ProView – Scarpa F1 Ski Boot
The Scarpa F1 is back after a two year hiatus. The new F1 borrows design elements from a proven ultra-light racing platform and adds some bulk to drive bigger skis.
The Elephant in the Room
Scarpa’s last revision of the F1 ski boot made it a few months on the retail market before being recalled for a faulty ski/walk mechanism. The innovative design was an ambitious move to integrate the heel-lock and cuff-lock and streamline transition efficiency and weight. Unfortunately the system didn’t quite work, and after a two year hiatus Scarpa has opted to abandon that system for a more proven lever design.
At first blush the new F1 resembles their extremely popular Alien touring boot. Scarpa has foregone metal buckles altogether, opting instead for Boa closure system over the lower part of the foot, and two velcro straps on the cuff. The upper strap is a traditional, albeit narrow, power strap. The lower velcro strap is actuated with a sliding lever.
Rather than blending carbon into the shell material, Scarpa has opted to mould the nylon shell over a carbon inlay and utilize triangular shaping for stiffness. The 102mm last is advertised as an evolution on the racing last utilized in the Alien line, and an intuition Pro Flex Evo liner is included with the boot. Acceptable touring efficiency without interchangeable tongues is achieved with an intricately injection moulded tongue of very soft Pebax.
In any modern touring boot there is a fine balance of weight, tourability, and skiing performance. The advertised weight for the new F1 is 1230 gr. in a mondo 27. The tested boot was a size 29, and weighed 1106 grams for the shell and 1374 grams with the liner included. Scarpa advertises 62 degrees of cuff articulation, which falls somewhere between more traditionally shaped touring ski boots and radically efficient modern ski mountaineering boots.
Boot fit is largely subjective, but the 102mm last seemed to fit comparably to the 102mm last used in the Maestrale series. Midfoot volume is, perhaps, slightly lower. I’m particularly fond of the midfoot strap used in the Maestrale/Rush boots, and believe that it does an excellent job for heel retention. The new F1’s Boa closure system does a fair job of allowing a customizable fit, but left something to be desired for heel movement while skinning.
First Impressions – At first glance the new F1 feels dramatically more substantial than other touring specific boots like the Atomic Backland and the TLT series. The shell cuff height is slightly taller than other ski mountaineering boots, and when the liner is in place it literally towers over the competition. While the Atomic Backland feels a bit like a Chuck Taylor basketball shoe, the new Scarpa F1 evokes a self-respecting ski boot.
For years boot makers catered to the lightweight ski touring market by paring down traditionally shaped boots. They might remove a buckle here, lower a cuff there, or streamline a powerstrap to reduce weight and increase efficiency. When the TLT 5 put the genre on its head, boots got lighter and more efficient than ever before. The new F1 seems to be an effort on Scarpa’s part to apply lessons learned from the ultralight touring market while creating a more substantial boot geared to backcountry skiers who want touring performance but like a big ski.
The new F1’s racing roots are evident in the way that it tours, but it lacks the elf-shoe effortlessness of a dedicated race or mountaineering boot. While cuff articulation is relatively smooth, the boot’s touring performance is necessarily limited by the robust Intuition liner that comes stock. Touring in the new F1 feels comparable to the Atomic Backland with the tongues in, which is, in fairness, still a pretty pleasant experience. The F1 is lightweight and feels dramatically better than even the respectable Scarpa Rush, but in the touring vs. skiing tradeoff the F1 is geared more toward the down than the Atomic Backland or TLT 5/6.
The velcro top buckle is very nearly excellent. In principle it’s a lightweight, infinitely adjustable buckle with a wide footprint to avoid applying too much pressure to one point on the shin. In practice, the lever on the buckle needs to be longer to provide a larger difference in cuff circumference between walk and ski mode. As it’s designed now the velcro needs to be adjusted in transitions to ensure that it’s loose enough to maximize both touring efficiency on the way up and skiing security on the way down. Although it was never observed in the field, it’s easy to imagine how the velcro system is susceptible to being clogged by snow and ice if it’s adjusted at every transition as opposed to once at the beginning of the day.
The Scarpa F1 is a ski boot. Design cues like the Boa closure system and velcro top buckle make it look a bit like it belongs on the shelf next to the Atomic Backland and the TLT boots, but its skiing performance demands that it be filed over by the Maestrales. Scarpa hasn’t readily published a flex number for the F1, but it feels somewhat stiffer than the Rush with a smooth, progressive flex.
Scarpa claims skiing performance is achieved by innovative moulding and shell shape. It’s possible that this is true. However, the most notable improvement over other lightweight touring boots is Intuition’s Pro Flex Evo liner. The liners make the effective cuff height of the F1 significantly taller than comparable boots and the upper power strap, while diminutive, does avail the skier of the additional leverage. The boots easily overskied a pair of DPS Cassiar 95s in the Tour1 layup during testing.
The only concerns with the skiing performance have to do with the ski/walk mechanism. The vertical lever is a clear improvement over the integrated system of the recalled F1, and arguably better than peg-and-notch system utilized by the TLT 5/6. However, in wet and windy conditions, the horizontal bar used to lock the cuff into ski mode became occluded with ice. The bar can be cleared with sufficient ski pole whacking, but it’s something to consider.
It’s hard to assess durability over a month of use, but a few things stand out. The Boa closure system does a good job of providing a firm, comfortable closure. However, it also raises serious durability questions. Several times over the course of the test, the Boa closure lost all tension under normal use in ski mode. Downhill performance did not significantly degrade when the system lost tension, but a failure of the Boa would spell trouble for touring mode where it is the only fastener.
It’s conceivable that regular readjusting of the velcro buckle system will wear out the velcro, but over the course of a month it still seems strong and secure. A higher leverage throw on the buckle would reduce the need for adjustment and increase the life of the velcro. It also appears to be easily replaceable.
Scarpa also paid good attention to opting for serviceable bolts rather than rivets. Be sure to Loctite all of the bolts, but the design seems well suited to a long service life.
- Reasonably efficient touring
- Excellent in-class downhill performance
- Attention to serviceability
- Minor design oversights
- Boa closure system is suspect for durability
Scarpa is really onto something here. They’ve taken what they’ve learned from the ultralight touring world and applied it to a package that is much more useful for the average backcountry skier. The new F1 probably won’t be your first choice for FKTs in the Wasatch, but it does an excellent job of optimizing light weight, touring efficiency, and downhill performance. At an MSRP of $799, it also represents a good value compared to boots that are creeping into four figure price tags. With a few slight tweaks to the design the F1 will easily be a go-to boot for backcountry enthusiasts who know that the whole reason to walk to the top is the ride back down.
Ben Horan is a freelance writer and sometimes-guide based in Missoula, Montana, and blogs at The Gentleman at Large (instagram: @thegentlemanatlarge).