With the now well-established Mtn Lab, Salomon created a modern classic that hits a sweet spot for a large portion of the AT ski boot buying market. The chart below indicates how the Mtn Lab stacks up against the rest of the competitors in our fleet; the overall performance score shows that it finishes at the top of the tier.
Overall, the Salomon is in the running for our Editors Choice award. It is only edged out by close cousin Atomic Hawx Ultra XTD 120.
For high speed powder skiing, the close fit and responsive construction of modern boots like these is so dreamy. Here, lead tester Jediah Porter in early season powder snow on Wyoming's Teton Pass.
Looking at just uphill performance, the Mtn Lab is nothing special. This says more about the state of modern AT ski boots than it does the Mtn Lab. As compared to the broad range of products we tested for 2018, the Mtn Lab sits squarely in the middle, in terms of uphill performance. The cuff range of motion, measured in our repeatable, standardized fashion (as outlined in our How We Tested AT Ski Boots article), sits almost exactly in the middle. The friction and resistance within that range is fairly average also. It doesn't tour as freely as the Top Pick for speed touring Scarpa Alien RS, but it is way better on the uphill than the other Top Pick optimized for downhill performance Lange XT FreeTour 130. It is fairly similar to the touring mode of the Scott Cosmos III or the Fischer Transalp Vacuum TS. Just five years ago, this sort of cuff range and uphill performance would have led the field. Now we expect this sort of touring compromise only from the best downhill performing boots.
Like with uphill performance, the weight of the Mtn Lab is nothing special. Again, 5 years ago 7 pounds (which is what the Salomon weighs, roughly) was the benchmark for all-around AT ski boots. And those boots 5 years ago didn't tour nor ski as well as the Salomon. We have boots in our test that are heavier, but only three of them ski better than the Mtn Lab.
We have boots in our test that are lighter, and none of them ski better than the Mtn Lab. The super light Atomic Backland Carbon is way lighter, while the Tecnica Zero G Guide is almost a pound heavier. In the same weight class, the Fischer Transalp Vacuum TS doesn't ski downhill as well as the Salomon, but it does have a more versatile fit. The Editors Choice Atomic Hawx is a little heavier, but skis much better and tours about the same.
It used to be that downhill performance of AT ski boots was correlated to number of buckles. With the MTN Lab, Salomon bucks this generalization. They ski way better than any other two buckle boot we've used.
Assessing downhill performance of AT ski boots is easy. Describing that downhill performance is more difficult. The easy part is the skiing. Within a few turns our competent test team has adjusted to the new equipment and is "sizing them up". We try and summarize the attributes in terms of responsiveness and stiffness. Stiffness is a function of materials and construction, while responsiveness is a function of stiffness and fit. We want boots that, when locked into downhill mode, are stiff -almost rigid- to the sides and back. We want the forward flex to be immediate, even, and graduated. That forward flex is the tough thing to tune.
Lightweight boots can use materials and construction that makes them stiff all around, but getting a "progressive" forward flex is trickier. Traditionally, two-piece, overlap constructed boots like the Lange XT FreeTour 130 and Tecnica Zero G Guide offer the smoothest progressive forward flex. The issue is that overlap boots are heavier and tougher to tour in, all else equal, than tongue boots. The Mtn Lab is a tongue boot for touring comfort and light weight. It is also the best flexing tongue boot we've ever used. If one were to put it on "blind", that user might have a difficult time telling it wasn't an overlap boot. The aft and rearward flex is supportive and the close fit makes the whole Mtn Lab boot super responsive. In this weight class, only the overlap constructed Atomic Hawx exceeds the Mtn Lab in downhill performance.
Comfort and Fit
The Mtn Lab is the narrowest boot in our test. Straight out of the box it is unlikely to fit a large percentage of the population. The last is narrow side to side, and has an overall volume that is pretty small too. The Tecnica and Arc'teryx Procline Carbon Lite are similarly low volume, but not quite as much as the Mtn Lab. This boot will appeal to the downhill skiing technician.
That technically inclined consumer should have no problem employing the services of an excellent boot fitter to get the Mtn Lab to fit just right. The performance attributes are worth it, and as that expert boot fitter will tell you, it is easier to make a boot bigger than it is to make it smaller. Choose the Mtn Lab for its performance attributes, and put in the work to make it comfortable and fit well.
Jed putting in a steep "booter" in the Salomon Mtn Lab. Spoon Couloir, Disappointment Peak, Tetons, Wyoming. February 2017.
It's like a broken record, but this pair comes out right in the middle, warmth wise. It seems that in almost every category it comes out around average. That is good, when many of the scoring metrics are diametrically opposed to another. What makes a boot go uphill well can make it go downhill poorly. What makes a boot warm (thick materials in liner and shell, essentially. Aside from fit, of course) can make it heavy. For the weight, the Salomon is plenty warm. The liner is sturdy and supportive for skiing, making it more dense than the more insulating liner materials can be. The Scott Cosmos III, for instance, is just as warm but almost a pound lighter. The liner of the Cosmos is spongier, leaving more air space for insulation but compromising on downhill rigidity.
Of the boots that ski well, the Salomon is a little colder. Of the boots that tour really well, the Salomon is much warmer. The ultralight Arc'teryx, Atomic Backland, Scarpa Alien RS, and Dynafit boots get to their bantam weight with minimal materials that compromise on insulation.
Ease of Use
In a matrix that compares ease of use to downhill ski performance, the Mtn Lab would come out on top. The only boots that ski better have twice as many buckles and are far harder to get in and out of. Overlap boots, like the downhill optimized Tecnica and Lange, are notoriously hard to get on and off. The Mtn Lab, with its tongue design, doesn't suffer this same fate. Salomon also carefully eliminates buckles in order to save both weight and transition time when switching between uphill and down. The TLT 7 Performance, with its rando race inspired one buckle design, is definitely easier to use, but the Salomon isn't onerous. When one considers downhill ski performance, the Mtn Lab is very easy to use.
The svelte and clean Salomon MTN Lab boots should appeal to a wide array of users.
If you are an all around backcountry skier with downhill leanings and low volume feet, give careful consideration to the MTN Lab. Those with uphill orientation will prefer the TLT 7. The Dynafit boot skis downhill very very well, considering how well it tours uphill. Similarly, the Salomon tours uphill very very well, considering how well it skis downhill. If we had a boot that toured like the TLT 7 and skied like the Salomon, we might as well just die and go to heaven. That's still a long ways off, but the current state of affairs is not at all bad. The Mtn Lab is an excellent all-around AT ski boot for a downhill ski technician willing to lug a few extra ounces and willing to do some fitting work.
For the performance, it almost doesn't matter the price. When we eliminate the outlier ski boots, there is very little spread in the price of AT ski boots. At $800 retail, and often on sale and widely available, the Mtn Lab is not exorbitantly priced. The materials are sturdy and the performance is high, so we can recommend it for the price.
Salomon has a winner. The Mtn Lab boot melds uphill and downhill performance to hit a sweet spot with wide appeal. Many many skiers will do well with this product. If it seems too heavy or too constrictive on the way up, check out the TLT 7.