For me, the Scarpa Alien 1.0 is nearly the perfect race/light touring boot. While it certainly isn’t right for everyone, this boot really does perform shockingly well in all light and fast scenarios.
Scarpa has three different Alien boots, the Alien, my beloved Alien 1.0, and the $2500 Alien 4.0. All are aimed at racers and speed- or fitness-minded rec tourers. I’ve used a lot of different boots with different strengths and weights and prices, and for me, the Alien 1.0 really is the Goldilocks of light boots: juuuuuust right.
I’ll explain why it’s the perfect boot for me (and maybe for you if you’re a race-minded speed tourer), but first a little backstory…
How I Found the Alien
I had a rough start with ski touring. As a competitive nordic racer and lift-served-hucking-aficionado, I always had friends telling me how much I’d love this “backcountry skiing” thing. Then one day I had a full wallet of bartending money and saw a demo telemark setup on sale. Volkl Mantras, Black Diamond Customs, and a pair of Hammerhead bindings, and I was set! Or not. As anyone who knows more about tele skiing than I did at the time (read: literally everyone), that setup weighed about four bajillion pounds and was about as far from a touring setup as you can get with a free heel. I loved riding lifts on them, but my first hut trip, which my aforementioned friends had assured me would be a life-changing experience, straight-up sucked. I was a racer, and having 10+ pounds per foot felt anything but athletic. It just felt like I’d suddenly popped into an alternate universe where I’d spent the last 20 years sitting on a couch eating bon-bons.
Luckily a friend was a rep for Dynafit and I ended up soon after on a pair of Dynafit TLT5’s, which honestly changed my life. I’ve since raced, coached, and backcountry skied all over the world, and those boots were the gateway drug. They went uphill pretty well, and they went downhill WAY better than my nordic skis. These felt athletic. I found myself grabbing them instead of my nordic boots when I wanted a workout. And slowly I started grabbing them more than my alpine boots when I wanted to go ski something rad.
As I got into racing (naturally), I found a pair of Dynafit DyNA EVO’s. While they went uphill like a nordic boot, the downhill performance was also kinda like a nordic boot. The fit (which I blame more on the extra narrow size 11 feet my parents gave me than the boots), brought to mind a wet paper towel attached with two hose clamps. Everything hurt about the up, and I couldn’t NOT stop crashing on the way down. They worked, and I started racing pretty well on them, but I was pretty sure that “those faster guys” had to be on something better.
Alien 1.0 Arrival
Enter the Alien 1.0. I honestly don’t even remember how I got the first pair. The electric yellow lowers, the high carbon cuffs, and OH MY GOD THEY ACTUALLY SKI WELL. Again, they didn’t fit my flippers very well and I got a Ph.D. in blister management, but it was the first race boot that actually felt confident on the downhill. After several hundred thousand vertical feet on them (and a couple of new sets of uppers), they sadly had to go to that big boot pasture in the sky. At about that time Scarpa had unveiled their redo, the current full-black iteration which they still semi-confusingly call the Alien 1.0. And, man, this was another seismic shift in my relationship with boots. They ski as well as the prior version, but the lower is neutral enough that they actually fit my foot. The liner is easier to get out of (anyone else swear they got a hernia with the originals?), the gaiter actually works (until the cuff wears a hole in them), and compared to the old BOA system which clamped down only the front of the foot, the new further-back BOA placement keeps the heel much more secure.
Who Is The Alien 1.0 For?
The world of skimo race boots has three different rough tiers. The introductory-level boots have a plastic lower, and a plastic cuff. These are boots such as the Scarpa Alien, the Dynafit Mezzalama, or the La Sportiva Racetron. These boots are a little heavier, a little softer, and a lot less expensive. The middle tier is a carbon cuff on a plastic shell. Examples of this are the Dynafit DNA (Not the Pierre Gignoux variation), the Scarpa Alien 1.0, and the La Sportiva Raceborg II. The carbon cuff on these boots makes them stiffer (and thus the skiing improves DRAMATICALLY), and also makes this tier significantly more expensive. If you really want the best out of your boot, the highest tier is a carbon cuff paired with a carbon lower. Significantly increased price again (north of $2000), but significantly lighter and stiffer. Examples of this tier are the Pierre Gignoux Black, the Scarpa Alien 4.0, and the La Sportiva Stratos VI.
Like my original yellow pair, the new-version Alien 1.0 (which Skimo.co cheekily calls the Alien 1.1), is a plastic lower with a carbon upper, placing it solidly in that middle tier. With its $1600 price tag, it’s more than twice the price of its little brother the Alien (MSRP $699), but still almost a grand less than World Cup-level Alien 4.0 (MSRP $2500). And while the weight difference between the Alien 1.0 and the Alien (785g vs 870g) might make that price seem like overkill for a minor weight savings, the real story is the carbon cuff that defines the Alien 1.0. It transforms the boot from an uphill boot to a ski boot that uphills. While it doesn’t feel great pushing a 100 mm-waisted ski in choppy snow, on anything ~90mm and under you can send it.
Alien 1.0 Pros:
- Great ankle range of motion. Your ankle will run out before this boot will.
- Lightweight, but not so light it’s brittle.
- Incredible downhill performance for such a light boot.
- Excellent durability. While not perfect (see the cons below), for the amount of time I’ve spent with these boots, I’ve had very few issues, and most of them I can fix myself. I have one pair of shells I’ve spent most of my time in for the last 4 years, and while I’ve repaired the BOA once, and gone through a couple of pairs of liners, the uppers and lowers themselves still work like they’re brand-new.
- The BOA system makes getting in and out SO easy.
- The stock liners. While they’re certainly the fastest-wearing part of the boot, the liner is one of my favorite parts. It goes on easily, it’s comfortable, and it’s warm. The only downside is that Scarpa didn’t bring any into the country, and I’m running out! I’ve gone through three liners in mostly a single pair of shells, and the shells are still great!
Alien 1.0 Cons:
- Cost jump compared to the introductory level boots.
- The gaiter wears quicker than I’d like. Although I have to say, they wear in a spot that doesn’t seem to collect snow or let in moisture.
- The inside hook for the Dyneema cord can catch when walking/running so it bends and might eventually break.
- The BOA system can break. Mine have failed a couple of times over many thousand hours of use. You can either send them back to the factory to get them fixed, or you can have them send you a new BOA. Fixing the BOA by yourself I found to be a small and fiddly minor irritation, but really fairly easy. Some people may choose to just send them in to get fixed. Your local shop might be experienced in the fix also.
For me (but certainly not for everyone), the Alien 1.0 is nearly the perfect boot. I’ve spent a couple thousand hours in one version or another. While not as light as the Alien 4.0, it’s more durable. While more expensive than the Alien, I find it skis well enough to more than make up for the cost. While it certainly has some flaws, this boot really does perform when you need something that goes uphill like the clappers, and can ski anything.
These days the Alien 1.0 is the only non-alpine boot I own. Through some extenuating circumstances, I actually have three pairs of them, and they’re the only touring boots I’ve had in rotation for a couple of years. I backcountry ski with them, I skimo race in them, and I’ve even thrown in some fun resort days for kicks. Almost every day they do exactly what I want them to do: Forget that they’re there so that I can focus on skiing.
Joe Howdyshell is the Owner and Head Coach of the Summit Endurance Academy, a mountain endurance sports coaching company.
Joe has a masters degree in Exercise Physiology, and has been racing up and down mountains on skis, bikes, and on foot since 1998.
These days Joe lives in Breckenridge, Colorado and coaches and races skimo in the winter, and mountain running and mountain biking in the summer.
Outside of endurance sports and mountain gear, Joe enjoys cooking, reading, and drinking good whiskey with his neighbors.