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Salomon S/Max 120 - Women's Review

A no-frills, high-performance boot with a sleek, lightweight construction made for hard-charging skiers, though likely too stiff for less-advanced skiers
Salomon S/Max 120 - Women's
Photo: Salomon
Top Pick Award
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Price:  $700 List | Check Price at REI
Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros:  Lightweight, powerful, ultra-stiff
Cons:  Narrow, too race-oriented, stiffness may be too harsh
Manufacturer:   Salomon
By Liz Chamberlain ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Oct 20, 2021
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74
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#4 of 7
  • Performance - 35% 8
  • Comfort - 35% 7
  • Fit - 15% 7
  • Features & Customization - 15% 7

Our Verdict

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

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Overall Score Sort Icon
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Pros Lightweight, powerful, ultra-stiffEnergetic, responsive, true to flex, cork liner, best out of box fitVery comfortable, integrated heating, adjustable flex, decent performanceComfortable, warm, responsive, adjustable forward leanLightweight, snug, powerful, includes Adaptive Cuff System
Cons Narrow, too race-oriented, stiffness may be too harshBulkier than others, slightly wider fit than competitionUnreliable Bluetooth heating, softest flex in categoryOverrated flex value, not sturdy enough for heavier skiersHigh cuff height, loosened up after testing
Bottom Line A no-frills, high-performance boot with a sleek, lightweight construction made for hard-charging skiers, though likely too stiff for less-advanced skiersAn all-around snappy and responsive boot that delivers all-day, all-mountain downhill performance without compromising comfortThe softest-flexing boot in our lineup that suits a wide range of skier abilities while keeping your toes toasty warmA race-inspired design in a comfortable and easy to ski boot, this is the perfect all-rounder boot suited for a wide range of skill levelsAn all-around solid freeride boot with a thoughtful construction that scored well on the snow but didn’t wow us in any particular category
Rating Categories Salomon S/Max 120 -... Nordica Promachine 115 Rossignol Pure Pro... Lange RX 110 LV - W... Atomic Hawx Ultra 1...
Performance (35%)
8.0
9.0
7.0
8.0
7.0
Comfort (35%)
7.0
9.0
9.0
8.0
6.0
Fit (15%)
7.0
9.0
7.0
7.0
7.0
Features & Customization (15%)
7.0
7.0
7.0
6.0
7.0
Specs Salomon S/Max 120 -... Nordica Promachine 115 Rossignol Pure Pro... Lange RX 110 LV - W... Atomic Hawx Ultra 1...
Available Widths S/Max (98mm)
S/Pro (100mm)
S/Pro HV (102mm)
Promachine (98mm)
Speedmachine (100mm)
Sportmachine (102mm)
Pure Elite (98mm)
Pure Pro (100mm)
Pure (102mm)
Pure Comfort (104mm)
RX LV (97mm)
RX (100mm)
Ultra (98mm)
Prime (100mm)
Magna (102mm)
Available Flexes 90, 100, 110, 120 85, 95, 105, 115 70, 80, 90, 100, Adjustable 80, 90, 110 85, 95, 115
What We Tested S/Max (98mm)
120 flex
Promachine (98mm)
115 flex
Pure Pro Heat (100mm)
Adjustable Flex
RX LV (97mm)
110 flex
Hawx Ultra (97mm)
115 flex
Number of Buckles 4 4 4 4 4
Buckles Microadjustable? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Walk Mode? No No No No No
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
Thermo-Moldable Liner? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Liner Material Custom Shell HD Race Liner 3D Custom Cork Liner Merino wool + Thermic System Thinsulate Dual 3D Pro Mimic Platinum Liner
Shell Technology Polyurethane w/ Fibrglass Coreframe Tri Force Shell Polyurethane Dual Core Shell Prolite Shell
Binding Compatibility Gripwalk GripWalk + ISO 9523 Alpine, Gripwalk Alpine Alpine, Gripwalk
Size Range 22 - 27.5 22-27.5 22 - 27.5 22 - 27.5 22.5-27.5

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.

Performance Comparison


Slashing slush turns from top to bottom was no problem in the S/Max.
Slashing slush turns from top to bottom was no problem in the S/Max.
Photo: Scott Rokis

Performance


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.

A sporty entry into one of our favorite spring lines where we test...
A sporty entry into one of our favorite spring lines where we test our boots performance capabilities.
Photo: Scott Rokis

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.

A clean cut design with user friendly buckles and an ergonomic...
A clean cut design with user friendly buckles and an ergonomic handle for easy grabbing.
Photo: Scott Rokis

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.

Comfort


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.

Even with its stiff flex and form-fitting design, it was...
Even with its stiff flex and form-fitting design, it was surprisingly comfortable to leave the S/Max on while kicking back in the parking lot after a long spring day.
Photo: Kati Clark

Fit


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.

The S/Max liners were stiff through and through yet surprisingly...
The S/Max liners were stiff through and through yet surprisingly comfortable.
Photo: Liz Chamberlain

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.

We had some primo test runs on the S/Max in the early spring...
We had some primo test runs on the S/Max in the early spring, slashing through the powder fields of Mammoth Mountain.
Photo: Scott Rokis

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.

Salomon has one of the more impressive power straps, using a thick...
Salomon has one of the more impressive power straps, using a thick ratchet strap to cinch down the shell over the shin.
Photo: Liz Chamberlain

Value


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.

We loved carving long GS turns in the S/Max. The boot creates a...
We loved carving long GS turns in the S/Max. The boot creates a powerful energy transmission from boot to ski thanks to a high flex and super stiff spine.
Photo: Scott Rokis

Conclusion


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.

Liz Chamberlain

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