While the Salomon S/Max pushed our comfort level on the slopes, we ultimately awarded it a Top Pick Award because of its outstanding performance and snug, slender construction. We were truly impressed by the stiff, powerful, snappy performance all in a lightweight package. The boot challenged us but gave back every bit of energy we put in. The ultra-stiff construction and slim fit, however, may be unforgiving for those who aren't willing to compromise a little comfort for performance. If you're looking for a powerful boot to help you shred up the mountain, this could be the one for you.
The latest version of the S/Max 120 has had some slight color changes (pictured above) since we tested this model, but the specs and performance remain the same. October 2021
Pure Elite (98mm)
Pure Pro (100mm)
Pure Comfort (104mm)
RX LV (97mm)
90, 100, 110, 120
85, 95, 105, 115
70, 80, 90, 100, Adjustable
80, 90, 110
85, 95, 115
What We Tested
Pure Pro Heat (100mm)
RX LV (97mm)
Hawx Ultra (97mm)
Number of Buckles
Weight (Per Boot)
3 lbs 7 oz
4 lbs 1 oz
4 lbs 6 oz (size 24.5)
4 lbs 6 oz (size 24.5)
3 lbs 5 oz
Custom Shell HD Race Liner
3D Custom Cork Liner
Merino wool + Thermic System
Thinsulate Dual 3D Pro
Mimic Platinum Liner
Polyurethane w/ Fibrglass Coreframe
Tri Force Shell
Dual Core Shell
GripWalk + ISO 9523
22 - 27.5
22 - 27.5
22 - 27.5
Show full specification detailsHide full specification details
Our Analysis and Test Results
After an introductory day of lapping groomers in the Salomon S/Max, we quickly learned the tapered fit of the ultra-stiff Coreframe Shell and Custom Fit 3D Seamless Liner would be a workhorse combination. The 2-piece shell construction is noticeably thin, aiding in effortless edge-to-edge power transmission and terrain response. In regards to fit, this boot is almost narrow to a fault, cutting out a range of consumers that are likely looking for a race-style boot but don't have narrow enough feet or slim enough calves. The cuff height and low ramp angle forced our testers into a more upright position, which excelled on-piste but made the boot a bit difficult to ski across mixed terrain and mixed conditions.
The Salomon S/Max ranks high in the performance category thanks to a stiff construction that provides excellent on-piste power transmission. The thin Custom HD Shell construction supported by Coreframe reinforcements creates a next-to-skin feel while supporting the heel and ankle regions. This construction ultimately aids in more precise energy transfer and terrain feedback. The tense nature of the boot's construction makes for snappy turns when flying down hardpack.
A highly responsive boot, the Salomon S/Max may not be as damp as the lower flex boots. The S/Max provides consistent terrain feedback, which is great for powdery descents and on-piste fly-bys but can be a bit too responsive in choppy crud and crust. This creates a bounce-back, ricochet sensation that is noticeably more difficult to control. Taller or heavier skiers would likely have an easier time getting over the boot and capturing this energy transfer.
Another roadblock to short or petite female frames is the taller cuff height paired with the ultra-stiff flex. Our shorter testers felt it was difficult at times to consistently maintain a strong bent stance in mixed off-piste terrain. Our taller, heavier skiers did not experience such difficulties.
The S/Max line is very much focused on speed and traction. We hoped for greater torsional capabilities, but the boot fell short on its ability to twist. If you're searching for a race-style boot with a more linear-progressive flex, look no further. If you're looking for something more playful, you may be interested in Lange or Nordica's designs.
Salomon used a ratchet design for the 45-millimeter power strap to reinforce tension around the top of the cuff. We liked the tension it provided, but the strap loosened after a few runs, which was a bit frustrating. Surprisingly, it didn't affect the performance too much because the boot is naturally so stiff.
Since comfort is a function of proper fit, the perceived comfort of the Salomon S/Max will be highly dependent on the shape of one's foot. This was an excellent shape for our tester's narrow feet, but the construction of the shell and liner were not made to accommodate a wide variety of foot profiles. If you have a narrow foot through and through, you will likely find this to be a near-perfect fit. For those with a wide toe box or wider calves, you may find pinch points that will need to be attended to by a boot fitter.
Salomon eliminated stitching in the CustomFit 3D Seamless Race Liner, allowing the liner to better mold to the foot's curves and contours. The CustomFit liner had a shapely yet snug design. Unfortunately, the flex is almost too stiff to walk in comfortably and will take some getting used to. The linear flex contributes to the straightjacket-on-your-feet feel. Salomon describes a 96 to 98-millimeter last to be intended for a "skier looking for precision rather than comfort," and they aren't kidding. The S/Max is reasonably warm and will be completely fine for spring skiing, but likely doesn't offer enough warmth for those super cold zero wind chill days.
The out of the box fit of the Salomon S/Max is not as approachable as some of the other models in our lineup, but it provides an ultra snug, next-to-skin fit that our testers really enjoyed. A pre-shaped liner encapsulates a true narrow profile. The liner can be characterized by a long, slim fit from the toebox to the heel. Salomon liners often have a more straight fit than Atomic liners, which have a more tapered fit. However, we didn't really notice the difference. This Custom Fit liner is entirely thermo-moldable and due to the tightness, we, as always, highly recommend visiting a boot fitter.
Prior to molding adjustments, the high flex rating and stock footbed paired with a low ramp angle contributed to discomfort for our testers. Dead space in the heel and instep lead to over buckling, causing all-around pain and numbness. Once custom footbeds were added, and molding was taken care of, the issue was far less frequent. The biggest gripe we had with the post-mold fit was the cuff height. This may not be a problem for those with longer legs, but we had difficulty propping the knee over the toe, particularly during quicker movements. This is in part due to the stiffness of the flex, which is why we say you really have to work for this boot's affection.
A big selling point for the Salomon S/Max model is the weight. At only 3 pounds, 7 ounces, the S/Max is one of the lightest boots in the lineup. We were truly impressed at Salomon's ability to create such a strong boot with such little material. For those adverse to clunky downhill boots, you will be pleasantly surprised at what the S/Max has to offer.
Features & Customization
The Salomon S/Max CustomFit 3D Seamless Race Liner is fully customizable. The last is rated from 98 to 104 millimeters because the liner is capable of being stretched to 104 millimeters to accommodate narrow feet with wide toe boxes. Big kudos for this feature. The liner even has a removable spoiler on the rear cuff to create more room for larger calves. The shell includes dual canting capabilities and two screws on the spine to adjust forward lean.
The stock alpine soles are replaceable for those who prefer Gripwalk or those who end up running down their heel plates quickly. The Power Driver power strap is removable, though it is bolted in two places, so it may not be as conducive to replacement with aftermarket straps. As with most boots, the aluminum buckles are micro-adjustable and replaceable. The power strap has a built-in ratchet to properly dial in the tension up top.
The cost of the Salomon S/Max sits high on the price range for our ski boot lineup. This is one of the more expensive boots we tested, though the price is comparable to other race-inspired boots. We feel the price is justified for advanced skiers that spend over 60% of their time on-piste and have a narrow, low-volume foot profile. If you fit outside of this construct, you may not enjoy the boot enough for it to be worth the expenditure.
Overall, the Salomon S/Max is a lightweight, rigid, nimble boot with a narrow profile and a snug fit. We found it to be extremely powerful on-piste. However, the boot's stiffness combined with the cuff height inhibited our ability to take on an aggressive stance across multiple types of terrain and conditions. Skiers who prefer a more forgiving flex or have a low threshold for discomfort, this may not be the boot for you.
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