Scarpa Maestrale XT Review
Compare prices at 3 resellers Pros: Stiff, comfy fit, Intuition liner
Cons: Heavy, high friction cuff pivot
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Scarpa Maestrale XT is this Italian manufacturer's stiffest and most downhill-oriented ski boot. Predictably, it is their heaviest and least suited to uphill travel. Scarpa's alpine ski boot line-up is decidedly oriented to human-powered use. The XT is on the stiff and big end, while the other end holds race-ready carbon "skimo" boots. Their human-powered leanings in ski boots is predictable. Among boots intended for non-mechanized backcountry skiing, the XT is indeed stiff and heavy. However, as compared to the alpine boot offerings from larger ski boot manufacturers, including full ranges of "backcountry" or AT boots, the Maestrale isn't all that stiff or heavy.
From a company dedicated to alpine ski boots, the Maestrale XT could be their middle-of-the-road ski touring boot. In terms of the whole market, you should consider the XT to be a downhill-oriented ski touring boot or a very light resort/sidecountry product. Performance niche aside, the fit is forgiving, the excellent liner saves you some time and money, and the buckles and fittings are proven and solid. You won't bust out weeks of 6-10k days in these, but you will enjoy the downhill a great deal!
In assessing the uphill performance of a ski touring boot, the primary consideration is its range of motion. We look at weight separately, but it plays into uphill performance. The Maestrale XT has a wide claimed range of motion. However, the close tolerances in the cuff hinge and the stiff liner reduce that theoretical range of motion to something more in line with typical downhill oriented boots.
We've had a few weeks on these boots, and know that they will continue to loosen up with more mileage. We look forward to that. As they sit right now, the range of motion and friction is onerous enough that we sort of dread long climbs in these boots.
One boot, complete as it comes from the factory, weighs 3 lbs 6.5 oz. Eight ounces of that is in the excellent Intuition-made liner. Because factory-supplied liners vary so much, many wish to know shell weight. We aim to test and use boots as they come from the factory. When boots come with a liner as great as the Intuition model, we are quite delighted. These liners are light and very well made.
In the grand scheme of things, the Maestrale XT is about as heavy as we'd consider for extended human-powered skiing. Six pounds for a pair is a threshold at which our test team divides all-around human-powered boots from the big dogs. The XT is well into the "heavy boot" category.
You choose these for their downhill performance, and you get what you seek. The downhill stiffness is carefully tailored and stiff, while the forward flex is progressive, immediate, and smooth. The cam-strapped, heavy-duty, wide, and slightly stretchy "power strap" tops are a carefully placed selection of three proper buckles. Most ski technicians prefer a power strap like this one.
Our only downhill wish is that the cuff rivets allowed for canting adjustments. These can be added as an aftermarket feature, but boots in this downhill oriented category should really include them stock.
Comfort and Fit
The Maestrale line of boots is long and well-loved. Balanced performance is one reason for this. The other reason, arguably even more dramatic than the performance benefits, is the comfort and fit of these boots. The last is a little wider than most, allowing for an immediately comfortable fit on virtually all of our testers. One very wide-footed tester found them a little narrower than other Scarpa boots; the remainder of our test team found them to be average to high in volume. As mentioned above, the liner is excellent, and is stiff enough to hold its shape and transfer power. Our experience with Intuition foam suggests that it will do all this for years and years.
The above-mentioned wide fit, thick shell plastic, and generous liner add up to a pair of boots that is warmer than average. We expect greater insulation from the beefier boots. Light boots suffer, in terms of warmth, from a "double whammy" of negatives. First, they eliminate insulating materials. For optimum performance, light boots must be fit very close, further thinning the insulation and compromising circulation. The Maestrale XT can certainly be fit very close (especially on wide, high-volume feet), but it doesn't require that for suitable performance. Fit 'em "normal", and you'll be as warm as anyone in ski boots.
Ease of Use
All buckles and latches are full-size and all metal. Everything worked for us, even in tough freezing conditions. All buckles work in wet and icy conditions, and the cam strap on top doesn't ice up as Velcro versions do. The earliest Maestrale boots suffered issues with the ski/walk lever on the back. We had no such issues and don't anticipate any in longer-term use.
We have one "ease of use" complaint, at least as compared to other shoes in the Scarpa Maestrale family. All other Maestrale boots positioned one buckle straight across the instep; this attribute has been removed for the beefiest XT. Why? We don't know. The instep buckle has advantages in fit, transitions, uphill performance, and downhill power. Scarpa's inclusion of it set the Maestrale family apart from many other options on the market. To remove it for the XT is curious at best.
The purchase price of the Maestrale XT is in line with other boots in its category. If you, like many do, insist on upgraded boot liners, the Maestrale XT can save you hundreds of dollars. The included Intuition liner is almost exactly what many choose to add as an aftermarket feature to purchased touring boots. If that is your preference, the Maestrale edges pretty far ahead in initial value.
The Scarpa XT is a solid, downhill-oriented boot with comfort, warmth, and fit considerations more similar to typical mid-range touring boots. We liked using it for downhill prioritized days but dreaded dragging it up bigger climbs, whether on foot or skins.
— Jediah Porter