Backcountry skiing has seen a popularity explosion in recent years, and a sure indicator of this is the current trend of ski companies releasing their own lines of alpine touring ski gear. In the fall of 2010, Salomon will enter the backcountry with new additions their Salomon Quest all mountain ski boots. There will be six different versions of the Quest, from the Pro Pebax to the Quest 8 and a boot for women. But I was lucky enough to try out the Salomon Quest 12, a high performance ski boot that is designed to ski like a top-of-the-line alpine boot but also hikes like a top-of-the-line backcountry boot. To test this claim, I skied in the Salomon Quest 12 boots for a month, both in bounds and while touring the Wasatch backcountry.
Right out of the box, the Salomon Quest 12 is very striking. Scratch that. The boots look freaking awesome. The black and orange colors, oversized buckles, huge compression strap, and wicked design on the shell make the boots look like they rolled fresh off a Harley Davidson assembly line, ready to roar down the highway. They also fit perfectly as soon as I slipped them on and buckled them down.
After assembling the Quicklace system and screwing on the Quest Touring Pads, I was ready to take them out on the mountain. Eight days skiing the backcountry and five days in the resort later, I have a pretty good idea about what works and what doesn’t.
How do they ski? To be blunt, the Salomon Quest 12 is the most incredible boot I’ve ever skied in. The downhill performance in these babies is unmatched. They are super stiff with a flex rating at 120, and they drove my skis like no other boot I’ve owned. In fact, when I took my backcountry skis to Snowbird, the Quest boots were almost too powerful as they tried to take the wheel and go for a joyride, dragging my skis behind them. Switching over to my heavier, more burly alpine setup, the Quest boots were awesome. I could feel them transmitting power from one edge to the next, and they allowed my skis to explode through crud with ease. Of course they ski powder pretty good too, which is important in a lightweight backcountry boot.
In the backcountry, however, uphill is the name of the game. The Salomon Quest boots are supposed to tour as well as they ski, but I did not find this to be true. While I appreciated the super stiffness while skiing, in touring mode they simply got in the way. On steep skin tracks, it was difficult to find the forward lean in the boot to stay on top of my skis so the skins could engage. Even keeping the buckles and straps loose, the boots kept throwing me into the back seat when the going got steep. I also found that my heels were moving just enough to create hot spots. Although I never got blisters, the hot spots were a sign that finding the right fit is essential with these boots, especially if they are to be used primarily while touring.
One thing I really liked was the ski/tour switch on the back of the boot. Most backcountry boots use a cheap-feeling switch that doesn’t inspire much confidence, but the Salomon Quest uses a thick, burly switch that makes a satisfying “ca-thunk” sound when you go from tour to ski, letting you know that you are locked in and ready to shred.
I also like how the Salomon Quest 12 uses a three-buckle system with a very thick strap at the top that acts like a fourth buckle. I had reservations about this at first, but after skiing in them, my fears were put to rest. The giant buckle is so huge, that I never felt like performance was compromised. In fact, when the strap was cinched tight, I never felt my shins or calf muscle move around at all, and that added to the boot’s already stiff reputation.
In addition to this, the liners have a Quicklace system that makes it very easy to tighten everything. Although I thought it was strange that when cinched, there is a lot of extra lace and no where to put it. I later found out that the lace tucks into a pocket under the Biovent tab. This worked out well, but I think some sort of boa system would be a better design for tightening and storing laces.
In a nutshell, the Salomon Quest 12 ski boots are alpine boots with touring capability. They rock on the down but don’t perform as well on the up. I don’t think any hardcore backcountry skiers would be entirely happy with these boots, but anyone who is thinking about skiing out-of-bounds and doesn’t want to spend a fortune buying multiple ski boots will find everything they need in a one-boot quiver with the Salomon Quest 12.
You can purchase the Salomon Quest 12 ski boots at Backcountry.com