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2015-2016 Salomon MTN Lab

Paul Forward reviews the Salomon MTN Lab Booth for Blister Gear Review

Salomon MTN Lab

2015-2016 Salomon MTN Lab

MSRP: $800

Stated Flex Rating: 120

Available Sizes (Mond0): 24.5 – 29.5

Stated Last Width: 98mm

Size Tested: 27.5 / 311mm Boot Sole Length

Blister’s Measured Weight per Boot

  • Right Shell (1286 g) & Liner (320g): 1606 grams
  • Left Shell (1283g) & Liner (319g): 1602 grams

Days Tested: 10

Areas tested: Kodiak Island, Alaska. Porters Ski Area and backcountry, Craigieburn Valley Ski Area and backcountry, Mt Cheeseman Ski Area and backcountry.

[Editor’s Note: We reviewed the 2015-2016 MTN Lab, which was renamed the “S-Lab MTN” for the 2017-2018 season, but there were no physical changes apart from graphics]

Introduction

The MTN Lab is a boot that, according to Salomon, “hikes up like a lightweight touring boot, and charges down like a freeride boot.” That sounds great, but when I first read about the MTN Lab and saw pictures of it, I was not particularly excited.

There have been many new skis, boots, and bindings (especially over the past few years) that promise to be lightweight and touring friendly but still able to “charge” or “freeride.” In the realm of boots, the last product that actually did prove to be a significant improvement over existing technology was the Vulcan and that was released in 2012/2013. I have skied many new touring boots since that time, and haven’t found anything that was compelling to me as a Vulcan replacement. Until now…

Construction

The MTN Lab is a two-buckle boot with a locking cam type powerstrap. We are told that the prototypes were built off the popular Salomon Ghost boot, but with the last from Salomon’s alpine boot, the X Max 120 & 130. The intention was to create a walk mode that enabled the MTN Lab to ski like a bolted-together alpine boot, and the result of that project is this blue boot.

Paul Forward reviews the Salomon MTN Lab for Blister Gear Review

Paul Forward in the Salomon MTN Lab, Porters Ski Area, NZ.

The lower shell is “Grilamid+.” (Grilamid is the same light, stiff, easily heat moldable plastic used on the lower shell of the TLT6 and 12/13-14/15 Vulcan.) Salomon claims that Grilamid+ has an additive that gives it a “livelier” flex, and that also holds punches quite well. The MTN Lab’s cuff is made of Pebax.

The fabric portion over the instep area of shell is the most obvious departure from most ski boots at first glance. It is designed to be 100% waterproof.

The MTN Lab Liner is a proprietary Salomon heat moldable liner. It has a well-padded tongue, eyelets for optional laces, and a flex zone behind the Achilles that allows for increased rearward range of motion when in walk mode. Compared to the Intuition Powerwrap LV that I typically ski in most boots, the MTN Lab liner seems to be higher volume through the ankle and cuff, and low volume around the toes and forefoot.

 

 

Fit

Salomon tells us that this boot is built on the X-Max 130 last. I’ve skied the X-Max 130 quite a bit over the past couple of seasons, and can attest that that the shell fit does feel very similar. When I get home to Alaska I will do more side by side comparisons, but I don’t doubt that it’s the same last.

I wrote about the fit of the X-Max 130 in my review of that boot, and Marshall Olson also described the X-Max fit in his excellent discussion of fit and boot volume from his review of the 14/15 Tecnica R9.8 130.

Like the X-Max 130, the the MTN falls on the medium-to-high volume side of the “98mm” lasted boots that I’ve used.

I have a high instep and this is definitely a painful spot for me in many alpine boots. In this regard, the MTN Lab works okay for me. I had to use a slightly thinner set of insoles than I typically use to lower my foot, but I’ve been touring and skiing in the MTN Lab for most of the past two weeks and on one long walk in Alaska this spring without too much pain, despite the boots being brand new.

As with the X-Max 130 (and the Cochise Pro 130), I have more volume/width in the shell around the ankle than I need, but the thicker stock liner fills this in well and provides good contact throughout.

I skied the MTN Lab for the first 3 or 4 days without any shell modifications. I did start to notice some sore spots on the outside of my little toe, especially when I got lazy and left my bindings’ heel lifts up when touring on the flats. (This is a common issue for me in many touring boots, most recently the Dynafit TLT6.) But a couple of strategic 5th metatarsal and 6th toe punches from Gnomes Alpine Sports easily remedied this, and I’ve been happy ever since.

Paul Forward reviews the Salomon MTN Lab for Blister Gear Review

Paul Forward in the Salomon MTN Lab, Mount Cheesman backountry.

The heel pocket of the MTN Lab also feels quite similar to the X-Max 130. For my foot, it offers a little better hold on my heel than the Cochise Pro 130, but it’s still not as good as the Dynafit Vulcan.

I’ve recently been skiing a Zip Fit Grand Prix liner in my new Lange XT 130 (review forthcoming) which produces excellent heel hold, and it’s possible that this liner could remedy my heel issue in any of these boots, though I don’t see myself touring in them as much.

It’s worth noting that the MTN Lab’s liner is the first stock ski boot liner that I’ve stuck with in memory. I’ve had liner issues (mostly with my instep) with almost every stock liner in the last 5-10 years, and have put Intuition Powerwraps in all of them with good results. I do get a small amount of instep pressure with the stock liner, so I might still try a Powerwrap at some point, but I think I could happily use the stock liner until it wears out.

NEXT: Cuff Alignment, Buckles & Powerstrap, Etc.

38 Comments

  1. Stephan September 6, 2015 Reply

    Great review! How would you compare it to the Scarpa Freedom SL? Has anyone of you guys at blister skied it?

    • Author
      Paul Forward September 7, 2015 Reply

      Hi Stephan, Thanks for reading and for your questions. I haven’t skied any of the Freedom line yet but we’re hoping to get our hands on a pair of the new RS this season. To me, these boots aren’t really in the same category as the MTN Lab being that they are much heavier (SL claimed weight is 200grams heavier per boot and the RS is almost 400grams heavier) and have replaceable soles to be used in standard alpine bindings.

  2. ryno September 9, 2015 Reply

    So if forced to choose, should we assume you’d take these instead of Vulcans? (noting the comparative review is yet to come). I’m coming from Mercurys which get the job done but I’ve never been overwhelmed by, and it seems to be either these or Vulcans next. I do like the convenience of a single buckle for cuff and walk mode engagement though.

    • Author
      Paul Forward September 30, 2015 Reply

      Hi Ryno,

      It’s not a simple question and both boots have a lot of great features. We’ll try to give a nice breakdown in the comparison. Ideally that will take place after I can get them on snow again side by side, hopefully soon!

  3. Chris September 19, 2015 Reply

    Great Review!

    Have you heard of any problems regarding the MTN lab and Dynafit beast bindings?

    • Nick August 30, 2016 Reply

      I’ve actually just had a set of Beasts mounted and bought MTN Labs to pair with them. I’m being told by the tech that they boots will require a little modification to the channel to accept the oval/ tear drop shaped pins.

      Salomon (AUS) tell me they’re unaware of any incompatibility and that they shouldn’t require any modification.

      Still haven’t got to the bottom of it yet.

      I’ll keep you posted.

  4. Jakob September 22, 2015 Reply

    have you also skied the MTN Explore and could compare it to the MTN Lab?

    • Author
      Paul Forward September 30, 2015 Reply

      Hi Jakob, see Jonathan Ellsworth’s review of the MTN Explore on the site.

  5. Blister Member
    Paul September 23, 2015 Reply

    I’m also interested in Chris’s question..

    Have you heard of any problems regarding the MTN lab and Dynafit beast bindings?

  6. Author
    Paul Forward September 30, 2015 Reply

    Hey Guys, Thanks for the interest in the review. I have not used the MTN Lab yet with my Beast bindings but plan to do so this winter. I can’t think of any reason that they wouldn’t work.

  7. Andy October 10, 2015 Reply

    Plenty of details on the rearward ROM in this, but none about the forward travel. How does that compare the Vulcan?

    • Author
      Paul Forward November 4, 2015 Reply

      The forward motion is pretty comparable to the Vulcan. I never felt like it was an issue.

  8. Tim C October 14, 2015 Reply

    Have you skied the Sol Quest Max 130? I have them currently but they are too upright and frankly I hate them. Not convinced on their tech capabilities with my beasts either. Can you compare these to them? Worth a look or should I go with Dynafit / Scarpa. I had Scarpa Hurricane Pros before that and they were great in performance just not the best fit. Down hill is more important to me the uphil as I’m a fat bastard so won’t notice a few extra grams.

    • Author
      Paul Forward November 22, 2015 Reply

      Hi Tim, I have skied the Quest Max BC 120 but never the 130. If you’re looking for a dedicated touring boot, the MTN Lab is going to be hard to beat. It’s much lighter, tours better and skis at least as well, and I think better than the Quest Max BC 120. Your first stop should be at a good bootfitter to get your feet examined to see what your options are. Start with fit and then go from there. If forward lean is the main issue for you a good shop may be able to address that either with your current boots or with a new pair. Good luck and happy skiing!

  9. Bill October 16, 2015 Reply

    So having skiied and toured on both the Mtn Lab and the new Atomic Backland Carbon – what in your mind is the main difference? Seems to be that if you want more “free ride” performance on tours and / or a boot that you can use inbounds as happily as in the backcountry, and with both tech and frame bindings – the Mtn Lab fits the bill. The Backland Carbon is more of a ‘pure touring’ boot and a bit lighter right?

    • Author
      Paul Forward November 22, 2015 Reply

      The MTN Lab and Backland Carbon are very different boots with different purposes. I think your general descriptions are pretty accurate. We should have the Backland Carbon review up pretty soon. The first step is figuring out what kind of boot you’re looking for and then narrow it down based on primarily on fit and secondarily on features and such. The MTN Lab is much more comparable in performance and weight to boots like the Khion, Vulcan, or Maestrale RS while the Backland is more akin to the Dynafit TLT6 series.

  10. Jeff October 28, 2015 Reply

    Paul, great writeup on the Mtn Labs. I am sitting here with some on right now in my living room, contemplating the sizes… you tested the 27.5… could you tell me how long your foot is? Did you feel the Mtn Lab boot size is approximately the same sizing as others, or did you feel it ran big? I know, all boots are different but this info would help?

  11. David November 2, 2015 Reply

    Hi Paul. Thanks for your helpful review. As the other commenter asked, I’m curious what size your foot is in cm. My foot is 27.5 cm and I’m unsure of what size to order. The other MTN Lab boot review on Blister Gear said to order a size down.

    http://blistergearreview.com/gear-reviews/2015-2016-salomon-mtn-lab-at-boot-2

    • Author
      Paul Forward November 22, 2015 Reply

      Hi Jeff and David, Thanks for reading. I wear a 27.5 in almost every boot I review and stuck with that in the MTN Lab. I definitely would not have gone up or down a size. My feet are a touch over 280mm but length is only a small part of the equation. As always, we highly recommend you buy your boots from a good shop with an experienced boot fitter to help with sizing and any work that might need to be done.

  12. Gustav Olin November 30, 2015 Reply

    Hi!
    I’ve only skied in the mtn lab boots one day now but I got this nasty pressure point on my shins. Second day I opted for another boot cuz of the pain. Have you encountered this? and do you have some advice?

  13. swissiphic December 6, 2015 Reply

    @Gustav: Over a dozen days on the mtn labs and had some shin bang/pressure points upper liner tongue. So far it seems for my foot/lower leg shape, adding 10mm (yeah maybe a bit much but it’s what i had on hand for testing) heel wedges created a better fit and internal ramp angle and has for some reason totally eliminated that pressure point.

    Also, tried a few days using very thick foam HV intuition luxury liner molded for dynafit mercuries which have inherently more ramp due to the thick foam of liner bottom being very compressed at ball of foot…seemed to work just fine as well, better pressure distribution along tongue…for my specific anatomy anyways. (way too thick at forefoot/toebox though without remolding; but stock liner with heel wedges seem to be working out for now)

    At first I thought the boot was inherently too upright in forward lean, felt ‘behind’ the boot and was nudged backseat and felt like my feet were swimming in the liners around the ankle due to the un nature feeling foot position in boot. So initially I placed varying thickness of rear spoiler material between rear cuff and liner to tweak perceived angle…this helped a bit but didn’t fundamentally address the lack of centered feel in the boot…for my particular foot/lower leg/body mass distribution anyways. The heel wedges seem to have done the trick; it also helped my heels seat better into the heel pocket, cradle the ankles more effectively and allow me to feel properly positioned in the boot rather than ‘behind’ the boot. This improved fit brought out all the superlative ski qualities of the boots aforementioned in the review: solid support (in all directions), a relatively damp progressive forward flex and the capability of really driving a ski. Previous to the heel wedges I thought the boots were a bit brick like in forward flex and a bit twitchy…obviously taking the time to properly fit the boots can change perception of performance and character quite noticeably. I was a bit surprised.

  14. Hayden December 17, 2015 Reply

    Well I finally splurged and bought the MTN Labs. Was in Canada and couldn’t help myself with the Canadian discount.

    These boots are what I’ve been waiting for. Light, easy transitions and ski close to a race boot. I’m coming off the Dynafit Mercury. Gone is the blocky flex and tedious transitions.

  15. Blister Member
    Mike December 22, 2015 Reply

    Thanks so much for this great review. I was wondering if you could do a bit more of an A/B on the XT 130 LV vs. the MTN Lab, especially in terms of (1) fit, (2) downhill performance, and (3) uphill walking performance.

    I currently have the 130 Cochise Pro, which I purchased several years ago because at the time I think it had the best downhill performance of the AT boots on the market. But, because I have a very low volume foot, I’ve had constant issues trying to get the fit of these boots right. I likely will be buying a new boot, and downhill performance is very important to me. I use these AT boots as my 1 boot quiver, for both resort and backcountry. With my low volume foot, it seems like the MTN Lab and the XT 130 LV are the two best bets on the market. I would love to get your thoughts on these two side by side.

    Thanks so much.

    • Author
      Paul Forward February 15, 2016 Reply

      Hi Mike, Check out our articles comparing these different classes of boots elswhere. The current Lange XT 130 is essentially a full alpine boot with a walk mode. The MTN Lab is an AT boot that skis remarkably well but it does not match the fit and progressive flex of the Lange but comes in a lot lighter. Thanks for reading, Paul

  16. BB King January 20, 2016 Reply

    Any chance a comparison with the new dynafit khion will be up soon?

    • Blister Member
      Will February 15, 2016 Reply

      +1 would love to see a review of the Khion Carbon compared to the MTN LAB

      • Author
        Paul Forward February 15, 2016 Reply

        Hi Guys, I’d love to write up a comparison but we still haven’t had access to a pair of Khion’s. Will update as soon as we get some time on a pair. On the other hand, it looks like there might be a few other interesting boots on the market soon depending on how soon you’re looking to buy. Best, Paul

  17. Blister Member
    Will February 15, 2016 Reply

    Thanks Paul – looks like I have had my touring for this season, so based on your comment I guess I will wait!

  18. Man March 28, 2016 Reply

    Hello,

    >So for a fair comparison, I’ll try the MTN Lab with a Powerwrap as soon as I’m able.

    Were you able to do it ?

    Thank you for your feedback,

    Man,

  19. Greg April 17, 2016 Reply

    I’m curious about the fit if the Mtn Lab vs the Tecnica Cochise Pro 130. I’ve got the 14-15 version of the Tecnica and love them. I had to take out an insole / boot board that was attached to the fixed boot board (sorry I don’t know proper terminology for boot parts) to get a fit with my high insteps. Now they are the best fitting boots I’ve ever had. But to me they are an alpine boot that tours. I’m looking for a real touring boot and wonder how the Mtn Lab fits compared to the Cochise?

    I’m touring in a 1st gen La Sportiva Spectre now and I’m giving up on them. I just can’t get the fit right. Too low on the instep (even after work), too loose in the heel, and I end up over tightening so that they are excruciating to ski in. Looking for something hat fits like the Cochise Pro. Thoughts?

    • Author
      Paul Forward December 14, 2016 Reply

      Hi Greg, Apologies for the late reply. I hate to speculate on fit and strongly recommend that you check out your local shop. most places should have all of these boots in stock by now. Let us know how it goes for you.

  20. Ben November 16, 2016 Reply

    Am I right in understanding that these would not work with all alpine bindings? For a day on the groomers with normal alpine skis and bindings?

    If not, do you have any suggestions or idea if they are bringing out a new version of the MTN Lab with inserts or something to be usable with alpine bindings.

    I’ve been skiing and touring in my race boots and have decided enough is enough, but I have a narrow foot and the 98mm last on the MTB Labs was very appealing. I tour up to enjoy skiing down, not the other way around.

    Thanks,
    Ben

    • Author
      Paul Forward December 14, 2016 Reply

      Hi Ben, These will only work in AT bindings or other bindings that are designated MNC (multi norm compatible). To my knowledge that limits you to Marker Lord, Marker Duke, Salomon Warden MNC and Salomon Guardian MNC for “alpine bindings”. there may be something out there that I’m missing.

  21. Vince December 11, 2016 Reply

    Great reviews as always boys,
    My question is about most(if not all) touring boots are moving away from adjustable cuffs. Is their a fix for some like my self how would need a bit of canti?

    Thanks, Vince

    • Author
      Paul Forward December 14, 2016 Reply

      Hi Vince, This is a great question for your best local bootfitter. I have tried getting some semblance of lateral cuff adjustment by gluing foam on the medial side of my liner but it’s not a great fix. Let us know if you come up with something but I don’t think there are a lot of options for these boots.

  22. Adrian December 14, 2016 Reply

    Hey! Thanks for the great review. Quick question – and sorry if I missed it in the specs or comments – is the liner thermo-moldable?

    • Author
      Paul Forward December 14, 2016 Reply

      Hi Adrian, Yep, I cooked mine just as I would have a pair of intuitions. I got a little more room around the toes and a little better fit overall.

  23. Don March 13, 2017 Reply

    Well…I must say, I just picked these up to replace a pair of beater Dynafit Titans that I bought used for $50 and had skied on for four seasons. The difference is mind boggling. The Salomon Mtn Lab is a great skiing boot, and it tours well too. I will say, if you take big uphill strides, you may notice the lack of forward range of motion, but not a big deal. The way is skis is really really impressive.

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