Skier ascends ridge with Mount Timpanogos in the background

Shop Talk Tuesday: Scarpa Maestrale RS Review

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Scarpa first released the original Maestrale back in 2010, and it is now considered one of the most popular alpine touring boots to hit the market. Being a fan of the original, I was excited, albeit a little apprehensive, to see the boot was getting an overhaul when Scarpa released the redesigned Maestrale in 2017. My apprehensions, however, quickly dissipated when I was finally able to get my hands on a pair. Every detail of the Maestrale, from the more freeride-inspired three-piece shell to the unique cable closure, seemed like everything I’d been looking for in an alpine touring boot.

The Maestrale RS boots have been my go-to alpine touring boots for the past three seasons. I’ve logged upwards of 300 days in them, set countless skin tracks, made even more turns in great — and less-than-great — conditions, and I’ve put them through their paces in the Kootenays in British Columbia, Montana’s Beartooth Mountains, and the Wasatch Range here in Utah. A few hiccups occurred along the way, but my Maestrales are still running strong and haven’t failed me in any catastrophic way yet. Now let’s get into the nuts and bolts of what makes the Maestrale RS such a capable backcountry boot, along with what sets it apart from the original.

Scarpa Maestrale RS in white and black and blue.
The 2020 Scarpa Maestrale features a RECCO-equipped power strap.

Product Overview

If you’re familiar with the original Maestrale, you’ll most likely notice the boot’s three-piece (or cabrio style) shell as being the most prominent change. After which, you’ll see Scarpa replaced the two lower buckles with a cable system that utilizes a latch-style closure. The internal walk mode was also replaced with a spring-loaded external lever. And, regrettably, the hinged cuff of the original, which made it so easy to take the original Maestrales on and off, is no more. At this point, you’re probably wondering if this is even the same boot as the original, apart from the name. Well, Scarpa’s HRS ankle strap remains intact, the shell is built around around the same 101 mm last, and the boot still comes equipped with a Vibram sole and Intuition liner, which in my opinion is the best liner in the industry.

In terms of where the Maestrale sits within Scarpa’s lineup of alpine touring boots, the Maestrale RS is by far the most capable all-rounder. With the Maestrale XT taking the Freedom’s place as the stiffest offering in the Scarpa catalog, the XT is now the most downhill-focused boot in Scarpa’s line and is geared toward hard-chargers that need a boot that will drive big skis in and out of the resort. If you’re looking for more of a ski mountaineering option that’s better suited for long expeditions, you should seriously consider the Scarpa F1. But when it comes to general backcountry use — from charging pow to ticking off big objectives in the spring — the Maestrale RS fills that wide niche as the all-purpose AT boot that will do it all.

Initial Impressions and Notable Features

Like any skier, I was excited to hear the revamped Maestrale would be stiffer and lighter. Experience has taught me, though, to take those sort of claims worth a grain of salt — especially when it comes to ski gear. Better performance usually comes at a price, and that price, more often than not, is weight. So how light are we talking? Well, the Maestrale’s not nearly as light as the Scarpa F1, but the 125 flex Maestrale RS checks in at 1450 g or 3 lb 3.1 oz per boot in a size 27 shell. The slightly beefier 130 flex Maestrale XT comes in at 1490 g or 3 lb 4.6 oz, while the 110 flex Maestrale sits at 1440 g or 3 lb 2.9 oz. Being that there aren’t huge weight disparities between the different models within the line, I’d encourage you to choose whichever flex best suits your skiing style and size, rather than let weight dictate which Maestrale is right for you.

Weighing 1450 grams per boot, the Maestrale holds its own during long-haul tours.

So how exactly was Scarpa able to bring the weight down while increasing the boot’s overall stiffness? You guessed it, carbon — more specifically, carbon Grilamid LFT, which is a thin, stiff material reinforced with long strand carbon fibers that save weight while maintaining a stiff flex. This, combined with standard Grilamid in the cuff and Pebax in the tongue, keeps the weight to a svelte 1450 grams and the flex up to an impressive 125. If there was really anything I was suspect of when I first unboxed the Maestrale, it was the cable closure system, which seemed susceptible to wear and breaking in the field. I was excited about every other change, though, and was eager to see how the boots would hold up in the backcountry.

Field Testing

Putting the Maestrale on for the first time felt like getting reacquainted with an old friend. Ski boot fit is a personal thing, but I found the fit to be exactly like the original. I prefer a slightly wider toe box, especially in an alpine touring boot, so the 101 mm last is perfect for me. While skinning, the Maestrale’s 60-degree cuff rotation walks exceptionally well and allows for a fairly natural stride when walking across a parking lot or bootpacking along a wind-blown ridgeline. Where I felt they really shined, though, was on the descent.

I’d say the 125 flex rating is accurate, when compared to other boots I’ve skied in this category. Being 6′ 2″ and weighing upwards of 200 pounds fully kitted in touring gear, I have a tendency to max out “stiff” AT boots. I haven’t had that problem with the Maestrale. What’s most impressive about this boot is the forward flex, which remains responsive without getting that “dead” or “hitting-a-wall” feeling I’ve experienced on other (including the original Maestrale) alpine touring boots. 

The spring-loaded lever makes it easy to switch the boot from ski to walk mode, but it doesn’t work as smoothly when transitioning into ski mode. It’s been my experience that the narrow space where the latch seats into the shell has a tendency to hold snow and ice that  has to be cleared before the boot can be locked into ski mode. It’s not a huge inconvenience, and it usually just requires a quick scrape with my ski pole baskets, but it has resulted in me dropping into a number of lines with the boot still in walk mode — is there anything worse?

Skier descends snow ramp in spring conditions.
The Maestrale is a workhorse when it comes time to harvest spring corn.

As for the cable buckle system I was skeptical of? No complaints. The cable has yet to show signs of wear, and it seems to distribute pressure evenly across the shell for a responsive, progressive forward flex while skiing. Plus, the trusty ankle strap that carried over from the original does a great job of keeping my heel locked into the boot to prevent heel slip.

Drawbacks and Shortcomings

The Maestrale RS isn’t without its drawbacks, though. First of all, taking the liners out of the boot is a serious hassle and putting them back in is even worse. It’s gotten to the point I just open the buckles up and let the liners dry out. By doing this, I feel like I’m doing less damage to the shells by letting them sit open for a few hours rather than bending the cuff, tongue, and liner trying to get the liners back into the shells. The Speed Lock Plus ski/walk mechanism could use some refining as well. Having to take the additional step of cleaning snow from the latch before locking the boot into ski mode isn’t a huge deal, but it does add an additional step to transitions.

Final Takeaways

The bottom line is the Maestrale RS skis great, tours well, and is comfortable while skinning and skiing — all of which is pretty much ideal in my book. I’d argue that Scarpa delivers on their promise of building a stiffer, lighter version of the original Maestrale that still skis remarkably well and is comfortable during long-haul missions in the backcountry. A few finer details could be improved (namely, the ski/walk mode mechanism and the hard-to-take-out liners), but I’d gladly deal with these two issues to have a boot that skis and tours as well as the Scarpa Maestrale RS.

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Additional Links:

Ski Boot Flex Explained
Understanding Ski Boot to Binding Compatibility
How to Choose Ski Socks
How to Get Started Backcountry Skiing