Scarpa refined their classic backcountry boot. There are some cosmetic changes, noted below, but otherwise minimal tweaks - they reinforced the shell around the toe, and the tech inserts are now Dynafit's standard insert vs. the previous Dynafit QuickStep inserts. Compare the look of the new boot (first photo) to the version we tested (second photo). As of early December 2019, we have the newest Maestrale RS in use and will get you firsthand feedback shortly.
Though we're linking to the updated Maestrale RS, the review below tells only of our experience with the previous boot.
Hands-On Review of the Maestrale RS
The Scarpa Maestrale family of ski boots has become a backcountry skiing institution. Our lead tester rode his first pair almost ten years ago now. Iterative and significant improvements under the same model name have us, in the latest version, reviewing and skiing a solid, no-nonsense backcountry skiing boot for all kinds of users. Others are lighter and others ski better, but few are as well balanced for the masses. If the Maestrale fits your foot and your skiing is of the typical variety, you won't go wrong.
On our scoring matrix, the Maestrale RS stands out more for all around balance than maximum score. In no one category does it lead the pack, but in none does it lag behind either. Beginner backcountry skiers will appreciate the way it mimics your resort gear with minimal fiddle factor while more experienced riders will dig the durability and balanced uphill to downhill performance attributes.
Funky snow in a backcountry, storm-day couloir run in Grand Teton National Park. The Maestrale RS was up to the task.
On the uphill, aside from weight, your primary concerns are with cuff mobility and friction within that range of motion. In these ways, the Maestrale is excellent. The overall range of motion is greater than most skier ankles. This is amazing for a boot that skis this well. The friction within the range of motion on the Scarpa is a little greater than other boots, at least out of the box.
The cuff range of motion of the Maestrale is good and the transitions are relatively simple.
Six pound AT ski boots are now the heavy ski boots. For human powered skiing, with all the excellent ultralight options available, boots around 6 pounds are considered downhill-oriented. The Maestrale RS weighs six pounds five ounces. Both Editors' Choice winners are lighter.
"Testing" the Maestrale RS in Grand Teton National Park's "Nugget Couloir". This isn't your typical use case, but it was good testing.
For the weight, we want a little more downhill performance. The cuff/lower shell connection is a little rattly and the flex isn't as progressive as we've come to expect.
Comfort and Fit
The Maestrale is generally a pretty wide fit. The shell is both wide and high-volume. For feet that match, this is excellent. For average feet the stiff and thick "Intuition" liner takes up some volume in an almost-sustainable way. Narrow feet should look elsewhere.
The thick liner and average shell material combine to make for a pretty warm package. Especially if your feet are narrow to average, the liner will stay "puffed up" and lend great insulation. Performance suffers for use this way, but insulation value is optimized.
For average backcountry skiing, you can't go wrong with the Scarpa Maestrale RS. It is carefully tuned for wide appeal.
Ease of Use
Scarpa has carefully tailored the Maestrale. With the latest version, improvements came almost equally in terms of uphill, downhill, and ease of use. The set of buckles is simultaneously proven and simple but innovative and unique. The most unique usability feature is the instep buckle. This buckle pulls your heel back into the heel pocket for maximum uphill and downhill retention. We love this. The lowest buckle appears complicated, with a routed cable joining multiple anchor points. In use, though, this buckle shaves weight and distributes the holding power.
The ski/walk mode is a large, external lever similar to that which is fast becoming standard. It works as advertised, but features a spring that often has lower tension than you'd wish and a bar/slot interface that is pretty tight. With icing and quick flips of the lever, the boot can and does fail to go easily into ski mode. In our testing, we had this issue with this boot more often than we wished. Even being careful with icing and such, the lever fails to lock down with some frequency.
The large, external ski/walk mode cuff lock, in action.
The initial purchase price of the Scarpa Maestrale RS is a little below average, but not competitive enough to displace the Best Buy La Sportiva Spectre 2.0. If you are one of the die-hard Intuition liner fans, replacing every non-Intuition liner with your favorite, you might save some dollars with the Maestrale. The Intuition Liner of the Maestrale is ready to go for the discerning liner fan. Most other boots, at any price, do not come with such high-quality, proven liners.
The Scarpa Maestrale next to the Editors Choice Tecnica Zero G Tour Pro. Head to head, these boots are closely matched. The Tecnica skis better and is lighter, but its more expensive and fits narrower.
If the shoe fits, wear it. In this case, if your feet are average to high volume, consider the Maestrale. Especially if your performance needs are "average" (almost perfectly balanced going up and down), the Maestrale will hit your sweet spot. Other boots definitely ski better on the way down, sometimes at lower weight and better uphill performance. But the Maestrale is well balanced, affordable, and widely available.