remove material and get the flex that way? It’s less technical and can be done real easy. Go to a shop and bend all the freestyle strap in bindings’ highbacks, some are really pretty soft. Use that inspiration to put flex in the highback.

    Making an expensive machined custom part for an existing design could prove to be pretty fruitless when Scarpa does something different or a new boot comes out that is closer to the goal in some way.

    Maybe make a basic shortened bar and move the upper bracket lower to allow more room for the highback to flex if removing material alone doesn’t get the feel you are looking for.

    #788221
    rsn
    8 Posts

    These are great points Scooby2, thank you for your thoughts. I thought about that as well. What lead me to wanting to move forward was my experience with the La Sportiva Sideral. I used them for 3 seasons and they worked fine but I never could get the flex I really wanted despite hours upon hours of marinating over what to dremel, where to thin plastic, or how to adjust the tension of the strap to provide alternate flex options. After lots of work, risk, time and energy (not unlike even the greatest gender reassignment surgeries) things can go irreversibly wrong in surgery. I found that my mods gave great range of flexion but lacked progressive flexing. I would initiate a toeside turn and go from loose flex to slamming to a dead stop in the flex pattern of the boot, same on a heelside turn. This became hindering in my confidence in couloirs and drops with less than ideal landings/ runouts. The bold and exceptional would just shut up and learn to ride better but I found this as a sticking point I wanted to change. For many, the dremel efforts and boring a few holes in the upper cuff works out, but the hard stop feel (both forwards and backwards) is inhibiting to some riders even after ample mods. The plastic cutting can help this flex problem but the metal plate and locking mechanism seems to be the bigger issue with the TLT and Sideral, here with the alien, the situation is slightly different but the precipitating problem remains- the hard stop backwards and the only real remedy for forward flexion being loosening the strap. I would like to find a way to allow a snug boot to have better (more progressive) flexion both forward and to a lesser extent backwards as well. Do you feel the cuff cutting and adjusting the length/location of the lock bar would (or has) done this for you? Thanks again.

    #788223
    rsn
    8 Posts
    #788242
    Taylor
    766 Posts

    I have considered cutting at the high-back to soften the hard stop and rearward flex, but, upon taking a careful look at it, I am concerned that the locking mechanism secures too high on the high back to do so.

    After more time on this boot, I would like modifications to serve two goals:

    (1) soften the rearward hard stop, and
    (2) lessen the ride-mode forward lean on my front foot

    A new locking mechanism with rubber stops and multiple forward lean options could resolve this. I also wonder if there is a way to simply mount a soft rubber heel cube, as has been done with other Scarpas on the forum.

    @sun_rocket

    #788251
    Scooby2
    563 Posts

    LOL, hilarious surgery remark rsn! I see your point, I guess to have the plastic create some give the arm is too long, probably on purpose for a ski boot. Look at the short arm on a Dalbello Lupo:
    http://www.rei.com/product/891014/dalbello-lupo-ti-id-randonee-boots-mens-20152016?cm_mmc=cse_PLA_GOOG-_-8910140002&CAWELAID=120217890000868067&lsft=cm_mmc:cse_PLA_GOOG

    that might allow the highback to give more of a feel you might be looking for.

    I can see how if you want the cuff snug on your lower leg, then there is too much movement and then the hard stop better now. For hardboots, I’ve only ridden the old K2 Aggressor (and regular carving hard boots), which although it has rigid locked highback it has a fabric soft boot top that you would smush against the highback first that provided more cushion or a little give first before putting the energy straight to the board or getting the energy back from the edge for a bit of forgiveness.

    maybe the bar could be a simple 2 piece telescoping tube with a spring or rubber block in it.

    Are you familiar with these guys? Walk mode would have to be re-engineered but effective at dialing the type of stop and level of fore and aft flex on a free pivoting cuff.
    http://bomberonline.3dcartstores.com/BTS-Kit_p_106.html

    I’ll bow out now as a rider of the K2 compass:
    http://www.evo.com/outlet/snowboard-boots/k2-compass.aspx?esvt=-&esvq=&esvadt=999999—1&esvcrea=49369067308&esvplace=&esvaid=30559#image=90280/397173/k2-compass-snowboard-boots-2015-brown-front.jpg&select=true&utm_medium=shoppingengine&utm_source=googlebase&utm_campaign=EB-90280-1004

    #788271
    rsn
    8 Posts

    Taylor, I like your thinking. It seems like varying flex options would be a good thing. Scooby2, the bomber BSL spring on the back of the boot was a pretty awesome idea. I think the less cutting of the already shin plastic of the alien is better to be avoided. I think something like this would allow for various spring options for stiffer springs. Give me your thoughts on this version:

    http://postimg.org/image/j94tkd3at/

    #788292
    Taylor
    766 Posts

    That looks like it would work. Is there a way it could allow multiple forward leans, or, a more upright setting than the boot currently allows? Perhaps two fastening points at the top of the locking mechanism, one high, one low?

    @sun_rocket

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