Text and photos by Lee Lau
This is a followup to my previous WildSnow Scarpa Skookum review, with emphasis on the subjective feel of the boots as opposed to quantitative measures. I got my impressions of the boot’s skiing and touring ability by comparing the Skookum against other boots that I have recently used: Garmont Mega-Ride (1650g), Dynafit Zzero 4 carbon boot(1585g), Dynafit ZZeus (1800g); Scarpa Spirit 4 (1870g). The Garmont MegaRide in particular is a four-buckle Dynafit compatible boot veteran now into its fifth year and serves as an adequate baseline for subjective impressions.
|Lineup, Skookum in middle, Spirit to left, Mega Ride to right.|
I skied the Scarpa Skookum with 185cms Salomon Guns, and with 178 cm Dynafit Manaslu skis. Both skis were mounted with Dynafit Verticals. The boots saw use over a five day period of ski touring; 2 days in powder and 3 days in corn and spring slush.
My ski touring career spans about 13 years, starting out on leather telemark boots and three-pin bindings and migrating to alpine touring setups consisting of Fritschi Diarmir Freerides and Dynafits with a variety of skis. My touring time mostly consists of day-trips, weekend multi-day trips and two or three multi-day traverses during a season. I weigh 155 lbs and ski mainly in the Coast Mountains of British Columbia in the Vancouver/Whistler/Squamish area. Local mid-winter snow is usually of the higher water content variety, thus necessitating bigger skis paired with boots that will drive them.
|Approaching Anniversary Col in the Joffre Group – 1100m approach skinning|
Touring – skinning performance
Skookum comes with two tongues: an incredibly rigid orange tongue and a silver, soft touring tongue. The tongues can be swapped without tools. I first tried the Skookum with the stiff alpine tongue and found that tongue-boot combination to be underwhelming. Even with all buckles undone, the boot felt stiff and blocky; almost like skinning in an alpine boot.
|Scarpa Spirit 4 also comes with two tongues, similar to Skookum.|
I was disappointed as my previous experiences had been to the effect that Scarpa’s boots were superior touring boots, having some of the nicest progressive flex patterns among boot manufacturers. Thankfully, my faith in the joy of Scarpa boots on the skintrack was restored when I put the touring tongue on the Skookum. The touring tongue transforms the boot; there’s a nice amount of freedom in the foot and gliding on the track feels natural. For me, the Skookum has that magical Scarpa touring feel – when you use it with the touring tongue.
Bootpacking and hiking
Spring skiing missions often involve foot travel, be it walking or climbing. Thus, in my opinion a ski boot is of acceptable quality should allow the foot traveling skier to get to their objective safely and in decent time, with at least a modicum of comfort. With that criteria in mind, Skookum passes. It’s certainly neither a 5.10 rock shoe nor a light, comfortable approach shoe, but it works. The boot’s sole has grippy lugs; it accepts crampons easily and the generous cuff movement and support allows a certain amount of flexibility for mildly technical moves.
|Skiing the Joffre Peak spine line.|
If my comments are lukewarm with respect to the Skookum’s bootpacking/hiking performance and tourability it may be because the Skookum design is biased towards the downhill end of the uphill/downhill trade-off. To that end, Scarpa’s designers have succeeded. With the alpine tongue, I found the boot to be too stiff – almost dead in its feel. A heavier skier might need that support and appreciate it, but at my light weight the boots seemed to isolate me from feel of my skis. With the touring tongue installed, the boots were transformed. The fabled Scarpa progression was evident; small variations in fore-aft lean allowed me to control downward motion with confidence. The Skookum’s lateral stiffness is also more then adequate – laying turns through powder then dropping through variable snow with equal ease. (I received and skied prototypes that will be re-designed to introduce more progression into the production version of the boot. This will likely make a really good boot even better.)
I never did get to try the Skookum in hard-pack or groomers. I suspect that they would shine in that situation (especially with a narrow-waisted ski) due to their stiffness when equipped with the stiff alpine tongue – but that is not typically the primary reason for the ski tourer to purchase a boot.
Some quibbles: The catches on which the Skookum’s buckles engage are prone to icing up. A well – placed prod with a ski pole solves that. The Skookum buckles are difficult to engage, particularly when using the stiff alpine tongue. Perhaps some camming mechanism could be designed into the buckles?
|Lee’s test zone — skiing Mt. Matier.|
Skookum is incredibly tuneable and is the closest I have seen to a one boot quiver; versatile enough for inbounds, general backcountry and traverses. Perhaps that is because Scarpa hasn’t really approached the Skookum as if it was one boot but has seen fit to accessorize it with various options that garage mechanics, hobbyists and professional boot fitters around the world have for years used to customize boots (eg., different tongue flexes, booster straps etc.).
In summary, Skookum tours well, is comfortable on bootpacks and hikes — and does drive those bigger skis just the way I like.
* Relatively heavy
* Almost too stiff when used with the alpine tongue (lighter skiers should use the touring tongue)
* Buckles could be better
* Smart design offers incredibly versatility with interchangeable tongues, removable spoilers, Booster straps etc.
* Terrific Intuition stock OE liner
* Will comfortably drive big skis
WildSnow.com publisher emeritus and founder Lou (Louis Dawson) has a 50+ years career in climbing, backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering. He was the first person in history to ski down all 54 Colorado 14,000-foot peaks, has authored numerous books about about backcountry skiing, and has skied from the summit of Denali in Alaska, North America’s highest mountain.