From the outdoor gearheads at First Tracks!! Online Media
Ogden, Utah – The limited but rapidly growing alpine touring (AT), or randonnée segment of the ski equipment market will have one more player this year, as Salomon will bridge the gap this winter with its new Quest series of boots.nThe boots will mark Salomon’s first foray into alpine touring after years of making both alpine and nordic ski gear.
The Salomon Quest 12, above, and Quest Pro Pebax, below.
The product launch, however, has not come without challenges. Demo units of the boots that were first made available to industry pros and media last season included “tech inserts” that made the boots compatible with Dynafit bindings. After Dynafit’s patent on the design expired last January, Salomon eschewed licensing Dynafit’s tech inserts in favor of crafting their own. An accident which the victim claims was caused by a failure of the tech inserts was followed by the recall of the few demo units in the field. Others, including the noted backcountry blogger Lou Dawson have gotten the tech inserts to deform in bench testing.
Salomon is tight-lipped about the issue due to pending litigation. In all fairness, other manufacturers including, for example, Garmont, are now creating their own tech inserts as well, but the setback forced Salomon to release the boots this winter without Dynafit compatibility. Dynafit compatibility may be restored in future models, but for now the issue is irrelevant to this year’s production models.
All of this means nothing to skiers using alpine touring bindings from Fritschi, Naxo, Silvretta and more. This year’s production boots are compatible with both the ISO norm for alpine touring bindings and, by swapping out appropriate toe and heel lugs, the alpine DIN standard. So like the popular Garmont Endorphin or the Scarpa Hurricane — neither of which are Dynafit compatible, either — owners of the new Quest boots from Salomon will only need one pair of boots to go from alpine to randonnée with a quick twist of five screws, far fewer than on their counterparts.
The Quest line will be comprehensive, including Pebax models with a more consistent flex and a women’s specific version. We had a chance to spend time last winter testing two models, the Quest 12 ($685) and the Quest Pro Pebax ($812).
Both are three-buckle models, but don’t let that fool you into thinking that they’re squishy noodles. Both use a single buckle to latch what are in essence two buckle points on the upper cuff, with stiffness augmented by one of the largest power straps we’ve seen. In essence they’re four-buckle boots. In fact, the Quest 12 — marketed as having a 120 flex — were the stiffest AT boots we’ve ever demoed. Our smaller testers simply couldn’t flex them but our big, aggressive testers loved them. Anyone looking for true alpine performance in an AT boot won’t be disappointed.
“The skiing was great, all around stiff-alpine-boot great,” said one particularly young and aggressive tester after spending time in the Quest 12. The Pro Pebax is slightly softer than the Quest 12, but offers a more progressive flex.
Both have a beefy walk mode switch that engages a magnesium backbone behind the cuff to provide a rock-solid ski mode with full rearward support. The V-shape lower shell integrates this backbone as well as the release cuff system, although there is only one forward lean position offered that some of our more forward testers felt a bit too upright in stance. Our aggressive, more upright skiers, however, felt dialed in with this design. Walk mode was quite comfortable on the uphill treks. Fit is augmented in both models with a quick-lace on the inner boot that starts low to lock in the forefoot. The Quest 12 features a My Customfit Pro moldable liner and the Biovent feature on the liner actually works to help evacuate moisture from the inner boot.
“The response was nice, and the lace-up liner did not provide any comfort issue, and felt as though it actually held my calf better than my Intuitions,” wrote one tester.
The toebox in the Quest line is surprisingly roomy, and typical of the Salomon last the heel pocket will best fit those with slightly wider heels. Like all AT boots the Quest line tips the scales signficantly less than their alpine brethren. This means easier hiking and skinning, whether in-bounds or in the backcountry. Soles are augmented with rubber traction under the arch of the foot as well, a nice touch for walking on rocky ridgelines.
“Needless to say I was fairly excited with the out-of-the-box comfort and fit of these boots, as most of the time I have to modify something to make my foot happy,” concluded one tester. “Overall, I was thoroughly stoked on this boot, and am seriously considering this as a boot upgrade for next season.”